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Year in Review — 2015

As arbitrary as it may be, the end of the year is a good milestone and reminder to reflect on the events and thoughts of the past 12 months. It’s a great excuse to read back through what I was thinking throughout the early and middle parts of the year, and to reminiscence on what I’ve experienced and learned since 2014.

Personal

After all the major life events in the past couple of years — marriage, first family home, and first-born child — this year was one of simple lifestyle acclamation. We spent our time finding the right routines and schedules for comfortable domestic life, as well as “filling out” our new house with little details which naturally come as a part of settling into a home.

This was also the year where the vast majority of my friends got hitched or had kids of their own. I’m comfortably into my 30s now, and the dual life events of marriage and children create a generational wall that contrasts with those in their 20s. This is most obvious when meeting new colleagues at work: I’m now the “old guy” who can’t quite relate to the young’uns, though I get to scare them plenty with my tales of child-rearing.

Professional

The big news for me in 2015 was my decision to move on from Square. It was and is a great workplace for over 4 years, but I was clamoring for a change in scenery and new challenges. I’m now working for a health tech startup called Counsyl, and learning to build upon my technical and management experiences.

Square also underwent an IPO late in the year, and while I was no longer working there by the time SQ started trading, in my time there I learned a ton about what it takes for private companies to make their way to public markets. In short, it’s much harder than most people think, and those on the sidelines complaining about stock prices don’t appreciate the sheer amount of effort needed to make the progression.

Blogging

I took blogging more seriously this year. I previously thought of the activity — as time-consuming as it can be at times — to be an exercise in writing and building my personal voice, but I was pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I received from folks. Some told me over my job interview!

I had initially tried to write posts daily, but now I’ve found a happy cadence of about 3 posts per week, a schedule that I’ve sustained for over 6 months thus far. The hard part is still finding the time and the topics to write about, but the response has made me enjoy this activity even more than in years past.

Consumer Technology

This year in technology felt like a year of iteration; there wasn’t anything revolutionary in phones or tablets or personal computing or even smartwatches. It seems like 2016 will be the year of virtual and augmented reality, and within a couple more years we will figure out automated driving and possibly non-gasoline automobiles. This year, though, companies seem content with extending their mature platforms.

One area we stumbled into late in the year was home automation and the Internet of Things. Between our Canary camera, Nest thermostat and 4th-5th generation Roomba, we have massively increased the number of things in the house which are connected to backend services and augment household tasks with algorithms and computing interfaces. The entire IoT ecosystem is still an absolute mess when it comes to device integration, but I’m hoping that the industry will take inspiration from the HDTV transition. That is, appliance automation and connectivity will ease into the default option, and “dumb” thermostats and security cameras stick out as the exceptions.

Games

Like consumer tech, I didn’t play many games this year which broke out of the familiar next-gen sequel playbook. It’s the second year of a new console generation the 9th year of smartphone gaming, and most of the games released follow established formulas or are outright high-definition re-releases of prior generation titles.

Maybe it’s a reflection of my old age, but I’m finding myself less enthused about big-budget, open-ended games, preferring tighter story-driven experiences or short bursts of gameplay instead. I couldn’t get excited for The Witcher 3, or Fallout 4, or even Metal Gear Solid 5: all of which were standout titles that a younger version of me would have stayed up all night to try to complete to 100%. I’ve even stopped caring about Dota 2/Heroes of Newerth completely.

Instead it’s been a steady diet of Hearthstone, plus various puzzlers on the phone and a random game of NBA 2k16 here and there. In a way, I’m waiting for my kids to grow old enough to when I can show them what gaming — video and board and card — has to offer. Starting with, of course, Mario.

As I was putting together this post, I wanted to find a way to succinctly summarize the year in an adjective, yet fully knowing that reducing all the things that happened into a single description is overly reductionist. Real life is nowhere as neat as it’s portrayed in movies or books, and even this Cliff’s Notes version misses on multitudes of detail.

All that said, I’m going to contradict myself and rate this year as a good one. It was a year that invoked a lot of change, and I’m beginning to believe that constant iteration is necessary for life to feel meaningful and purposeful. On that account, I had overcome stasis for another 12 months, and that feels pretty great.

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