Trying to Find Positivity in a Crappy Year

January 1, 2023 —

This is a hard and honestly somewhat embarrassing post for me to write for a variety of reasons, which are probably a little bit self-evident from the title of this post. There's a certain level of "personal details" which I don't like to write about publicly but I think in this case it might actually help me out as a sort of "self therapy"... so here we go!

Last year was a terrible year for me. The year before was also terrible, but a bit less so. And the year before that was also a pretty bad one. So, things just seem to be getting progressively worse as time goes on. This past year I moved on from a job that I was not happy with for a bunch of reasons which I've briefly touched on before to another job that I was initially very excited about and felt a great sense of relief, but then was pretty quickly thrown back down (mentally speaking) after this new job turned out to be a kind of repeat or re-run of what I was trying to escape at the previous job. After getting initial support from my manager to take an unpaid leave of absence to give me some time to disconnect and recharge (with full disclosure to her about what the exact reasons were), this was cut short after just two weeks when my employer arbitrarily decided that I could not take any more unpaid leave. As I knew all too well that I was still not feeling better and that heading back to work would likely just cause things to continue to spiral downward for me, I decided that enough was enough and quit.

It's a terrible thing to quit a job without another job lined up. Especially in the current economic climate. Especially when you did not plan on this at all and are feeling like you're at the lowest point you've ever been in your life. I can't speak for anyone else in this situation, but for me, I started feeling this very heavy dose of imposter syndrome. Was the problem me? Am I just not cut out for this type of work anymore? What can I do to put myself back on track?

I don't have answers to these questions, and it is super difficult for me to even will myself to look for help because over the past two years I've slowly realized that I really have almost no support network at all anymore. In the few cases where I've tried to reach out to a "friend" I've just stopped hearing from them after ... well, very quickly actually. Some friend! This kind of thing really hurts, especially when it happens multiple times. And it starts doing things in my head where I start thinking "damn, how sad is it that probably the only way I can get someone to listen to me is by paying them" (referring to someone like a therapist of course). Not a good place to be at, that's for sure. But this is where 2022 has left me, more or less.

A recent conversation with one of the few colleagues I have as I was confiding in him some of the details of my latest bout with imposter syndrome has highlighted a different perspective that I might take. Stop focusing on the negatives, try to focus on whatever wins you have achieved, regardless of how you achieved them and/or how long it took!

I mean, it sounds simple! So let's try that.

What did I accomplish this year? It's a small list No, that's another negative. I'm going to leave that in as I really did type that without a second thought, but it's definitely the wrong way to think about it. I did accomplish some things despite everything else!

I did find another job.

Yeah, it didn't work out in the end. But software developer interviews are such a complete shit-show these days, I think it's important to call this out that I have and still could get through an interview and get an offer! I have current and valuable skills!

I almost kept to a daily walk schedule.

Yeah, it wasn't 100% daily. I missed days here and there. Mostly when it was too damned hot and humid out during the summer. This is a poor excuse, and I know that. For someone like me who lives alone and has been working from home these past almost three years, I think it's incredibly important to get myself out of the house even if it's just for a walk. And I did that almost every day of the year, rain or shine.

I kept learning and working with Rust and finished some projects with it.

This was something I started doing in 2021, and I'm happy that I kept up with it, even if it was an "off and on" type of effort. I think there are a lot of concepts and syntax bits and such that are definitely now sticking in my head. I still have a lot to learn, but I definitely feel like I can build useful things with this language.

And I have been doing that! In 2021, I worked on some simple tools to work with PSO quest files which was useful to me and a good learning project for getting started with Rust. In the later half of 2021 and into 2022 I worked on a "retro-like" game development library/framework for myself and even built a game with it, with a couple of others in the works.

I've been debating re-writing this web site in Rust too. Not because it would be noticeably better or anything (I don't much care for the whole "rewrite it in Rust!" bandwagon thing that you see on HN or Reddit sometimes), but rather just to give myself a simple and practical web-related project to work on. We'll see.

I worked through a lot of electronics fix-ups and preventative maintenance efforts.

This was something I dove into immediately after I found myself unemployed in the later half of the year. It was probably exactly what I needed at that time ... something I could focus on, spend a lot of hours on, and see some tangible, positive results from. Problems that I could actually fix, instead of just enduring them day to day.

It didn't all go exactly according to plan, as early on I made some mistakes and accidentally broke some things. But I learnt from my mistakes and accomplished a lot!

In particular, I drastically improved my skills with a soldering iron. I already had done a bunch of soldering (and de-soldering), but I was not totally confident in my skills and had been putting off a bunch of work I knew I was going to need to do for literally years because of this and some other mistakes made a while back that made me feel like I wasn't skilled enough to do the work myself yet.

I feel like I will write a post with many more details about everything I did here in the near future, but the list of things I did includes:

  • Replacement of all my retro game cartridge save batteries and fitting in battery holders for future ease.
  • Modding my Game Boy Advance SP and Game Boy Color with new backlit IPS screens, and replacing all electrolytic capacitors.
  • Replacement of all electrolytic capacitors in Famicom AV, Famicom Disk System, Sega Genesis and two SNES consoles.
  • Cleaned up already leaking electrolytic capacitors in a Sharp Twim Famicom console, and replaced the rest.
  • Replacement of all electrolytic capacitors in three or four computer motherboards (all from the dreaded capacitor plague era).
  • Replacement of all electrolytic capacitors in five different CRT monitors (two PC VGA, three Sony PVMs).
  • Saved my aging Sony KDL42W700B LED TV from death due to an overheating power PCB by re-flowing / replacing solder. Seems to have fixed it so far (now a couple months later).
  • Maybe something else I've forgotten. There were a lot of them.

But yes, I think there is reason to feel good about an otherwise crappy year. And I think there is still reason to feel optimistic about this next year.