2021 in Review- 15 minutes read - 3107 words
2021 has been a good year overall, I’m now over 30 and I’m beginning to find a lot more peace with the world. More acceptance for what things are as opposed to what I feel like they should be. I’m becoming more at peace with my place in the world which is good. I would say that this is my main achievement of 2021. I am now more comfortable with who I am, what I want and am more prepared to work at trying to achieve it. It is incredibly how much extra peace that this gives me. Specifically, I can now reject everything which doesn’t align with where I want my life to go and I don’t need to waste additional brain power on them.
If I could summarise my general thoughts and direction now it would be that I want my life to revolve around being fit and healthy, creating and making things, learning things and building quality relationships. I am interested in reducing my overall footprint and living more in harmony with the world around me. I see less reason to impose my will on the surroundings. Ironically, this has also been the year where I have gained the most direct control over my environment.
Our minds are endlessly fascinating, such wonderful organs which have the capability to give us so much joy but also so much harm. Learning what personally gives me joy and what harms me has to be my focus going forward.
The year has had some major changes to my personal life. I’ve been in a relationship for most of the year which has been different. I have also, completely cold turkey, quit alcohol in April which has meant a major change in my socialising. In particular, it’s made me recognise that some of my friendships and relationships were entirely built around alcohol, that I often used alcohol as a crutch in social situations and that it was masking some underlying unhappiness. I also had to come to terms with the fact that alcohol is a depressant and probably not ideal if you have depressive tendencies. Overall, if you’re on the fence I’d recommend quitting for a bit.
I got fat in 2021, hitting almost 90kg at one point which is about 10-12kg over my desired weight for the level of musculature that I hold. This has had a negative impact on me mentally. I try to do a lot of bodyweight related exercises such as gymnastics, hand balancing, running etc. Putting on so much weight made all of these activities substantially harder to the point where I have been going backwards. This makes me unhappy and I’ve had to put in some serious effort over the past couple months to bring myself back to a more reasonable level. More on that in the Low Carb experiments section.
I’ve spent most of the year cycling to and from places on a Brompton folding bike which has been good. The ability to fold it up and store it at my destination has been a book. I’ve driven so little that I’m looking at selling my car currently as it’s more of a liability than it is an asset at the moment. Cycling so much has been a welcome change for me and something that I want to do more of in 2022. I need to invest in some better gear to make it more of an all weather activity for me though.
Socially, the year has been a bust. Working a stressful job full time coupled with lockdowns has meant that I haven’t made any new friends (outside of work colleagues) for ~2 years now. This is something I need to work on and put dedicated effort into. I can see myself becoming isolated and my social skills declining if I don’t fix this.
I haven’t taken any trips in 2021. No holidays at all really. The continuing restrictions make it almost impossible to plan things and have been rather unpleasant overall I’m hoping to fix this in 2022 and go see my family in New Zealand at some point. This will be dependent on the NZ government managing to shift past the fear stage of the pandemic. We’ll see…
On a different note, as of 2021 I still don’t want children, to the point where they almost never cross my mind at all in any conversation. Interesting to see that this is still stable after ~10 years.
I didn’t want to write this section either but it should be acknowledged.
Unfortunately, it was another year of covid restrictions with Melbourne (where I live) gaining the dubious title of the most locked down city in the world, you can see the timeline here. I’ve come to terms with this and tried to be more like water, letting it flow around me rather than fighting hard against it. The main change I observed as a result is a stronger push towards localism and libertarian style principles. I find it disgusting that a government can criminalise going outside without any democratic due process. I also find it disgusting that people are on the sidelines championing this destruction of human rights. I can accept the necessity of some form of restrictions in the face of a global pandemic, in particular while vaccination rates are low. I cannot accept the sheer illogical rules, blundering and incompetence that has been imposed at every level of the Australian government apparatus.
Moving on. This isn’t helpful.
Health and Fitness
This year was a bit of treading water. I haven’t managed to bake in any long term fitness goals yet but I have made some decent progress including:
- Consistently hitting doubles on my HSPU in December
- Being able to hit consistent straight arm handstand presses in December
- Hitting a 1 arm handstand for ~3 seconds
- Making it through a 10km run in December
Overall, not too bad if I’m being honest. I’ve also managed to lean out consistently following the low carb diet and training hard. Overall, pretty satisfying on this one.
Health and fitness is such a huge part of my life. It’s tied up in my sense of physical and mental well being. When I’m training well I tend to eat well, sleep well, feel better. Movement is the antidote for so much of what goes on in our lives and there’s a direct correlation between my mental state and my training.
I think I need to get myself to the point where I’m doing some form of training each and every day if I’m being honest. This seems excessive but I’m intending to reduce the intensity of each of the individual training sessions accordingly. This is going to be a goal for 2022 I think, how to incorporate every day training into my life.
On a similar note, I have some old writings on health and fitness that I need to republish at some point.
I’ve had a bit of a bad run with this recently. Have been going through slipped rib syndrome a decent amount which definitely doesn’t sound like a real thing but is as well as demolishing my right pinky toe in the back end of the year which I’m still working through the implications of.
Basically, injuries suck and getting injured is definitely not worth pushing through. Of course, I’m going to forget all about this in the future.
Workwise I’ve completely settled into my job and have a decent degree of mastery. I’ll be looking for the next opportunity at some point over the next 12 months but I’m also content to stay where I am for a bit as well. Overall, a successful year for me on this front. I’ve found a niche that works well for me. The challenge from here is to try and grow more, either in the current role or in a new role.
I loosely implement FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) principles in my life, in fact, I have some old writings that I need to republish documenting the theory behind this. This was the fifth year that I have kept completely detailed accounts of my personal finances including tracking every dollar of income/spending/asset management.
This year itself was my highest income year, but also my highest spending year. I achieved a savings rate of 61.85% which is pretty good. I spent a lot of money on eating out as well as house improvements for the apartment that I built. I’m on track to have another expensive year as well due to a long overdue holiday and some house repairs but also a higher earning year too. I’m going to aim for a 66% savings rate for the year as an arbitrary goal. There’s something kind of nice about saying that I’ve saved 2/3 of the money that I’ve earned.
I am likely to touch over the halfway mark on the FIRE journey in 2022 at some point. This is exciting to see the long term plan coming together (I started in 2017 with basically nothing). My projections show that I am ~5-6 years away from achieving the FI part of FIRE. The RE part is still to be determined.
An interesting addendum to this is that ~13% of my spending for the year was covered by dividends. That is, dividends alone have been sufficient to fund ~6-7 weeks of my life. Dividends aren’t the main thrust of my investing either but I’ll take it. If I wanted to cut out a bunch of luxuries then it would have been enough to fund 12 weeks of my life. A pretty incredible milestone to think about.
Major changes in expenses is that I spent a lot of money on food in the past twelve months. I ridiculous amount of money now that I look at it in aggregate. I would like to bring this does to a more manageable and sustainable level. I also spent a ton of money on home related items including a new standing desk, a new bed and mattress, new towels, house paint, new cabinets, new blinds, new kitchen island. Hopefully this category will be slightly lower in 2022 but unlikely.
I would also like to spend more money on craftsmanship/hobbies/DIY/making things in 2022. More on that later.
Books I’ve Read
I read 34 books in 2021 which was 11 more than 2020, 5 more than 2019 and 6 more than 2018. Overall, it felt like I wasn’t reading as much as I’d like but the evidence suggests otherwise. I’ve been struggling to find books that I’d like, this probably comes with the territory now than I’ve read >600 books in my life I’ve tapped all of the easy reads.
The broad themes I’ve been reading have been as follows:
Ecomodernism, climate change, climate alarmism and technology
I am beginning to find the continuous refrain that the world is ending to be tiring and unhelpful. It is a thoroughly pessimistic view of both history and the future that doesn’t acknowledge the sheer amount of human suffering that has been alleviated by human progress. As such, I’ve been searching for alternatives in the literature for something to help refine my thinking on the subject. I am not a climate change denier, nor am I a climate change doomer, an anti-fossil fuel ideologue or a pro fossil fuel one. Instead, I’m searching for a middle pathway that moves us to a cleaner, more environmentally friendly future whilst also promoting human flourishing.
Conclusion: Overall, I should continue to read critically in this field. The subject is heated and there is a lot of sleight of hand from both sides here. I am still looking for positive ways forwards in this area.
Personal development, productivity and physical fitness
The three most interesting books I read here were:
- What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney which outlined the case for environmental training and in particular cold therapy. This strikes me as an interesting nugget of gold to follow and I want to learn more here.
- Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. It’s a light read if I’m being honest, more an essay than a book, but I want to introduce more of the concepts into my life in 2022 so I’m putting it here as being impactful.
- Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford was a necessary antidote to the digital paper shuffling that makes up most of the modern world. I’ve been trying to introduce this into my life by making things more physical and less digital. I want tangible outputs.
Conclusion: Keep reading and writing reviews of these books
Notable books here include “Bullshit Jobs” by Graebar, “Land” by Simon Winchester, “So you’ve been publically shamed” by Ronson, “Twilight of the Elites” by Christopher Hayes, “Cynical Theories” by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay and “The New Class War” by Michael Lind.
I am not entirely sure what I’ve taken away from these book if I’m being completely honest. Some of them were decent reads but some of them weren’t. More importantly I need to ask myself the question as to whether I want to bring this type of thinking and point scoring style writing into my life. Social critiques are important, the dominant narrative always needs criticism but I’m not sure if I’m gaining a lot from this personally.
Conclusion: I’m not sure if my time would have been spent reading other books, these ones seem designed to inflame tensions between opposing sides and creating an us versus them narrative.
Science Fiction and Fantasy
I read some Azimov and some James A Corey here as well as the most recent Brandon Sanderson work. I should read more here. Might start making my way through the list of Hugo Awards Winners. Might as well read the best. Going to start by tring out some N.K Jemisin and in particular the “Broken Earth” series.
This is going to sound ridiculous but I’ve been reading the financial statements of both the state and the federal governments in the jurisdiction that I live in (Victoria, Australia). I’ve been trying to work out where they get their money from, where it goes and what the implications of this are.
The main stand outs to me on the revenue side are just how reliant the governments of Australia are on “Sin” taxes such as alcohol/tobacco/gambling/fines. These sin taxes typically fall on the lower socioeconomic parts of society.
The other standout to me is how much money is spend on middle class welfare such as child care subsidies and the like. Spending on this dwarfs what is spent on unemployment benefits. The aged pension is huge as well and medical expenses. Spending on R&D is absolutely pitiful.
As such, structurally, spending in Australia will continue to increase simply due to an ageing population. To combat this we’ll need to get wealthier in real terms in order to reduce the relative burden on the remaining workers.
Conclusion: Reading these documents was incredibly high value and helped me understand more about the government. I should continue to read the budget documents every year.
Skills and Hobbies
I started leatherworking in 2021 as a hobby in 2021. It’s been nice to get better at this and understand the process going forward. You can see all of the difference pieces that I’ve made here I am now at the point from my most recent pieces where I would feel comfortable selling these to someone. This is pretty cool, from starting off knowing absolutely nothing to getting to the point where I could set up a small store in less than a year of occasional work. This is something that I want to keep doing more of. More importantly I need to get over my perfectionist tendencies here and just do the work.
I learnt how to house paint in 2021, all of the prep and rolling work. This has been good as I had no idea how to do this previously to get a good result.
I picked up sous vide and had some of the most delicious steaks and salmon fillets of my life. Highly recommend.
Writing has taken a back seat this year. I simply haven’t had the mental headspace to sit down and create. It’s been more of a chore than a joy and I’ve naturally shied away from it. I’m not sure if this is due to burnout or something equivalent. I still love the written word and I want to spend more time writing but I never seem to find this as something that I do in reality. I need to work out why this is the case.
I’ve done almost all of my grocery shopping at the Queen Vic Market this year. It’s been far more enjoyable than going to a standard supermarket and cheaper and higher quality too boot. This is a good habit to have acquired.
I’ve been getting back into the quantified self movement a bit more recently. I need to work out how to integrate these metrics into my life more to create actionable outcomes from the data. There’s no point collecting the data just for the sake of it.
Habits I’ve Picked Up I Don’t Like
I’ve started watching far too much YouTube and TV in general. I’m going to attribute this to the continuous lockdowns and boredom in Melbourne over the past 24 months. It’s genuinely destroyed my social life as well as the habit of going outside and interacting with others completely.
I’m much more of a homebody than I used to be. I’m not sure how I feel about this.
Things in 2021 that I started using that I really like
- Lodge Blacklock Cast Iron Frying Pan - Easy to keep clean, produces great results
- Anova Sous Vide Anova Pro Vacuum Sealer - Easy to use, great results, wonderful tasting food
- Desky Sit Stand Desk - Being able to move between sitting and standing reduces my back pain
- Weber Baby Q - Have been using with meal prep in particular
- 1zpresso JX Pro Coffee Grinder - Quiet, efficient, great results
- Hario Cold Press - Affordable, low cost and efficient
- Hario Filter Coffee - My preferred “hot” coffee beverage at the moment
- Brompton M6R - Has been ridden almost every day, a great bike that’s saved me a lot of time and money from not needing to drive/public transport/uber places. Get some strange looks.
- Rolser Pack Trolley - Gets used every week for grocery shopping. Tons of capacity, sturdy and strong and easy to move around.
- Sodastream - Cheap sparkling water at home on demand