My 2021 Annual Review

Another year has passed and it’s time to reflect. As usual, I look into things that went well, things that didn’t go so well, and things that I learned. If you’re not familiar with the concept of an Annual Review, I explain it in the post How I Plan My Year. Credit to James Clear by the way, whose book Atomic Habits introduced me to the concept. 2021 is the second year I’m gonna break down in an Annual Review – the 2020 one can be found here. I also wrote a Midyear Review August, which can be found here – I borrowed a few parts from the post in this one. Alright, let’s go!

What went well this year?

Reunited with my wife. In early 2020, my wife was in the process of moving to Finland. After a two and a half month holiday in the Philippines, I flew to Finland in advance. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in early 2020, the borders closed behind me and the wheels of bureaucracy ground to a halt. The pandemic forced us into a long-distance relationship, and the period of uncertainty lasted for more than a year. It was only in the spring of 2021, when restrictions were being loosened, that we managed reunite and close this chapter in our lives.

Got a new job. I started working at Innofactor, a Finnish software company focused on providing solutions for promoting modern digital organisation in the Nordic countries. My job title is Scrum Master, which is a role in Scrum – a framework in project management. The role of Scrum Master builds directly on my education and previous experience as a producer in games. In 2021, I also completed the Professional Scrum Master I certificate. I would be interested to write about Scrum on my blog if I can find an interesting perspective on the subject.

Completed courses. After graduating in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree, my goal for 2021 was to complete individual courses in software development and consider enrolling in graduate studies. In 2020, I enrolled through my former UAS in Highway 2 Code, which is a continuing education program. While I struggled with time, I eventually completed three study modules at the turn of the year: Linux OS, C-Programming, and DevOps Basics. In 2022, I’m going to be on the lookout for a graduate degree, with the goal of starting the studies in late 2022 or early 2023.

Wrote two important blog posts. Writing about my life is a way for me to process it, and finding ways to wrap it in meaningful stories feels rewarding. In 2021, I wrote two lengthy blog posts that go on a personal level and explain where I’m coming from as a person. In the 100 Video Games Later post I look into my young adulthood and video game addiction, which I overcame and turned into something meaningful. In Thoughts on Turning 30 I discuss how my life took a change in my late twenties and also discuss my thoughts with the past and the future.

Traveled in Finland. With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, traveling abroad didn’t appear that much inviting. Domestic travel was also a good opportunity to introduce Finland to my wife, who had recently moved to the country, and also to spend time with my family. Since Kajaani is located to the north, our excursions took place mostly in the Kainuu and Kuusamo provinces. We did visit Helsinki on a few occasions, and even went on a Stockholm cruise – just before the Omicron variant hit the news. I’m interested to write a blog post about our traveling experiences in Northern Finland.

Achieved a sense of financial security. In 2020, I started investing and saving for a home, and these plans progressed smoothly in 2021. I also took the opportunity to “clean my wallet”, which included updating my cards and bank accounts, revamping the budget sheet, shaving off extra costs, taking insurances, and so on. These developments gave me an increased sense of financial security. The budget sheet earns a special mention as it has grown into such a powerful tool. Once it has matured into something more presentable, I would be interested to showcase the layout on my blog.

Reorganised the apps on my phone. In early 2010s I was refusing to upgrade from my old keypad phone because I didn’t want the phone to take over my life. Fast forward to 2021 when I woke up to the realisation of how my phone had become like the One Ring in Lord of the Rings – and I was the Gollum. The apps you have on your phone determine to a large part what you use your phone for. Hence I decided to clean my phone from dozens of apps that I used only little and from ones that were causing me to procrastinate. The first ones to go were Reddit and YouTube, by the way.

What didn’t go so well this year?

Reading habit suffered. This I have covered on a blog post of its own. Here’s a summary: In 2020, I finished 25 books while in 2021, I finished only 13. When the circumstances in my life changed, my reading habit also shifted from audiobooks back to physical books. And when I didn’t have any physical books at my disposal, my reading habit stagnated. As a lesson from 2021, I won’t set any artificial reading goal for 2022. Instead, I will make sure to always have a new book ready and visible, as an antidote to doing something unproductive.

Didn’t regain my bodyweight of 90 kg. While many people noways struggle with overweight, my battle as a tall and slim person has always been to gain and retain bodyweight. My natural bodyweight seems to hover somewhere around 80 kilograms, and anything above is the result of gaining more muscle mass at the gym. In 2019, my bodyweight peaked above 90 kilograms, but traveling abroad made it difficult for me to follow the necessary gym and diet regime. With the gyms regularly closing doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains unclear whether I’ll be able to reach my goal in 2022.

Didn’t run a marathon. In late 2020 I started training for a marathon with the goal of participating in the Helsinki City Run event in May. The event was moved to a later date, unsurprisingly because of COVID-19, and I lost interest in running as my plate was already full. As a result, my VO2max is lower than what it was in late 2020. It’s still considered above average, which would be a good foundation to start over. My dilemma for 2022 will be to combine increasing my bodyweight with increasing my VO2max, which will be my new goal rather than running a marathon.

My mind felt cluttered with stuff. When I first started meditating in 2020, the feeling of presence that I achieved was in contrast with what I had previously considered the normal state of mind. Meditation has taught me that I have an active mind, which gets easily tangled with strings of thoughts and then starts pursuing them. When I meditate and do breathing exercises, things feel more clear. When my meditation habit suffered around mid-year in 2021, it took me a while to wake up to the feeling of having a cluttered mind. My goal for 2022 is to get my meditation habit back on track.

The COVID-19 pandemic still affecting our lives. You could say 2022 is the fourth year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alright, jokes aside. Personally, I feel grateful to have experienced exchanging and interning abroad in 2018 and 2019, which would have been impossible had the pandemic arrived a year and a half earlier. On the other hand, if the pandemic had arrived just half a year later, perhaps me and my wife wouldn’t have been separated for more than a year. Of course, it’s never a convenient time for a pandemic, and thoughts games, however alluring, can never change the reality.

What did I learn this year?

Not doing things only for the sake of achieving them. When I turned 29, it hit me that it would be the last year in my 20s. I suddenly experience a feeling of urgency and compiled a bucket list of stuff, such as things I had wanted to do but never did, and hobbies I had wanted to start but never got to them. I then realised that it contained things that I wanted to accomplish – but not necessarily things that I wanted to do for the sake of doing them. This taught me the lesson of not chasing highs but rather focus on things that I want to do and which will take me to the desired direction.

Still learning to deal with credit. While the year 2021 was overall an excellent year in the financial sense, something that I’m still learning is dealing with credit, or the thought of it. The subject of credit bring in my mind the following proverb: “Fire is a good servant but a bad master.” Here’s a few things about credit: Setting a moderate credit limit is important. What is equally important is knowing what you’re comfortable with, because it might be an altogether different number, and then respecting it. While I’m starting to have an idea what works, it’s still a work in progress.

How easy it can be to lose a good habit. In 2020, I picked up several good habits and made goals to improve them in 2021. These habits include meditation, running, journaling, and reading books. Here are a few things I’ve learned about habits lately. First of all, maintaining a good habit is as important, if not more, as improving it. Also, when one’s situation in life changes, even in a positive way, that’s when their habits are put to the test. Lastly, when living with someone else, one must determine which habits are their own and which habits should be shared.

Learned more about Finland. “I learned more about Finland this year.” What a funny thing for a 30 year old Finnish man to say who was born in Finland and has lived (almost) their whole life in Finland. But let me explain! Since my wife moved to Finland, I’ve had to look and explain my country from a new perspective. We have also tried doing various seasonal activities together, some of which were new to me. After all, I grew up as a city boy. In 2021, we did activities such as fishing, swimming, bicycling, hiking and viewing the autumn colors in Lapland, picking berries and mushrooms, and more.