Post from December 31, 2018 (↻ May 29, 2021), filed under Everything Else.
Another year is about to end and as usual, it’s been a lot longer than it feels like. Although I’m not sure, either (cf. FAZ’s Johanna Dürrholz), how everyone got into the habit of publishing personal retrospectives, here are some personal and professional events I connect 2018 with. In a format I much like for summaries, though only roughly ordered.
The year began with a shock when someone I trusted and cared about betrayed me. I had contemplated to elaborate but the chapter is closed. Still, early 2018 was hard; I grant that it allowed me to choose more consciously who I am, and whom and what I want in my life.
I got elected (or promoted to) president of my table, Round Table 233 Alster-Milchstraße Hamburg. I don’t assign this that much significance (the vote has to be seen in context), but as it’s a great honor to be part of this group of fine men, and as I’ve been assuming a range of duties and responsibilities to establish our still young table, it was a highlight of 2018. For those men here aged 18–40, check out Round Table Deutschland or Round Table International; and my female readers, have a look at our sister organization, Ladies’ Circle Deutschland or Ladies’ Circle International. I much wish I had joined earlier, both for all of Round Table’s charitable work as well as the camaraderie.
I started a German op-ed column at IT publisher heise, sharing random views on web development. With lofty goals, I approached the column as a complement to this blog, at first feeding it from a variety of posts I had prepared in advance. Then, as you’ll be able to tell, life (and work) happened and at the moment I’m revisiting the engagement in order to make good on my own ideas.
Around the same time, I wrote my first real article for A List Apart. “Real” because I had already written for ALA when running an industry survey, and noteworthy because this had been on my radar for more than a decade, much like my first article for heise’s iX. I would phrase matters of the article differently today, but overall I still find it remarkable, and unfortunate, how we’ve made such tremendous progress with respect to tooling, but not that much with respect to craft and methodology. That’s what this ALA article expresses.
I met my current girlfriend or, if that’s more suitable for a man to say, partner—and we’ve been together for about eight months now. As liberal as I am disclosing my life publicly, I’m also quite selective about the details I’m sharing, so this will do. Estoy enamorado ❤️
A fallout from much of early 2018’s challenges, I had revisited my general priorities and soon heeded the advice of a few friends to return into the field, and into a full-time position. (This I also much sought for I like to work with, and have around me, people.) Following some scouting work of prior Hamburg years I soon zeroed in on a few promising ventures, and yet the one that I opted for was at first a great unknown. It turned out to be an amazing choice, and so I’m most delighted having joined sum.cumo as a senior member of staff. (Our focus is on InsurTech on a modern tech stack—often including Vue.js—, and we hire.)
Incidentally, then, this marked the formal end of my academic study of philosophy.
I resumed talking at conferences, though my return to the stage was humble: In February, at 12min.me, I gave a brief talk about metaphysics, with Ein etwas anderer Einblick in metaphysische Weltbilder. In May, then, at beyond tellerrand in Düsseldorf, I gave the keynote to talk about some of the challenges for the field of Web Development: The Dangers of Being a Web Developer.
Some time between those talks I released my latest book, CSS Optimization Basics. This one was another experiment after O’Reilly decided against a fourth “little book,” as I didn’t only self-publish but also open-sourced the manuscript—it’s all up for free at GitHub. I’ve been content with how it turned out—the book gives a particular yet solid look at CSS, I believe.
Another personal highlight was that, the background being of no import here, I reconciled with my family. Now the background was certainly of import; and yet it must suffice that I realized something about the stories we tell ourselves, and how these stories may take on a life on their own, and how they may get inflated and exaggerated and with that, ultimately, turn faux; and that they may not matter at all anymore once we truly grasp not only their but our own fallibility, and with that that what may be most important may be that we consider our own flaws and faults and mistakes and errors; and that I did when reaching out to my family, apologizing and forgiving and putting things at rest. This was one great development, and for me, whatever may or may not have happened in some distant past is now gone, and I care no longer. It’s all good (which is not at all difficult once one comes from a useful angle).
On the other side, then, I’ve also “refocused” some friendships and relationships that I noticed weren’t healthy, or were stuck, or lacked life, or whatnot, and I was and have been and am content with that. In past days I used to “work” on maintaining relationships—nowadays I’m much more relaxed about them, and then much more willing to leave things as they are when I observe relationships have turned one-sided, for too long. Unless I make a more conscious decision to invest in them and take particular responsibility for keeping them afloat, that is. If this explains any of this year’s reasoning.
One of the most important books I’ve ever read (none of those, but one from my four-plus stars list of favorites over at Goodreads) brought up one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned: You cannot have what you want. More precisely:
You will not have that for which you ask, nor can you have anything you want. This is because your very request is a statement of lack, and your saying you want a thing only works to produce that precise experience—wanting—in your reality.
Do not “want to.” You may not have what you “want.” You merely declare that you are in “want“ of it, and that’s where you will be left—you will be left wanting.
This I had to really comprehend (and still remind myself of) for it to become an enormous lesson, one that has greatly influenced and shaped my thinking and philosophy.
Yet, then, I actually stopped thinking so much; I shut down some projects (hi GDPR, though that only meant the impulse to get rid of project ballast) and refocused others; oh, I licensed Prince Valiant, of which I’m a huge fan, to have Hal Foster’s creative excellence accompany the writings on this website (which makes me wonder whether said writings will ever reach a quality remotely close); I paused dancing (Standard and Latin, which I did for a year and in which, hello certificates, I made the deutsches Tanzabzeichen in Silver); I started and paused MMA training (Zendōkai); I traveled more again (back to Spain, France, the Netherlands, and the United States); and I, let’s say, got more involved with art (and became a Freund der Kunsthalle).
This was probably not everything—it certainly wasn’t, as I haven’t even started my routine EOY review—but it was was popped into mind in these last few hours of the year. Years don’t just fly by, and so I always make an effort to review in some fashion or other.
Everyone, now, here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2019 🙏
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
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Perhaps my most comprehensive book: The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.