“The year of G”
A friend of mine called this year “The Year of G” and I like it. It fits very well for what this year has been about, so I’m gonna use that as the main title for this post. I frequently admit how much I enjoy these retrospective look backs, because it’s just so easy to forget so many little details that drastically change the big picture combined together. Even now, thinking back and reflecting on the past 12 months, I thought I remembered most details, but just looking through some pictures from about a year ago made me realise a whole eternity of time has passed and so many things have changed for the better.
It will never seize to amaze me how much you can do, slow and steady, over a period of time, if you just keep going, one step at a time, just be consistent and keep going. And if there would be one take away from this post, I’d like that to be it:
Whatever you want to accomplish, just start today and do many tiny steps every day, you will be amazed by your progress when you look back at it a year from now.
If I close my eyes and think about this past year these are the words that pop up in my head to describe different parts of it:
CrossFit, Athletic Greens, good food, airfryer, master’s degree, school, new job, Elisa, back to the office, end of the pandemic, war, new apartment, amazing summer, footbal with my son, swimming with my son, tent on the balcony, eating well, better nutrition, protein intake, working out, running, crossfit competition, meeting people, dates, after work, London trip, Bulgaria trip, best party night of my life, beach party, relaxing, enjoying cocktails, going out with old friends in Helsinki, fun times, social life, being present, smiling more, my old social self, quality time with my son, getting used to week on week off schedule, having the corona, ginger, lemon, honey, garlic, graduating, therapy, travelling, online friends, gaming, ice cream at the harbor, jungle juice smoothie in redi, cinema and movies, meeting old friends from F-Secure, going to events, company party
Before I dive into the goals set from the past year, I’d also like to take a moment and just think - from the top of my head - what are the things I feel have changed the most?
- CrossFit and healthy lifestyle, consistent work outs and good nutrition
- Better cooking, less food thrown away, eating more fruits, cooking more diverse and fresh meals
- Realised I had lost myself and going back to my more social, more happy and adventureous self
- Doing my Master’s degree
I’m gonna go in depth on some of these topics, but first let’s take a look at the goal list set from last year.
⬜ Major goals:
- 💹 Have a net positive situation with Anton and a minimum negative impact from family events on him.
- 🎾 Sport hobby with Anton (tennis).
- 🏋️♂️ Do crossfit and lose the gut.
- 📝 Finish my Master’s degree.
- 🛂 Get Finnish citizenship.
- 🤝 Meet genuine and emotionally mature people <3.
- 👨💻 Professional development focus.
- 😊 Personal development focus.
- 💶 Diversify income streams.
- 🎥 Back to YouTube.
◻️ Minor goals:
- 🕺 Have fun ;)
Looks good overall, and I’m happy I achieved nearly all of the goals I set for myself.
Given our big life changing situation a huge focus was set on quality time with my son and just in general making sure he has an amazing environment to thrive in and lacks nothing. I’ve put A LOT of effort into this and I think it had gone well. From simple day to day things, to cooking even more and more diverse meals, having great nutrition, going to the movies together and for ice cream in the summer, signing him up for his football practice and going there together both in the spring and in the autumn, taking time to play lotto, memory, various made up games, Minecraft, Raymond, read 14 kids encyclopedia books as bed time stories cause he wanted 😂, birthday party with an awesome cake, and so much more. I love spending time with Anton and while it is sad that I am only able to do that 50% of the time, we make it count!
Sport hobby with son was a success as already mentioned. It was nice to see how in the beginning running for too long was a bit tricky, but he got used to it overtime, and he had a lot of fun with that practice, which was the best. CrossFit has been absolutely fundamentally life changing for me, I’ll go in more detail on this, but yes, this had been a success from the set goals. I did finish my Master’s degree. In fact, somewhat quick, but in the end things really worked out pretty well for me to wrap up the studies and credits needed and finalize the thesis in order to graduate within just 1 school year. Finnish citizenship is one of those things that I don’t really have the presure or need to get, it’s more a matter of integration, but it’s definitely not out of passion and as such I didn’t make progress towards it this year. We’ll see if I will try next year or “when the time comes”. I don’t take it as a fail, more like, something I didn’t see value in focusing on at this point in time, and other things taking precedence and higher priority for my time.
Meeting cool people, both old friends and new acquaintances has definitely been a lot of fun and can be deemed a success. There has been so many situations this past year from the most random places to places of common interest and I’ve met a lot of people passionate about life and what they do, which is in and of itself inspiring. The professional development focus has been marked as a success too, there’s a lot that goes into that, but simply put - the job change, the going back to closer to the web projects (from the previous world of desktop apps with Electron for a couple of years), the re-igniting of my dev passion and desire to learn more and do more fullstack stuff, this is a journey that started this year, but is only beginning. And the personal development focus has a similar main theme - a lot has been done, a lot more is to come. I’m most happy for taking the time and having the balls to do some actual therapy, which lasted about 6-7 months and was very beneficial to dig deep, figure out stuff, learn more about myself and take it from there. There are many more small things that are hard to describe but make up the big picture - things that play a role in how I think, see the world and interact with it, some of those topics will be discussed in depth below. Besides that, I’m very happy to have gone to my previously outgoing, social self, someone I used to be, but had forgotten and was neglected for waaay too many years for no good reason.
Diversifying income streams is one of those goals that I can a “5 year goal”. I didn’t expect to do much about it this year, but rather start realising how it would be accomplished. There are still a few different ways or potential things in how to do it, but no, that has seen no major focus this year, since other items were priotitized over it. Back to YouTube as a topic also has not seen a lot of success, but there are things around just getting back into posting to TikTok about adventures and other things of interest that had been done. YouTube, especially as my FPVtips channel (which just crossed over 1000 subscribers, to whom I’d like to thank a lot), I don’t think I’m coming back to that. I tried going out and flying once in the summer, but yea I don’t think I’d be getting back into it at this point in time.
🏋️♂️ CrossFit? Lifestyle change!
I first ever heard of CrossFit from a friend at work when I was working at F-Secure - Christian. That was quite a few years ago and sounded somewhat interesting and for a while I was curious but never really went for it. Somehow, casually chatting on a cold December day at the end of 2021, CrossFit came into the conversation again as I was considering some sports hobbies to do and Christian recommended that gym - North Engine CrossFit. They were supposed to have a foundations class starting in January, so the timing was perfect and I wanted to sign up. Only problem was, the country got locked down for a month again then… The last COVID lockdown at the time, at least it was just for a month. Finally, in early February I was able to do the course. best 250e I had ever spent, which included a month of subscription to the gym and so I started going whenever I could. At the time, our schedule with Anton wasn’t even week on / week off (that came in May), so it was tricky and I had to do all sorts of classes whenever I managed to find time and fit it into the schedule somehow. But I was having fun, I was determined and I wanted to improve. The atmosphere, the instructors, the people in the gym were awesome. I got my 3rd COVID shot in February too and after that last lockdown, even though some places like shops you would still wear a mask, the gym felt extra good and like “back to previous life” in a way, cause there was just you and your gym equipment and no masks. Just people working on themselves to improve on what they had previously done. Amazing! And I should definitely mention that classes were in English and that’s a BIIIIIIG plus and a huge reason as to why I’m there, driving 40 mins each way and still thinking it’s worth it.
There’s certainly a cost to it, both in terms of time investment and financial investment. Getting some equipment, paying 120e per month, gas to the place and about another 40e in parking fees alone, but I’d not change it for the world. Honestly I love that place, and I hope I only feel the same way for many years to come. The time investment can be very tricky at times. Nowadays when we do week on / week off, at least when I’m free I’m going 4-5 times a week and I love it. Then if possible try squeezing in 1-2 classes on the other weeks. Logistics. Back to the story. It’s been fun to see some of my bigger improvements - from being able to only do 2-3 good pulls ups early on to doing 6-8-10 on most days nowadays in a row. From not knowing the technique and not having strong enough arms to do rope climbs, to doing 3 in a row without issues, nice and fast. From not having a single muscle up to being able to actually do some nowadays. Squatting my first 100kg. From that third day from the foundation class when I literally fell after my left calf cramped while trying to put my shoe on while leaving 😂. It’s been a long trip, I’ve come a long way, but it’s only just the beginning really, A LOT more to go, a lot more to do. It’s nice we just had in the beginning of November a competition at the gym where we finished 5th in the RX track with a buddy. I thought we’d do worse, but happy we did how we did. Running is a bit of a limiting factor for me at the moment but I can improve (and already have a lot). Just the mere fact that I ran 2.5km during the first part of that competition, I deem that a success on its own. I’m also happy my rope climbing skills came into use during that competition, including being able to give advise and explain the technique to my team mate. Did well with box jumps too, but the 45kg weight on the other hand was way too much for me for 5 rounds of 12 deadlift, 9 cleans, 6 push press for time. Was good fun, can’t wait for the next competition.
I could probably go on and on about CrossFit, but the key points really are that it was a fundamental life changing shift. It lead to me taking in more protein, trying to eat even better, reducing sugar and sugary drinks (not that I was having a lot of those anyway), and even to literally quitting beer in August. I’ve not bought beer at home since then. Up till that point I was sometimes having a beer or two on a weekend. Now, I just drink when going out with friends and even then sometimes. It feels good. Feels natural and not forced and I love it. All in all, it’s a great hobby to have, it’s fun to do, the gamified elements of it make it interesting, the music adds to the fun, the targets and improvements, the fun workout warm ups and so on. And I feel about this the exact same way I felt about smoking after quitting it - in hindsight it just feels like such a no brainer, like why hadn’t I done it even earlier, so if you’re on the fence of starting a sports hobby of any sort - go for it and have fun with it, if you do, you will most likely stick with it and feel great while doing something nice for yourself. Also unironically, no offense to any therapist out there, but sport is the best therapy and the best thing to clear your mind for a while and reset. Highly recommended!
❓ Finding myself / I had no idea I had lost myself…
This may sound a bit as a cliche but it’s exactly what happened this past year. I think sometimes we can be stuck in a way and not even realise we are stuck. I’ll try to illustrate with one example from nearly 10 years ago. When we first moved to Finland in 2012, I was 27 at the time, and applied, got accepted and started studying in university for my bachelor’s degree in information technology. Funnily enough, having just come here, not realising how important life-long learning is to people here and what big part of life it is, I felt “old for it” initially. Like, “what the fuck am I doing, I’m 28 years old, why am I bothering to study at this age” old. I quickly realised this is nonsense and my mentality and approach rapidly changed, but it is a fact, that before I knew better, before I knew there was another way, because of growing up in Bulgaria and with that mentality initially, where people do 1 degree straight after highschool and then never study for the rest of their lives, it made sense I believed what I believed, which again, is not necessarily true.
Sometimes we don’t even realise there’s another way.
Two other, slightly different, examples are with when I quit smoking and when I started working out (CrossFit). Both of these were mind blowing moments, where months and years later, looking back you’re wondering: “Wow, why was I not always doing that? Why did I ever smoke? Why had I not been working out this entire time?“. And they feel like there’s no really good answer to it.
This whole finding myself bit is a bit abstract and made itself present in so many different ways, but the main, key part was really the realisation, that I had neglected myself, the things I loved for a very, very long time.
Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say there was some realisation that I had been unhappy or whatever, or to complain about past choices, I’m still aware of what and why I chose what I chose, especially in terms of family life and the past relationship, but the fact of the matter is that by prioritizing always first and foremost thinking of other people - my ex spouse, and by prioritizing always on being a dad, again, something I’m not sorry for, there should have been time to focus also on the things I loved. To a certain degree there was a bit of that in the sense of this blog, FPV drones, YouTube channel, things I did before the pandemic hit.
But this year, this manifested in a lot of other, tiny, subtle ways across many aspects of life - from how I carried myself, to confidence, chatting with friends, the way I smiled, joked, flirted, the events I went to, the groups of people I got involved with and so on.
😌 Be present!
I could probably write an entire post on this topic alone, but it was one of the main ones for me. Being present sounds really simple but it can be very tricky in many ways. Many people have issues with staring at their phones all the time. Nowadays it seems there’s another trend in not being present - AirPods in your ears. Everyone wears them, keeps walking, no one stops or cares, watches or listens. I’m not gonna single handedly change society, but I definitely appreciate people who recognise that and are not a part of the sheeple. Don’t get me wrong, I too walk with my AirPods many times, but there are times you turn em off, put them away, etc. Same and even more so for the phones. For me personally, this is nothing new, I’ve noticed this a long time ago and in situations where it made sense I didn’t bury myself in my phone - in events where I socialized and chatted with people. This is one of those things I already did pretty well, but I still wanted to prioritize this this year and make sure, I’m always present. This also manifests in other ways, not only in not staring at your phone. For example in the conversations you have with strangers - how relaxed you are, how much in the moment and chatting about then and there, rather than other random bullshit.
🤯 Getting out of your head
Which leads us also to this - getting our of your head. This I could write a lot about too, but in a nutshell, it’s about recognising when we are spiraling out of control overthinking specific aspects. There are a lot of things to this - from the realisation that in the end, we have no control over life, life will keep happening anyway and regardless our choices, being present, and so on tie together. I’ve not gone into some weird “anarchistic dystopian life doesn’t matter” logic. I still think about my actions and choices and I still think they matter quite a lot, but just in general, teaching yourself (especially if you’re a natural overthinker such as myself) how to take it more easy, how to think a bit less to reduce stress, how to go with the flow, reduce expectations, follow the adventure and see what happens next. All of that actually, trully pays off.
I did do about 6 months of weekly therapy sessions with a professional shrink. I like to think it was beneficial. For the most part, it was a way to share and dig deeper into things and just learn more about myself with various exercises we did. It’s hard to put it in a few words, and while I do believe it was beneficial, I can easily say that other things did way more for me and changed my interpretation of life and things a lot more (for example CrossFit). Therapy, I really mostly did to a huge degree for the experience of it and to see what it’s like and how it would go. I’d still recommend it if you can afford it, but I also wouldn’t sweat it if you can’t do it.
☯️ Duality & Balance
A big topic this year was also duality and balance. Duality was felt most prominently when after May 2022 we changed the schedule with Anton to be 1 week on and 1 week off. Up to that point we were still changing up every few days. I was a bit worried about this one, but it seemed to have worked pretty well. I don’t enjoy not being able to see him a whole week at a time, but I keep reminding myself that he needs his mom too of course. It is a bit sad at times for sure for me, but as said, he seems to be doing well, so you try to learn to go with it. That duality was most pronounced in exactly this weekly split where 1 week you are a proud parent and that feels familiar, you know what to do, what chores to handle, what things to do together, the cooking, the family time and so on. Then you have the complete opposite, the single, childless week where you can do anything else. I’ve learnt to appreciate both, especially thanks to CrossFit, I do 4-6 work outs on the “free” weeks, cause anyway I can’t do as much on the weeks when Anton is at home. I believe that this split also creates some weird form of a positive balance and diversity, while also maintaining the solid bi-weekly schedule. I don’t know, maybe it’s a placebo, but it seems to work and you get used to it after a while.
📈 My success stories
I think it’s important to recognise and remind yourself of the things you do well and are happy with how you handle them. This should provide a positive feedback and reinforce your life choices and decisions. Here are some of the things I think I do well:
Trying my best to be the best dad possible to Anton, working out and generally being very good at maintaining positive habbits, nearly quitting drinking completely (and might literally do so in the very near future), not relapsing back into smoking, being content, juggling work, parenthood and personal life, actually starting to eat a lot of fruit regularly this year, cutting out a lot of sugars from my diet this year, higher protein intake and overall better macros, focusing more on what I WANT, having fun times out and partying, completing my Master’s degree.
I’m good at not staring at my phone much and especially in social situations. I don’t drink soda or have cravings for it, I nearly quit drinking beer since August. House maintenance - stocking up on food, detergents, things have specific places, shopping lists are easy and clear to do. I’ve been ordering no food take out since August, and we’ve gone to no Burger King or McDonalds since.
🏰 London baby!
I loved that whole thing - from casually talking about it and it being a vague idea, to actually making it happen. It was nice to see many of the peeps we’ve been playing with online and chat and party together. I honestly had a blast!
Of course it was great to travel and visit London for the first time, I am a fan, definitely enjoyed that, especially at that time just the feeling of being somewhere where English is the main language, not having to constantly think and decypher stuff. It’s just such a nice feeling. And despite this being just a 4 day trip, I’m definitely “hungry for more” and want to include more trips next year, destinations to be decided.
🌊 Bulgaria trip
Going into the Bulgarian trip with little to no expectations, catching up with an old friend and literally ending up in quite literally the best party of my life on the first night there, wow…
Then and there I knew that would be very hard to top and who knows when it actually would be topped. I can say now, in the end of the year, after having been at the Helsinki Friends party at the 8 Bit Brewing in Espoo, with that lovely bunch of people I met there, that was fun too, but still didn’t top the Bulgarian summer party.
It’s simple - so many things clicked perfectly together. I was in my homeland, I was at the beautiful sea, at the beach, the weather was awesome, the vibe was there, the people were friendly and fun, one of my oldest and best friends was there, we had some casual drinks to begin with, there was a bonfire on the beach, the music was this perfect mix between 90s, hip hop, 2000s, r&b, new music - spanish and afrika songs, just freaking awesome.
Had plenty of drinks, relaxed, danced and enjoyed the vibe throughout the whole night on another level.
It was so nice to swim in the sea 💙 too once again. And of course once we got to Plovdiv, spent there a number of days, catching up with more friends and just chilling, or in Bulgarian “ailyak” 😁.
So after 2 years of not getting the good ol’ Covid-19, I finally got it when I left the UK. Started sneezing in the plane on the way home to Helsinki, and sure enough, testing for it after I got home it was positive for the first time. I did have the 3 vaccination shots and my covid was rediculously easy. Literally a bit of muscle craps for 2 days, and I was mostly all fine and dandy soon enough after. It did take almost 10 days to get a negative test, and I did loose my smell sense. I noticed cause when I would open the dishwater tablets bag, which normally smell pretty strongly, I smelled nothing. At some point after, the smell sense came back. All in all, pretty easy on me, and I’m very happy for it.
What I’m not happy with is the bald spot on my head at the top so I should explore options what to do about that.
All in all, I’ve felt very healthy this year and the few times a minor cold would start creeping up on me, eating foods with garlic, onion, ginger, lemon and honey really seem to help out in those early stages, on tops of me already taking supplements like Athletic Greens (which I started in March and continue to this day).
I also lately started taking some extra magnesium every so often and a bit of extra zinc on a less regular basis.
Feeling better physically has manivested in a lot of ways, but especially two come to mind - where previously I used to start breathing a bit heavily after 2 flights of stairs, I noticed a few months into working out I was no longer doing that. Additionally, things like lower back pain etc., completely gone - for example bending over to pick up something and noticing how my body doesn’t hurt. I’ve never had a huge problem with that in the first place, but I can definitely notice the improvement. This is especially important if you work long hours at the computer. I’ve as always alternated standing and sitting, but still with working out, lower back pain is out of the window.
It was also pretty remarkable to me the few times we had to run some longer distances at the gym as a park of a workout, for example 3 x 800m in between other exercises or during the competition in November the 2.5km run. That alone would have been unthinkable previously, but I’m happy I managed and I did so at a decent pace.
Might sound a bit like a cliche but it’s true - I’ve never felt better physically in my entire life.
I’m happy to have met and connected with the following people this year (listed randomly, in no particular order): Era, Mitko, Kalina, Stenli, July, Random people at the Bulgarian beach party, CrossFit gym people, Charli, Milan, Matt, Mari, Mari the designer from work, Eelis, Roope, Olli, Hannu, Jouni, JP, Annina, Minna, other designer folks from work, Henna, Nathan, Amalia, and other folks from Helsinki Friends, Krasi, Niina, Emily, Liam, Lyudmil, Robert, Ruth, and everyone else from the London meet up, Marine, Frida, Christian. As always this is not about quantity, but quality and it has been awesome to share moments and stories with many of you. Makes me trully happy!
🐉 Adventures and random stuff
Having to do random unplanned and planned stuff is definitely fun and worth mentioning. Some of those that I loved doing this year include:
Signing up Anton for his first sports practice - starting football in April - June. That was a lot of fun, and we did a 2nd round of it in August - September. It was amazing to see him have fun, but also to see him make so much progress - from being able to run less in the beginning to being able to run a lot more and more comfortably later on. Absolutely amazing!
I’m not gonna list all the stuff we’ve done, but we’ve tried many things from hanging out on the sunny balcony and painting, to “camping” there, to being out in the snow, being out in the sun, going to the local park and playing, going out to swimming pools in the summer and winter, his swimming classes this autumn, reading tons of encyclopedias, going to play table tennis together, playing some games together like Minecraft and Heroes of Might and Magic 3, watching football matches together.
Deciding to buy a ticket and randomly go to Helsinki Synthcity and to the Helsinki Friends Christmas party was absolutely the right call and a lot of fun and very worth it. Same with the London and Bulgaria trip. And same with meeting Manol and Olya and playing table tennis.
So that’s all fine and dandy and I’m very grateful for this past year, but what about the future going forward?
Well, somehow, this past week I’ve ended up in a situation of moving apartments again. It was something I knew I had to do at some point, but it’s funny how all of a sudden it became a thing of “ok, now we do this”. I hope it works out for the best and smoothly as it’s still a work in progress, but the underlying idea is to move closer to my son’s future school, so back to “South Hill, city of the elderly” 😂 (lil inside joke tangentially connected with my book). The other main point is to fix my monthly budget. What started as me keeping track on a monthly basis of my financials over the past year, has offered a lot of insight, and long story short, I pay waaaaay too much money for the current apartment which basically means I’m on a roughly -350e per month budget, and while I can support that for a few years, it’s very demotivating to think that just living life normally, and despite other very good efforts to not spend money on pointless stuff, you’re still on a negative monthly budget. So, now we’re moving.
Below is the list of major and minor goals for 2023
⬜ Major goals:
- 💰 Improve the monthly budget to a neutral or positive state
- 🏘 Move to live closer to son’s preschool and future school
- ⚽ Sign up Anton for football, swimming or other hobby again
- 📚 Become full stack - create 6 new projects
- 🕺 Join a latin / hip hop dance class
- 🗣 Create / join communities - people to hang out with similar interests, language, hobbies, w/e
- 🌵 Embrace discomfort head on
- 🇪🇸 Travel to Spain
- 🇪🇺 Travel to a random EU country (Adventure 1)
- 🚙 Rent an RV (Adventure 2)
- 🛳️ Go on a longer boat cruise (Adventure 3)
◻️ Minor goals:
- 🇪🇸 Sign up for a Spanish language class
- 🇸🇪 Sign up for a Swedish language class?
- 🇫🇮 Finnish citizenship?
- 📺 Stream once a week on Twitch
- 💵 Diversify income streams (platforms build up, year 2/5)
- 🛋 Cozy and comfy in the new apartment
- 🎶 Create 1 hip hop or or techno / EDM song
In closing, I’d like to make one final retrospective. Last december I was in the middle of my Master’s studies, having just barely picked a potential topic for the thesis, just moved into a new appartment, worrying how my son will trully do with the new changes to our ways of living and schedules, being single for the first time in 10 years (with all its positives and anxieties), had not done any sports in more than 10 years, had been eating ok, but not great, had a bit of a belly and “saggy boobs”. This december, I feel great, confident, I had long completed my Master’s degree, I travelled to London for the first time, had an amazing vacation in Bulgaria, spent time focusing on myself, had been working out doing CrossFit for 9 months and loving it, got involved in 2 awesome communities, met a lot of nice people, reconnected with some old friends, I have no belly and no saggy boobs, and infact I have put on quite a bit of muscle, I feel great physically, my lower back and shoulders no more randomly hurt, my legs and all my muscles are more fit than ever, I eat great - a lot of fruit, not much sugar, and overall a pretty decent died, including some additional vitamins, pre- and probiotics, I have a great time with my kid - took him to football club lessons, swimming, playing table tennis, playing games at home, playing in the snow, playing outside in the summer on the playground, at an outdoors pool, to the cinema and for icecream by the harbor.
All in all if there’s one word to describe how I feel about this past year, it’s the word FUN. There are always some ups and downs in life, but overall, I’d like to leave you with this thought:
Live your life today such, that when you take a look back a year from now, you’d be happy and proud of everything you did and not feel regret or wish you had done something else.
To an awesome 2023!