2023 mid-year retrospective #2

Musings on my life from May to ~November.

My last retrospective was 6 months ago.

Revisiting my long-term goals

I don't want to work in a stressful job. I want to Barista FIRE by age 40.

I revisited https://walletburst.com/tools/barista-fire-calc/ to see where I was in this goal. Last time, it said I would hit Barista FIRA at age 35. Now it says 37:

What happened? I think I entered more conservative numbers, and it's entirely possible that my spouse and I (especially I) have spent more than before to increase our YTD spending average (including increased principal payments to our mortgage).

Nonetheless, potential Barista FIRE in as little as 3-5 years is so exciting! This is also the time I expect to have us fully paid off our mortgage, saving us about $43,000 (conservative) in annual spend, considering rough estimate for home insurance and property taxes.

It's easy to forget my long-term goal of financial freedom in the day-to-day stresses of life.

What went well


Summary of things. I'll get into more detail for things I care to expand upon:

  • Finally got promoted! I'm happy at this current level.
  • Saw my friends in Minneapolis, MN
  • Had a small vacation with spouse in Charleston, SC
  • Visited my work's CDMX office with coworkers and saw Teotihuacán
  • Co-organized a virtual Scala conference and moderated a successful diversity roundtable panel
  • Pitched a large  cross-team project through a formal architectural review process at work. I'm now leading it.
  • Read 2 volumes of よつばと! in Japanese.
  • Finished Japanese N4 vocabulary flashcards.
  • Started my Japan 2023 solo trip album. Almost done!
  • Survived almost a full year of being HOA treasurer
  • Got surgery for something that's been bothering me for years
  • Replaced the guest spring mattress and wire bed frame with a nice memory foam mattress and wooden/metal bed frame. 🎉
  • Ordered a proper (wooden, custom) bookcase for our bedroom.

Language learning

I'm still sticking with Japanese after restarting in March 2022. I still take weekly, sometimes twice-weekly, coaching sessions with Fluent Forever. I still go through Anki and FF flashcards. I'm at 41% N3, 100% N4, 100% N5 core vocab. I still haven't restarted Heisig kanji. I'm at level 5, lesson 25 of  Pimsleur. My pace has slowed since September due to travel and a small refocus on Spanish. I'm a little frustrated, but I'm not beating myself up over it. Language learning, especially Japanese, is truly a marathon. I no longer feel a sense of urgency with my trip earlier in the year done; but I am considering another trip next year to rekindle my drive (and for the fun of it, of course).

I picked up Spanish again, somewhat, in preparation for a trip to Mexico City. I got through several lessons of Pimsleur Level 1. I need to revisit Spanish again for another trip, to Honduras, in a few weeks.

Japan 2023 solo album

I used to try to make albums of major trips I took, but they are a lot of work. The last time I did this was probably 2016 (7 years ago!) for a trip to Peru.

This trip to Japan was super meaningful for me, and I got a lot of great pics. So I got off my lazy butt and finally started making another album after a long hiatus. I have to split the trip pics into two albums: one of just me solo (34 days) and and one with my spouse (16 days). I have about 10 days left of pics to get through my solo album. Yay!

Volunteer work

I became our HOA treasurer last November to succeed my spouse. It's mostly been low effort, with a time commitment of 1-2 hours a month. Commitment picked up in the past few months with annual budget deadlines and other larger projects coming up for our neighborhood. I'm satisfied to have given back to our local community and learn some new things along the way, but I haven't enjoyed some of the stress.

I became a co-organizer and DEIB Safety Lead of NEScala Symposium 2023, which was held virtually this year. Efforts began in June and culminated yesterday, the last day of the conference (at least for me; the chair is still doing some post-video processing work, etc.). Time commitment was maybe 1-2 hours a month, but picked up considerably in the last few weeks. In these last few weeks, I also volunteered to moderate a Diversity Roundtable, where I had to prepare questions, recruit panelists, and coordinate logistics between them and the conference organizers. It was stressful and a little anxiety-inducing for me, but in the end I am proud of what we accomplished to have been a part of it.


I did so much travel! for claiming I was tired of travel after Japan. I went to Mexico, where I got sick (!); Charleston, SC, via a probably-too-long train ride back and forth; Minneapolis, MN, with a layover to accommodate an impromptu Southwest Airlines deal; Lewes, DE, to see my family's new house there; and more day trips to Washington, DC for dates and a work offsite gathering. The trips for this year aren't done yet: I still have to go to Honduras, San Diego, and Delaware (again) at the least.

Work work

Until recently, I had felt really good, though stressed, about work. I launched some big things and stretched myself professionally with

  • my first architectural docs + presentation as the primary author
  • leading a large project with some new teammates
  • releasing a cross-domain, now heavily-used dev tool written in Python and shell scripting
  • honed my craft more for technical documentation and diagramming
  • led a working group to migrate our technical documentation to a new server

I also got my promotion that I wanted (and deserved) for so long!

While machine learning is still largely a mystery to me, I feel like I'm slowly getting the big picture better to better serve my stakeholders.


I'm walking more, lifting less, eating less – resulting overall in a little bit of weight loss. Yay! Sleep regressed since the short period of "regular" 8-hour sleep after coming back from Japan in April, but I think it's overall still good enough.

Cooking mostly plant-based, with a small ratio of poultry, continues to be a joy. When I do eat out, I find myself no longer wanting to overstuff my belly, and and I reach for generally lighter meals. Is this a sign of me getting old? lol. In a good way, I hope.


I built a few models: RX-078 Gundam from the Yokohama Gundam Factory; X-Wing Starfighter; and Eva Unit 01! I've gotten better with painting as well. I'm partway through an AT-AT build.

I'm happy I've gotten to see some good friends.

Each time I traveled and came home, I became that much more grateful for where I live. I do wish where I live were a little more walkable, but otherwise it's decent in that front; and I love how this location is woodsy yet still diverse, close to many awesome restaurants and businesses, and so easy to get to DC.

What could be better

Work is stressful

Leading this particular project has been a big challenge: my teammates are new hires who are also new to Scala so there's been some onboarding difficulties; and there have been more unforeseen investigations needed to work better with co-leads from other teams. I haven't coded "for real" in weeks due to these challenges. I feel like I'm technically stagnating as a result, but I know that's unfair because technical leadership is more than just about coding. One area I want to improve in is architectural design, after all.


While I think my health is a little better, I know I could still be exercising more.

Still feeling professionally inadequate sometimes

Aside from my current project... The NEScala conference left me feeling a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I was inspired to consider open source contributing and also be grateful for the ways I give back – with organizational or community safety efforts rather than more technical things. I also was happy to have been able to understand more of the talks than I thought. On the other hand, I still felt like I know so little and I do so little. I took a look at the "Good First Issues" for Typelevel repositories, and none of what I saw looked accessible to me. Of course, I could just ask for help in the Typelevel Discord, but I'm a little shy...

I have a small jealousy for my teammates working on other projects that more heavily use the Typelevel stack (especially Cats Effect). I lamented not being able to work with it in my day job. Maybe I need to try to make my own pet project to scratch that itch in the interim.

As with each retrospective, I also need to give myself some grace. Look at all I've accomplished! I am mostly convinced that no one at work thinks I'm incompetent. Maybe I'm not the most knowledgeable at X, Y, Z; but I am dependable and sharp and can learn to be very knowledgeable in new things, given the opportunity and time.

And let's also not forget my real goal: Barista FIRE. I should keep relevant and competent enough to reach my financial goals, and not stress more than necessary beyond that for work. It's easy to stress with all the social trappings of work, given work is most of my day (and my company has a very social culture). But it's important to step back and remember what all this effort is really for. As I was reminded in a recent Youtube video I watched, we don't buy things with money; we buy things with time we spent earning that money.

Time management

This was a theme in my last retrospective. Good thing: I'm enjoying video gaming again. Bad thing: I can still get easily carried away. Same with Internet surfing.

I want to be more intentional again with my time. Devote more time to reading, writing, creating (albums, models); limit my gaming to healthier amounts, almost eliminate (?) Internet surfing.

Life after work work?

It's a question I think about a lot.

My current thought is I can work for a chill consultancy or non-profit that has no on-call, for 4 days a week or otherwise part-time. Maybe I can also find courage and develop skills to teach coding.

With the rest of my time, I want to keep learning languages, cook things that are more elaborate, maybe tackle my album backlog, read more, play more video games, take better care of my body, visit family, and find other ways to volunteer in my communities (local, technical). I won't want to travel as much... I think... I feel like travel appeals to me as an escape from everyday work, and it's comforting to know I still have a high income to be a "little" extravagant with my spending. In Barista FIRE, my income will be lower, and I may not be paid during my travels.

But we'll see what the me in the future thinks.