2024 mid-year retrospective

Surviving a layoff, running again, Japanese learning struggles, etc.

My last one was 8 months ago. As usual, I'll cover what I think went well, what was so-so, what didn't go well, and what I'd like to focus on moving forward.


Revisiting my long-term goals

I still want to Barista FIRE by age 40 at the latest. Last time I checked https://walletburst.com/tools/barista-fire-calc 8 months ago, it said my Barista FIRE age would be 37. I assumed the age would increase this time because we spent a lot of money in London. 😢 But no, it somehow went down a year...

Barista FIRE at age 36?

I am hoping that means our investments just grew more than expected, and I guess my fall promotion and spring bonus (albeit small-ish) helped. 😊 Granted, just this month we calculated that we'll likely have some pretty major expenses for home improvement: remove our old buried oil tank and furnace, and replace it with an electric heat pump.

We also were saving to get a new (electric) car to replace our gas car, but this isn't urgent, so we can put it off a bit longer if needed. Our current car still works fine; it's just the roof's paint is chipping away, and of course it would be great to be greener. When we traveled to London this late spring / early summer, the vast majority of the cars on the road were electric, and I could really tell the difference when breathing in the air.

So, maybe my FIRE age will go back up, we'll see.

What went well


A summary immediately below, and then sections following where I want to elaborate:

  • Huge project successes at work
  • Work-life balance on average better
  • Visiting and supporting friends
  • A healthy amount of travel
  • More cooking
  • Running races again
  • Somewhat better sleep after London
  • Finished 2023 Japan albums!!!
  • Generally productive with my time?

Work has been good

The end of last year started off alright, though still frustrating from struggling to level up a teammate on my project; then ended rather sadly and awkwardly with layoffs. There was mourning and disillusionment, as well as disorganization in trying to recover.

The beginning of the year was a little rough. My annual review in the spring was OK – it was the first time in my 11-year career that I didn't get at least "exceeds expectations" 🥲 which could've influenced my compensation evaluation, though my company would argue that that is strict rule after getting a fall promotion... and considering I survived layoffs the December before, so everyone was getting scrutinized more harshly, I guess I can't be too bummed.

Beyond the review stuff, each new quarter tends to be rather stressful, as my team got into this tradition of essentially having a work-hours week-long hackathon then. Even though it's supposed to only be during regular work hours (and not a 24-hour thing), I think some of us, including myself, tend to push it anyway; and the projects themselves feel high pressure with more-than-usual ambiguity.

But after that initial start to the year, things were generally great. In Q1, I was working largely solo on a project that ended up being a huge success. I was a bit nervous at first doing it alone, settling on an architectural strategy – making big technical decisions stresses me out, as I am still insecure sometimes in my technical judgment – but with my own resourcefulness, customer acumen, and the help of my partner teams, we did amazing things and ahead of schedule. I got overwhelmed again having to essentially show off the work in the form of demos, but it was a good problem to have, as well as practice with public speaking and increasing my reputation and network.

In Q2, I had a relatively narrowly scoped project that ended well again, and ahead of time. I was part of a company-wide hackathon and got recruited to a few different teams, and the one I settled on did awesome things in just 2.5 days. I have time at the end of the quarter to build upon that project, as well as do extra stuff for my priority-0 project.

Some new things are starting to crop up for the second half of the year, which stress me out a little, but I'll try to take them in stride.

I've definitely pulled my share of long days and a weekend or two where I did some work. Still, I think overall I've gotten better with work-life balance, especially as this quarter winds down. I was also able to take a ~2-week vacation towards the start of the 2nd half of the quarter, without compromising any deadlines!

I had the opportunity to visit the office in-person twice – both positive, though tiring, experiences.

I earned by Google Cloud Digital Leader certificate after taking a two-day live training class and reviewed with the self-paced class! I finished Adam Rosie's Essential Effects book! I have enrolled in the Rock the JVM Cats Effect course – but still need to take it.

06/26 Update: I got my "exceeds expectations" rating back for the first half of the year. 🎉

Friends and family

I've enjoyed being able to work remotely most of the year and then see colleagues and friends local to my company office every few months. It's always lovely to have friends visit us, and I am so glad I invested in a nice guest bed that everyone enjoys when they sleep over. I have the privilege now to help an old friend settle into the area where my partner and I live. It was fun visiting my brother's wife's family in Honduras last winter, and I feel fortunate to still see my parents somewhat easily and regularly. I'm looking forward to seeing my partner's family in his hometown at the end of this month.

Japan albums

Oh my goodness. YES!!! I'm so proud of this accomplishment. I think I spent 40-60 hours on each album. My first one of just me turned out amazing. I just finished my second one, of my partner and me, this morning – and I hope it'll arrive in time to show to his family when we visit.

Thinking about my backlog... London, Spain, Vegas/Grand Canyon/Death Valley, Viet Nam, and things that are inevitably coming up... Ooh, one day...


I vowed this year to do fewer trips overall. I had fun these past few years doing somewhat-frequent small trips, in addition to larger ones, to see friends who live a little far away; but it's tiring and expensive, and I enjoy having a routine and being with my partner at home. So far I've kept to that vow, only traveling for work, for my partner's work, for family, or on vacation with my partner. Cool to have crossed Oregon, Honduras, and England off the travel bucket list on top of it all!

I'm admittedly itching to see a few friends again... If I can find affordable flights and accommodations, maybe I'll swing a couple trips...


I put off running after I got COVID, the one and only known time, late 2022. I got back into it late 2023, and set a goal to run the DC Cherry Blossom 10 mile and 5k races in April. I accomplished that goal!!! In winter and spring I was running 4-6 times a week, and I discovered lots of nice trails around my area. I fell in love with my town even more.

Unfortunately, I got injured shortly before the race, and continued to feel pain after it. I greatly reduced my running since, especially with the London trip and now the summer heat. I'm trying to regain my fitness by doing slow and short runs in the morning, when it's still less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

I gained about 4 pounds since the London trip, but I just gotta discipline myself again and be patient. One great thing about post-London is my sleep schedule has become good again! Instead of regularly falling asleep between 1 and 3 a.m. and feeling meh in the morning, I go to bed between 9 and 11 p.m. I hope I can keep it up – there have been a few nights where I've slipped.

I still feel pain in my foot once in a while, even after doing some physical therapy and taking easier runs. Granted, I've become very lazy with my PT exercises... so maybe I should get back at that.

Regardless, I'm overall proud of myself for becoming more physically fit again. I can still be better, but that's probably always going to be true.


I finished a year of service as my HOA's treasurer. This year I'm wrapping up 3 years of being on the board.

I started mentoring someone through a partnership between my company and a non-profit, and that's been an incredibly rewarding experience so far.

I successfully donated blood twice! (I wasn't rejected for low hemoglobin!) The first time was even when I was training for my races, yet I was able to get back into my groove and safely. The second time, my hemoglobin count was even higher than before, but I felt lightheaded for a while and had to take it easy. It was also quite hot out. As of this writing, I'm up to 20 lifetime donations!

I'm still on the Typelevel steering committee. I became the treasurer there and started a draft budget... though I haven't done much in a while...

What was so-so

    • On and off with learning Japanese
    • Better time management, but still...

Japanese learning

Maybe I'm being too harsh with putting this in the "so-so" category. I'm on volume 6 of よつばと!, I'm still taking coaching lessons mostly twice a week, I started using the Language Reactor plugin for Netflix and YouTube, I did a few song translations, and I got back into kanji learning with the Kodansha Kanji Learners textbook – I just passed the 500 kanji mark a few days ago!

I gave up on most of my Anki flash card decks, except for 3. They became boring and tedious to keep up with. I have a lot more fun just consuming stuff in context and writing interesting phrases and vocabulary down in separate blog post pages. It's hard though to retain and recall all the vocabulary. I guess that was the same even with Anki, so it's not like I'm losing anything.

For now I'm leaving this topic in "so-so" because if I had been more diligent, I would've gone further at this point in my learning journey. After my Japan trip that ended in April 2023 last year, I felt like I just went at .5 speed until a few months ago. But as I know from the past, Japanese language learning tends to ebb and flow for most people.

What didn't go well

    • Weight gain after London
    • Accumulating too much stuff