2020 Recap

Published on December 30, 2020

As I look back on the previous year I can honestly say that it's been a most eventful year with both ups and downs for me. Who would have thought what 2020 would bring at the end of 2019? I think in the end there's a lot we, unfortunately, missed out on but at the same time, I feel there's a lot I got to be grateful for.

I deeply miss spending more time with friends and family. As someone who's used to be on their own a lot, this is something I can cope with quite well. But at the same time being so long away from them isn't fun, to say the least. A lot of things I looked forward to this year didn't happen. Laracon US, my trip to California, Full Stack Europe, and more.

But there's also a lot to be grateful for. None of my direct family and friends got hit by the Coronavirus, I managed to continue working without any interruption, I got into sports and took up quite a passion for it, and I've managed to launch quite a few things.

Here's my recap of 2020.

Personal

The highlight for me personally this year was the first lockdown period in March and April. What started at first as a gradual descent into developing bad habits (not sleeping well, eating unhealthy, ...) quickly evolved into me getting a hold of myself and turning things around. I realized at some point that if this was a period that was going to last for quite a while, that I'd better make the most out of it. Suddenly having all of my schedules cleared helped a lot.

One of the very first habits I developed was starting to meditate. I usually now do this 5 to 10 minutes a day which usually consists of doing breathing exercises. This helped me in calming me down, getting a grasp on the bigger picture, and coping with things mentally. Doing this regularly means it's part of my daily life now and one of the most positive things I've gotten out of this pandemic.

All in all, I must say that after this period I felt healthier, more mindful, and stronger than I was before. I'm thankful for this time that I got to work on myself.

Sports

Before 2020 I'd have to go back to when I was 14 years old for the last period when I did any sports regularly. That's more than 16 years ago. This lockdown suddenly gave me an abundance of time at my disposal to try out things I've been wanted to do for ages. So I took advantage of it as much as possible.

This is a pretty large section of this post but I think that reflects how much of an impact it has made on me. I can say that starting to do sports has pulled me through this year and I very much intend to keep at it in 2021.

Running

I had small periods back in my twenties when I did some running but never managed to keep at it for longer than a few months. Running was the first thing that came to mind to start doing in the lockdown period.

Starting with running wasn't easy at all. I quickly realized my physique was bad, to say the least, and building things up was quite the challenge. Nevertheless, I pressed on. I ran my first 5km on the 6th of May (31:02). On the 3rd of June I ran my first 5km under 30 minutes (29:06).

During the summer I got into swimming and cycling so it was hard for me to combine this with running as well. Since running was my least favorite of the three I temporarily dropped it. Temporarily because halfway in October a new lockdown happened and swimming pools got closed. Because I was missing out on training days I started running again.

It turns out that swimming and cycling are excellent co-sports to do with running. I was surprised that things went so smoothly. In fact, on my second run I immediately broke my PR at 5km (27:46).

During the second lockdown, I set some personal goals to get before the end of the year was finished. One of them was to run 10km under the hour. On December the 24th I did just that.

I ran 10km in 54:53.

I was surprised at what I did. I always knew I'd make it but to get under 55 minutes was something even I didn't expect. Needless to say, I was very happy with this. Especially since I only started running 9 months ago.

For 2021 I've set some new goals for myself:

  • 10 miles under 1h25m with 1h20m as a stretch goal
  • 10km under 48 minutes
  • Run a 21km

Let's see if I made it in next year's recap.

Swimming

Like I said above, during the summer period I restarted with another passion I had: swimming. I've done swimming regularly over the past years but never really consistently. Nevertheless I always really enjoyed it and around the summer I realized it was a great sport to do during this period.

I started swimming again at the beginning of July. Although I didn't get to do it every week as I'd like I did manage to do get in over 23km for the year. And I managed to get my goal of 1500m under 40 minutes last week (38:33)!

For 2021 my swimming goals are:

  • 40km in total with 50km as a stretch goal
  • 1500m under 35 minutes
  • Do a 2500m swim

Cycling

Last but not least I discovered a new passion: cycling. I started to get into it after hearing how much fun it was from a friend. I borrowed another friend's bike and gear and did my first ride back in May and immediately did a +65km ride. I was hooked.

The fun thing about cycling is that you're doing these rides for hours. And it gives you a way to clear your head, has a good long period away with friends and to discover all these new locations and routes.

I wanted my own bike but I wasn't the only one who started cycling it seemed. At the end of July, I got my new bike and I've been doing rides regularly ever since. I even continued biking through the winter period.

As for personal achievements in cycling: in September I did my first 200km in one week and also did more than 600km that month. I averaged 32.4 km/h on a 63.42k ride (under perfect conditions I must say). And I did my first 100km ride at the end of November with another one in December. In total, I biked 2100km this year.

Cycling has become a passion I intend to keep going at for as long as I possibly can. I'm hoping to continue the trend in 2021.

My 2021 cycling goals are:

  • Bike at least 5000 kilometers
  • Do a 125km ride
  • 15000 altitude meters

Hiking

Another thing I greatly enjoy doing is hiking. Unfortunately the pandemic kind of disrupted my plans to go hiking in California during the summer. And I almost thought I didn't get to do any until last weekend when I went hiking with friends in the Ardennes here in Belgium. I forgot how beautiful my own country was.

On Saturday the 26th we did a 24km walk around Lac de la Gileppe. And on Sunday the 27th we did a 36km winter walk to Signal the Botrange (the highest point in Belgium with 694m). Both walks were different in intensity and atmosphere but both were very beautiful. Hoping to do more hiking in 2021!

Leisure

You'd think I'd have lots of time on hand to enjoy the free time during this pandemic but it turns out that besides sports and work there's not much room for anything else. The biggest part of the rest of my free time probably went into watching series.

Besides that, I only read 5 books which are way less than my goal of 16. And I played only 5 video games: FIFA 20 & 21, Luigi's Mansion, The Last of Us Part 2, DOOM & Star Wars Squadrons. Especially The Last of Us Part 2 was fantastic. I've also finally built my own computer this year!

Finding a good balance between leisure, sports & work is something I'd like to improve on in 2021.

Work

With the entire section from above, I'd almost forget that I also did some work this year 😅

Laravel

It has been another amazing year at Laravel. It still amazes me every single day that I get to do the job I love to the core and I'm extremely grateful for that. Working on open-source continues to be my great joy in life. Thanks to Taylor for giving me that opportunity. This year also marks my 2nd anniversary 🎉

It's been an eventful year with some great releases for me personally. My favorite package still is Cashier and we've shipped v11 and v12 of Cashier Stripe this year. I've also built and released Cashier Paddle v1.

At the same time, my colleagues James & Mohamed have been doing amazing work on our paid products. We also welcomed Nuno as our new team member during the summer. And Taylor has done an amazing job with the new releases of Jetstream & Sail. We also shipped Laravel 7 & Laravel 8.

Full Stack Belgium

Needless to say, the pandemic has caused quite some havoc on our plans for Full Stack Belgium. Rias and I started quite well and still managed to do 4 events which did very well. Our Ghent event for March was going to be our biggest one yet with over 150 attendees who RSVP'd.

We also would have celebrated our 5th anniversary. As it looks like this moment 2021 won't bring improvement any time soon. We're hoping to get back at it at the end of 2021 or in 2022.

Full Stack Europe

Cancelling Full Stack Europe 2020 was a big disappointment. Freek and I were already on track to getting together a cool line up of speakers for this year. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.

We were in luck that we hadn't made many financial investments yet so as a conference we're still pretty healthy. We're currently looking at Q4 of 2021 to organize the second edition. Let's see how that goes.

Laravel.io

Although I haven't invested much time into Laravel.io this year, I'm in deep luck with having a great co-maintainer that did. Joe has shipped some amazing improvements to the portal that brings it to a new level.

Some of the highlights he has contributed:

  • Notifications
  • Algolia Search
  • Articles

And he's recently begun to work on some fresh UI improvements. I'm very thankful to him for all the work he has done. I'm hoping I can chop in a bit of work as well next year.

We've also launched our GitHub sponsorships this year. These help us to create a sustainable base for us to keep working on the project as well as invest the funds into the platform itself. If you're interested in helping us out head on to our sponsors' page.

I'm also grateful to everyone who has helped out this year with the platform, whether it's with moderating the forum or contributing a PR.

The goal for Laravel.io in 2021 is to continue growing the platform, adding new features, and turning it into a proper community hub for the Laravel community.

Blade UI Kit

One of the things I'm most proud of in 2020 is shipping Blade UI Kit, a set of renderless components to utilize in your Laravel Blade views.

Blade UI Kit was an idea that came to life while working on an app where I needed to implement certain tedious small bits and pieces that I had done before in other apps. It made me realize that there's a great opportunity to extract these into a package so they can be reused in other apps while not having to rebuild them over and over again.

Together with the release of Blade Components in Laravel 7, Blade UI Kit was born. In its first release, it shipped with 26 different components ranging from Markdown rendering, WYSIWYG's, date pickers, and much more.

The goal for 2021 is to improve and extend the existing library with new components and to release a proper v1. I've been neglecting PRs and issues quite a bit in recent months and want to catch up soon.

Blade Icons

Together with Blade UI Kit I also launched Blade Icons, a package to easily make use of SVG icons in your Laravel Blade views.

Blade Icons is a merger of a previous Blade icons package I built and Adam Wathan's original Blade SVG package. It combines the features of both packages into one. I'm thankful to Adam for giving me the trust in maintaining it.

It's been doing quite well, gaining over a thousand stars on GitHub and almost hitting 150k installs through Packagist. Needless to say, I'm very happy about that.

My goal for Blade Icons in 2021 is to continue improving it, adding some much-requested features and speed improvements, and release a proper v1.

A Look Back

Looking back at my recap of 2019 I can say things didn't turn out how I expected.

First and foremost Eventy didn't happen. There are several reasons but the pandemic is probably the main one. Given the fact that no events are being organized and that I never intended Eventy to mainly be a platform for online events, I didn't feel it still had the momentum to continue to be developed. I still want to build Eventy someday but we'll have to wait and see how the pandemic goes. Or maybe I'll spend time on a new project, who knows.

I did write a few more blog posts than back in 2019. I'm neither happy with the amount nor disappointed. In general, I'll try to continue to write whenever I want to or feel like and not let any stress bottle up for not getting to a certain quota.

A Look Ahead

As for 2021, my single biggest hope is to spend more time with friends and family. From the looks of things, we'll have to keep up the effort in fighting the pandemic a little while longer but I also see light at the end of the tunnel. I hope that enough people will get vaccinated so we can slowly get out of this all. My main goal for this is to spend next year's Christmas together with family, a period I deeply missed the last few days.

As for the rest, I went over many of my goals in the above post. Besides those, I also want to keep growing myself as a developer and in life. I won't set any fixed goals besides the ones from above but rather see where life takes me and how 2021 will unroll.

In general, I'll continue to try to be more empathic, kind, and thoughtful of the people around me and with who I interact. I feel that this year especially, we all got to learn to appreciate more what we already have rather than hoping for more. Let's count our blessings here at the end of 2020.

Happy New Year.

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About Me

I'm a software engineer from Antwerp, Belgium. I work as one of the core team members of Laravel, the popular PHP framework. I'm also the creator of Blade UI Kit, a set of renderless components to utilise in your Laravel Blade views.

My passions are open-source, building communities, managing software teams, and creating quality and maintainable products.

Together with my buddy Rias I organize events for Full Stack Belgium in the cities of Antwerp and Ghent. And together with my buddy Freek I organise Full Stack Europe, the conference for the whole team.

Follow me on Twitter: @driesvints.

© Dries Vints