A Year of Retrospective, 2022

A campfire

The end of the year is the time when content with the theme “2022 Review” spawns everywhere in many kinds of forms: from articles, blog posts (like what you’re reading right now), Instagram highlights, and Spotify Wrapped, to anything we can think of.

While I am not someone who believes that the past 365 days are only worth it when we publish a summary of them, I believe this year is special. It’s a different kind of year for me, thus it deserves a retrospective of its own.

If you’ve read my post before — this year is the year I’m not in any kind of formal employment or education. While the term I use as an excuse is “career break” or “sabbatical” — but really, let’s say blatantly that it’s my unemployment year. This may sound as selfish (and it is!): it’s the year I got to do what I want to do.

And what did I get out of “doing things I want to do”? Below, I break down the highlights of my unemployment year.

Japanese Learning

This one could probably be a standalone post, but I spent most of my waking days this year improving my Japanese. Here’s my accomplishment:

Passed the JLPT N3. I managed to pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N3 which is equivalent to, if I quote the linguistic competence at the back of my certificate, “The ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations to a certain degree”.

That being said, I didn’t pass with flying colors, and I still think I was just lucky — but still, it gives me a self-affirmation of my effort. On top of that, I also attempted the N2 level in December. The result hasn’t been out, and I’m not sure about passing this one, but one can only hope, can they?

Learned +1000 Kanji & +3000 Vocabulary. I couldn’t do this without the amazing web app: WaniKani. If I could afford the subscription back then, I should’ve started WaniKani a long time ago. I managed to reach Level 35 (out of 60) in 49 weeks, and the result is apparent whenever I came across a Japanese text in the wild. I still need to “focus” and slowly read, but if I try, I could recognize most of the kanji I see. Hopefully, I can clear out all remaining levels in 2023.

Finished 1 Japanese novel. 1 seems a few, but I deserve to put it here because it’s the first Japanese novel (not a graded reader nor a manga) I’ve ever finished. I did have the aid of its audiobook, but it’s an accomplishment nevertheless (I posted a review of the book here). On top of that, I’ve started reading a couple of other Japanese novels — but have put them on pause for now. Hopefully, I can finish them in 2023 and read more Japanese novels as well.

Had a few Japanese conversations. I mentioned before in my N3 review post that I lack speaking abilities as I haven’t taken any Japanese lessons for a while. I am lucky this year that I got the chance to test out my speaking abilities: first in a trial lesson on italki and the second one in some kind of recruiter interview (which I thought would be in English, but we ended talking full in Japanese for the whole 30 minutes).

This kind of 1-on-1 video call gives a boost of confidence whenever I could get my thoughts across in Japanese, and I could understand what the other party is saying. Although for an introvert like me, talking to people, especially in a foreign language is tiring, I do hope I could have enough courage (and money? lol) next year to get more chances to talk in Japanese.

Piano Arrangement & Covers

I started picking up the piano keyboard again last year, in the despair of pandemic isolation. I already had an Instagram account dedicated to my piano recordings, and I posted videos there once in a while. This year, I decided to take things up a notch:

Started a YouTube channel.  I started the channel in April, and by the end of the year, I’d managed to produce and upload a total of 49 piano videos consisting of 23 full videos and 26 YouTube Shorts. The 50th video is still a work in progress, though I think it’ll be finished in 2023.

The channel has gained a shy number of +200 subscribers with +50K total views and +500 hours of watch time. More importantly, I enjoy the whole process of producing the videos — from working on the arrangement, practicing the piece, recording, editing, and publishing. Hopefully, I can produce more piano covers and keep growing the channel next year.

One TikTok video gained +46K views in 2 days. I also started a TikTok account to upload short videos, as a means to widen my audience. One day I uploaded this short simple piano cover (right hand only) of a popular song from the Japanese duo YOASOBI. I also added a “falling piano blocks” effect on the video (just see it here if I described it poorly). Over 2 days, suddenly the video views shot up to +40K, and now I could not avoid doing a full version of the song (which I’m still working on right now).

Published 12 piano solo arrangements on MuseScore. I managed to finish the arrangement of 12 songs (mostly TV-size versions of anime openings or endings), and I’m really glad that people are adding them as their favorites on MuseScore. I hope I can work on longer songs next year, and maybe, someday publish an original composition as well.

Getting Back into Coding

I know. I mentioned in my previous post that I would like to stay away from coding for a while while I’m on this career break. But it turns out I missed it more than I thought I would. This time tho it’s different — I write code for my own satisfaction, so it’s less burden and more enjoyable. Also, I rediscover the joy of solving problems and building things, which I used to really enjoy back in my university and early career days.

LeetCode Grind; Earned 3 “study plan” badges on LeetCode. Around August, I decided to really start getting back into coding slowly. I started the journey by starting to grind my problem-solving skill on LeetCode. For those who are not familiar with LeetCode — it’s an online platform for practicing coding problems, designed to prepare yourself for coding interviews. I worked on a couple of LeetCode study plans — solving a total of 132 problems.

Developed Ichi Bun Zutsu, a web app for Japanese reading practice. While I do enjoy the satisfaction that comes from doing LeetCode daily, I also want to refine my technical skill by learning something more practical. I pick up TypeScript and Next.js and decided to build a web app that overlaps with my other interest — Japanese learning. While it’s only a hobby project, I did really enjoy thinking through the features, designing the UI, and planning a simple architecture, while learning a lot of things along the way. The web app is available here, and the source code is available here. Currently, I still have a few other planned features in mind, which I hope I can start working on in 2023.

Brush up on interview skills. Getting back into coding gives me some epiphany that I might want to return to the workforce sooner rather than later. I’m not giving myself any strict deadline, but I’ve been getting more chances to attend a few interviews, in the form of technical, and behavioral interviews, as well as live coding sessions. I haven’t had any offers yet as of now, but I’ll keep improving myself and focus on doing my best.

I’m still not sure where would I be in 2023 as a software engineer, there are several options I have in mind: maybe working for a company, maybe starting working as a freelancer, or maybe starting a journey of becoming a solopreneur. Who knows? I’ll do what I know I can do for now and see where the path goes.

Overall, 2022 was a unique, one-of-a-kind year for me. I got to wear many hats and start defining myself as someone who enjoys multiple things rather than just one label. I hope I can continue doing things I enjoy next year. Surely though, there might be a time, one day, that I might not enjoy the things I enjoy right now — but I’ll surely remember 2022 as a time that I did enjoy them.