2021 in review

It’s been a while since I published a year in review post! The last one was in 2018.

2021 went so fast. For a big chunk of the year, I struggled with Covid restrictions and tried to moved away from them. I went from a poor mental health to being happier and surrounded by friends. I continued therapy which helped me to stay afloat.

Work

My team at Shopify and I continued working on the global infrastructure story, making it so the traffic is served world wide and the data is distributed in the best possible way for Shopify merchants. My team grew and I got really lucky getting some very bright minds on the project.

5 years at Shopify came by, which meant it was time for me to take a 4 week sabbatical, paid by Shopify. I used that time to do some woodworking and welding and to see my family. Crafting made me feel great about my skills and I can’t wait to do more carpenting projects.

Towards September, I felt that I needed a bigger break to take care of myself. The last two years have been tough and I missed on so many opportunities to spend time outside of work because of Covid restrictions. That also led to my mental health not being in a great shape. I handed of my current work at Shopify and went on unpaid leave in October.

Below are some points about my experience with long time off.

  • A work day defines your routines and habits: how you wake up and grab breakfast, how you go for lunch, how you disconnect from work in the evening and how you spend your time after work. Absence of a work day lets you completely rethink your habits and have them in any way you’d like.

  • You create the empty room in your mind by removing the activity that was the main source of your fulfilment. That empty room stays blank for a while, and after that you start having thoughts of the next thing that you might want to try. To me, that rarely came when my mind was busy with work.

  • I always neglected exercising and sports, likely from the fact that my parents tried to enforce that when I was little. Now, that empty room I created had allowed me to start thinking about my body and self-care. I opened my mind and started investing into myself, with physiotherapy, gym and personal trainings.

  • I used to think in terms of my calendar and meeting slots, and I don’t anymore. I was able to untie myself from schedules and that’s kinda amazing. Sometimes I wake up at 8am and I feel energy, sometimes I don’t and I wake up at noon. It’s a completely blank space and I learned to enjoy it. And if you asked me 2 years ago if I’d take this sort of time off, I’d say never.

Travels

I spent most of the year between London and Moscow. In total, I spent about a month in post-travel quarantining. In December, I got out to Georgia and enjoyed a stay and hike in mountains.

In May, I’ve attempted a Coast to Coast cycling trip in the UK. I started feeling pain in my knee after the first 30km and I had to straight take a train back home. That was a bummer because I’ve done long distance bike trips in the past and I really enjoyed it.

I’ve been doing physiotherapy since that, and attempted another - cancelled - bike trip in September. My knee still wasn’t in a great shape. The trip was supposed to be along Budapest, Vienna, Munich and Zurich.

Going on a plane with a bike is quite convinient though, and a lot easier than you might think.

More physiotherapy and exercising and hopefully there will be a great cycling trip in summer 2022.

Body

The sabbatical and the knee situation pushed me to take better care of my body. I started exercising, in a gym doing power training with a coach, and in a studio with a stretching instructor. I’ve been going to massage every couple weeks.

This year was the year of banya. I tried to go at least once a week, and I managed to get a few friends into it too. I learned the art of making steam, including aroma steams. Garlic is my favourite so far!

Wrap up

It was a strange year. I had lots of personal changes, I moved, I had changes at work, and I started doing things that I haven’t done before.

I’m looking forward to 2022, as it will bring new career challenges, healhier mental and physical shape, and some amazing time with loved ones.

Written in December 2021.
Kir Shatrov

Kir Shatrov helps businesses to grow by scaling the infrastructure. He writes about software, scalability and the ecosystem. Follow him on Twitter to get the latest updates.