Happy holidays! A year in review.

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What an exciting year 2010 has been. I graduated from Humber and started a new career in web development. I’ve been fortunate and have had the opportunity to work with some great people since graduating in March. I “bumped into” a friend of a friend on LinkedIn and he provided me with work straight out of school. I’ve been freelancing with him since, which has allowed me to gain real-word experience with WordPress. Shortly after graduating, I was hired by Dashboard Communications on a short-term contract and worked alongside some talented developers on big-name websites. I also became very familiar with working with tables as my first task was developing HTML emails. Being a small shop, there was a lot of opportunity to work with JavaScript/jQuery and PHP. Dashboard was a really fun and creative place to start my career. It got me excited about the work and the industry.

Partway through my contract, Nelson and I decided to seek out some warmer climates and we spent a week in Barbados. We soaked in the rays and swam with sea turtles. Unlike in the USA, we were allowed to touch the turtles as they swam by us. These turtles were definitely not afraid of humans. It was a very relaxing week as there were not many tourists visiting (it was May), so it felt like we had the beaches to ourselves most of the time.

The summer of 2010 was really great – I finally had the chance to take tennis lessons and I was hitting the courts almost daily. Unlike Ultimate Frisbee, you have nobody to rely on but yourself. You are forced to push yourself if you want to win, and it takes a lot of stamina, mental strength/focus and coordination. The private lessons really improved my understanding of what I had been doing wrong, and gave me more confidence in my game. I think Nelson even found it more fun to play with me, since I was able to return the balls with more control. Actually, I also learned a lot from him and he helped correct my swing/timing to eliminate the wrist injuries I was developing. I wish we had signed up with a winter tennis club. I look forward to the Spring when we can get out again.

Another highlight of the summer was visiting Nelson’s hometown of Saint John, New Brunswick. We flew there for our good friend’s wedding. Ansuya is the reason Nelson and I are married today. I met her in university and she went to high school with Nelson. I don’t think she intentionally set us up, though she may tell you differently. Whenever she visited her relatives in Toronto, she would make the time to visit Nelson and I (she would want to see us both at the same time – that’s how we met). Anyway, Ansi got married in August. The celebration was beautiful and it was nice to finally meet some of Nelson’s high school friends.

August was also when I started my contract with BlueRush as a front-end developer. Like at Dashboard, I was immediately thrown into a project, but what was exciting about this experience was that I was the sole HTML/CSS developer, working alongside a Flash developer and a Java developer. It was a fulfilling project as I was there from start to finish, and the other 2 developers, Derek and Eddy, were skilled and a pleasure to work with. It was a good team dynamic and we could all count on each other to pull everything together. This was also my first introduction to Java (Dashboard used PHP). At the end of my original contract (end of October), Nelson and I went back to California and did another road trip, with the focus on exploring Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley. We were in California last year, but it’s a vast state, with lots of beautiful landscape, which is why we returned. This time, we also spent more time in San Fran, Napa and Sonoma. We visited wineries and even signed up for wine and olive oil tours. It was an exciting trip and provided us with the opportunity to visit my aunt, and another one of Nelson’s high school buddies.

Stepping back, in August, Nelson and I also signed up for a fun and delicious dining experience in St. Catherines through Outstanding in the Field. There are very few chances for us to sit in the middle of a field and eat farm fresh food. Would I do it again? Most definitely. Maybe we can time it with a different location next time. It’s a great way to taste fresh, local food and meet new people. In September, we drove down to New York during our Labour Day weekend and attended the US Open. That was incredibly exciting for me, to be able to watch live tennis. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to meet Roger Federer.

After returning from California, I extended my contract with BlueRush. I was asked to build a site for them using Adobe’s Business Catalyst platform, something I had never used before. Although there are some limitations to using this platform and not being sure I want to spend a lot of time building sites using this platform, I’m glad I learned about it as it is gaining some recognition. It’s a good tool for non-developers as you do not need to know any server-side languages to build a website (which for me was actually a major limitation). BlueRush offered me a FT position, but there is a part of me that wants to explore and have the opportunity to work on a variety of different projects and with different people. It’s a chancy move, but I don’t want to look back later with any regrets so I graciously declined. I would have continued on month-to-month contracts, but my experience has been that when applying for contract work, they typically expect you to be available immediately. I’ve missed a couple different opportunities because of timing. I ended my contract with BlueRush on Friday so it’s back to updating my resume and finding work. I’m also going to further upgrade my skills in the new year. I’m enrolled in the JavaScript course at Ryerson. I’m looking forward to it.

Our curling season recently ended, but we are signed up for the winter season, which starts up in January. This was the first time Nelson has signed up with me. Our team consists of myself, Nelson, Micah and Elise. For Micah, Elise and I, this is our second year. We definitely see the improvements in our game and in the last bonspiel, we placed 4th (out of 21). Micah usually does not curl with us in the winter as he heads for warmer climates. This winter, Alex will be joining us. He’s another university friend of Nelson’s. Although he has no experience, we are confident that he’ll pick it up very quickly. It’s going to be a fantastic season. Nelson and I have also found an Ultimate team to join in January. I’m looking forward to running around again, and it will be good for us to play with some new people. The team we’ve joined is quite a strong team, which will hopefully make me a better player. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up. I haven’t had to run since the summer.

Today is Christmas day. I woke up and started poking Nelson’s ear. I love it when he slowly opens his sleepy eyes and smiles at me. After 7 years of being together, he still melts my heart. I learned something about him last night as we were watching the movie Social Network. Unlike everyone else I know, money does not drive him. I already knew that I think, but he made it very clear last night. His friend has had this business idea for some time now, and has been asking Nelson to be his partner, but Nelson has shown almost no interest in it, even though it has the potential to make millions of dollars. He asked me a simple question that was difficult to answer – why do you need that much money? This is not to say he’d work for free, but he only needs enough to do the things he wants to do. To him, nothing that we would want to do would require $25M dollars (a hypothetical amount). To him, that’s an unmanageable amount of money. You know what? I respect him for thinking like that. He’s not a greedy person. He doesn’t let money dictate his life or happiness. And how fat your bank account is doesn’t mean anything at all – it shouldn’t define who you are. To me, that’s an amazing quality.

Typically on this day we would be at my parent’s house for Christmas lunch. But since the plans changed this year, we had to alter tradition a little. We ended up going to Congee Dynasty and ordered congee, what we’d normally have for lunch today. It got a little mixed up though as I ordered the Chui Chow style congee. I didn’t know that Chui Chow style was more like a soupy rice versus a porridge. It was still good though, but not as good as my mum’s pork congee. I admit, I miss my family. This is the first Christmas that we’ve been apart during the holidays. To my parents and my sister – I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas. Know that I am thinking of you guys. I hope you woke up this morning feeling loved.

To all, I wish you a very happy New Year. May 2011 be an adventurous and successful year! Remember to live everyday like it’s your last. Surround yourself with happy people, and make sure you laugh at least once a day. It keeps depression away. Cheers!

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