As I've gotten older, each year seems to just fly by. 2018, on the other hand seemed like the longest year of my life. Some highlights:
I found out that I'm part Chinese. I did the 23andMe test and was surprised to learn just how diverse my genetic makeup is. Besides my broad European ancestry, I'm 20% East Asian and Native American. Half being indiginous Peruvian, I'm assuming, and the other half being a mix of East and Southeast Asian. I'm also ~3% Sub-Saharan African.
I got a toilet seat with a bidet for my 43rd birthday. This was a game changer. I've decided that you know you've made it when the places you spend most of your time sitting have heated seats — your car, your toilet, your man cave (where I usually have an electric blanket draped over my legs). The bidet is the best of all of them though. Take care of your butt and your butt will take care of you.
Peru played in the World Cup! After a 36-year drought, La Blanquirroja finally returned to the World Cup. They were eliminated in the group stage, but showed the world they could compete and, if nothing else, that they have the best fans. This was right up there with the Cubs winning the World Series for me.
I did a workshop with Aaron Draplin. I attended Smashing Conference in Toronto, where I got to do a workshop with one of my favorite designers. He talked us through his process and we worked on making logos based on our initials. It was amazing to see him riff on my design and do all sorts of crazy stuff with it.
My stepson started high school. Transitioning from middle school to high school can be tough, but Joe has handled it really well so far. On top of getting all A's and B's in his honors classes, Joe started on the freshman football team, after having never played organized football before. He's currently on the freshman basketball team. We're incredibly proud of him.
We remodeled our bedroom. What started as a routine project quickly became a nightmare. When the contractors removed the drywall, they found the exterior wall of our bedroom was rotted from years of the downspout overflowing onto the outside of the house. So we had to replace an entire corner of the top floor of our house. The end result was worth it though. Our bedroom is now a cozy sanctuary.
I started my EIGHTH year at Groupon. This is the longest I've ever been at one job. As much as I complain about things, Groupon has been good to me. They give me a lot of autonomy to work on things that interest me, which this year was our design system. The best part about working at Groupon is the people, though. I'm constantly amazed by the talented folks I work with, who are also incredibly down-to-earth and fun to hang out with.
I helped raise $3,815 for Lurie Children's Hospital. Our fifth year of Extra Life was a massive success. We beat our record by several hundred dollars and, to date, have raised nearly $14,000 in Olivia's honor. I'm constantly humbled by the generosity of people who support our cause.
I celebrated five years of marriage. It hasn't been an easy five years, but the one constant has been the love and support of my amazing wife, Allison. We've been through things that would have destroyed many people's marriages, but we find strength in each other and grow closer each year.
I had to have my heart zapped. I almost made it through 2018 without any more drama, but a few nights before New Years, my heart started beating out of my chest and I felt light-headed and short of breath. According to the Internet, I was dying. So I had Allie take me to the ER where they diagnosed me with AFib and performed a cardioversion to get my heartbeat back in rhythm. So that was fun. I seem to be okay now, but I have a follow-up with a cardiologist in a few weeks.
Things I loved in 2018
What a great year for movies. There were so many movies that would have easily cracked my Top 10 any other year. This was the hardest time I've had doing my Letterboxd list of favorite films of the year. I won't list them all here, but here's a few lesser seen films I really enjoyed:
Minding the Gap This amazing documentary from filmmaker Bing Liu follows him and his childhood friends from Rockford, Illinois. It's initially set up like a skateboarding documentary but quickly reveals itself to be so much more. I've never seen a documentary whose subjects are so vulnerable, including the filmmaker himself. The skateboarding shots in this movie are some of the most exhilarating scenes of any movie this year.
Apostle This movie, from the director of The Raid series, blew me away. I love The Raid and The Raid 2, so I was curious how Gareth Evans style would translate to the horror genre. He did not disappoint. Apostle is over-the-top and suspenseful and star Dan Stevens is excellent as the figuratively and literally tortured protagonist.
Private Life My wife and I really related to this movie about the struggles of a couple in their 40s trying to conceive. There were so many familiar situations, given levity by Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn, who gives one of her best performances. Writer/Director Tamara Jenkins doesn't follow the typical template for this kind of movie. Like real life, there are setups that don't pay off.
Paddington 2 I had heard nothing but good things about Paddington 2 all year and finally decided to watch it, despite not having seen the first one. Along with the Mister Roger's documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor, this movie was a delightful relief from the constant deluge of cynicism we're bombarded with, not just in real life but in a lot of our entertainment. So wholesome and charming. I loved it.
The Rider I was initially turned off by the cast of non-actors, but The Rider is a such a captivating film. Brady Jandreau is outstanding as a young cowboy grappling with an injury suffered in a rodeo. Chloe Zhao captures some amazing long takes that make this feel like a documentary. The Rider didn't crack my top 10, but it's a movie that I still think about often.
There were a ton of great TV shows in 2018. We're in a Golden Age of television right now and there's just too many good shows to watch. Here's a few that were especially good:
Dark (Netflix) Technically this came out in December of 2017, but I spent all of 2018 thinking about it and imploring people to watch it. This German sci-fi show has strands of X-Files, Stranger Things and Twin Peaks in its DNA and has some of the best cinematography and the best soundtrack of any show I've watched in recent years. It's a real mind trip and the finale blew me away and left me thirsting for season 2.
Atlanta (FX) Donald Glover somehow managed to top his incredible first season with a collection of even more surreal and absurd stories. Several episodes were devoted entirely to supporting characters and introduced some extremely memorable new ones.
Insecure (HBO) Issa Rae, the show's co-creator and star, is amazingly talented both on and off-screen. Surrounded by a great ensemble cast, she deftly balances comedy and drama amidst a backdrop of Los Angeles that feels like no other L.A. show or movie.
The Good Place (NBC) The initial premise of this show doesn't seem like much, but The Good Place keeps finding ways to reinvent itself, surprising its audience at each turn. Another great ensemble show, including one of Ted Danson's best performances. D'Arcy Carden is delightful as Janet, particularly one episode this season where she played all four lead roles.
Barry (HBO) This dark comedy is exquisitely shot and features Bill Hader as an assassin trying to pivot his career into acting. Henry Winkler is fantastic as his acting teacher and Anthony Carrigan steals every scene he's in and adds much needed levity to the darkness.
Honorable Mention: Terrace House (Netflix), Queer Eye (Netflix), America to Me (Starz), Ozark (Netflix).
I spend entirely too much time playing video games. There were some big titles this year that I just didn't get into, like God of War and Spider-Man. Mostly because I find myself going back to the same handful of games over and over. Here's a few that really grabbed me:
Destiny 2 Originally released in 2017, Destiny 2 started out strong but sacrificed a lot of what made Destiny 1 great in order to appeal to a broader audience. After an uninspired first DLC, Curse of Osiris, Destiny took a back seat to more interesting games. But its developer, Bungie, incorporated the feedback of its hardcore fans with the next DLC, Warmind, followed shortly by a full expansion, Forsaken. Destiny is now as good as it's ever been and its tight shooter mechanics and addictive gameplay loop has me going back week after week.
Red Dead Redemption 2 The long awaited follow-up to 2010's Red Dead Redemption is actually a prequel. It follows a similar template as other Rockstar titles like Grand Theft Auto, and suffers from a lot of the same issues. But ultimately this game creates an incredible interactive sandbox to play in and is rich with characters and narrative in ways that most games don't live up to. The story drags in places but the conclusion was extremely satisfying.
Dead Cells A mash-up of Castlevania, Rogue Legacy and Dark Souls, Dead Cells is a rogue-like action platformer where you find success through trial and error. Along the way you unlock interesting weapons and abilities. I still haven't beaten it, but this is a game I keep going back to.
Guacamelee 2 Another Metroidvania game infused with rich characters, colorful backdrops and humorous references, Guacamelee 2 is a great follow-up to the original. If you enjoy Metroidvania-style games, this is definitely one worth checking out.
Alto's Odyssey I had a lot of fun with this follow-up to the mobile game, Alto's Adventure. An endless runner-type game, Alto's Odyssey has you sandboarding through gorgeous environments, doing various flips and tricks and avoiding obstacles. It's a great game to pick up during some downtime and just get into a zen state and chill.
Honorable Mention: NBA 2k19, Hitman 2, Into the Breach, Far Cry 5.
Looking forward to in 2019
We're having a baby. Okay, I buried the lede. After four years of trying, we're finally having a baby at the end of January. Given everything that happened with Olivia and everything in between, we decided to keep it on the down low for most of the pregnancy. It's been an anxious few months but we're getting more and more excited with each day that passes.
Trying to make better use of my time. With a baby on the way and my recent heart diagnosis, I've realized I need to start making some lifestyle changes. Less vegging out, less staying up late, less trying to keep up with my Twitter feed, less caffeine and sugar. More reading, more leaving the house, more exercise, more learning new skills. To do all of that I need to manage my time better. I was inspired by Brad Frost to start scheduling my days starting this year. We'll see how that goes!
I'm speaking at my first conference. I've been doing small talks at Groupon and local meetups over the past few years, but I decided it was finally time to submit a talk to an actual conference. University of Illinois' WebCon seemed like a good start, and luckily they accepted my proposal. So this April I'll be doing a talk called Lessons From the Coupon Factory: Design Systems at Scale. I'm looking forward to getting some more speaking experience under my belt and submitting to a few other conferences this year.
If you made it through this entire article, I salute you! Thanks for taking the time and sticking with me. Best of luck to you in the year ahead!