The Lost Year — 2020 in review

Andrew Roberts
5 min readDec 31, 2020


Photo by MIO ITO on Unsplash

It’s December 28th as I write this, and 2020 is rolling to a slow, painful, and unsanctimonious end. As I look back on the last year of my life, I’m filled with conflicted emotions. This year has had some incredibly high-highs, and some depressingly low-lows. I’ve been trapped on a rollercoaster of ups, downs, loops, with seemingly little control on my part.

Still, I’m proud of the year I had — it could have been far, far worse. My heart goes out to all those whose lives were irreversibly shaken by the pandemic (among other major disruptions) of 2020.

The Wins

Despite the pretenses, 2020 has had its share of major wins for me. The transition to remote work — and the removal of my entire social life — left me with significantly more free time than I had in 2019. And where did all the free time go? Well: some mischief, some misery, some procrastination, and a metric shitload of projects. Indulge me, while I share some of my favorites, won’t you?

The Rabbithole

Dinner at the Rabbithole

The project I’m by far most proud of is The Rabbithole, a co-living house I founded with 2 others in February of 2020. Creating a successful, warm, stable home for 6 people during a pandemic was an ordeal, to say the least, but I’m so proud of what we built, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. You can read in detail about The Rabbithole in this profile I wrote for Supernuclear.

Deckbuilder Prototype

I’ve played games my whole life, and I’ve always been particularly inspired by deck builder games. My best friend and I had always had this dream to build a deckbuilding expansion to Dungeons & Dragons, so we could spice up combat with a more engaging and dynamic combat system than just rolling dice. (I’m a huge nerd, I know.)

Finally, I was able build a playtestable demo. He and I worked together to design the cards, mechanics, and rules, and I got to practice my software chops by turning it all into a web app.

I still don’t know if I’ll continue the project and release it to the public, there’s a lot of work to do polishing the game, but I had a lot of fun building it.

An early prototype of the deckbuilder

Online Communities

One thing I absolutely did not expect when I started 2020 was for “online community” to be something I’d be reflecting on at the end of the year. I was hardly on Twitter, and I was building a physical co-living house — what did I need online community for?

But pandemic, so… I got to work contributing to online spaces. Now, months later, I’m so thankful for the community I’ve been able to build and contribute to in the meta-verse. It started with joining Gen Z Mafia (which is an amazing community that I highly recommend), and ended in championing a fractal of GZM with some of the closest friends I made there.

I think we found something special, because it feels like one of those exciting, fast-paced places from the early web. Thanks to the folks who spend their time and energy making it possible (you know who you are).

Coding and coding and coding and…

I’ve been able to work on a whole smorgasbord of fun, small software projects this year, and it’s really the first year that I’ve been able to do that consistently. I’ve now made several discord bots for fun. I also got to explore Elixir this year, and had a blast with it. I can’t wait to do more with the Phoenix framework, I’ve only just made a basic demo of Phoenix LiveView, which you can find here.

One of my favorite deep dives of the year was exploring sockets to understand the architecture underlying the web — I was inspired by what I learned, and wrote an interactive tutorial to help you find out for yourself, which you can read here.

Secrets …?

One of the things I’m most excited about from this year is a bit of a secret project I’ve been cooking up. I’m not ready to share more yet, but I can’t wait.

The Challenges

Looking at the wins, it seems easy to think: “wow, what a fantastic year, I’m surprised you described it as rocky”. I’m also somewhat surprised that it felt so rocky, but I can’t help but feel that way regardless. This year, I struggled to meet a lot of the goals I set for myself — maybe that means the goals were too ambitious, but it often felt like the thing holding me back was an ennui, an existential malaise.

This year has felt so liminal, so in-between, and I’ve never actually felt comfortable. As if I never know what’s coming next. As if I’m some formless blob, waiting to be shaped, or a potential hero who is still waiting for his call to adventure. Yet no call has come, and I’m left here — unshaped, waiting, impatient.

So my biggest challenge of the year was one of identity and direction. Who am I? What does someone like me do? What should I do? Who should I be?

I regret to inform the reader that I have yet to answer these questions. I’m optimistic the answers will come in 2021.

Looking Forward

Though there’s a tendency to linger on the past, especially as eras approach their end, the only path available is the one forward. All things considered, 2021 has a high chance to be one of the best and most exciting years of my life. I plan to take leaps of faith that I couldn’t have imagined taking just a couple years ago. I plan to continue building meaningful community in an increasingly isolated world. I plan to throw some massive parties (I was never much of a partier, but a year without meeting strangers will do that to you).

Photo by Mak Flex on Unsplash

This *gesturing at the pervasive shittiness of 2020* isn’t over yet. But the only way out is through — and, from where I’m sitting, the other side looks hopeful. I’ll see you there, on the other side of it all, in the roaring 20s.

Happy New Year.