2023: A Year of Challenges

As has become my ritual, I’m spending December 31 reflecting on everything that happened throughout the year. Then, I’ll spend the night hunkered down with the kitties, safe from the pops and bangs at midnight.

2023 has most definitely been a challenging year. So challenging that I failed to write about most of the ups and downs as they happened. I’m going to try my darndest to rectify this now. In a way, this year-in-review post is really multiple posts, wrangling some of the big events over these last 365 days.

So hunker down—maybe grab a snack—if you’re coming along for this ride. It’s a bit of a long one.


I traveled to more places in 2023 than I ever have in a single year. That’s not saying much because I am a novice traveler.

In total, I hit three locations—two for work and one for fun. Unfortunately, I missed out on a trip to Spain, but it was still a big year for me. And it’s definitely taking some time for this homebody to get used to being on the move.

Bristol, England

For the first work trip in May, I was able to see a (now-former) colleague’s hometown of Bristol. It was a beautiful place with tons of history.

I could’ve spent months there immersing myself in the sights and food. While the Brits aren’t known for their cuisine, it was right in my wheelhouse. Bangers and mash. Meat pies. Fish and chips. I could live off the stuff (my doctor might have a different opinion, though).

OWA Parks & Resort, Foley, Alabama

My original plan was to travel to Tennessee this year, hitting up some of the old spots from summer vacations as a kid. But my traveling group fell apart before everything was finalized. This made for a quick change of plans, and I decided to visit a new place in my home state with my brother.

OWA was a fun four-day trip of just relaxing around the resort. It doesn’t have all the magic (I’m assuming) of larger resorts since it’s fairly new. That meant that it was a quiet and peaceful place in the downtown area. The water park itself was crazy busy.

Carmen del Playa, Mexico

Just a few weeks ago, I was relaxing alongside my team from Automattic in the nice, warm clime of Carmen del Playa. The one thing we all requested for a December team trip: let’s go somewhere warm.

It was a fun trip. We got a lot of work wrapped up for the year, and made some major plans for 2024. Aside from that, the food was everything I hoped for and more. Mexican and Italian cuisine are two of my greatest loves in this world, and it was awesome to experience one of those first hand. Trip to Italy next?

Twinkle’s Passing

Tabby cat lying in a cat bed.
Twinkle in Her Favorite Bed

I won’t linger on this topic too long. I think I’ve said everything I’ve already had to say on the loss of my youngest fur baby. It was a tough one, and I don’t know that I’m still over it. Each day is getting easier.

The toughest part was that I didn’t have the time to properly grieve when it happened. Immediately after, I had a major house repair to undertake because of a water leak in my laundry room. And other challenges beyond that. But life continues on. I must keep on keepin’ on.

Laundry Room Renovation

So…I had a major water leak. Apparently, it’d been happening for a long while but was unnoticeable because all of the water was settling where I couldn’t see it. The damage was to two walls in the garage, three walls in the laundry room, and the laundry room floor.

On the upside, the laundry room was one of the rooms I most wanted to remodel. 🤷

Thanks to help from my sister, we fixed the laundry room and half of the garage. There’s still a few finishing touches for the laundry, and some wall work left in the garage.

I took a bit of a break for a few months after getting the initial work done. I had another challenge that I needed to overcome.

Health Journey

A fiery sunset looking through a field of trees.
A Sunset Walk

I know that I’ve been off-track these last few years with my health. I simply haven’t taken as good of care of myself as I needed to.

And my doctor wasn’t happy about that. Not at all. She was ready to put me in the hospital to get my numbers under control if I didn’t make some changes. My blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol were not good.

Since my wakeup call, I’ve lost around 30 lbs., 6 inches off my waist, and gone down two shirt sizes. I’m getting in those daily walks. I’m eating better, even if it’s sometimes a struggle. And my numbers are mostly staying in right ranges. I still have work to do, and I’m committed to it.

The difference for me this time is that I’m treating this as a journey. In the past, I’ve always dove headfirst into things, sprinting toward my destination. This would often lead to the common yo-yo effect.

Today, I’m working on balance. One day at a time within a long-term framework.

Hitting/Missing 2023 Goals

Now that I’ve rambled on about some of the big events from 2023, let’s see how I faired with my 2023 goals. As always, the events of the year changed how things turned out. And this year had a few curve balls in the mix (some that I didn’t even mention).

Personal Finance

Bar chart showing debts, assets, and net worth.
2023 Net Worth Tracking

Well, student loan forgiveness didn’t happen. That would’ve been a $20,000 life-changing swing for me. But what can you do? I had to switch gears midway through the year and refocus on debt. I’m about halfway through with those loans.

Outside of that, I would call 2023 a win. I finally have a greater net worth than debt total, and I’m just shy of becoming a two hundred thousandaire. It took me around three years of getting serious about my finances to hit the first $100K. The second should happen in less than a year and a half (depending on how the market looks in Q1 2024).

My goal is still to become financially independent by the age of 50. That leaves me 11 years to keep up the hustle.

The one area I failed with my personal finance goals for 2023 is writing about the journey. I’ll try to do better in the future.

Food Forest / Gardening

A bowl of shelled Texas Cream 40 peas.
Shelling Cream 40s

I had some successes and failures with growing my food forest this year. For the food forest, I planted:

  • Two apples trees
  • Two cherry trees
  • Three persimmon trees (a storm took one out)
  • Six blackberry bushes
  • Six muscadine vines

The downside is that I wasn’t able to find every fruit and nut tree that I was planning for. But 2024 is a new year.

With the garden, I didn’t do much. As usual, I grew tomatoes—it was a pretty good year too. I also had a couple of rows of Texas Cream 40 peas, but late summer challenges derailed some of my plans.


Two shelves from a bookcase, featuring novels by Brandon Sanderson.
The Sanderson Shelves

On December 3, I officially hit my fifth reading anniversary. It was a challenge that started back in 2018 to read a each day for a year. Since, it has morphed into a lifelong goal.

The final tally for 2023: 39 books.

Last year, I didn’t feel like I dedicated enough of my time to reading, and while I hit my daily goal, it wasn’t enough. I re-dedicated myself to the pursuit this year. And I don’t look for that to change anytime soon.

Brandon Sanderson was by far my most-read author (no surprise there). I pored through 11 of his books this year. Some of them were re-reads as I prepared to dive into more of his followup work, but I had just as much fun—maybe more—the second time around.

I also installed three new bookcases in my office, finally starting that home library I’ve always wanted. Really, I was just ready to unpack all my books that had been stored in cardboard boxes for years.


If there’s one area that I failed at it’s in my creative pursuits. I didn’t write a new novel manuscript or work on the old ones. My drawing and painting time took a backseat to other responsibilities.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a ton of creative successes, but these were mostly around my work with WordPress. I could list item after item of successful projects that I was involved in. But my goals for the year were personal, not work related.

With all the challenges of the year and using up most of my creativity in my day job, I wasn’t particularly motivated during my personal time. I’ll have to refocus on this in 2024.

Previous years: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2008, 2007