Incremental Progress or Extended Metaphor

“Progress is incremental.”

That sort of became my mantra at the beginning of summer, and it’s something I keep coming back to over and over. I don’t have to change everything at once, as much as I’d love to. That just leads to more failed attempts at change.

As I’ve talked about before, I have no shortage of grand attempts at change. A lot of them have been talked about in this blog; some of them have been attempted while I was writing this blog. Every time I’d try incremental change, I’d get two steps in, start feeling cocky, and then WHOA. That was the pride before the fall.

Boom, crash.

So, I’m avoiding that bit of fruit. I’m not going to pluck the apple of “DO EVERYTHING NOW, OK.” I won’t lie, though, it’s a tempting fruit. It’s sitting there, all ripe, with all of my problems so easily taken care of with one pluck. Unfortunately, it’s not one pluck. It’s a thousand fruits hanging on the tree, and I can never seem to get them all in one trip.

So I’m taking it one apple at a time.

I was thinking about this earlier, and another (unnecessary) analogy I came up with is trying to start a car in a higher gear. I wanted to go into fifth gear immediately, but the car was dying. Every time I’d start the car up again, it’d die. Finally, I stopped trying to start the car.

I needed to be started in first gear, though. Spend time in first, second, third, and so forth. If you need to go back down, you can, but if you go up and down incrementally, nothing every stalls. You keep momentum going, you keep positivity in your brain.

Incremental progress for me this week included getting my institutional review board form completed, my informed consent form completed, an abstract sent in for a poster session at a conference, reading for my classes, and some basic academic housekeeping. Next week, I add more playing into the mix, starting with my own lesson today and continuing until I have all of my other secondary students going. I started in first gear a few weeks ago, got second gear going, and now I’m about to change up into third.

Apples, cars, and other apt metaphors aside, progress is, in fact, incremental.

I can’t solve all of my problems in one go. I’ve come to this conclusion so many times in my life, yet it never seems to stick. Every time I start it, I fall into the trap of agreeing, then zooming ahead recklessly. And why? Because I think I should be a badass, a rockstar. I think that I should be bulletproof. I have this awful sense of superiority where none exists (and there isn’t even a factor to measure superiority). I’ve stopped comparing myself to doctors, lawyers, and investment bankers. I’ve stopped comparing myself to others in my life that do different things than I do.

I’m me, I’m moving at my pace, and I’m making a difference in my life. Because progress is incremental.

After a breakdown (or two) this weekend, I’ve come back to that mantra. I tried too hard, too fast, and fell through. I was in first gear, got cocky, and pushed it to fifth.

Stall.

So I started up again, and went slowly. I’m back in second gear, ready to move up to third.

Progress is incremental.

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An Unqualified Success

A few moments ago, I was typing up a short e-mail to my Lovely Wife about what I’d done this morning. I had a few hours off, and I’d meant to get some work done, but I ended up just putting around and not managing to accomplish what I’d liked to – no big deal. Every time I wrote a line to Lovely Wife, though, it was filled with this weird level of hatred/self-loathing towards myself.

Stuff as simple as, “I was a complete idiot and got nothing done this morning,” all the way to, “I guess I have to make sure I don’t treat it like time off, like I always do, and manage to screw things up.” Wow. I’ve always known that I have an incredibly awful and self-criticizing internal monologue. In darker times, though, I just not quietly and accept what it says.

What struck me this time was the fact that while typing it, I realized how completely awful it all was. Every sentence, initially, contained some sort of self-loathing anger in it. It had so many depressing parenthetical phrases that I thought I’d dragged up something from my 16-year-old emo days. It’s as if I’m hell bent on pointing out every flaw I have to everyone around me, just to make sure they realize how much of an awful person I think I am.

Look at me! I’m a miserable human being who’s worthless because he wasted his morning! Pay attention to me!

It’s an awful combination of narcissism and pessimism. I guess if I’m going to fail, I should do it loudly so that I at least get the attention.

I went back and deleted several lines, but the new ones kept having those negative phrases. I’d couch them differently, but it was like I couldn’t put together an e-mail that didn’t have at least a few swipes at myself. I went through a little of my backlog of my daily e-mails with my Lovely Wife, and it was more of the same – every positive statement basically included an Eeyore-esque bit about how things would just turn downhill eventually.

“I’m doing well, but…”

“I’m getting things done, but…”

“Sure, I have my shit together now, but…”

It’s like I can’t type out a single positive thought without qualifying it somehow. God, that’s annoying.

This really isn’t a new revelation; many of you that know me well know how my thoughts seem to get tangled up in these spirals. Looking at it from a more objective standpoint, though, really shocked me. If this is the stuff I catch, how much is just slipping by because that detector has been off so long?

Resolved: I will be more careful with my negative wording. I will allow myself to have unqualified successes. I shall acknowledge negative thoughts, but not let them dig in too deeply.

I mean, sure, I can start all this, but I’ll probably just screw it up in the end.

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All Quiet on the Cognitive Front

I have to admit, writing when I’m not having any major issues is harder than writing when I’m going a bit crazy. For some reason, mental stress causes words to flow out like water from a hose. It makes me realize how easy it must be for Unibomber-types to write out giant manifestos; when you’re in a manic, panic mode, words just seem to bubble up (even if it’s complete craziness).

As the semester has started, it’s probably for the best if I do a quick look back along with a long look forward. I’ve basically been active for a single day, but let me tell you, I knocked that day out of the park. Not only did I teach a solid lesson and look snazzy while doing it, I decided I was so on top of things that I should have a wisdom tooth pulled out just to prove how badass I am.

Well, not really, but I still lost a wisdom tooth on the first day of classes. That was fun.

Right now, I’m on top of the ball. I’m walking calmly, arms out, breathing in a zen-like manner. I’m not falling forward, and I’m not falling backwards. Tomorrow, though, is Tuesday, and that means that to keep on top of the ball, I’ve got to roll forward with it.

I’m feeling that awful sense of pride about what I accomplished last week. Now, it’s not that pride is awful by itself – the problem is that it usually comes coupled with a sense of entitlement to take some time off. “I got my shit done last week,” I think, “I deserve to take a day or two off!” This is my downfall, my Waterloo, and my whatever the last album Pink Floyd did all in one. I never consider that the ball keeps moving.

I have another lesson to plan for tomorrow’s class, I have writing to do, I have bookkeeping things to bookkeep, and my apartment is starting to get gross again. The world is turning, and if I’m not careful, it’ll turn without me, and I’ll end up in the same position I do every semester. I always get so excited for a new, clean start (before I get trampled), and I’ll be damned if I’m going to waste this one.

So what’s a guy like me to do? Since I’m inclined to epically screwing these things up, it looks like it would be to my benefit to get on my shit. I have a semi-reasonable list, but it’s a little out of date. I guess that’s the first step. Figure out what I have to do, and then do it in small chunks. Plan a lesson for tomorrow. Send out an e-mail here and there. Finalize lesson schedules. Clean the kitchen. Make sure the giant gaping hole in my gums is healing properly.

The usual things.

I’m not panicking, though. Used to be that by now, I’d be in a complete, air-gasping, flailing, twitching panic attack. At the moment, I’m calm, if not a little anxious. I am focused, though, and I do think I can get my stuff processed today.

I feel like recovering from anxiety/procrastination/ADD is like alcoholism – it’s not that I’m vowing to stop from now until eternity, it’s that I’m stopping today. I don’t have to worry about the world crushing me later this week; I just have to stop the world from crushing me right now.

It’s times like this that I truly believe we get all knowledge from Disney movies. In this case, I’m reminded of Finding Nemo – “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”

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I am a leaf on the wind…

…watch how I soar.

As stupid as it sounds, sometimes it’s harder to write a blog post when everything is going well. Angst is easy to get 750 words out of; just look at all of the emo writing I did when I was in high school. Life is dark, everyone sucks, happiness is a myth brought about by greeting card companies, blah blah blah. It’s easy to write long, angsty diatribes about humanity crushing you, the sins of the bourgeoisie, or how much you hate hipsters. When you’re happy, though, it’s kind of tough to squeeze out those words.

As I turn the corner into the beginning of the semester, I’m getting that feeling of, “Hey, I’m on top of my stuff.” That’s a weird feeling; more importantly, that’s often a prideful feeling. And pride goeth before destruction (damn you, KJV, for having such poetically beautiful, but poor quality, translations).

It’s hard for me to feel good without qualifying it. Sure, I’m on top of my stuff, but it’ll all crash down. Sure, I have a great list that I’m working through, but I’m probably missing something. Negative thoughts are easy to sit on, but something positive requires great scrutiny before I let it sit.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof – and sometimes, I feel like positive thoughts and beliefs are those extraordinary claims. They require so much dissection and analysis that to even get a pat on the head for printing out an info sheet for my private lesson students requires a 20 point checklist. I’m not trying to fly a plane, I’m simply trying to check off one little thing on my todo list.

But there, check. It’s done. And the next thing. While I’m picking at low hanging fruit, I am getting things done, and I do have a forward momentum moving into the next few weeks. Things will pick up, and the ball will start chasing me down the hill like Indiana Jones, but at this point, I feel like I have the mental and physical energy to out run it.

All of that running does build up some momentum. When you do good work one day, it makes it easier to do good work the second. As loathe as I am to mention Jerry Seinfeld, he does talk about this kind of momentum when it comes to writing jokes. Basically, he had a giant calendar, and every day he wrote jokes, he put a big X on the calendar for that day. The goal was not to break the chain – to keep as many days in a row of writing as he could.

That’s what work momentum is, be it in writing, working out, or practicing music. One day, then the next. The sheer weight of the ball rolling will keep it rolling, and the force you running will keep you moving.

That’s what I’m aiming for right now. I am a leaf on the wind – I’m cruising right now at a good pace, getting things done, not letting things bog me down, and using the momentum of daily progress to keep me out of the muck. Now, sure, I’ve had to install website blockers on Firefox to keep my fingers from idly typing facebook.com every two seconds (and you’d be surprised at how adept my fingers are at doing that without my permission). When I do type it in, though, I have Firefox set to redirect me to my todo list. That usually snaps me out of it.

In addition, I’ve also had to hide a few of my game applications from my desktop so I won’t be so quick to click on them. Out of sight, out of mind. Or just sheer laziness.

I know it sounds a little like punishment, but it’s working, and I’m liking the feeling I have when I actually get things done during the day, and then I can put everything away for the evening and actually have some time to spend with my Lovely Wife without the spectre of work over my head.

I’m moving right along, and right now, I seem to have things under control. I know that I’ll have to put more weight on my end to balance responsibilities as I go forward, but I’ve got some energy in my tanks.

Hopefully, I’ll have enough to get me through the first few weeks of the semester and use that momentum to kick some ass.

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The Ideal Day

I’ve fallen back onto (off of?) the productivity article ladder. After swearing off reading massive articles about productivity, passion, and how to “Get Things Done ™,” I found myself wondering why Firefox was so slow in loading this morning. Turns out I had a few too many tabs open.

Over 100.

Each one was a little jewel of wisdom that would solve every problem I could ever have if I were just to read every one of them. If I went through and read every article about productivity, I’d be a Working Jedi, dodging blasts of work and getting things done with minimal effort. I saved all of these articles, letting them stack up in my tabs, using the new tab groups feature to just hide large sets of them away.

There are lists of best organizers (I’ve tried them all), 10 ways to be more productive, 100 best lifehacks, step one is showing up, step two is doing. It’s just article after article that are sitting there, opened sometime in the past month so that my future self could get my shit together. Unfortunately, as I’ve talked about before, Future Self is now Myself, and that guy doesn’t want to read them either. They stay open, taunting, telling me that I could solve every problem if I were to just open and read all of those tabs.

After Firefox crawled open, I thought I should read at least one of them. After reading about 1/2 way through, they linked to more productivity articles! I opened them in new tabs as well.

By the end of reading one article, I had 6 more tabs open.

Not only was I failing at being productive, I was failing at reading about being productive. How do you even do that?!

Today, I closed all of those articles. Again. I cleared my history so I couldn’t even get back to them. None of them had any new answers; they were just an addiction, like video games, the Internet, or complaining on my blog. Things that I do to avoid whatever perfectionist fears that I harbor. I did something different instead.

I was looking ahead to the beginning of my school year. I’ve got about 3 weeks until I have to hit the ground running, and I still have plenty to take care of so that I don’t fall flat on my face on day one. I decided to take some time to visualize and think about what I want to be on the first day of classes. Where I want to be, what I want to have done, and on what ball I’d like to be perched.

So, I made a list. A list of things that I wanted to be complete on August 25. A list of things that would make me feel like I was ready to roll on Day 1.

Like any time I make a list of goals/ideas/whatever, there’s always the chance of setting myself up for failure. When I started jotting things down, all of a sudden items like having entire giant projects complete started to pop into my mind. Seriously, Brain? You think I can complete entire papers and projects in 3 weeks while trying to get everything else done?

Why sure, said my Brain, and if you don’t get it all done, you’re an abject failure! In fact, if you don’t everything on this list done, as well as things you couldn’t possibly think of, you’ll be a failure as well!

Mwahahahahaha!

My brain, apparently, has been watching too much James Bond.

Making a reasonable goals list is hard. Putting things that are too small on it? Feels like cheating. Putting things on it that are too large? Completely unattainable. Finding a balance is something I’ve never been good at, but hey, I’ve been doing a lot of changes, so I guess this counts as a change as well.

I have a new list. It’s not the best list, and it’s definitely not a perfect list. It’s a start, though. It’s a list that includes a bunch of little things, some big things, and a good idea of where I want to be in 3 weeks. Things like getting a syllabus printed up and making sure to buy books. The important thing, though, is that they’re all attainable.

What’s your ideal first day of something? Where do you want to be in three weeks? What concrete things can you do (big and small) to make you arrive at a point, feeling confident in everything you’re doing?

We’ll see what happens August 25.

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National Backup Awareness Day OR The (Near) Death of a Hard Drive

Have you ever had a hard drive go bad on you? Have you heard that whirrr click click whirrrr that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up? Maybe your hard drive started sounding like a police siren, the pitch going up and doing, up and doing. Maybe, just one day, you went to open a file, and you got a big fat error screen. Your stomach freaks out, your brain starts whirring and clicking just like the soon-to-be-deceased hard drive.

Did I save everything? Is there anything vital that I haven’t backed up? When’s the last time I backed up? Do I have the DVDs to reinstall Windows? Am I under warranty? How long am I going to be without a computer? Will my wife let me use her computer, or is she sure I’ll destroy it just like I did my own?

You turn it off and step away, afraid it’ll blow up like a road-side bomb if you touch it again. Don’t look, don’t touch, just let it rest. You consider pulling it out and throwing it in the freezer, because someone told you one time that that might actually work. You start praying to whatever Catholic saint they’ve assigned to technology (that would be St. Isidore of Seville, Patron Saint of Computers and the Internet). You start wondering if any other religions offer a solution to this problem.

You pour yourself a glass of water and sit back down.

The moment of truth. Will it come back? Is it completely gone? It whirrs to life, and the sound is gone. Crisis averted – for now.

Of course, now that it’s up, you start backing up everything. Shift-click-copy. The entire C: drive is being sent to your 2 Tb (not tablespoons, but terabytes) behemoth. Every time the hard drive whirrs into overdrive, you twitch, because it could be the beginning of the end. You promise that if this hard drive survives, you’ll backup every week, start helping the poor, and defragging whenever you get the chance. Sweat starts beading at your temples as the progress bar moves up and up, hoping to get all of your files off of the possible Titanic before it sinks for good.

And it finishes. You’re safe. You’ve got all of your history, files, pictures, movies, pirated materials, non-pirated materials, and everything else onto the life boat. Even if the ship were to go down, you’re good.

Maybe the hard drive lasts for another few years, and it was just a fluke. Maybe it’s going to go out within the next 3 days. It doesn’t matter now; you’re ready for it.

I’m declaring August 1st National Backup Awareness Day. At least in my house. For the sake of your sanity, loved ones, and pirated materials, please back up everything you have to at least 1 other location. Important stuff should be backed up to at least two places (all of my research is on another hard drive and in my Dropbox account).

Do it for yourself; do it for America.

(I’ve been told that March 31st is World Backup Day – well, just like we change the date of Labor Day from May 1st to the second Tuesday of the 9th month except after C or whenever it is, I’m unilaterally changing the date of National Backup Day for America.)

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Not-So-Simple Syrup

As of late (the past week), I’ve become enthralled with the idea of simple syrup. It’s basically nothing but a combination of sugar and water, heated until the sugar dissolves in the water and then cooled. I talked a little about making the Sazerac in my last mish-mosh of a post, but ever since the original batch, I’ve been getting curious, and today, I’ve started making a few more.

The biggest danger with the simple syrup is how much flavor it adds to anything – just a little sugar and flavor make anything better. When you pull the syrup off of the heat, you can throw basically anything into it, and the syrup will absorb the flavor. I’ve played with mint and lemon so far, but I have ideas about basil, orange, and maybe something crazier like ginger or green tea.

I’m such a rebel.

On the advice of this comment from Ask MetaFilter, I tried making a little lemonade using my lemon simple syrup, lemon juice, and water. Let me tell you – after years of grainy, gritty lemonade, this was like a punch in the face from summer. I’m not sure that I could go back to the old stuff, adorable 5-year-olds on the side of the road be damned. The simple syrup seems to be the lynch pin in a lot of delicious beverages, alcoholic and otherwise.

I combined a shot of the lemon syrup with vodka and club soda later in the evening to make probably one of the best summer spritzers I’ve ever had. Definitely beats the pants off of most bad white sangria I’ve had: not too sweet, not too alcohol-y, just right.

Lovely Wife, after tasting the mint simple syrup, decided that she needed to try it in a paired down mint julep. Bourbon, mint syrup, and a splash of club soda makes a delicious drink. I’m also thinking of combining it with either fresh iced tea (or sweet tea vodka) to make a delicious drink.

Simple syrup, if you’re curious, is also the basis of a lot of other cocktails (Old Fashioned, Mojito, etc.), and you can even use it to make your own sour mix. I mean, it’s the chameleon of the bar, and it’s tasty. Outside of drinks? If you’re trying to decorate cakes, you can brush the tops with simple syrup to keep them moist after you add the frosting.

The whole thing has also brought out of my other favorite thing – trips to the restaurant supply store. I’ll elaborate on this in a future post, but lets just say that if my favorite grocery store is the happiest place on Earth, Disney World, my favorite restaurant supply store is like EPCOT. It’s nearby, not quite as fun, but has its merits and has more fun gadgets to play with. The most recent trip, though, involved squeeze bottles. I’m going to be making tons of simple syrups, right?

I need squeeze bottles.

But buying in bulk is better, right? I probably didn’t need 6, but that’s what I ended up with. Oh well – that means I have 4 extra bottles with which to experiment. I probably didn’t need two extra measuring jiggers, 6 cutting boards, and a strainer, but hey, I got that as well.

Sure, it’s just sugar water, but this is the first time I’ve ever played with it, so I’m allowed a little child-like wonder. Now that I have a proper bar with bottles of rye, absinthe, and bourbon, simple syrup expands my mixed drink options, as well as giving me the little sugar rush that one needs in life.

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Wading into the stream…

So, today is less of a coherent blog post, and more just small vignettes about random things I’ve been thinking about. Consider this like a dip into my stream of consciousness, which in turn, is like that creepy tunnel from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I feel like a fawn when I’m bicycling – like Bambi crossing the ice. I’m wobbling and about ready to fall down at any given moment. When I get going though, I have these incredible moments of clarity. It’s like Nirvana can be found at about 10mph in a parking lot before I realize I’m about to tip over. If nothing else, I like the way the bikes look in our apartment. It makes me feel like I’m an urban worker instead of a suburban sprawl commuter.

With my officially well-stocked bar open, I’ve been trying my hand at perfecting the Sazerac. Getting the balance on this thing is tough, and I can’t experiment more than once or twice in an evening without getting too tipsy to care what it tastes like. Plus, there’s always the danger of keeping a bottle of absinthe around. Though it originated in New Orleans, I’ve had so many in Dallas (and done in different ways), that it’s tough to not only make something that’s true to the original, but also tastes good to me.

Speaking of experiments, through our rockin’ CSA (which I haven’t talked about in ages – should do that), we’ve been getting pints and pints of blueberries. My tastiest experiment with those has been something called Blueberry Boy Bait, due to its ability to sway young men to the side of a lady. In our more gender-normative times, though, I’d argue that it could be used to sway anyone – Lovely Wife has definitely banned me from making it again so she won’t eat half a pan. It’s like blueberry coffee cake, but with less of a topping. Definitely reminds me of the HOP Blueberry Bread, but not chronically undercooked and chewy.

While I’ve upgraded my laptop, I downgraded the amount of screen real estate that I’ve had. That’s fine, because I’ve been using a second monitor to keep my information at my fingertips. If you’ve never tried a dual monitor set up, then you have no clue what you’re missing. It’s like never having had fresh strawberries, seen live opera, or had a well mixed Old Fashioned; you didn’t know your life needed it, but now that you’ve had it, you can’t live without it. Plus, it makes me feel like a combination of Tom Cruise in Minority Report and a random crew member on Star Trek.

Ok, maybe not that cool.

Anyone else psyched about Nickelodeon bringing back shows the 90s? If you haven’t caught it yet, TeenNICK (which is one of their spin off, above channel 100 things) is going to be showing classic stuff between the hours of midnight and 4am. I guess they assume we’re all insomniacs, night-shift workers, or unemployed. The first shows will be All That, Clarissa Explains it All, Doug (REAL DOUG, not ABC Doug), and Kenan & Kel. I may go out and buy a 2 liter of orange soda to celebrate. I realize it’s on a channel no one watches anyways, and they’re basically cashing in on stuff they’ve already produced to get new eyes, but until they release all of Hey Dude on DVD, this is my option.

This is sort of where I’m at right now. I realize this is a bit all over the place, and if I’m honest, I’ve realized that some of these will make good posts in their own at some point.

It’s a Tuesday on a random afternoon in July – what else am I supposed to be thinking about?

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Approaching Fall

It’s hard to imagine that fall is (sort of) just around the corner. With 100+ degree days beating down upon me, the idea that school and other commitments might soon be back in gear kind of makes me twitch. I just started relaxing! I’m just now enjoying the mental vacation that a little bit of time off has afforded me. A combination of my new chemical balance, along with some mental rehab has let me truly relax for the first time in ages. While I haven’t gotten all of the little things done I’ve wanted to do (my bassoon reed profiler sits unloved and unadjusted), the steps forward I’ve made in mental health more than make up for any perceived misses.

It’s days like this one where I start pulling up different calendars and realize that the future is bearing down upon me. I’ve got about a week and a month before the first day of school, with various other commitments between now and then. I think it’s time to take stock in what I’ve got to do in the next few weeks, and see if I can’t transfer some of the successes of the summer into a good head start for the coming year.

The biggest risk I have is collapsing back into old patterns – endless lists, fear, shame, and hiding. The worst thing that can happen isn’t trial and failure; it’s not doing anything at all.

Part of the Getting Things Done philosophy (which I’ve tried to put into place a million times, but always fall just short) is a weekly review. Basically, at the same time each week, you go through your lists, check off things that you’ve done, add new projects, change goals, etc. I’ve been lax about doing this (mainly because I’m afraid of looking at my lists). You know the kind of people that don’t open bank statements for months because they’re afraid of what might be inside of them? That’s how I am with lists. I don’t want to look at them, because there may be something on there that’s hard to do, or overdue, or scary.

I’m basically a list chicken.

Much to the chagrin of the US Dry Pea & Lentil Council, President Obama said that we need to, collectively, eat our peas. Looking at my lists and keeping up with the is the equivalent of eating my peas. I don’t want to do it, but it’s good for me. Unfortunately, you can’t cover a list with cheese to make it taste better.

I’ve been watching a lot of Obsessedand Hoarders lately, thanks to Netflix deciding that it’s what I’d like to see based on my love of Star Trek and Christopher Nolan movies. While I’m not a hoarder, OCD cleaner, or anything of the like, something I’ve noticed as a common thread is facing anxiety. I have anxiety about making lists and doing work. The solution (from a cognitive behavioral standpoint) is exposure.

Sitting in front of my laptop with Word open and no TV on for 30 minutes. Pulling out a legal pad and writing 3 things on a list. Embracing the anxiety and not doing everything in my power to avoid it is something to achieve.

The balance between goal setting and self-flagellation is a tough one for me. I’m so down on myself all the time that setting goals just gives me an excuse to beat on myself when I don’t meet them. The simple solution, I guess, is to just do what’s on my list.

If only my brain would let me do that.

I’ve got a meeting with a friend of mine to go over weekly academic/writing goals. I’ve got my Lovely Wife to check the rest of it. I have an external support system, and more importantly, I’ve got an internal support system that’s starting to take root. I’m not the same person I was last summer, when I fell apart every week.

Time to get some writing done, some reeds made, and get myself in a good starting position for the fall. Even though I have over a month left, my brain wants to make me believe that that’s no time at all. I hope I can just override my brain this one time.

Story of my life.

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Panic at 27

When I started this blog back in early March, I gave the subtitle of “Panic at 26.” I was in a bad place emotionally, mentally, and physically, and I couldn’t find a light at the end of any tunnel. It was actually less like a tunnel, and more like a giant, vast cave of awful. I made a bunch of posts about how I was feeling, and then I made some grand posts about what I should be doing to fix that. I set goals that were unattainable, and I missed them. I then set goals that were attainable, and I missed them as well. For all of the grand designs I had for my life, just getting out of bed most days was an impressive step.

Today, I turn 27. Like every birthday, I expect to wake up and emerge from whatever cocoon I was in beforehand, turning into some reasonable facsimile of adulthood. And like every birthday, I’m the same person, with the same flaws, goals, and abilities as the person from the year (or night) before.

The only change is that this year, I’m more OK with that.

The idea of this blog hasn’t changed, and neither have my feelings behind it. I’m still having my own brand of quarter-life crisis; I look at what I have in front of me and what I have behind me, and try to squeeze it all into a mold that is supposed to resemble a coherent life experience. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. I didn’t go to four years of school to train to do the one thing I’d be doing for the rest of my life the moment I graduated. I’ve had some great experiences, some crappy experiences, some good times, some bad times, and everything else, and even though it doesn’t make one coherent narrative, that isn’t a bad thing.

Going forward, I have a lot of the same goals that I did when I started this whole process – be healthier, meditate more, write more, spend less time screwing around, and spend more time on the things that are important in my life. I think that list is something that many other people who read this can understand, and we all deal with it in different ways. Some of us bottle it up, some go crazy trying to fix it all, and other complain about it semi-weekly in an online forum and force their friends to read it.

Thanks for being such good sports.

I’ve made progress on a lot of things; this isn’t one of those years where you can look back and go, “Wow, I’m in a worse spot now than I was a year ago.” I finished my Master’s degree. I’ve started on my PhD. I’m getting help for whatever crazy the chemicals in my head create. I’m (sort of) riding a bike. I’m taking more time to read and spending more quality time with my beautiful wife.

I can honestly say I’m in a better place right now than I was a year ago.

I’m not going to sit here and say that this is the new beginning to anything. I’m not going to post a giant list of resolutions that will never resolve, and I’m not going to wring my hands and wonder about what I’ll start doing tomorrow that will change the rest of my life. I’m simply going to keep doing what I’m doing, write a little more, read a little more, bike a little more, and keep upping the progress I’m making right now. All of those grand “TODAY THINGS CHANGE” moments never seem to work anyways.

Happy birthday to me, then. I’ve got about 8 hours of 27 under my belt, and so far, so good. I’ll post this, clean the apartment a bit, and then start to figure out what I want to tackle tomorrow. No countdown until 28, no 366 days until my next birthday. Tomorrow’s just another day, same as today, where I’ll try to make my life a little better.

Thanks for everyone that’s read so far, and thanks for all the birthday wishes. It’s great to know that I’ve got support out there, and it makes this whole “life” thing just a little easier to get through.

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