23 Years and Counting

I have an uneasy relationship with self-improvement. One day I want to give it the kind of cathartic treatment it deserves but I’m busy and it’s too early into this to get too vulnerable, I think. We’ll get there.

Today is my 23rd birthday.

Birthdays after 18 are sort of lacklustre so as the years stretch on I become less enthused when my birthday comes around. With the end of puberty I’ve become a lot more diffusive with my ego so I see my birthday as a bigger fuss than everyone else I know does; my friends have repeatedly made a bigger deal of my birthday than I have. I suppose I need it if this is my reaction. I’d much rather they did than didn’t—I’m thankful for that much, at the very least. If they’re enjoying themselves, I guess I am too.

This year especially, I think because I’m still quite behind in my larger ambitions, I’m not feeling up to celebrating or doing anything fun, feeling like I’m “slacking” off.

Anyway, instead of a treatise of my relationship to birthdays, I’m going to do my second follow up to the goals I set on New Year’s, see how the goal-setting thing is going. The good thing about birthdays is that they can sometimes be a good catalyst for change for self-improvement, starting from reflection of lessons learned. I’m not going to do a “23 things I’ve learnt in 23 years” because I don’t want to. Instead I’ll pick three.

First, being unemployed has given me a lot of space to think about who I am and my relationship to the world. Old relationships have fallen away and have not been replaced with newer ones. I don’t think I should think in terms of replacement, but beyond my general malaise, there’s a certain tenacity that I’ve been trying to mitigate by rapidly producing. I’m not certain if it’s healthy. Again, post later down the line. Preemptively thankful for your continued interest.

I haven’t learnt this one so much as I’ve had to keep reminding myself of this: failure happens constantly, and that’s okay, necessary sometimes. It’s what you do next after failure that defines you as a person. Repeated failures take steadily more decisive blows to one’s self-esteem so that message of positivity gets eroded. It’s good to be cognisant of that when the road gets tough, though.

Lastly, the inspiration for creativity will almost never come. I have to Make Good Art, rain or shine, especially rain which is most of the way.

Okay, let’s look at the road travelled, shall we?

This will be the penultimate one of these before December to see how I’ve done re: my goals.

  1. I want to create more. I have been playing guitar a bit more, drawing a little bit too. Still not to an adequate standard that fit my specific goals for these skills but I’m working on restructuring my days and life. A bit more structure is up ahead and so appropriate planning of my days will need to occur*.We’re in the midst of Camp NaNo. I’ll confess to slacking off and forgetting a tonne so I’m very behind. If I’m to reach my goal of 150k, I’m gonna have to step it up in the ensuing months. Ambition is only as good as your ability to follow through on it. Back up tough talk with action. I might need something similar for my other mediums.
  2. I want a job. In progress still, one year on. Hopefully come year’s end I can scratch this one firmly off the list. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t bothering me but life’s unfair and there’s not much else I can do; no use moping, I just gotta keep plowing ahead. To quote Pops from Luke Cage: “Forward always, never backward.”
  3. I want to read more non-fiction. I think I need a quantifiable goal. Let’s say at least five more before year’s end. Perfectly doable. Either that or more curated content. What sort of non-fiction do I want to be reading? Should I read more difficult stuff? A goal I’m considering for next year is to assess the books I’ve read in 2017 and look about deepening my understanding. Bonus brownie points for the same topic in the corresponding month of 2018 that I first read in 2017. [Example: I read I Contain Multitudes last month so I’ll give myself a firm pat on the back if I deepen my knowledge of microbiology in June 2018**.]
  4. I want to finish Infinite Jest. In progress. Gonna get back to it in earnest come August.

No update on that mystery Big Thing. I’m doubting its existence a bit but it’s coming. I’m starting to think it’s wishful thinking at this point.

This’ll do for now. New content on its way. Look at for it.

Have a lovely day!

Currently reading: Self by Barry Dainton (full thoughts on this hopefully early next month!)

Currently listening to: Are We There by Sharon Van Etten. Recommending in the wake of something serious and difficult to describe. One of those perfect sound for the perfect time albums. Not for the faint-hearted.

*Again, a nuanced approach of ambition/improvement/goals is definitely needed soon but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword: on the one side, it leads to more exciting experiences, but on the other there’s an almost consistent restlessness.

**the idea of curating my future self’s reading is interesting. I’m excited to see what I am like in the future, where I’ll be. Spoiler alert: I suspect I’ll be living in a new city with *gasp* a job.

 

New Year’s Reflections

So we’re five weeks into this thing. I started this blog with 10 weeks of content planned ahead of time so I’m going for a little bit of an interlude post. Also, I realised I didn’t do the obligatory New Year’s Day post and it’s the end of the month so here it is.

On New Year’s Day I was in my friend’s flat thinking about what the year held for me. One of my friends talked about people erroneously using the year as a means for a sudden, unlikely evolution in one’s character. Be that as it may, the symbolic value of it is very tempting. The old year has gone and a new one has taken its place. Sure, time as we understand it is constructed, but the chance for real evolution has a good space in the roots of a new year.

I don’t remember much of the first half of 2016. I remember being quite optimistic, though, as I often am. I was never a huge fan of Christmas, but I love New Year’s. It’s like a giant chance to hit the refresh button, and evaluate where I’ve come from, and where I’ll go in relation to them. And yes sudden evolution is unlikely (though it’s certainly not the goal) and yes, effecting change can happen anytime: a Sunday in the middle of June at 4:13 am, for example. But still, a new year brings about the possibility of a whole year’s worth of events, of development. The year started with me starting a novel, for example, one I’ve worked on in various forms since 2011. I finished it on Christmas Eve at the other end of the year, which is definitely a plus. There were quite a lot of dark moments too, both personal and global, but I want to focus on the good. Such as:

  • I graduated from university with a 2:1 which was one of my life goals, set many, many years ago.
  • I went on holiday for the first time in ten years to Belgium. Bruges specifically but on the last day spent some time briefly in Brussels. Beautiful cities/country.(Click to enlarge)

 

  • I met the guy who directed a game I’ve followed for ten years, from a series that literally changed my life.
  • I read a lot.
  • Thrice came back for their ninth album after a hiatus. Usually a band going on hiatus signals curtain call for good but they came back in full swing and delivered. I don’t think the record as a whole is my favourite, but there are some songs on there that are. And not just in Thrice’s library: my music in general.
  • I saw Brighton when it was warm. A beautiful city.

So, while there might have been a lot bad in 2016, there was a lot of good in it too. Milestones, for a lot of them.

So for the year ahead I want to be buoyed by this general optimism and hopefully inject it into the year ahead.

It’s the last week of the first month of 2017 and it’s been going pretty well. I started a blog and it’s been generally well-received: people I’ve never even met have been helped by stuff my crazy brain put to the page. That means a lot and hopefully the people already here and more will join me in what’s to come. As I said before I have the next few weeks clear but beyond that is pretty murky. I’m sure new ideas will come to me so I’ll react as and when they come. Expect the weekly stuff to teeter off at the end of this period as I figure things out.

I want to create more. The blog is a good first step but I want to push my limits a bit. I haven’t tried short story competitions but I think I will this year. On top of my typical novels and this blog, of course, writing short work will be good practice. I want to do more than that though. I should focus on two things: my new art in music, and my abandoned art in drawing (remember when I said I wanted to be a comic book artist before?). Regularity is going to be the key in making this a success.

I want a job! I think this should have come first but hopefully I have some kind of employment before year’s end. My lofty aim was before my birthday in midsummer, but I’ve been burnt before—I thought I could secure employment before Christmas when I graduated, more the fool me!—so I’ll hedge my bets. It’s really unlikely that it will take me 11 whole months to get a job. Again, though, we’ll see. I’ve been a bit coy about it but I’ve been a little worried about it, mostly because there is only so much control I have over this during the selection process. Having regular creation has helped in stopped the Blues so I think if nothing else the blog has helped a lot.

I want to read more non-fiction. I have no shortage of fiction, but I’d like to get on board with more non-fiction. This is not just to potentially mine for data for future posts, but for me more generally. There might be a post in this for why but we’ll shelve that for now (keep it mind!). The first 6 months of my grad-life was mostly spent reading article-upon-article. I might look at my list of topics to read about again.

I have others but if you’re of the eye-rolling type then your eyes will soar into orbit at them. Above are the main things. I can say though that I have a feeling that something Big is on the horizon. Good or bad, I don’t know. But Big. You can roll those eyes now.

I hope your year is treating you well. If not, I hope it will.