Reaching a Save Point

When I was growing up I read a lot, I also watched a lot of TV and played a lot of video games.  What I was doing was immersing myself in the stories.  I wasn't doing it because I had nothing else to do, I was doing it because the stories drew me in, like an addiction.  I was diving in to these alternate worlds and living out the role of the hero, the villain, the spectator, or the victim. 

Every day I would wander in to one (or more) of these lives and experience things that I never thought I would be able to feel in real life.  In a specific sense, I was correct, I wasn’t going to get to experience these things; I would never blow up the No. 1 reactor in Midgar and then fall in love with the girl at the church in the Sector 5 slums.  I would never have my name attributed to a prophecy in the Department of Mysteries.  Also, chances are slim that I’d ever have to go find all seven dragonballs in order to save the world. 

Red XIII was always my favorite character...

However, all of those stories, and all of the lives that that I borrowed, all of the roles I fulfilled in my mind, had one thing in common… they were remarkable.  After years of spending my free time in these alternate lives, believing that someday I would become special and save the world; after years of allowing my actual life to pass me by while I spent my time in lives already written, I woke up. 

I still love those stories and I still read, watch, and play them.  I even still have vivid dreams (day and night) of fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse or growing wings and flying around fighting aliens.  But I realize now (and it’s been a gradual revelation, over the last few years), that I don’t need superpowers or special circumstances to be remarkable, I only need the determination to live a remarkable life.

Not to brag but, my daydreams can get pretty awesome...

That’s why, last winter, I set myself some goals.  Call them New Year’s Resolutions if you like, but ultimately they were just some checkpoints that I wanted to try to reach within a year…

1.       Make enough money so that I don’t always have to live paycheck to paycheck
2.       Write more
3.       Earn some money from my writing (even if it’s only a few bucks)
4.       Lose weight (get down in to the 240’s)
5.       Build a Rube Goldberg machine
6.       Date someone and have it last longer than a month

I made sure the goals were fairly modest.  I knew that if I put the bar too high I would give up too easily.  Moreover, bettering yourself in life shouldn’t be about leaping up to the pinnacle of your abilities as quickly as you can.  Rather, it should be a constant pursuit of the unattainable.  I know that these modest goals won’t lead directly to the remarkable lives I dream of, but perhaps the constant pursuit of goal after goal will.

I made these goals for myself at some point last winter (I don’t remember exactly when), and now that it is starting to feel like winter again, I think it’s time to revisit them and check on my progress…

1.       Make enough money so that I don’t always have to live paycheck to paycheck:

Money has been a bit hard to come by in the past couple of years.  Then again, I’ve been absolutely abysmal at budgeting for myself for my entire life.  So that’s how I ended up attacking this goal.  I’ve changed up my spending habits, I’ve tried to think more than a day in to the future, and I’ve looked in to earning extra money from side projects (see: Goal #3).  So far so good.  Now that we’re fast approaching the holiday season and I have a lot planned for the next few months, money is predictably tight.  Over the course of the year though, I’ve had a bit more breathing room than I’m used to.

I’ve gotten to the point where I can usually feel like a functional adult rather than a fresh-out-of-college-twenty-something struggling to get by.  I’m certainly far from where I would eventually like to be, but at least I seem to have gotten out of the “baby horse trying to stand up for the first time” phase.

2.       Write more:

This is the 14th blog post that I’ve written and posted in the last 12 months, the previous record was 12.  And not only have I posted more blogs; I’ve written more for myself.  Blogs that I haven’t posted, stories that I continue to work on, and random writings that I do for no other reason than to write.

I think I’ve written almost as much this year as I did per year in college, and I HAD to write for class back then, this time it’s simply for my own sake.  It feels good!

3.       Earn some money from my writing (even if it’s only a few bucks):

I’ve looked in to writing of all types that could earn me some money.  Mostly it seems to be a slow process, you have to build up some proof of success before the majority of people are truly willing to pay you for anything. 

I’ll admit that I haven’t put a ton of work in to this goal, but I haven’t ignored it either.  In fact, I’ve met the goal, I haven’t earned much money, but I HAVE earned more than $0.00 this year with my writing.  And that was the real goal…

... maybe I’ll set the bar a little higher next time.

4.       Lose weight (get down in to the 240’s):

It’s been a year of starts and stops and failed diets.  I’ve tried so many different things halfheartedly this year that I’ve lost count of them.  At one point I was at the heaviest I’ve ever been, just a few pounds shy of 270 (267 to be exact).  And yet, the past couple of months, I’ve begun to slim down a bit.

I’ve been doing some steady exercise in the form of hiking in the hills around my house.  I’m trying to get in about another 80 miles by the end of the year.  That most likely means hiking a lot on the weekends, any days off that I have, and possibly hiking in the snow; but there’s worse workouts than a little snow-hike.

I didn't get to do the Loch Leven Lakes trail this summer, but next summer I'm going!

What’s been more effective though, is my diet.  It’s not that I’m cutting out any certain food or drink; I’m simply getting in the habit of eating healthier and less.  We all know what “healthier” is to an extent.  Fruits and Veggies are obviously healthier than anything made by Hostess; a serving of some sort of lean meat is obviously healthier than a cake; and a salad with some grilled chicken is obviously healthier than a double cheeseburger.   

That third option is what I’ve been doing, eating a salad every day for lunch with some grilled chicken, rather than going to get a burger.  That plus a small, high-protein breakfast and dinner makes for just enough food to keep me jolly, and the last time I weighed myself I was at 254.  So, it’s progress, and at this rate, I should be in the 240’s by the end of the year!

5.       Build a Rube Goldberg machine:

I put this one in my resolutions, because I wanted something in there that I knew would be an absolute blast to do.  Not something that I would have to force myself to get in to a habit for; but simply something I had never done, but always wanted to.

Therefore I’m ashamed to announce that I have not yet done this… But that’s one of the reasons that I’m making sure this post is live before the week of Friendsgiving.  I have that entire week off… who wants to come by and help make one of these?!  If that week doesn’t end up working, we can always find some time in December to do it too.  My garage is open and can be used; or the spare room in the house… or both.

For those of you not aware of what a Rube Goldberg machine is…

6.       Date someone and have it last longer than a month:

This brings me to an interesting point.  This is the only one of my goals that would directly involve another person.  That is unless I was to become one of these guys…

There's too much of an age gap between my phone and I for me to date it...

No... Just no...

After focusing on my other goals, and looking in to this one, I “stumbled” upon a goal I really didn’t know I had.  The state of my mental health at the beginning of this year was a disaster.  Depression and self-loathing were running rampant through my subconscious with not an ounce of self-esteem to be seen in years. 

While talking about my goals, especially this one, with a particularly nosy friend, she made me dig deeper and uncover my sorry mental state.  Doing so forced me to face my depression head on and accept it.  I won’t say I’ve gotten past it, and that life is full of nothing but sunshine and puppies now, but I’ve made some good progress.  Progress that I don’t think I would have made if I hadn’t been single.

This part is getting a bit heavy, so here's a wrinkly pile of cuteness to break it up.

Perhaps that’s for the best.  Looking back at why it’s been so difficult for me to handle anything even remotely resembling a relationship for the past way-too-many years, I feel I can safely say that the reason is primarily my utter lack of self-esteem and my extensive depression.

Therefore, my sixth goal for the year has been changed to: Get my head on straight.  After all, there’s no sense in pursuing something with another person that ultimately isn’t going to help me or them.  This goal is linked to all of my others, each of them contributing a little to the success of this one; it’s why I listed it last.

And one more...

While this new goal of mental stability is obviously the hardest to measure, I feel like I can safely say that it is also the one on which I have made the most progress.  As for the goal that I dropped, the relationship, maybe next year I’ll consider it again… or maybe not.  I know somewhat what I want in a relationship, but I don’t see a way to reach that goal a little bit at a time.  It seems insurmountable at this point, so maybe I’ll move on, then try again somewhere down the road.

So at the end of this year, or 10 months, however long it’s been since I made these goals, I’ve come to the conclusion that my life will never be remarkable if I wait, hope, wish, and dream it away.  A remarkable life is something that I must strive for and make for myself; it will never fall in my lap, no matter how long I wait.  If these goals that I set for myself continue help me in that endeavor, then just maybe when the day comes for my life to end, I can look back on it and see a truly remarkable story.  


I Moustache You a Question...

                I have had a beard or a goatee for over 10 years now.  During that decade, I have only been clean-shaven a handful of times.  I love my beard, I like how it looks, and it keeps my face warm.  Sure it has its drawbacks, not everyone approves of facial hair, sometimes it tickles, and every once in a while I get food in it and don’t notice until someone points it out.

                Well next month I will be embarking on a journey of mustachioed proportions!  Next month is Movember.  Yes, you read that correctly, it is not a typo, that month just started with an “M”.  During the month of Movember, men everywhere grow out their moustaches in order to entice other people to ask the simple question, “Why?”  And the answer may be better than you realize...

                The Movember event is encouraged and propagated by a group of the same name.  The Movember Foundation is partnered with many different men’s health research groups, non-profits, and awareness groups.  For those not aware, “Men’s Health” pertains primarily to the following issues:  Prostate Cancer, Testicular Cancer, and Mental Health.  All of these problems, as well as a myriad of others, are horribly debilitating and shockingly under-treated.

                What the Movember Foundation does during the upcoming month is gather men together across the world and encourage them to increase awareness of men's health issues.  

                Via the Foundation's website, men (and women!) are able to register for the month-long event. Once registered, the men go clean shaven on Movember 1st and grow a moustache (NO BEARDS) for the entire month.  When the people they encounter in day to day life ask them, “Why?” they refer them to the Movember Foundation and the men’s health issues in desperate need of attention in our society. 

Then, once informed, the people are encouraged to make a donation to the Movember Organization, citing their chosen moustache extraordinaire as their inspiration for doing so.  The money will then be distributed to different men’s health research and awareness groups, to help bring attention and aid to those suffering from these health issues for far too long.

So if you want to try growing a moustache for this noble cause, or even if you just want to donate or help out, please do so and let’s beat back these Malcontent Maladies with the Majestic Might of the Moustache!

All of this being said, this is the point where I could use some reader input… What style of moustache should I cultivate?  I'm having trouble deciding, so I'm putting some of the pressure on you... Here are a few styles that I’m ruling out automatically:

The Charlie Chaplin: 

The Pencil Thin ‘Stache:

Anything that requires wax:

Please make suggestions for the style of my ‘stache in the comments section below or on facebook…

Thanks, and happy Movember!


To Hell or a Picnic

“Where’s this headed, and why the hand basket?”- Peter Mulvey

On a daily basis anymore I see people complain that the world is in decline.  People worry that the end of civilization as we know it is fast approaching.  Sometimes they think it’s because of a decline in morality, because of the political failings (or successes, depending on your viewpoint) of world leaders, because of the global economic shifts, or because of the growth of any particular creed, race, nationality, or sexuality, or perhaps because of some reason that I’m glossing over. 
Whatever reason they believe it to be, one thing is certain: The sky is falling…

We have the incredible ability now to access virtually any information in the world in an instant.  You don't even have to go seek it out with a few simple keystrokes; instead the information that you want is instantly sent to your phone or tablet.  It's on the homepage of your browser, it's in the "Articles you might like" section, and it's taking over your social media as videos and articles go viral through the online community.

This amazing level of access to information has been the cause of some truly awesome things in our global society.  Massive amounts of money have been raised for deserving charities, disease research, and potato salad.  Wrongs have been righted in the court of public opinion, even though plenty of other wrongs have been committed or gone unnoticed.

Yet perhaps the most awe-inspiring thing that the information age has brought upon us is the onset of fear (awe-inspiring doesn’t mean good, terrible things can inspire awe as well).  Via consumerism in this brave new world, fear is being spread far, wide, and constantly.

It’s at this point that I was GOING to talk about consumerism and how it has turned fear into, by and far, the largest and most effective marketing tool ever.  However, this post was getting too long.  So I’ve split that part off for a future post.   Stay tuned!

In our society there is always at least one large news story casting fear over our minds and doubt over our safety.  Right now those stories are Ebola, ISIS, and Big Bad Evil NFL players.  But let’s take a look at some of the scares from past years…

Beheading by Al-Qaeda in Pakistan
Israel was at war in the Gaza Strip
North Korea continues to fire test rockets and missiles as well as nuclear tests.
Swine Flu
3 commercial passenger planes crash

5 commercial passenger planes crash
Massive earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, China, and Indonesia
BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
North Korea shells YeongPyeong Island prompting potential conflict between North and South Korea.

Arab Spring
Earthquake and tsunami in Japan leading to the meltdown at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant
United States credit is downgraded due to massive debt
Another Iraqi insurgency
Occupy Wallstreet movement and protests turn violent in Oakland and other cities

End of the Mayan Calendar*facepalm*
Attacks in response to the Innocence of Muslims trailer
Mexican Drug Cartels and assassination attempts on CIA agents in Mexico
Israel fighting again in the Gaza Strip
Large Hadron Collider “recreating the Big Bang”

More nuclear tests in North Korea
Large meteor strike in Chelyabinsk Russia causes worries that Deep Impact could come true.
Syrian Civil war
Edward Snowden
More plane crashes

Now we’re in the year 2014 and already we’ve had plane crashes, missing planes, wars, assassinations, terrorist threats, reemergence of old diseases, brand new diseases, and whatever political “crisis” you are the most scared of.

The fact of the matter is that terrible stuff happens all the time.  It happens world-wide, people die, misery ensues, and at some point(s) in your life you will experience terror and desolation firsthand.  It will be difficult, you’ll doubt whether or not you’ll pull through it, and you may not be able to.

There isn’t much that you can do to prepare for that eventuality either.  No matter how much you worry and prepare, you won’t be truly ready when that day comes.  90% of your preparation will slip through your fingers when it happens. 

This leaves you with a choice; you can worry days away in fear of this pending disaster or that imminent doom.  There will always be plenty to choose from whether it’s a potential plague, a terrorist attack, war, natural disasters, accidents, or even just people that are different than you, you can always find some reason to be afraid of the world.

The real trick is to take the other choice.  Rather than worrying and panicking over everything that the nightly news or your Facebook News Feed tells you, choose to ignore the fear and enjoy life as it happens. 

Through all of the dilemmas and epidemics that hit the world on a constant basis, life continues.  You still wake up every day to a world filled with breathtaking sunrises and natural phenomenon.  You live every day in a world where beautiful art of every type is created.  You live in a world where every day you can love someone with such a passionate intensity that you can feel it warm your body.  You live in a world where you can laugh until your sides hurt and tears are streaming down your face.

Simply put, we all live in a world filled with fear and desperation that is also filled with beauty and hope.  We walk a fine line every day between those two worlds, and there will be times that we falter and step on the wrong side of that line. 

For my own sake though, I know that I’ll live my life aware of it all.  I’ll keep my eye on the fears and the misery, and I’ll help wherever I can.  Still, I will forever more value the beauty of my life over the fears of the world.

“I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”- Neil Gaiman