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.  

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