Status Update [2015]

Originally posted on 1000wordvomits – 0475+0476+0477.

It’s always fun to pay attention to all the different kinds of stimuli I encounter, which then trigger a series of parallel thoughts.

  • Today, an old friend (we used to hang out after school over a decade ago!) reached out to me to ask me how I’m doing, and how I decided to do what I’m doing.
  • A colleague asked me to think about what I want to be doing for work 6 months from now, and a year from now.
  • A conversation with a colleague on our commute home got us talking about how we spend our time after work.
  • And finally, me and my wife have lately had a few productive conversations about how to get things done within the context of our partnership as coauthors of our mutual experience.
  • A short while before writing this I was listening to Alan Watts, as I do quite frequently, and he was talking about the limitations and the illusory nature of the Self, and how in a sense we’re all just memories and patterns of behavior. We’re stories that we tell ourselves.

Well, so what is my story? I’ve retold it many times in these vomits, and part of the point of constantly retelling it is to give myself many different data points, many different retellings to examine and evaluate. That’s one of the things I sort of do for fun. I psychoanalyse myself.

Why do I do that? I still feel like there’s something in me that needs some sort of correcting. I don’t mean in a blunt, surgical sense… I mean more like in an “alignment” sense. I have patterns of thinking and being that I think are suboptimal for me. These are things that I sort of “inherited”, or are otherwise patterns that I fell into without being mindful of them.

Back to the story. What IS the story? What AM I doing? Well. I’m about 25.3 years old now. That’s an interesting thing. I think until I was 23 or so, I still felt like I had the inner monologue of who I was from 16 to 20. I was still carrying around a lot of guilt, frustration, confusion, anger, etc. [1] It was stuff that I felt I needed to fix.

I feel like I’ve very recently begun to learn how to adult. I’ve started to eat healthier. I’m more consistent with my work and obligations– I’m better able to manage myself, my time, my energy, my resources. I’m nowhere close to perfect, but I’ve come a long, long way from the chaotic incoherence that characterized my teenage years. I’m pretty proud of that. That’s progress.

I’m over 80kg now, I think nearly 85kg. That’s surprising to me still. I spent many, many years “stuck” at 64.5kg, constantly trying to get to 65kg. I would go to the gym, lift weights, but I would be stuck at 64.5. In the past two years I’ve gained almost 20kg. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I’ve stopped growing (bones, etc). I can’t do as many pullups as I was able to when I was skinnier. I can run as quickly as I could when I was skinnier. I do think I’m somewhat stronger, I can lift more weight. I’ve learned more about my blood sugar levels (which were horribly volatile in my younger days– all that candy and coke and noodles… ugh). My ideal weight is actually around 100 to 110kg, and I intend to gain that weight in muscle mass while simultaneously getting fitter, faster, healthier in every dimension.

What about my mental life? I used to sleep really late all the time, and I have a few instances these days where I still do that. I occasionally sleep at 4am, and once I pulled an all-nighter to ship some work and slept at 7am. But these are increasingly becoming anomalies. It’s 10:10pm now and I’m in bed already, and this is becoming a more common thing.

I think a lot of this has to do with the calming effect of having my own home, and being able to be comfortably alone all the time. When I was younger, I think I liked the late night because it was just so much quieter. (And one of my colleagues pointed out, it does seem like the Internet is faster in the wee hours). I would like to be able to sleep and wake up really, really early to see what it’s like if I START my day with that sort of ‘quiet time’ rather than end with it.

What about my psychology? I think I’m a lot less insecure than I used to be, and a lot of this has had to do with me earning my own salary, paying for the food I eat and the roof over my head and the water coming out of the taps and so on. I’ve also been pretty successful both at work and with my craft as a writer, so those are reassuring.

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the world around me (though I’m well aware that it could be misleading and I should always solicit negative feedback, too). I’ve given talks and hosted parties and spoken to a lot of thoughtful people, and the general consensus among them seems to be that I’m quite hard on myself, that I’m doing pretty well by general standards (though of course, why would you want to hold yourself to general standards?) and that I’m generally a kind, generous person.

I used to be a lot cattier– I used to pick fights with people on social media, I was very argumentative. I like to think that it was never vicious or malicious– I was always just really passionate about communicating with people, and if they disagreed with my perspective, I wanted them to see how I saw things. I didn’t necessarily always think I was right, but I was a lot less sensitive to other people’s points-of-view until fairly recently. Over time and experience I’ve learned that people have different experiences, world-views, and so on. I can now deal with disagreements in a sort of smiling, light-hearted calm manner. I’d like to be able to do more of that, and do it better.

What about my relationships? I’ve sort of disconnected from some of the people that I used to hang out with and talk to every day. Part of that was just changing circumstances– I had a group of friends I’d meet regularly, and we all lived nearby, and we all had similar schedules. I’ve since moved pretty far away, and we all have different work schedules, some of us are overseas, and so on. I still meet some of them from time to time, but the group that I hung out with doesn’t quite exist in the same way anymore (as far as I can tell).

I also had an online community that I had started, and it was a great source of pride for me. That group has since “run its course”– people developed friendships that they took offline, the conversations began to dry up after getting a little repetitive, and the whole thing has sort of ‘passed on’ now. I have good relationships with more than a few of the people that I got to know there, and I’m proud of it. We’re all still sort of connected one way or another, and I met quite a few of them at a friend’s wedding recently. It’s pleasant.

One thing I really enjoy is reading my old thoughts and statuses and messages on Facebook thanks to the On This Day function. It’s very interesting to read my own words from 5 years ago. I was a lot more verbose then. I’ve come to value clarity and simplicity more– and to my credit I DID actually post a status in 2010 talking about how I wanted that. So I have that now, relative to what I did then. Another win for me. I think I was a lot more idealistic and excited when I was younger, but also a lot less effective, efficient, systematic, disciplined. It’s nice to read my old words and get fired up again, eager to fulfill the dreams and ambitions of the naive youngster I was. And it’s also nice to feel stronger, more effective, more calm. I’d like to feel more of that in the coming years.

I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with old friends. Time is a very interesting thing. I think I hold on to things much tighter than most people. I still think about childhood stuff all the time. To be a little more precise– I don’t HOLD everything in my immediate consciousness all the time. For example, when I was in Junior College, I had one Vice-Principal who was sincere, engaging and very admirable. I had another who I really disliked. I don’t think about either of them on a daily basis, but I do think about them from time to time, especially when reflecting on my younger days, or when somebody or something triggers the thought. And I find that I can still summon an intense respect for the first guy, and a remarkable loathing for the second.

I’m not sure how other people do these things. I still think about fleeting moments I spent with distant acquaintances years and years ago, and I’m pretty sure none of them think about me as much as I think about them. But again, it’s not like I think about them ALL the time, it’s just that I have this sort of habit of reminiscing. I imagine this will just keep getting more fun and more interesting as I get older and collect more data points, and revisit old data points, and rekindle and revisits relationships and see things from entirely new perspectives, in entirely different lights. The idea of that excites me.

I no longer play in a band, and I no longer harbor rockstar ambitions. On hindsight a lot of that was me desperately seeking the approval of others. I wasn’t doing so well at school, and I really wanted validation from others in some way shape or form. As I get older I realize that validation from others can be a bit of a numbers game. Talk to enough people and eventually you’ll find some who tolerate you, perhaps because of some weirdness on their part. Surround yourself with people like that and you have an echo chamber that’s kind of divorced from reality [2]. And then these groups develop their own sort of internal rules, and they inevitably seem to have some sort of periodic drama (which might be a group’s way of figuring out its internal pecking order). It’s frustrating, and it seems to totally hijack the lizard brain’s social instincts.

Far better instead to seek validation from yourself, by doing things that make YOU proud. You are your own toughest barometer. You know when you’re bullshitting yourself. You know when you’ve truly done something great. You know when you can genuinely do better, and you know when you’ve done what’s reasonably your best. It took me some time to shake off my own BS, and I’ve still probably only shaken off maybe 20% of it. (And it seems like that might awalys be the case. The more we know, the more we realize we don’t know.)

Am I totally self-validated? Nope. But I’m more comfortable with silence now than I was before. I’m more comfortable with failure, or with encountering somebody who disagrees with me. I’m more comfortable struggling in the pursuit of something non-immediate. I’m more comfortable acknowledging the value that structure and discipline and schedule and such have given me.

So… what next? One of my visions for my own life is to grow old and be surrounded by great company. To earn the respect and admiration of smart, thoughtful, compassionate people who are accomplished and have grown and contributed. And the idea isn’t to con those people into liking me, the idea is to earn it by working hard at things that matter. Of course, ultimately nothing truly matters and everything is just a grand cosmic laugh. But I do think that some people are more fun to be around than others, and if we’re all sort of floating around on this rock, we might as well spend time with other magical beings that we like.

What do I want to do? I’ve increasingly found myself less and less satisfied with lofty goals and highly specific ambitions. I realize that I envy the confidence that rich, acccomplished people tend to have– but I also know that not all rich, accomplished people are confident. So it’s not that I want riches and accolades. Rather, I want to become a person who is deeply comfortable and confident in his own skin. And I do believe that that sort of deep confidence leads to all sorts of success in all sorts of endeavors. But that isn’t what really matters, anyway. Those are just sort of barometers or guidelines. What really matters is that I can live with myself, and that I sleep well at night, and wake up every morning excited to be alive and eager to confront the challenges that await me, even if they’re technically meaningless in the ultimate scheme of things. I want to play and have fun, and that means solving problems, learning things, developing new ideas, having hypotheses, failing at things, being wrong about things, learning and growing.

I know that I will continue to work with words, probably for the rest of my life. I’m almost halfway through this 1,000,000 word project. Why did I do THAT? Well, I wanted to travel a great distance to see what I’d become at the end of the journey. The journey IS the destination, all that good stuff. And already I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I feel like I’ve grown a lot. I’m definitely a very different person from when I’ve started.

I’m developing this ability to express myself, and I’m going to continue to get better at it. Along the way I will use this skill towards ends that I see fit. I want to help people. I want to make the world a more thoughtful, compassionate place– that’s still true. I’d like to contribute to the spreading of the light of consciousness, so that we might all enjoy the splendour of existence together. And there’s a chance that I only have that goal because I want to spend my fleeting existence around other people with similar goals. So be it, that companionship is worth fighting for.

I want to be a good husband to my wife, a good colleague to my coworkers, a good friend to others like myself. I want to be of assistance and use to less fortunate versions of myself around the globe. But all of that are just outward-pointing ways of saying that I want to be all-right on the inside. I want to realign myself. I want to get stronger. I want to be able to evaluate situations better. I want to be able to plan and predict better. I want to practice and refine my foresight. I want to be able to influence reality in a direction that is good and just.

That all sounds nice and good and rah-rah, but so what are the next steps? Well, I need to continue writing as much as possible. For a period of time I was writing every single day. I was taking a bit of a break. Now I’m writing 3 vomits all at once. I don’t want to get too obsessed with the nitty-gritty details, but neither do I want to lose sight of the big picture. The journey is the destination, again. The point of writing is to write. To enjoy the writing.

There are some nice outcomes that happen along the way, but those aren’t the point. The point is that whenever I write deeply and honestly from the heart, I feel a great catharsis. I breathe deeper, I smile broader, and I feel less edgy and anxious. I’d like to continue doing those things. This is my meditation, it is my celebration of my own existence in a manner that is uniquely my own. I don’t need to explain it to anybody (though I do have a lot of fun trying). I think that’s the biggest difference. To see it is play, as a joy.

I’m thankful for the opportunity that life has given me so far. I’m technically a wealthy human being, by global standards. I have a lot of things to be greatful for. Food, shelter, water, loved ones, a fully functioning body, work that’s quite fulfilling, colleagues I respect and admire, and passion and pleasure. And all sorts of teachers, books, videos, crystalized human thoughts. I’m swimming in a lot of love every single day, and I should appreciate that. And I’d like to contribute to it. It seems like a good idea.

[1] Talking about it aloud always blows it a little bit out of proportion, because we can’t quite communicate amplitude in writing. Now that’s a thought– imagine writing with different font sizes, for example, to explain that an awfully elaborate thought might actually still be relatively low in significance. Like fractals, like detailed patterns on a leaf when you still want to point out that the tree is way bigger.

[2] Although you could argue that we’re all divorced from reality, it’s just a matter of degree, or that being insulated from harsh reality is still an experience of some sort of reality– you just get burnt a lot worse when you finally encounter some sort of painful truth that you can’t deny. I’m not really interested in digging into the details right now, but that’s a very ripe vein for exploration.

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