Me — Getting Through the Hard Days

Emotions can be tough to deal with sometimes. I wrote a whole blog post about allowing yourself to do things you knew weren’t great in order to get through the hard times, but as I wrote it I recognized that all I was really doing was excusing my own poor behavior. I’ve been struggling a bit lately, and according to my daily journal, yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had in three months. It’s not important why.

I’m not going to write an entire 500+ word post today. I think being concise on this topic will prove my point better.

Emotions are fleeting. They pass. Tomorrow doesn’t have to be as bad as today might have been. Time heals many wounds, so just let it do its thing.

Whatever problems you’re going through right now will get better.

Me — Mt. Wilson Hike

I have a friend that is really into exercising and hiking. Outside of work, I would say it’s probably the thing he spends the most time on, with basic exercise equipment in his room and whatnot. He’s not obsessed with it—it’s not a thing he just talks about in casual conversation—but it does occupy a lot of his time.

Recently he made a post on social media about getting a group together for his second hike up Mt. Whitney (the highest mountain in California at 14,500 feet), and wanted to see who was interested in joining him on his training hikes.

I don’t really spend a whole lot of free time exercising or even being outdoors these days, so I told him to add me to the list of invites for the hikes. So he did, and I joined him for the first hike: Mt. Wilson.

When I said I’d be interested in hiking with him, I thought I was signing up for a 3-4 hour conversation along some longer trails, but that is not what I got. This was an 8 hour hike with an elevation gain of 4,300 feet.

IMG_20190511_061401273_HDR

The view from the parking lot: not our jeep. Also, the parking lot was already packed at 6am!

I didn’t have a national park pass, so I couldn’t park there, so instead I spent the night at his place and we carpooled over. The thing is, I got there around midnight, slept on his couch, and we got up at around 4:30am. Our hike (with a group of 4 people) began at around 6am. (Yes I started an 8 hour hike on 4 hours of sleep. I took what I could get.)

I was also very leery of joining him because for one, the weather forecast for that day had predicted showers over the entire week, and only the day before did that forecast loosen into noon-time sprinkling. The sky was overcast, threatening to rain at any given moment.

We had a good chat. I learned lots of hiking etiquette from the more experienced hikers (which was everyone), and even though it was early in the morning, the exertion proved to be quite a workout.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

It took us about 4 hours to get to the peak, and we were excited about the prospect of a cafe at the top. We got to the observatory before it opened, and when we did arrive, the people there told us it was closed due to the weather forecast (though it didn’t rain a drop the entire day). It was a bummer, because we had planned on treating ourselves to soda at the top.

 

And so we made our descent, and let me tell you friends, if you thought going up was bad, you have either never gone down for long periods of time, or your knees are better than mine (and let’s be honest, it’s probably the latter if not both). The way down was the more scenic route, with more creeks and waterfalls  alongside (or cutting through) the path. We added a mile to our hike to go to one particular waterfall (which was the main attraction for most of the people that came here). I stopped us on the descent a lot because I saw a lot of good photo opportunities. Also, I was low-key dying a little bit, but had too much pride to call for a real break.

As much as I really didn’t want to add another mile to the hike 6 hours in, I’m glad we went. It lead to a few really cool pictures. There were lots of people there, including a few kids throwing rocks into the water to make big splashes. One of them hit me with a rock instead of the water. It didn’t hurt, but boy did I want to kick his dad in the face for not stepping in and apologizing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the end of the trip was a steep 400ft incline (I’d guess maybe 20-25°), and that last quarter mile-ish killed me. Imagine walking for 8 hours and then the last legs of the journey is a steep slope up asphalt—not even nice, packed in dirt.

I was sore for two days after the trip, but I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for that last little bit, I would have been almost completely fine the next day or two.

So that’s it. I’m not a hiker, but this was a fun little thing to do. Some stats: Gained 4,300 feet of elevation over almost exactly 8 hours. Average pace was a 28 minute mile, but our best was 7:50 minutes. We covered 14.7 miles and burned 1,653 calories.

 

Me — June ’19 Update

With the spring semester finally over, it’s back to working full time. Theoretically, this means I have more time to pursue hobbies like writing and investing more time into D&D, but we’ll see where that goes.

So as always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

I’ve been trying to upload at my scheduled times more consistently. It always kills me a little bit inside when I miss the 5am deadline on a blog post and I have to upload it later (or skip it entirely). That said, two posts a week still feels like a good pace. A lot of my creative energy has been being spent elsewhere, so if more content does come, it probably won’t be through my website (though I’ll certainly advertise it here, too).

That said, I’ve been writing a lot for the passion project, and we have big plans coming in in the next set of months. I’m very excited, but we want to make sure everything is in place before we hit “Go”. Apart from that, I’m planning on working on the second Act of my full length play over the summer. I don’t think that will ever find its way to the website because it wouldn’t be fair to myself to do that, but I certainly intend to throw out snippets (even if it’s just plot points) out when I do finish it. Also, a second short story anthology may be on its way relatively soon?

Work has been a little rough. As I’m writing this, I’m about to go into the first day of work with our new hire (whom I will be teaching), and the day after that is my overdue yearly review. By the time this posts those two things will have already happened, so if you’re reading this, that’s my bad. I should have came back and edited this paragraph. But if I don’t, know this: I’m leery. I want things to get better, as the pay is not comparable to the amount of work I do, but I don’t think I’ll get much of a pay raise in my review. We’ll see.

School! The spring semester is over, as I said, and I should only need one more semester of classes to walk away with (at least) two AA degrees and a few certificates. I’m also thinking about auditioning for the main stage play in the fall. Never being in a full length production was always one of my biggest regrets from high school, and I don’t want to leave college making the same mistake, even if I end up hating the experience.

D&D is going well. I’m planning on passing the DM reins to my brother once we finish this story arc, but the arc is taking longer than anticipated. I predict we have about 5 more sessions to go, and if that’s accurate, I should be done by July, but as long as we finish by August I don’t care. Mostly I’ve got a lot of DM fatigue that I need a break from, and once I’m done with school I should have a lot of fun stuff to play with to get me excited to take the wheel again. I also hope to start writing more Aleor campaign diaries and uploading them to the blog. Stay tuned.

As far as gaming goes, I don’t have a whole lot to say about that. I’ve still been playing Magic: The Gathering Arena trying to save up cards to make my own deck instead of modifying the ones the game gives you for free. It’s a shame the game requires so much in order to get the cards you want. Stupid card games are so expensive. I’ve also been messing around on Heroes of the Storm still. I only have eight heroes left to level up to ten. Lastly, my brother and I are planning on starting Final Fantasy VI for our retro game night this week, and I’m bringing a fellow nerd along for the ride. FF6 has been one of those games I’ve always been very excited to play, so it should be a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, all of this leads to me not having a whole lot of time to myself. The only media I’ve really been consuming in the last few months is Critical Role, and any leftover free time is devoted to Day[9]’s livestreams. That said, I’m about 3 episodes behind on Critical Role, which is about ten hours of content. On one hand it’s nice to just be able to watch new (to me) episodes whenever I want, but it also means I can’t participate in the community because spoilers.

That’s about it. I recently cleaned my room pretty extensively, and I packed the majority of my decorations/nick-knacks. I don’t really plan on moving soon, but it’s been on my radar for several months and it just felt time to start making myself more scarce. I really hope that my life looks very different a year from now. I’m at least trying to set myself up for big changes. On that note, I think I just recently saw the beginning of a really good friendship, so cheers to that.

 

Me — Accepting a Less-Productive You

I never feel like I really have any free time, but honestly, that’s not true. The amount of free time I have is honestly pretty manageable. Most of the responsibilities I have outside of work, such as my blog, are self-imposed. I end up cutting corners on D&D prep or writing blog posts late all the time, simply because the time slot I have to do it is far more easily spent relaxing. The struggle of having stuff to do after you feel like you’ve spent the whole day doing stuff is something I’ve talked about quite a bit, but today I wanted to spin it on it’s head a bit.

I know what the solution is. I need to get up super early (5am) and get all that extra stuff done before work, so when I come home everything is already done. Getting into that habit is easier said than done, I know, but that is a solution that’s worked for me in the past.

Lately I’ve been thinking to myself that I need a vacation. Just three or four days where I don’t have to worry about anything. But then I realized something. I would probably hate that—especially if I stayed home for that duration. The reason for that is because of those self-imposed deadlines. They are easy to get around, sure. I could write a short post on the blog saying I’m taking a week off, tell my brothers that we’re skipping a week of D&D, and tell my friends in the passion project that I have to skip that week’s meetings to focus on me time. After all’s said and done the only thing I’d have left would be going to work 9-5 every weekday.

But the only moments in life where I feel justified in relaxing—the only free time spent truly feeling free, is when I’ve spent so much time being productive that there’s nothing left to really do. Relaxation is only really relaxing if I feel I’ve earned it, which is rarely the case even when I spend the whole day doing things.

It’s stupid. Society has put so much pressure on us as individuals to feel like productivity level is the only measure of human value (at least, that’s how I feel), that any time spent working on building up your mental capacity feels like you’re draining your own self-worth. We’re taught to look up to the people who can write tens of thousands of words every day or star in every movie ever made and idolize them because of how much stuff they can do. Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors for a reason, after all, and his sheer capacity to churn out novels is up there.

People shouldn’t feel worthless when they’re not doing something. I can manage to convince myself that meditation is being productive for a number of reasons, but it’s part of the reason why I don’t really watch movies or TV shows. It doesn’t feel worth it.

The common inspiration of “you can do anything you put your mind to” and all the similar expressions only serve to fuel this broken concept. You don’t have to spend 14 hours every day working towards your goals. This isn’t an excuse to be lazy, but it’s a reminder that sitting down and relaxing with a cup of coffee doesn’t make you the useless mistake your subconscious tries to tell you you are.

P.S. Look at the guy in that picture. Don’t mess with him. He’s got too many arms and isn’t afraid to use ’em.

 

Me — Music as a Creative Outlet

I don’t know if any one thing changed per se, but in the past few months I’ve really been listening to lots of different kinds of music and putting lots of thought into various ways I can express myself using it.

Specifically, I’ve started seriously considering two things: One, writing songs, something the current Kollin is not yet knowledgeable enough about or even equipped to do, and two, using songs as inspiration for other creative outlets. I’ll explore the former first because since it’s less accessible for me, it doesn’t make a very good conclusion to a blog post.

I’ve always been interested in songwriting. I’ve written several poems that were meant to have a sing-songy rhythm (more than one of which I intend to attach music to one day), but I haven’t seriously picked up an instrument since middle school, so my understanding is rudimentary at best. Still, over the years I’ve come up with several parody songs, and I recently realized that they all have a centralized theme. All of these songs were integral to my childhood, so the album I eventually write will be titled The Summer of Yesteryear, and all of the parodies will be about a kid growing up, using the summertime as a recurring theme.

So far I have 7 songs, mostly parodies of songs from the 90’s-00’s. My most recent addition to this list is a parody of The Cars’ “Shake it Up”, a song called “Wake Him Up”. That’s the only one you get, because none of these parodies are actually written yet, and a few of these ideas are gold.

But even outside of that, I also want to make original music. I have three distant future goals regarding this. The first is making a solo (or perhaps not?) band called Fridays at Five, featuring upbeat jams in a union of Jukebox the Ghost and Silversun Pickups. (The idea is that “Fridays at Five” is the best time of the week because it means you get to go home from work and anticipate the weekend. I also have an inverted version of the band called Five to Nine, meaning its five minutes before your 8 hour shift starts. That music under that name would not be upbeat.)

Anther distant future goal is to put together a bunch of instrumental music using D&D spell names as song titles. The idea here would be that I’d take a spell (like Fireball, or Dimension Door) and write the song that evokes the feeling of what that spell is and does. That concept is much less fleshed out than the above two concepts, but it’s a thing I’d like to toy around with someday.

Lastly, I have an inkling. An inkling of a story being told through music and song, much like the Gorillaz’ canon of backstory and events explored through their songs. I want to do that, but with a fantasy setting, perhaps even in one of my established universes?

As far as actually using music to fulfill a creative outlet under my current means, though, I’ve been really attaching myself to songs and using it to fuel my fiction. For example, I wrote this story a while back using the song “The Hermit” from Hyper Light Drifter as a writing prompt. It’s fun to use prose to explore the depths of what a song might be trying to convey, or at least what it means to me, and I’ve been enjoying myself playing in that space recently.

Other songs that I find very inspirational:

Phantom Racer” by TWRP, commanding me to one day write a story about a race a-la Speed Racer or F-Zero.

Satelitte” by Two Door Cinema Club and “All This Time” by Jonathan Coulton” inspire me to write a sci-fi sitcom, oddly enough. This is a terrible metaphor, but imagine something like Full House but it takes place on the Enterprise and there’s just so many laser guns.

Lastly, “Do You Want it All?” also by Two Door Cinema Club, just begs to be the song for a movie trailer. Maybe some sort of adventure movie?

Anyways, none of this stuff is in the near future, really, except for the using songs as writing inspiration, which I am actively doing, but is much less obvious.

But one day, Fridays at Five might be a thing.

Playing Catch-up

Hello, friends! My time has been being devoured by both finals and work over the last few weeks, as you could probably tell by my late (or even absent) posts. I’m happy to finally report though that finals are now over, so my work schedule will resume to a simple 9-5! I’m very excited to slowly start getting my weekends and weeknights back, but with that excitement comes cleanup.

As I stated before, my job recently lost a full time employee, and I’ve had to fill in the gap as best I could, even while going to school (and, of course, finals). So aside from all the extra stuff I’d like to be doing, the shop just needs to be straightened up and organized. Scrap material has been piling up in the corner for weeks, and my partner left a ton of stuff in disarray! (Or at least, not to the nigh-obsessive level of organization that I would like to keep it at.) I went in to work for an extra 6 hours yesterday just to clean and I still have what I would predict to be another 4 hours of work. (It’s not as though I’m simply sweeping up wads of paper, after all. These scrap pieces are still 4′ x 8′ sheets of material.)

If I could get the shop in tip-top shape, finish all of the extra stuff I’d like to do, I would estimate it would need about another 12 hours in total, though a lot of that would just be normal maintenance like mopping the floors, which should be getting done more often than it is.

That leaves me to well, my actual room. I like to think I’m an organized person, but there seems to be a certain point in every semester where I just can’t be bothered. I get home late with various loose papers in my hand, and I just put it down on my desk sitting atop the rest of my various papers and then don’t bother to look through it ever again. I’m starting to seriously run out of desk space because of it, but the amount of time I’ve been able to spend just relaxing at home is so sparse as it is, then when I am here I’d rather just watch YouTube videos and play Magic than do more work. Obviously that’s a self-perpetuating cycle, but I’ll get to it soon. Along those same lines is the fact that I’ve been contemplating doing a deep cleaning of my room (yay purging!), but if I did that it would take all day, and the last time I had a full day to myself was probably January. As much as I want to, I’m not sure I can spare that kind of time.

As far as I’m concerned, summer can’t really start until both the shop at work and my room are completely clean and primed for living in. It’s just a matter of finding the time to do that.

I’m coming for you, summer. I have games I want to play and books I want to read.

Rambling — The Lack of Long-term Goals

I was talking to a friend the other day (a game developer who’s been working closely in the industry for a few years), and I told him that if I had had my way, my ideal career would be writing up the storylines to video games. My thought was that I could be the lead writer for an indie company, because that avenue has been growing more and more prevalent over the past decade. It wasn’t his intention, but he said something that was really disheartening, which was the fact that the project that he’s currently working on has over forty developers and zero of them are just “writers”.

Now, the thing is, I’m not sure how well his situation translates to my ambitions, because the project that he is on is unannounced, and therefore he can’t tell me about it. It sounds to me like the thing that he’s working on is very mechanic-driven, with little to no narrative. (I’m struggling to avoid using the term ‘game’ here, even if that is almost assuredly what he is doing). You don’t need a narrative for a game like Chess, after all, and for all I know he’s just making Super Chess.

I don’t like facing the fact that he’s probably right—there’s very few careers for a writer in the video game industry, meaning they will be hard to get and more than likely, none of them would be exclusively writing. (I love brainstorming, but there’s no way in hell anyone would pay me to sit in an office 40 hours a week to brainstorm with people and string story threads together.) But the problem with that is that I have no other marketable skills for that industry.

The vast majority of the time I do a pretty good job at not worrying about the future and just live in the present. Building towards and preparing for my life in two years is all well and good, but looking much further than that doesn’t tend to yield very accurate results.

What concerns me here is that I have no real passions. I’m sure that’s not uncommon with a lot of people my age, and so I should count myself lucky that I tend to be competent at most everything I pick up, but what I don’t want to do is be sitting in the same spot 10 years from now wondering when I can start calling myself an adult.

It’s stupid, I know. I’m already an adult and my life started decades ago. Some people live their whole life waiting for it to start, but if nothing motivates me into kicking myself into gear, what is there to do?

I used to think I’d be a published author by now, well into the first few novels of a fantasy series, but as it turns out I get bored with long-form writing and burn myself out. I have this irrational (if commonplace) fear that every aspiration I turn to will yield the same results.

They say not to make your hobby your day job, but my only hobby is D&D, and I already consider it a load of work. Ho-hum. Rambling over.