Life — Looking at Your Progress

It’s so easy to look forward and see how much further you have to go. This is a thing I’m constantly struggling with. I have so much I want to do, and so little time to do it, that all my self imposed deadlines stress me out so much that I do nothing. I know it’s a problem a lot of people have, and for me, it gets to a point where I can never relax.

It’s partly because of this that I feel like I’m getting nowhere. I want to start painting minis (I’ve got dozens ready to go). I have two big editing projects that are on my to-do list (and Lisa Stenton isn’t even on that list anymore). I have three more writing projects waiting (patiently) in line to be started, even if they are small. I want to start looking for new job avenues, even if I already have a potential job offer. I want to start recording audiobooks for side cash. I’m going to start DMing Dungeons and Dragons again on a week-to-week basis. I also want to try to also fit in some more regular video game leisure time with my brother. And on top of all that I’m trying to gain weight, which means eating and exercising more. And that last one is the only one I’ve actually started doing consistently.

I look at all this and make the face that Simba does when he realizes there is a stampede coming right for him. ALL of those things, if I were to do them properly, would take several hours a week out of my schedule. If I’m being generous, I have 50 hours of free time I could put toward those goals. But that means getting up at 5am every day, and if I don’t do that, that number gets cut down to 32 a week. Still sizable, but that’s assuming eating takes no time out of my day and I get 100% of the weekend to myself.

Once these ideal numbers start being broken down to a realistic scale, it gets very daunting. I also have lots of things I want to be doing on Warcraft, and since that has no weight behind it, I find myself being drawn to that the most.

So, it’s easy to feel like I’m treading water, but then I look back just a month ago, when I was regularly fasting for lunch every day just to save money. Since then I’ve started weighing myself every day, eating more than I ever have in my life, and working out (outside of work) at least half an hour almost every day. It’s only been a month so it’s hard to pinpoint direct results, but if nothing else, I feel better about myself for putting in work and effort into a thing.

Maybe I am dealing with moderate amounts of stress every day. But that’s just because I’m putting too much weight on my own shoulders. The sooner I recognize how much I can carry, the sooner I can actually start lifting the weights appropriate for me.

Me — Building Progress by Months

So, one thing I’ve decided to do—perhaps even the defining thing—is pace myself by monthly goals. In the past, I’ve done things like “Read 50 books in a year” or even just “travel more” or “be more social”. The problem with those goals is that the first is easy to procrastinate and set yourself up for failure, and the second type is vague enough to be neglected and, eventually, forgotten. The challenge, supposedly, is to be strict enough to push yourself, but not to go over the deep end and burn yourself out without making any true progress.

What I’m doing this year solves both of those issues, and I think it’s fairly obvious what I mean by monthly goals. Specifically, I have the goal that I’m working on for this month, and that goal is intended to lead into the next step, which will be February’s goal. After that, I have ideas, but I’m not going to worry about what March’s goal will be until February hits.

Right now, in January, all I’m doing is forcing myself to really consider my dietary intake and get into the habit of looking at what I’m eating and tracking how I feel (weight, energy levels, etc). I’m also trying to build a routine of getting up at 5am to work out for 30-60 minutes (or else get some other form of productivity done), but since that isn’t the primary goal, I’m not beating myself up when I don’t accomplish it. That, as it turns out, is February’s goal, and I’m just trying to get a head start because I feel I’m doing a great job at eating more and better food as well as cataloging my progress. Right now I still feel that eating basically nothing is the “norm”, so the habit definitely isn’t there yet, but I’ve made good progress.

February will be all about building an actual workout routine instead of doing what I can when I feel like it, because the latter part of that statement means I don’t do a whole lot. My long term goal is to get to a point where nobody comments about my appearance at all. (Because society says it’s okay to call people skinny). So, in light of that, I’m going to try to gain anywhere between 30-50 pounds, which obviously won’t be easy with my habit of skipping lunch because it’s the cheapest option. I won’t try to achieve that in February. Just like this month, the goal is more about building routines and sticking to them than achieving deadlines and hitting targets.

I also want to start painting minis regularly, spending more time with my brothers, and recording audiobooks. Those are goals for future months. The current me has no idea how to fit any of that into the schedule, as I’m freaking out a bit struggling to get normal stuff done. Hopefully, built routines will allow me to have more energy and willpower to accomplish more with my days.

But I’d be foolish to try to do all of this at once, and I suggest and encourage you to build incremental goals like I’m doing. It’s working out great so far.

 

2019 — A Year in Review

2019 took a lot out of me. I would say that overall, the year kind of sucked. I spent a good portion of it depressed to varying degrees, but in the end, we made it all the way through, didn’t we?

My next blog post will be about looking ahead, but I thought it prudent to look back first. I’m making the choice to point out the positive changes here, as it does nothing to dwell on the bad stuff. I’m also going to try to keep it chronological, but there will be some stuff moved around for organization’s sake.

  • Exactly one year ago, my brothers and I embarked on our first long-term D&D campaign: the Knights of Fire, and last Friday was our last session before we put those characters away for a little while to explore other parts of the world we’re creating. I DM’d for eight months straight, and once we tell the second half of this adventure, I plan on seeing it through to the end. I have plans. Plans within plans even.
  • In March, I started tracking my happiness and writing daily notes on what I did and how I feel. As you can imagine, I learned a lot about myself. And I’m expanding my channels of self-diagnosis in the new year because of it. More on that later.
  • I’ve been traveling more this year! In January the siblings and I flew to Chicago and drove back home. That was amazing and awful in all the ways you can imagine. Then, in October, I spent a whole week in the Washington/Oregon area. That in particular changed both short and long term life plans. This year alone, I’ve been to four new major cities.
  • Over the course of this year I wrote a full screenplay, and even gave it a complete pass for a full second draft. I hate it, unfortunately, and it should never see the light of day, but I’m proud it exists at all.
  • The passion project I’ve been working on made some huge bounds in 2019, and we’re continuing to build our world and our backlog of content to show. I’m hoping that we can go public with the project some time this year. Getting it ready for monetization is one of my main goals for 2020.
  • I also finished my last semester of college. I’ve yet to receive my degrees (and part of me suspects they’ll neglect to give them to me for stupid reasons), but I do not plan on continuing school, as I need room to grow and spending my time in school is hindering me at this point. It costs money, is time consuming, and my trajectory doesn’t align with that path.
  • In August, WoW: Classic launched, and over the course of a few months I’ve met some of the most amazing people in that guild, all of whom I am proud to call my friends. I cannot wait for the journeys we’ll go on together.
  • About two weeks ago now, I started wearing contacts. There’s more to this, but for now, suffice to say that it’s a small change that has big implications.
  • Around the same time, I was handed the keys to my first car. It’s an amazing leap forward, as it is probably only the second thing I have ever owned that I can refer to as “exclusively” mine. That said, the car payments are not fun and money is tighter than ever. Let’s hope that changes in the next couple of months.
  • And lastly, but most important by far, is that I found the strength to ask for help on a day I was really struggling. That person doesn’t know what the phone call was really about, and hopefully they never do, but I thank them for their presence all the same.

 

Overall, I spent a lot of 2019 in a depression, and I felt like nobody heard my calls for help. Even the ones that did kept on walking like they didn’t want to be held responsible, and I don’t blame them. For better or for worse, this taught me that nobody can be trusted, and that I can’t rely on anyone to make me feel better when I’m down. I have to do it myself.

Somehow, I’ve been kicking productivity into high gear the last few days of 2019 to prep my 2020. I’m all but making an outline for my plans, but most importantly, I have a checklist. A checklist that I know will kill me inside if I don’t fill in with as many check marks as possible. So that in and of itself should be ample motivation.

Life — 2020 Changes

I’ll probably do a more articulated post along these lines next month, but I’m creating a primordial gameplan for how I’m going to turn my life around next year. I have all the thread, I just need to weave everything together.

Mostly, the idea is I need to spend more time loving and less time dwelling in apathy. This primarily is pointed towards me, but it needs to be projected onto others as well. The less I do things “just because” and more because “I want to”, the better I will feel (I hope).

This comes from two philosophies squished together. One I made up as one of the major themes of the Lisa Stenton screenplay, and another I read online. The online quote could be summarized as follows.

“Stop telling yourself what you should do. Instead tell yourself how you feel when you do something. The word ‘should’ implicates you, doesn’t inspire action, and perpetuates guild. Instead of saying ‘I should go to the gym’, say ‘I like how I feel after I go to the gym’.”

I’ve been using this philosophy in regards to waking up early, and it has helped a lot. The quote that I made up is very similar, but not exactly the same.

When faced with a crossroads, ask yourself what your ideal version of yourself would do in that situation. Not the perfect you that has never struggled or the pure you that can do no wrong. The you that is doing the best they can with the resources they have available. What would they do? Try to do what that ideal you would do, and if you can’t, get as close as possible. The better those strides, the closer you will be to achieving your ideal you.

I’m tired of looking at myself in the mirror or seeing pictures of myself and seeing somebody I don’t like. For the longest time I’ve been playing the game just to get by, and this year, I almost lost everything because of my carelessness.

It’s tough for me, because my ideal Kollin is extroverted. He loves hanging out with people and makes everyone around him hum with excitement. He makes everyone feel loved and respected and never fails to improve somebody’s day. I’ve met people like that, and I want to emulate them. But I can’t. The actual Kollin is so irrevocably introverted that I am often too polite to tell somebody I need to pee if they won’t stop talking.

But I think recognizing the changes I want to be making is the first step to being somebody different. Somebody that I can respect. I may be pretty intuitive and nice, but those aren’t traits I fought for, they just happened. For as great as I thought I was because of them, I no longer feel like I have anything I’ve truly had to work for.

I’ve been trying to embody these thoughts now, but for certain I plan for them to be actionable by the time the new year hits. Because my current biggest fear is falling back into the pit of depression October and November sucked me into. I’m not out of it yet, but I’m no longer digging myself deeper.

Me — December ’19 Monthly Update

So. I’ll just say it. As far as my mental health goes, October and November 2019 put me in the worst state I’ve ever been in. I experienced lots of emotions I didn’t know I was capable of, and, well, it was rough. Only two people have any idea how bad it got, and not even they know the true extent. Luckily now, nobody has to know.

I felt like I was actively drowning and that in my flailing to grab anything—anyone—I would merely drag them down with me. I almost lost a very important battle before I even realized I was at war. I learned some things, but most terrifying of all was that it came and went with no specific warning or trigger, and with that knowledge comes the fear that it could strike again. I think the worst is over, but since I don’t know how it happened, I also don’t know what I can do to prevent it in the future. Either way I’m glad it’s behind me. I just wanted to let you know why I was so vacant last month. I’m still in recovery.

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

I’m still going to do my best to update once a month. I have some story ideas and some blog posts I’d like to share, which doesn’t happen a whole lot. Maybe next year I’ll have more to talk about, but if that doesn’t happen, I’m actually going to take the blog off the monthly updates, as the cadence of once a week has suited me well for several months now.

I’m still chugging away at the same writing projects. My Lisa Stenton screenplay has finished a preliminary second draft (though I still need to make a few passes to “finish” it as a full draft), and I’m probably going to put that on the shelf soon. I still don’t really like it, even with all the changes I’ve made from the first draft. There’s something about the world of Lisa Stenton that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like the magic system (or lack thereof) and how the supernatural ties to it. It’s the only thing that has ever held me back from writing more of that story, and the only reason this screenplay kind of works is because it has very little actual magic.

Other than that, the second anthology is probably not going to be published until the beginning of next year at this rate. With all that’s happened, I feel like I’ve lost a month and a half of writing time, but it is what it is.

Work has been fine. I’m not going to share details, but we’ve actually had several strong months in a row, as far as sales go, which is increasing morale and making the whole atmosphere a lot easier to bear.

Not much to say about school, but I only have a few classes left before I finish… maybe forever. That hadn’t occurred to me until I just wrote that. These next couple class sessions might be the last time I’m in that environment period. At least for a long while. Huh. By this time next month I will hopefully be sitting pretty on two AA degrees.

D&D has been going great. We’re almost closing what I’m calling Chapter Three of the Knights of Fire campaign. (The only one of five that I am not the DM for.) We’ll be taking a break from that for a couple of months to play in another short campaign before we resume with this story and, by extension, my role as dungeon master. I’ve already got the juices flowing as to How Chapter Four will start and what the main story beats will be.

I’ve been devoting the vast majority of my time playing WoW: Classic still, and let me tell you, in the last month, our guild has become a family. I can’t put it into words in a concise manner, but… I love the feeling that I’m part of a team and that people are talking about me when I’m not around. That’s part of my goal for regaining the sanity I lost in October and November. I’m planting the seeds that will make me feel like I’m important to people. I wouldn’t say I feel like I’m an essential part of the crew, but… I hope I will be in time.

Not much to say about listening. I’m keeping pace with Critical Role as well as I can, and that’s about it.

Not much else to say.

Life — Social Gaming Climate

Ever since WoW: Classic launched, I’ve been spending practically all of my free time on it (writing and social life—or lack thereof—notwithstanding). And while I know I made a post about it some time ago, the game has had a lot more time to stabilize since then, and I have more things to say about it.

I was afraid that the nostalgia of socializing with people online and making real friendships would be unattainable in today’s world, both because of how gaming itself has changed and how much social media has grown to dominate society in the last decade. But I could not have been more wrong.

More than I could have imagined, I’m forging real relationships with the people in my guild. Receiving and returning favors, trading things we need, talking about random stuff, or taking pot shots at other people in the guild. Admittedly, I’ve practically learned nothing about their real lives, but the climate in Classic WoW allows for so much more of people’s personalities to show than the last several years of the retail game.

In a way that I have never before experienced, your character has a reputation in the space that they’re in. The people you interact with remember your name, so it pays to be good to others. And since the vast majority have the same mentality, (my guild especially,) social interaction in the game is just so pleasant.

We finished our first Molten Core run today, and while it wasn’t quite as impactful as it could have been, I couldn’t help but think of how many thousands of people had walked through those caves before me. How many inseparable groups of friends. How many memories forged in those lava pits.

And now I’m making memories of my own. Not with inseparable friends, but with people I can’t wait to get to know, for hopefully several months to come.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the meaninglessness of my existence. The knowledge that if I simply evaporated, life would go on without me, and very few people would be affected, especially in the grand scheme of things.

But when somebody in the guild needs water for their mana, or a portal to Darnassus, I try my best to be there for them when I can. It’s not that I’m eager to help. It’s that I want to be known as and remembered for my willingness to go out of my way to help people. I find that the satisfaction of helping is often its own reward, and Warcraft gives me a great outlet to do that frequently.

I think about the stories I’ve heard of the relationships that have been forged inside World of Warcraft. Especially the stories of people that are gone. Heck, I wrote one of those stories (partially inspired by real events, but quite fictional).

It’s amazing how easily an entire culture was able to be restored inside a fifteen year old game. It really encourages teamwork and friendship in a way that no other MMORPG has compared to, and for that, I want to thank all the people that brought it to life then, and those that resurrected it now. I wish I had been old enough to really enjoy and experience it the first time around, but I’ll take what I can get. In some ways, it’s keeping me together.

Me — October ’19 Monthly Update

Greetings. I hope you are doing well. It’s finally cooling down here in Southern California (though next week will be in the 90’s again), so for the first time in months, the fan in my room is being turned off. I feel as though I have to relearn what to do about temperature in the winter months every time summer ends. Is it my goal to keep it as cool as possible in the room? Do I shut the window at night so it stays warm inside? Who knows.

Anyways, onto the updates, which I’ll keep simple, as September was relatively uneventful. As always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

No blog changes. Once a week suits me just fine for the time being.

As for writing, I’m still working on a lot of things at once, though progress has been slow going. Draft one of the full length Lisa Stenton play is done, but I hate it. As it stands, it is simply a collection of things that happen, not an Aristotelian song. Edits will be on the way, and I still hope for it to finish with that by the end of the year. I’m also still making edits to the anthology, but on that front I’m dragging my feet a bit. I don’t like editing my own work, but it’s a task that needs doing. Still hope to publish Book 2 by the end of the year as well. The passion project is currently on the back burner as we just finished a milestone, and the three of us are all quite a bit burnt out. Our current plans are to get back on track November.

No news as far as work goes. It goes and goes. Where it stops, nobody knows.

School has been fun. The singular class I’m taking has been really enjoyable, and it stretches muscles I don’t use often. Plus, it forces me to socialize, which is fantastic.

In the Aleor campaign (which I am no longer DMing), the Knights of Fire have just reached the city of Aqila, the center of magic and innovation. It’s been a lot of fun to play Acelia as a player character instead of a DMPC. I feel like I’m actually role-playing! In other news, a new campaign is in the cauldron, and I’ve finally figured out the backstory for the character I’m going to be playing, which is exciting.

My free time has still been spent almost exclusively on World of Warcraft, and has been for the last month. That said, I’m still not max level yet. Classic is brutal! I hope to get there by the end of next week. I will note that a brother got me the remastered Spyro trilogy for my birthday, so I’ve been chipping away at that. Lots of childhood memories in that game.

While playing, I’m still mostly just watching Critical Role and Day[9]. The new Magic: The Gathering set just came out, so I’m excited to see what fun new decks he can cook up.

Lastly, I have news! I will be returning to the Portland area very soon! I can’t wait to see friends and family up there, but part of my is unsure how I should spend my time. Should I just relax the whole time or should I use it as a little retreat from work to get stuff done? Only time will tell.

See you next month!