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.

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.

Me — Playing Life on Damage Control

At risk of taking an even more intimate look at my psyche as I have been writing on my blog lately, I need to vent a bit. Again. So read at your own risk.

At the onset of even more bad news, I’ve been starting to seriously look at how I could possibly make the changes I need. I feel like at a certain point, the depression becomes my identity, and when it gets as bad as it is right now, nothing makes me feel better, I can only do things that don’t make me feel worse. Life becomes a game of damage control and mitigation in the hopes that each day is as not-terrible as it could possibly be.

Every conversation I have ends up being about staving off the sadness, and every thing I decide to do is carefully chosen with the intent of distraction and suppression. I start to seriously consider whether or not I would really care if I got hit by a car or if that headache suddenly turned out to be cancer, (being bedridden for months would remove a lot of options and choice, and the self-loathing that comes with them) and when I decide I would care, it’s because I couldn’t even begin to afford the hospital bills that would cost.

Now, my thoughts haven’t strayed towards action, and I don’t expect they ever will, but it can be hard to gauge just how bad of an emotional state I’m in because for all I know, this is just what life is and everyone else is just more well-equipped for it. I’m inclined to think that this isn’t the case, but you never know.

I have little doubt that my depression is worse than it was in January, and if I have any hope of being okay now rather than later, I need to make some drastic life decisions. As I’ve talked about before, I intend to move out of California, and my current plan has been to start that process next January/February. The reason that I’m not looking now is because I have one more semester of school left, I want to help get my passion project off the ground (which, admittedly, wouldn’t be much harder if I moved), I’m sort of waiting for a suitable replacement at work (though I’m not wouldn’t hold out for that—plus the idea of looking for new work breaks me a little bit), and I want to find a good conclusion to the D&D campaign I’m running. That last one is kind of important to me, and though my brothers and I could play over voice chat, I feel it would take a lot of the fun out of the game, because we’ve only ever played D&D on a table with character sheets and miniatures. Plus, I really hate it when campaigns don’t get closure, as is often the case.

But what if none of that really matters? What if I started packing my things right now and moved next month? Would I start healing right now? Would that be the right choice in the long run? I’m very aware that given the grand scheme of things, none of the things I’m holding out for really matter all that much, but I like to have a game plan, and throwing out the next few months of plans worries me.

Still, spontaneously going on a three hour walk because you can’t get out of your own head and almost crying in public while you’re listening to All You Need is Love also worries me. To me, that is a very clear indication that Kollin’s normal mental functions are failing.

I’ve found a quote about a week ago that really struck a chord with me.

“It doesn’t get easier. You get better.”

Strange how words can have the power to soothe and terrify at the same time. They say it gets worse before it gets better, so maybe my best course of action here is simply to assume that life isn’t done yet.

Me — July ’19 Update

I’m going to try my best not to make this month’s update too depressing, as June was kind of a mess for me and I don’t want it to bog down my July. I’d rather talk about the news I’m excited for rather than the bad stuff that’s been happening (that I’ve admittedly been talking about nonstop the last few weeks).

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

I’m honestly thinking about taking “blog” updates off of the monthly topic list, because this entire year has been consistent of Tuesday and Saturday posts, even if the Saturday posts always seem to be late. I’m still pretty happy with that consistency, though. It keeps me accountable and keeps me writing. So unless I have some changes to make, I won’t be including the blog on the regular list of updates.

Writing has actually been going well! The story I wrote for my passion project is done (well, it’s first draft is), and I’m relatively satisfied with how it turned out. My original plan for a simple 1500 word “establishing shot” of a location turned into a 10k word novelette with lots of mystery and intrigue. A happy accident, I suppose. It won’t end up here on the blog, though. Our current plans are to monetize it along with other parts of the project. In other news, the second short story anthology is still in progress! I still have lots of edits to make on the stories, but it is something I am actively working towards, and I hope to publish it some time this year.

Work is still not going great. I did get a pay raise, which was nice, but it wasn’t as much as I was hoping, and the amount of stress I had to deal with a couple weeks ago when the manager was on vacation was not worth it. Still, I survived, and work has been getting slow so I managed to leave a little early a couple days, and for as much as I’d like the money, staying home to relax is more valuable to me at the moment (even if home hasn’t been particularly welcoming lately).

There isn’t much to say about school, because I’m not taking any summer classes, but I will reiterate that my hope is for the next fall semester to be my last, and once I’m done, I’ll have two AA degrees that will be basically useless, but hey, at least I don’t have student loans to pay off.

The DM fatigue of my current D&D campaign is hitting me hard, and it’s getting very difficult to thread the story beats I want to while also just trying to get through the sessions. I have a climax to the arc I want to earn, but if I don’t do a good job in the upcoming sessions, it will feel sudden and hand-wavy. It’s tough, but I really just want to take a break from DMing, cause it takes a lot out of me, and currently it’s been adding a lot of unnecessary stress to my life! Last month I was hoping we would have five more sessions before the arc was over, and even though our sessions are weekly, my current scope is now about three more sessions (because things take longer to happen than I expect).

I haven’t had a whole lot of time for video games, lately, but when I can spare a minute I play Magic: The Gathering Arena, and when I’ve got an hour or more I play a few games of Heroes of the Storm, usually while listening to Critical Role or something similar. (I’m almost to level 75 with D.Va, which is exciting). That’s about it, though.

As before, I’m still getting caught up with Critical Role, as a few busy weeks brought me behind, and I’m excited for Peace Talks, which I expect will have been released by this time next year. I’m planning on doing a reread through the Dresden Files. If/when I have time.

And that’s about it. I don’t have a whole lot else to talk about, though I’ve been trying a few new things lately to break myself of the monotony that has been driving me a little crazy with the stress my life has brought the past month. I’m planning on sharing my thoughts on them soon, and I’m excited for next month, when I start what is almost certainly my last semester of college.

Here’s to the future and digging ourselves out of the wholes we dug.

 

 

Me — Daily Happiness Tracker

So, I’ve been using a happiness tracker that a guy named Hugo started, as it is not just a pile of data (like most other ones I’ve used), but rather it turns that data into graphs and helps visualize your life in ways you can understand and digest. I’m not going to explain how it works, as you can just use that link to read up on his (very long) blog post. Instead, I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned from it.

First things first, when you rate how good a day was on a scale of 1-10, I’ve noticed that it tends to be a bell curve. For me, my average day is a 7. I’ve had multiple conversations with people trying to explain why the average is 7 and not 5, but honestly it boils down to semantics, I guess, except that the American education system says that 70%, a C, is an average score.

Most of my days are 7s, with a good number of 6.5s and 7.5s. I realized that I had actually been doing a great job, all things considered. I’ve been keeping track of my numbers since March, and while I had good days and bad days, things tended to be pretty consistent, and it got easy to predict how good my day would be based on the things that I did.

But then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Three weeks ago, my daily average went from ~7.3 all the way down to 5.8. The last time my depression had been this bad was at the end of January, and I had spent all the time in between building my stability back up. I felt like all that work had been thrown at the window.

Happiness Chart

You can clearly see things drastically change near the second week of June.

It’s still affecting me in very obvious ways, and I won’t pretend things are different, but this time around I tried to take action immediately. I do not want to spend another six months using excessive busy work as a coping mechanism again. So, I reached out to a few people, and with the help of some sage advice, some personal daily routine changes, and a little bit of providence in the form of that dream I mentioned a bit ago all came together to put me back on track. My daily average is roughly 6.7 at the moment, so I’m already about halfway back to where I used to be a month ago, despite even more trials life has been throwing my way in the meantime.

The worst part about my depression is that when it’s at its worst, I feel like it’s the only thing I ever talk about, and the same is true whether I’m writing blog posts or talking to friends, or even in my own headspace—it’s almost inescapable.

But this chart—this chart shows me that I did a great job bouncing back. I feel like all of those good days since “the fall” were exceptions to the rule, and not the standard, but hey, if I can make a habit of what feels like abnormally good days, even if those days were the standard when I was better, I’m clearly making progress.