I tried to make it a point to play guitar at least 15 minutes day for the month of August. A lot of these challenges I come up with are things I don’t really wanna do. Maybe because they’re hard, or maybe they’re uncomfortable. I guess that’s the whole idea though, because it’s the hard uncomfortable things that are usually the most conducive to change and growth. I knew this one wasn’t gonna be hard at all though, and I meant for that. It was just for fun. Bringing a little balance to a year full of challenges that are sometimes not very fun at all.
I was 16 or 17 when I spent the vast majority of my nearly one-thousand dollar life savings on an electric guitar and amplifier. I remember my Dad thinking it wasn’t the smartest move, without actually saying it. He never told us what to do with our money so long as it was earned. I remember thinking it was a good thing that it was expensive. Thinking that after spending that much money, I wouldn’t give up on learning it. I was right. I still play the same guitar to this day. Thought about getting a new one for a long while, something more in-line with my style of playing, but I just tell myself you can only play one at a time anyways, so one is all you need.
Weird to think I’ve been playing for nearly 20 years. Sure doesn’t sound like it. Though I’ve been playing all this time, I’d say I stopped learning in any structured way after three or so years. No more regimented practice or trying to memorize songs. Once I learned how to improvise, able to just make it all up as I go, I kinda lost interest in learning to play someone else’s songs. It’s probably kept from me from growing, but all I ever wanted from guitar was to have fun with it, and I gotta say, shredding a guitar solo on the fly is pretty damn fun.
I definitely don’t play as much as I once did, and it shows in my speed and accuracy on the frets these days. Really is like riding a bike though, you’re not gonna forget how to do it, but it may be a little wobbly at first if it’s been a while. In the end I had fun making it a priority to play every day though, and I even learned a new thing or two along the way. Honestly felt a little weird about sharing audio of me playing, since I just don’t play as well as I once did. But what the hell, be grateful for what you’ve got.
My curiosity over meditation has steadily built year by year. The more you learn about it, the harder it is to ignore. Even if I might’ve been in a meditative state before, by whatever means, I certainly never got there deliberately. So I finally set out to give practicing meditation an honest try everyday for a month. One thing for sure is, sitting still and quieting your mind is much easier said than done.
My first two weeks I tried a bunch of different guided videos on YouTube to get a sense of some of the different styles and practices out there. Some focused on what my body was feeling at any given moment. Others were more about shining a light on some positive affirmations that felt important to me, no matter how big or small. I liked those days. A universal common thread across anything I tried though, always was a focus on your breathing. The sound, the cadence, the physical rise and fall of your chest. It really does help to keep the mind from wandering. I did get a little carried away with it though. On two occasions, after 15 minutes straight of forceful breathing, my face went numb and my eyelids started twitching. Pretty sure I was just shy of passing out and was basically just hyperventilating. You live, you learn, and in this case you have a good laugh.
I also found myself visualizing a group of lines while I meditated. Similar to what I’ve illustrated. Maybe one representing work. Maybe another is desire. Maybe fear, maybe anxiety. Regardless of what’s what, they’re all fighting and competing for dominance at any given moment. If I could quiet my mind, the lines distilled down to a circle. But if my mind started to wander, it all broke loose and I’d just see a bunch of spaghetti. It started to become like a target I was aiming for. Probably breaks a few rules, but it was helpful for me and I suppose that’s all that matters.
By the end of the 31 days, I can say that practicing meditation makes me feel better than I did without it, but I’m not sure yet if that’s from the meditation itself, or just from knowing I’m deliberately trying to do something that’s good for me. In any case, I feel better than I did, and that shouldn’t be ignored. So while this challenge officially ended over 3 weeks ago, I’ve kept up with it nearly everyday since. After a little more time and effort I’m excited to see where this one takes me. Hopefully to higher ground.
Meet Roy. I think that’s his name, still working it out. He’s an aging Repair Technician for the Greenfield Power Company. I think he has a more interesting story to tell than the boy with the umbrella, so I’m gonna give him the lead. Really feels like I’m never gonna be able to complete this project, but even still, I’m having fun imagining the world and all its inhabitants.
I set out to run 100 miles for June and I ended up running 101 for good measure. I ran 29 days out of 30, which also means I’ve probably listened to The Power of Love by Huey Lewis & The News at least 58 times. It’s the most I’ve ever run in a month, and maybe a world record for The Power of Love listens. You just can’t not be fired up to be alive when you hear that song.
In all seriousness though, felt good to be setting new records instead of just looking back on old ones. Particularly because I also turned a year older in June. Nothing better fights the feeling of time trying to bring you to your knees, than that brief moment in your stride where both feet are off the ground and you’re openly defying gravity.
I’ve also been wearing a fitness tracker, and by the end of the month I noticed my resting heart rate had become considerably lower. About 10 beats per minute less. Mid 40’s while I slept and low 60’s otherwise. It was cool to see the body doing what the body does, and to know that the hard things can equate to something good.
In the end, I’m glad I reached new heights but a part of me doesn’t feel entirely honest about the win. I know I could’ve gone further or run faster. No reason I couldn’t have, but I guess it’s just a fine line between enjoyment and punishment. Never the less, I still did what I said I would, and that’s a challenge enough on it’s own for most of us. The last and probably most important thing I learned is, no matter how tired you think you are, you’re still gonna be able to smash through a brick wall once you’ve hit the 4 minute mark of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.
Sixty. Second. Showers. That was my challenge for the month of May. I skipped a few days for a little staycation we had, but for the vast majority of the month, I stuck to it. Why would I even want to do this one? Well, guess I was just curious. Curious if it’d make my days more efficient. Curious if a short shower would be more invigorating than a long one. Curious if I could even do it. For as long as I’ve taken showers, I’ve taken them long. Always done a lot of thinking in there. Found a lot of ideas. Batman has his Bat Cave, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, I have a phonebooth-sized shower stall that I can’t fully raise my arms in. Doesn’t stop me from standing in there until my back is as hot as the surface of the Sun though.
Unsurprisingly, on my first day I couldn’t believe it when my 60 seconds ran up and I had to cut the water. Also couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous it all was. It’s absolute mania. I’m talking a full-body cardiovascular workout for a sustained 60 seconds. It’s the only way to get the job done in that amount of time. Definitely a little tougher and a lot more comedic than I thought it’d be. Even after a week straight of it, still had doubts I’d be able to keep it up. Like most things though, you get used to it. Even had some days where it felt like I only had a second or two left on my timer, but in reality I had over a full 30 seconds left when I glanced at my watch. Lucky me. Things always get easier the more you do them, for better or for worse.
In the end, it was a unique and kind of fun experience, but not one I’m making a habit of. I did end up with a little more time on my hands than I’d usually have, so on that front I did feel more productive. Thing is, that benefit isn’t worth close to the cost of losing that decompression and introspection which typically goes on when I’m in a hot shower. Nice to know I can pull it off when I need to, but there’s honestly few things that beat turning the shower knob to the molten-lava angle and having a good think. Above all else, the challenge has been a reminder that many of the things I think I need, are really just luxuries. I’ve known this, but often forget it. One thing for certain is, if you’re ever looking for a good laugh, try taking a 60 second shower.
Aimed to walk at least 30 minutes everyday of April. A pretty straight forward one. I’ve been working from home for over a year now, and as a result not moving around as much as I was. Being at a studio everyday usually meant a bike commute and a mile or two walk on lunch. Getting out and getting moving felt like a good idea. I surrendered to a busy workday here and there, missing a few days, but for the most part it was a breeze.
I usually set out after work, getting back just as the sun set. Somedays walking more than 30 minutes, but never less. I’d listen to music, or catch up on podcasts. Death, Sex & Money is by leaps and bounds always a favorite. All the while getting to know my neighborhood a little better, and racking up some steps for the day.
I set this goal to benefit the body, but it did more for the mind I think. A body in motion is a mind in motion. Getting out and moving has always brought me some clarity in foggy times. It felt good to make it a priority for the month and capture those mental benefits. I’d be lying if said I didn’t need it.
Can’t really say when I got in the habit of bad posture, but probably somewhere in middle school. In any case, once it took hold, it never seemed to let go. Something that’s always bothered me. Aesthetically and physically. Without fail by the end of each day the middle of my back is sore and burning. Been this way for as long as I can remember. I used to ask my brother to walk with his full weight across my back, after being so beat up from my after school job each day. It’s a wonder we didn’t make things worse. Each morning brings a reset for me, but it’s short lived. So everyday of March I tried to make a point to focus on better posture.
I started out by diving into an internet blackhole of what healthy posture should be, and quickly learned that my own posture falls into something called kyphosis. Googling the word gave me a shot of confidence because it looks like things could be a hell of a lot worse. Then I started practicing specific exercises tailored to my posture. A lot of things you’d feel pretty weird doing in a gym surrounded by strangers to say the least. Also got this tiny device you stick to your back that vibrates if you start to slouch. Used that for several hours every day, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t as annoying as it sounds. Kinda feels like being in a group text chain of twenty people who never stop texting each other. But hey, it works.
By the end of the month I couldn’t say that I felt any different, but I knew from the start, a month wouldn’t be enough to undo this one. Mostly, I was just looking to jump start something new. Still keeping up with that annoying little device, and including posture exercises in my regular workouts, but my biggest takeaway was more a mental one than a physical. Sort of these random mental audits of how I’m standing at any given point. Where is my pelvis? How far am I leaning over this cutting board? Is my neck so far out that it looks like I’m going in for a kiss with my monitor? You get the idea. Don’t know if it’ll ever get better, but I’ll keep trying. One thing for sure is, our parents sure as hell weren’t kidding when they told us to sit up straight.
The thing about working alone on a project that would normally be done by a team of people, is you’re going to end up wearing a lot of different hats. Somedays you’re an artist, somedays a programer, and other days a graphic designer making a pause menu and control system that’s bound to confuse even the brightest among us. Keeps things interesting to say the least, and if any of those hats ever start to feel a little too tight, you just put a new one on.
I was exclusively concerned with Peewee Herman, Batman, and Edward Scissor Hands at the time the Gulf War was happening, but as I grew to learn about it as a teenager and further as an adult, the photographs of the burning oil fields always struck something in me. Towering columns of fire shooting up from the Earth, speckled across an endless horizon, burning day and night. I sometimes feel how those images look. Particularly, the unseen part. I feel like that oil deep beneath the surface. Not knowing how much is under there, but only that it’s being violently spent every minute of every hour of every day.
I don’t typically have a problem with mindless phone scrolling at night. By day’s end I’m tired and ready for sleep. The morning can be another story though. I’m awake by 7am somedays, but sometimes not “up” for another hour or even more. Usually because I’m mindlessly scrolling through my phone. News, stocks, social media, wikipedia rabbit holes, whatever. Even though this doesn’t happen all the time, I don’t want it to happen at all. It’s not how I want to spend what time I have, so I decided for all for February to make a hard rule to not touch my phone in bed. Morning or night. Unsurprisingly, it was a great idea.
Alexis is usually still sound asleep when my watch silently buzzes on my wrist at 7:30am, and I open my eyes. It’s here where I would usually reach for my phone and scroll from anywhere between 5 minutes to an hour and a half. But now that I couldn’t do that, I really only had two options, go back to sleep, or get up and get going. I almost always got going. I don’t start work till 10am, and working remotely means no commute, so everyday I had a good chunk of time to do the things I wanted to do, just for me. Man, does that always feel good. Doing what you want to do, before the day has any opportunity to dictate what you have to do. I’ve known this, and that’s why I like waking up early nowadays. Sticking to this hard rule for the month helped me protect some of my most valuable time by making sure it wasn’t being siphoned off by my thumb and my phone.
There was a small downside. I really only read the news at night or the morning, and usually in bed. So cutting that out maybe meant being a little less informed at any given moment. Though, I find a lot of news is just the same story everyday with a few more details than the day before. In the end then, I have to guess I wasn’t missing too much by only catching up on the weekends.
All in all, I’m glad I took the time to do this, and I’m going to keep it up. It was a good reset. I know that old habits die hard though, so I took it a step further and have since permanently moved my phone and charger across the room. Can’t reach it from bed at all anymore. I’d go even further and set my phone to blast Eye of the Tiger across the room at 7AM, but I’m afraid that could land my wife in prison for attempted murder.
Well over a day had passed before I even realized I got a very, very small feature on the Unreal Engine Twitter account this weekend. I was pretty surprised. It means this image hit the eyes of somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million people. Don’t really know what that equates to, if anything at all, but I know it felt good to be acknowledged even if in the smallest way by the very people connected to the software I’ve been trying my hardest to learn.
No sweets, all of January. This meant cutting out all the usual suspects that come to mind when you think of sweets, and being more mindful of everyday things with excessive amounts of added sugars. Things like instant oatmeals, soups even. Definitely no mixers if I had any alcohol. Even cut back on fruit. This one came about because, well we really went off the rails in December. I wasn’t counting, but if I had to guess, I’d say I had more Christmas cookies than there are days in December. Some people have a sweet tooth, but I definitely have sweet teeth. Figured It’d be a good idea to give it a rest.
Sounds an awful lot like an excuse, but I’ve always thought my capacity to go off the deep end with sweets was because growing up we didn’t really have them around the house. At least not in excess, which always seemed the case at friend’s houses. It was pretty common for me or my brother to be staring blankly at the kitchen pantry that was literally full of ingredients to MAKE food, and declare “There’s nothing to eat in this house.” Can’t help but laugh thinking about it.
In any case, the challenge wasn’t hard to stick to. It honestly only gets tricky for me when sweets are already in the house. You’ll never find me tempted at a checkout line. Alexis is the literal polar opposite though. She’ll buy a Kit-Kat because she’s craving it, have one stick, then throw the rest in the fridge for 2 months. All the while stretching the limits of my willpower and sanity. Eventually when I break and ask if she’s ever gonna eat that, she says she forgot it was even there, and have it if I want… Torturous.
So in the end, can’t say I feel any different, but it’s nice knowing I did the body some good after a hell of a bender in December. With it in the front of my mind now, I’m sure I’ll be a little better about it all for a while. Make no mistake though, my love for donuts is undying, and knows no bounds. Always and forever.
Building out some environmental puzzles while I continue developing the art direction for Greenfield. Feeling momentum now. Making an image in your mind’s eye visible to anyone, takes time and takes effort. When you can get it right though, and seen just the way you see it, it’s really something.
Revisiting and refining the design of the protagonist in Greenfield. I like the idea of keeping the face featureless, so players might project their own emotions onto the character based on their own experience in the game. Or to sound less full of it, I just like the way it looks.
More adventures in game dev. This tool I built takes a square tessellated plane and manipulates its scale to make something that resembles a terrain. I can then map other objects to it, like grass, weeds, rocks, bushes or anything else I’d like. I can get even more granular and control different properties of those objects too. I can connect that piece of terrain to any other as if they were legos and quickly build out an entire environment in just a few seconds, with just a few clicks.
I wrote the logic for this once, and that took time, but I can reuse it over and over again, able to create an infinite number of variations. It’s a essential concept in Unreal that I’m still wrapping my head around to be honest. I can tell you with certainty though, using tools to make new tools is pretty satisfying.
2020 was a mess on a lot of fronts, but a bright spot for me personally was following through on my resolutions. My biggest and toughest resolution was to learn Unreal Engine. A year later, it’s honestly still a work in progress. I’ve been simultaneously learning the interface, art pipeline, animation pipeline, visual scripting logic, and performance optimization among other things. Somedays feel like I haven’t come very far at all, but others feel pretty good, considering less than a year ago the program wasn’t even installed on my computer yet. Hopefully it’s upwards and onwards from here, but it’s hard to say. As much fun as it is, it still feels incredibly daunting. Here’s a small peek at a game I’ve been developing with what I’ve learned so far:
My second resolution was to exercise at least every other day. Above all else, this one made sure a missed day or two didn’t snowball into a completely derailed week or month. Seemed like a cycle I’d been stuck in the past few years, but this simple rule got me out of it. I made exceptions to let my body bounce back from injury or for a long weekend getaway here and there, but for the most part I nailed it. It’s formed into a habit at this point, and hoping to keep it that way.
My third resolution was to avoid hangovers. I know, I know, the depth of my shame is bottomless. I wasn’t exactly swearing off alcohol, but I’ve long been ready to swear off hangovers. I drink socially, so the pandemic really dropped my consumption this year, and in turn lowered any chance of being hungover to begin with. Even so, I still fell short on a few occasions. At least three I can think of. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more wins than losses, and if I can keep it in the front of my mind, the record should be an undefeated one soon enough.
Lastly, I took a shot at some monthly challenges throughout the year and reflected on my experiences with them month by month. In short, I ended up satisfying some curiosities, kickstarted some better habits, and knocked back a few bad ones.
All in all, it was a win in a challenging year. I’d never done anything like it and ended up having a lot of fun with it. So much so, that it feels weird to just stop down at this point. So I think I’ll keep on. More on that later.
My last monthly challenge of 2020 has always been a question mark. Intentionally left open for new ideas that revealed themselves throughout the year. Nearing the end of November though, still hadn’t really had it figured out.
Then one day my friend Jesse texted me out of the blue. He’d been thinking about me, and took a peek at Six Foot Giraffe, which turned into him catching up on my entire year. He let me know how it was really cool what I was doing and how he was excited for whatever my December challenge would be. I told him I still had no idea what it was though, and then he suggested something brilliant.
So that’s how this one came to be. I love video games, always have. The medium sits at the intersection of so many interests I’m passionate about. Storytelling, visual art, technology. Thing is, I really don’t play very often at all. I try to stay productive, and playing video games as you can imagine, isn’t exactly conducive to productivity. The way Jesse framed it though, felt like more than just an indulgence, and that was easy for me to get behind.
I played 3 games for the month, all made by independent developers. The first was called Untitled Goose Game. You play as a goose wreaking comedic havoc on a small and quaint english town. Totally ridiculous, totally fun. It was largely developed by just 3 people. The second was Kentucky Route Zero. A kinda off-beat, point-and-click, absolutely visually stunning interactive novel. The game took 10 years to make, and also developed mostly by only 3 people. I loved it. The last was Darq, a puzzle-platformer made almost entirely by a single person.
I had fun with it and truthfully Jesse was right, it was well deserved after a solid year of focus. Seeing what just a few people, or even just a single person is capable of in game development has been inspiring, but simultaneously daunting. I honestly don’t know that I’ll be able see it through, but I know I have to try. It helps knowing it’s possible if I work hard enough, and want it bad enough. Guess time will sort if those two boxes get checked off or not.
You’ve Got to Walk by the Bedquilt Ramblers. One of the many beautiful and haunting songs composed for Kentucky Route Zero that caught my ear.
With the way these monthly challenges have played out for me, I actually ended up finishing everything I set out to do this year by the end of October. That kinda leaves me in the bonus round now. Without any concrete plan, I thought I’d give keeping a dream journal a shot.
It wasn’t something I had a burning desire to do, but I was curious enough about it, so why not. The idea was just to write down what I could remember the instant I woke up everyday. That was it. I learned pretty quick that deviating at all from that plan meant forgetting everything, no matter how vivid the dream might have been. I wouldn’t think It’d be possible to forget my dream in the 2 minutes between rolling out of bed and flushing the toilet, but I have plenty of blank entries that prove otherwise.
I don’t think there’s such a thing as not dreaming. There’s only not remembering. So long as I made sure to reach for the pen and paper the instant I woke up, I had something to write. After paying more attention to my dreams, I saw that they’re always disjointed. A lot of different storylines happening one after the other, that are in no way connected. Like flipping through channels on a television. In those cases I only wrote down what stood out most each day.
I’ve never been able to make much of my dreams, and this month wasn’t any different. I can try to analyze what watching a monster-truck-sized horse trapped in a stadium surrounded by people throwing spears at it from the stands for their own entertainment means, or I can just accept the novelty and spontaneity of it and go about my day. I choose the latter. Dreams are weird, and I don’t think they mean much, but it’s fun to experience them. Making an effort to remember them was interesting but probably not something I’ll be keeping up with. At least not regularly. In the end, it was something new, and that’s all I was really going for.
Usually the very first thing I do everyday is read. Whatever lands in my news feed is what I’m consuming. Save for the occasional space exploration article that sneaks its way in, what I’m reading everyday is typically pretty uninspiring, unimaginative, and usually depressing. It’s just news, and most news seems to be the bad kind. So I wanted to take a break from it and push myself to make sure I read fiction everyday of October.
Some days I missed, but made up the next. I ended up reading Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I didn’t care much for the first, and really enjoyed the latter. They were short books, but honestly it’s a stretch for me to read two books in a year, let alone in a month. I’m a bit of a slow reader. I can make it through five pages before realizing I have absolutely no idea what was written on them. My mind wanders, but luckily I don’t mind turning back the pages and starting over.
Even if I might be a contender for the world’s least efficient reader, it was still an easy goal for the month. More importantly it was an enjoyable one. The month was a nice break from the bordering apocalyptic 24-hour news cycle that 2020 has been, and a reminder that I should probably keep up with it, especially considering how easy it is to do.
This mess of lines and connections is the logic I built for a weather system in Unreal Engine. When the player enters a trigger volume, rainfall starts, puddles form, fog increases, and lightning and thunder fire off randomly. The variables can be ramped up or down independently or together, over any specified amount of time. Still a work in progress, but progress is the keyword for me.
One of my resolutions this year was to learn Unreal Engine. We’re in October now and I feel like I’m getting somewhere with it. Over the past few months I’ve been using the software to make a game, but really making a game to learn the software.
This screenshot is from a game I’ve been working on. It’s a long ways from being shippable, but it marks real progress that took a lot of time and effort to arrive at. So much so, that it limits what I can do on Six Foot Giraffe. I don’t want to stop posting here, but don’t want to slow my progress any more than I have to either. Truthfully at this moment, I’m not even interested in doing anything else anyways.
I’ve worked in the field of design, particularly for motion graphics and advertising for over 13 years now. Enough time to have gotten very good at it, and well paid for it. I still like the work, but for the most part it’s not as thrilling as it once was. Back when I was just a Junior Designer and still coming up in my career, it was more pleasure than it was work. Where 10 hour days still weren’t enough to get my fill. Everyday I was learning something new and becoming a stronger designer than I was the day before. It was thrilling, and it was addicting.
These past few months of learning and exploring Unreal Engine has me feeling that long lost excitement again. Even in the those moments where it’s not going smoothly, I still find it so exciting to learn something I wasn’t able to do the day before. That’s the gist of why I really don’t want to do anything else right now. Like I said though, I don’t want to stop posting here either. So the obvious thing to do is to keep posting, but for the most part only about development. Never really done anything like that on Six Foot Giraffe, but I’m giving it a shot and seeing if it takes.
Long Form Project. This one was kind of a loose one. Much of the work I share on Six Foot Giraffe is often made with more of a quantity mindset than a quality one. Quick visual experiments to satisfy a visual or technical curiosity. A post usually doesn’t take me more than an hour or three, from start to finish, and once I call it done, I never revisit it. There are exceptions where I spend a few days on a single longer post with a lot of writing, but in general it’s been a never ending mindset of quantity.
The idea for a long form project month was about seeing what I could come up with when I focused on quality instead of quantity. Coincidentally, as the year wore on, I already found myself working increasingly more and more on just a single project instead of my usual slew of one-offs. At that point, I didn’t know exactly what to do with the month.
As luck would have it though, my website unexpectedly broke one day, and I didn’t know how to fix it. I didn’t know how because I hired someone else to build it a few years back, instead of doing it myself. I reasoned that even if I could patch it up, the site would still have plenty of problems. It was poorly made from the start. So I decided to spend the month redesigning and rewriting the site’s code from scratch. Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
It was kind of a tall order considering my knowledge of writing custom code for WordPress was pretty limited. That’s what’s kept me away from dealing with the site’s problems for so long. At first I was breaking more things than I was fixing, but day by day, little by little, I got it figured. My aim was to drastically simplify the site. Making it lightweight, responsive, and bringing what matters most to the foreground. I still have a long list of to-do’s, but it’s a start, and finally a way to take control of a situation that has bothered me for years now. I won’t ever need to hire anyone to touch Six Foot Giraffe again, making it that much more mine, and saving me several thousand dollars in the process. It was 31 days well spent.
Wake up everyday by 7am. Without a doubt, I thought for sure this would be my toughest challenge yet. Historically, I’m the guy who has no fewer than five alarms set to ensure I get out of bed on time, and still manage to be chronically late for work everyday. Anyone who knows me, knows this to be true. My friend George who gets up at some unspeakable hour, threatened to call me every morning, making sure I kept my word. He didn’t call, but to my absolute astonishment, I would have actually been ready for him.
I’ve never been an early riser and I’ve always just chalked that up to not being a “morning person.” But after a month of no screen time past 10pm, followed by a month of waking up at 7am, I was quick to see it had little to do with being a morning person and everything to do with regularly getting to sleep at a decent hour. Regularly is the keyword here, and something I haven’t practiced at all in my adult life.
Getting up at 7am everyday was not only doable, but enjoyable. Can’t believe I’m gonna say it, but I love getting up early. I’m falling asleep within 10 minutes of my head hitting the pillow now. A feat that’s been out of my grasp for a lifetime. And by the time I start work, I’ve already accomplished most of my goals for the day. That feels so, damn, good. It ensures the things I want to get done, are getting done, and that makes me happy.
What started as the monthly challenge I dreaded most, ended up being the one that I benefited most from. At the time of writing this it’s been over two months since started the challenge and I’m glad to say I’ve still been keeping up with it. Hard to believe, but I got out of bed at 6:30am today without an alarm. If there is a Hell, it must be frozen over.
No computer, TV, or smartphone after 10pm. As simple as this challenge was on the surface, it was one of the toughest yet. Still saw it through, but the rules were bent a little.
Alexis likes to wind down and relax with some TV at night. If I was gonna be around her at all on weeknights, I was gonna be watching some TV after 10pm. Made sure I was only a spectator though. When she’d ask what we should watch, I’d only reply, “I have no say in this.” She was very quick to love the month’s challenge.
Other than that, I stuck to it. 10pm on the dot. Most nights I’d be right in the middle of working on the computer, frantically racing to get something just a little bit further before 9:59 flashed 10:00. It was a hard challenge because most nights, maybe every night, I just didn’t want to stop at 10. To sit and create something has been my hobby, profession, and passion for my entire life. A computer is my typewriter, drafting table, brush and paint, hammer and chisel, sound stage and camera, and on, and on, and on. It’s hard for me to step away from it. Always has been. When things start to connect creatively, I can forget to eat, rob myself of sleep, and neglect my relationships. Passion and addiction could probably be siblings.
I ended up spending my newly freed time reading, enjoying my wife’s company, putting thoughts to a page, and catching up on sleep. Stepping away from the screen wasn’t always what I wanted to do, but I think it’s what I needed to do. At the time I’m writing this, I finished the challenge almost two weeks ago, and I’m still generally keeping up with it. Not as strictly as I was, but that’s alright. As hard as I try to make everything be either black or white, I know nothing ever truly is.
Another month, another New Year’s resolution challenge. Two for May actually. I originally set out to forgo eating meat, but I decided to practice yoga everyday too. Yep, I went full Californian.
I’d have to guess the longest I’d ever gone without eating meat is no more than a couple days. Those off days being purely coincidence. The more I’ve learned about the health positive science that supports a vegetarian lifestyle, the more I’ve grown curious about giving it a shot. There’s also the ethical issues with eating meat that are sometimes on my mind. The ones most of us do our best to pretend aren’t there, myself included. For these reasons, I took a crack at it.
I had no trouble sticking to it for the whole month. Didn’t feel like a chore, and didn’t really miss anything either. Somedays though, I didn’t feel like I was eating as lean as I normally would, and I can’t say I always felt as full throughout the day. I’m thinking my inexperience with a meatless diet is more to blame there than a vegetarian lifestyle. Some nights we added a plant based meat with dinner. That helped maintain some familiarity for me. Other nights we made dinners that were so damn good, I’d prefer them to grilled chicken breast any night of the week. Looking at you, sweet potato street tacos. Then there’s the ethics. I don’t know the math, but had I been eating meat, 31 days is more slaughtered animals on my behalf than I’d like to think about. I guess that’s a win, but at the same time hard to swallow knowing it doesn’t bother me enough to swear it off for good here and now.
In the end, I’d call it a successful experiment and I’m glad I did it. It me forced to think about something I’d been avoiding thinking about. I’d like to try it again when we’re not locked down at home in a pandemic though. I think It’d be an entirely different challenge if everything wasn’t prepared at home. Looking forward, I’m gonna to try cutting back on meat. Not entirely, but ideally more regularly. Seems like a reasonable ask for something that’d help my body, my conscience, and the world I live in.
On to the Yoga. I’m not a complete stranger to yoga, but I haven’t practiced any in some time. I wanted to expand my experience with it, and that’s how the challenge came to be. I had it on the books for September, but decided I needed it more sooner than later. We’ve hardly left the house during pandemic. That’s months gone by without my morning bike commute, or my few mile walks on lunch. Felt like a good time roll the yoga mat out.
I aimed to practice at least 15 minutes everyday, and often did more. Missed a day or two when my schedule got a little crazy, but I made it up with longer sessions when I jumped back in. Everyday I’d search Youtube for yoga sequences aimed at whatever I felt I needed most in that moment. That meant a lot of sequences for back pain, which naturally led to a lot of sequences for improving my posture. I had a few back to back nights that I had trouble falling asleep, so I looked up a sequence to help with that, and it did. After the 31 days, I’m not a yoga guru, I can’t balance any better or reach any further. But I learned a good lesson. I’d only ever viewed or used yoga as a form of exercise. Trying my hardest to break a sweat, or I felt like it was useless. This challenge showed me for the first time how to use yoga for relief. God, I’m getting old.