That’s it for 2022. Made it through another year of monthly challenges and resolutions. Some wins, some losses, and some ideas of what comes next.
I wanted to have a website and announcement trailer finished for my game project, but that was a swing and a miss. It’s in progress, and could just call it done, but it’s close to being something I’m proud of, so I’m going to see it through right. Even though I don’t have it done, it was a good goal to have throughout the year. Kept the ball rolling.
I also meant to start networking with the indie game dev community. Sharing encouragement and constructive criticism for other devs and their projects, as well as putting myself out there and sharing my work with the community. This is something I wanted to do the least, and it showed. I did answer some questions here and there on forums for other devs, but as a whole, can’t say I put much effort towards this one. Being social on social media has just never come naturally to me. Wish I could chalk it up solely to a fear of rejection, since that can be overcome, but I think more than anything it’s a general disinterest in it all. I dont know how you overcome that. What I do know is at some point, I’m gonna need to lean into it, especially if I ever expect my projects to reach an audience. This just wasn’t my year for it.
My last overarching goal for the year was to try and eat vegetarian at least 3 days a week, building on the momentum of the past few years. Some weeks I went over 3 days, some weeks under. I didn’t strictly track this one, so I might be a little over, or I might be a little under for the year, but whatever the case I’m fine with that. What’s important to me was having a lasting mindset throughout the year to try to eat less meat, and I did just that, even if it wasn’t always perfect.
As for my monthly challenges, this marked my third year of exploring them. I started them because I was feeling stagnant. They were meant to spark some change and ideally growth. I’ve certainly learned a lot, from some more than others, and have no regrets about it, but over time I’ve started to question my motivations in continuing them. Some challenges haven’t required much of me, while others were unreasonably demanding. But even the smallest challenges I’ve come up with, still occupy space in my mind and demand my attention. None of which is helping put out the flames of a wildfire that’s been burning through my life for years now.
My marriage has been easy in so many ways, and it’s been hard in others. I’m sure that’s true and natural for just about any marriage, and to expect anything more might just be fantasy. But for us, the hard parts seem to be much harder than they ever should be for anyone. While it’s no one’s fault, it’s been true for a long while now, and it’s been difficult to say the least. Even more challenging is I don’t see any path forward that doesn’t hold even harder times and heavier thoughts on the immediate horizon. Knowing this, I don’t think coming up with a list of monthly challenges is going to help me be fully present for the work ahead. It would do the complete opposite. It would help me ignore and continue to tolerate the challenges of our marriage instead of addressing them. That’s what led me to incorporate these challenges into my life to begin with I think. To stave off that terrible feeling of being lost. I believe a clear heart and mind will yield you direction, like a compass would, but this compass needle is easily disturbed by the noise of distractions.
I’m not setting any resolutions or monthly challenges this year. Instead, I’m going to do my best to be present in my life, to feel it all, to listen to those feelings, and to try and get myself and my wife pointed in the direction, or directions, we need to go. All this said, I’m entering 2023 knowing that this year will probably be the hardest of my life yet. Although in this moment it doesn’t feel all that happy, I’ll say it anyway. Happy New Year.
In November I set out to dedicate some time to playing indie games. Partly as research and inspiration toward making my own game, and partly to make fun a priority. I played two games. Little Nightmares II, a sequel to a puzzle-platformer that I first played years ago. The second, a game called Control. A trippy action-adventure game that I also first played a few years back, but has since had new content released for it. Loved them both.
I’ve learned so much about game dev over the past few years, and playing through that lens has been a fun new experience. Little Nightmares was actually created in the same game engine I’ve been learning. It was cool understanding how something was most likely working behind the scenes, and in other cases not fully understanding but reverse engineering it as best I could.
I play games so infrequently these days, that I don’t know when I would’ve had the chance to experience these two, if not this month. That’s why I was fine bending the rules a little, since neither of these would be considered indies. Control cost over 30 million dollars to make, and the ending credits scrolled for several minutes straight. It’d be impossible for me alone to create something even remotely close to the same standard of either of these games. Even still, I had fun experiencing them, and feel inspired by them and all the same, and that was the whole idea.
I’m so far behind in chronicling my monthly challenges that much of my being wanted to just give up on this aspect of it entirely, but damnit, I made a commitment. My October challenge was to participate in Inktober again. It went how it usually does. Excitement leading up to it. Mild dread halfway through. Pride in the end. I’ve done this one so many times over by now, you’d think there isn’t much more to learn from it. But these little doodles always help me better express or understand my thoughts, feelings and experiences. If you spend enough time looking in, you’re bound to see something new. That’s why no matter how many times I do it this one, it’ll always have something to give.
I tried intentionally meditating for the first time in my life about a year ago. The experience I had was mostly positive and I kept up with it for a bit, though slowly but surely, I practiced it less and less. Meditation is hard work, and I don’t mind that, but this work didn’t always feel like it was paying a fair wage. I know it has power though, and I’ve still been curious, so I set out to dig a little deeper.
I spent some time in September exploring some more, and took Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Masterclass on mindfulness and meditation. The guy’s a character, and I enjoyed it. A lot of the course was high level and easy to understand, like the idea of mindfulness being the awareness that arises from being present. A lot of the course felt very nebulous to me though. Ideas that are hard to grasp by simply listening or even doing. One of the more potent things that stuck with me, was the work he’d done teaching mindfulness to prison inmates. Particularly how the men reacted, which led him to describe the experience as if “he were giving food to starving people.” Such a powerful idea. It quickly had me looking inward, wondering what parts of me are dying of starvation and atrophying, even while my body outwardly stands tall and strong.
I took this course months ago but have managed to maintain practicing mindfulness regularly. The trick in making this work sustainable for me this time around, was realizing that sitting or laying meditation, which is what I’ve typically practiced, is just not for me. Instead I’ve found walking meditation, in part thanks to my friend George. I find it much more natural to be aware and present when in motion. Always have. Don’t know why it took so long for me to put together that I’ve had more success entering a state of mindfulness running my third mile than I ever had laying on my back with my eyes closed. Now a few times a week I listen to guided meditation while I walk a few miles through my neighborhood, in the middle of my workday. I often feel refreshed and clear headed after. It’s not a silver bullet that works every time, but this time around, it at least feels like work that pays a fair wage.
I’ve always loved biking around the city. I wrote a little about that before here. While it was true when I wrote that, that I’d ridden a bike more days than I hadn’t in 10 years, I definitely can’t say the same thing since covid and remote work started. My daily commute was where I got the majority of my biking in, but I haven’t had a commute in nearly 3 years. So I set out to bike 100 miles for August. Not a hard distance to bike in a month, but the whole idea was to just get out there and have some fun again. So that’s what I did.
Somedays I biked to lunch, somedays biked for errands, and somedays I had no agenda or direction at all. Just rode to ride. Heading down any which street offered the path of least resistance. Meaning wherever there was a green light or a wide street. Even snuck in an 18 mile round trip to and from the beach one day. A sure way to make a cold drink even colder.
It’s a hell of a feeling riding no hands with arms stretched wide and the wind pushing through your fingers. And that’s really the highlight of the month I think, the pure fun of it. The month was also a reminder to not let biking slip away any further than I’ve already let it. A fun bonus was passing a slower moving cyclist who seemed shocked that anyone could even be going faster than he was, but more specifically, when he broke the awkward silence inherit when passing and asked, “Man, what is it.. ? Is it you, is it the bike.. or..?” We both started cracking up, and I told him I’d just been at it a long time. Stranger, you made my day.
Tried to learn a new word everyday of July. The aim wasn’t to arm myself with some set of obscure words to impress strangers, but really to save myself from some embarrassment. Growing up, I don’t think I had the best education. Not that it wasn’t available right in front of me, but because I really didn’t put the effort in, and because I often just fell through the cracks. Not asking the questions when I needed the answers. For the most part, my scores usually placed me in classrooms at a low level. One middle-school year in particular, we took an unexpected test that “wouldn’t count toward our grade.” Given that, I was more interested in making an intricate design on my scantron than actually taking the test. I’m pretty sure it was intended to determine our reading level though, since at the start of next quarter I was placed in a small classroom of kids who were hardly literate. We were tossed candy every time we were able to read a sentence aloud to the class, so I went on with it. It was more of an exercise in learning how to catch, than how to read.
Some of those consequences of my education have come up in my day to day. Particularly with vocabulary, and especially in my twenties. I thought “thirdary” was a word, and even used it often at work. You know, like, primary, secondary, “thirdary” (deep exhale to blink away the sting of embarrassment). I thought several meant exactly seven. I regularly misuse affect and effect to this day. Or how about that time I sent that company-wide email, explaining we needed to first “asses” the situation. God.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t able to laugh at it all today, and the truth is, time and experience fill in the gaps of our education pretty quickly anyhow. That said, I like learning, and there is still a real possibility I’m regularly making a mistake as offensive as “thirdary,” but just not yet aware of it (yikes). So I downloaded “Word of the Day,” paid for a lifetime membership because I’m a sucker, and a new habit was born.
I go out of my way to hide and silence most notifications on my devices, but it’s actually been pretty fun getting a daily ping for a new word. Plenty I’d heard before but didn’t know their meaning, and some I’d never seen in my life. The only words I already knew for the month were vignette, imperiled, sleuth, garble, Manhattanhenge, and Earthship. While not every new word sticks with me, enough do. The clearest win from the month was recognizing a word in the book I’m currently reading, that I only learned just days earlier. Couldn’t help but smile a little at it. We’re halfway though August now and I’m still keeping up with it, so I think this one’s here to stay. It’s kinda fun and takes such little effort, so why not. Plus, while I did say I wasn’t doing any of this to impress strangers, I have no issue trying everything I can to impress my wife. So far, she is not amused.
One second of video, every day, for 30 days. That was my monthly challenge for June. Inspired by my friend Duncan, who’s been capturing one second of video everyday, for over 8 years now. 8 years! Can’t say doing it for only a month was much of a challenge for me, or that I learned much, but I did have fun doing it, and that was the whole idea.
I did have some more exciting days that were harder to pick one second over another, but for the most part I didn’t have too much going on outside my normal routine. Turned out to be a pretty accurate representation of what I’m doing and seeing, day to day. Not wildly exciting right now, but the years do have a way of compounding the importance of things like this.
If I had to say something I learned from it, guess it’d be that you really don’t need to lug a big camera around to capture some good looking video, like I normally would when we travel. Of course I’ll still do exactly that, but it’s nice to know, ya know? Anyways, “Those are rats.”
I set out to run 120 miles in a month, and succeeded, but man was it brutal. Mentally and physically. Felt good breaking records and pushing my limits, but I think I consider the month to be a loss, not a win. I’ll explain.
I was miserably sick early in the month and missed a few days because of it. Those missed days added up to needing to run between 4 and 4.5 miles, every single day, for the rest of the month to hit my goal. Having to do something every single day without missing a beat in order to succeed, is either a sure way to fail, or a sure way to hate something. There were days I really, really, didn’t want to run. Days I probably shouldn’t have run. But I ran. Mainly out of fear that’d I end up having to run 5, 6, or 7 miles a day to make up for it.
So while I’m glad I stayed true to my word, and pushed myself mentally and physically, I also took something I really enjoyed doing and made sure I hated it. I know I can run faster and go even further in a month, but I also know now that I just don’t want to. I can definitely imagine some more running challenges in the future, but ones that aren’t so rigid. And please, if I go back on my word here and ever try to do something like this ever again, for the love of God, someone, anyone, please stop me.
In March I wanted to take some sort of creative writing course. Always been interested in writing, but why I really took this one on, was the hope that it’d help me continue to develop the story for my game project. In the end, it did that and then some.
I considered some courses available for free on Youtube, and even some paid ones there, but decided to dive into MasterClass instead. I’d known and been curious about MasterClass for while, but this was my first go of it. It’s basically a series of lectures by individuals at the top of their field. From film directing, to cooking, to astrophysics, and everything in between. Whatever you’re curious about, it’s probably there. I absolutely love it. It’s been a new source of inspiration that’s become a regular part of my week. Even if nothing else came from this goal, that fact alone would’ve been more than enough to make it worth while.
I took some time last month to reflect and journal some of the things I’m grateful for, and why I’m grateful for them. Some of what I wrote seemed small, like how beautiful the weather was on my run, or how peaceful a walk through my neighborhood can be. Others felt bigger.
“I’m grateful to have hobbies and passions that keep me afloat through the harder moments.”
“I’m grateful my parents are still here, and still healthy. I can’t imagine my world without them. My mom is older than both her parents were when they died. I wonder if she thinks about that as much as I do.”
“I’m grateful my phone lights up because I have friends who think of me. I remember when messages like these were far and few between.”
And the list goes on. I wrote at least five things every few days. Ended up with more things I’m grateful for than there are days in February. Goes to show that even when you’re having a day, there really is so much to be grateful for, just right in front of you. The trick is taking that deliberate moment to realize it.
Trying to strike a balance between the body, mind, and arguably the soul, or at least what I suspect is the creative part of my being. Don’t think I’ll be doing big write-ups this time around. Not totally sure though. Partially because I’ve been at it long enough now that I’m starting to revisit some of my favorite challenges again. And partially because the writing often takes longer than I’d like it to. We’ll see. Wish me luck.
My goal for November was to complete some sort of personal finance course. Originally suggested by my friend Drew when I’d told him I was falling short coming up with new challenges. I wasn’t totally sold on the idea at first though.
I started investing around 10 years ago when I was 25, and got more serious and knowledgeable about it at 30. I’ve also been working with a Financial Advisor as well as a CPA for years, and in general have always lived well below my means. This is all to say, I didn’t really feel like a personal finance and investing course was something I desperately needed in my life. Regardless, I know that no one will ever care about your financial health more than you will or should yourself. So I guess I felt like it was my responsibility to give a course a shot and maybe learn something new.
I ended up taking and completing a course by Jeremy Schneider, also brought to my attention by my same friend who suggested the challenge. It was roughly 8 hours of videos, tests, case studies and charts that I broke up throughout the month to try to better absorb it. It covered everything from the absolute basics of investing, all the way into some of the weeds of tax law. It was a great course, and his spin on it takes a typically dry subject and pushes it a little closer to even being entertaining.
Although I enjoyed it, If I’m being completely honest, I probably already knew 90% or more of what was covered. Thing is, I found that fact to be overwhelmingly reassuring as opposed to frustrating. It’s so easy to second guess yourself when making decisions weighted in such heavy consequences. My November challenge reassured me I’ve been making the right decisions surrounding money, and that financial independence is not just a dream but a clear destination with an ETA. Here’s hoping we don’t hit too much traffic along the way.
Been falling a little behind on reflecting back and writing about my monthly challenges, but they’ve still been happening. In September I tried fasting everyday from 9pm to 1pm. 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8 hour eating window. A good chunk of that 16 hours was spent sound asleep in bed, so really nothing too extreme. This was by design since I’d never tried anything like it before. I also had water whenever I wanted. The main curiosity that drove me to pursue this one in the first place, was wondering how it would make me feel. Particularly if I’d find more energy throughout my day. The results were pretty mixed.
For the most part, I stuck with it. Here and there, the day got busier than expected and I’d end up not getting dinner made until after 9pm. In this case, I just pushed when I broke fast to later in the next day. 2pm or 2:30pm sometimes. Also had a long weekend getaway with friends, which kinda threw things into disarray. I try not to let these challenges stand in the way of having a good time on vacation though. Defeats the whole idea of getting away to begin with.
As far as how fasting made me feel, I can’t say I captured that new source of energy I was looking for, but I did start to feel something unexpected though. I started to feel gratitude and even a little more joy everyday. The experience shifted my mindset of food being available absolutely whenever (especially true working from home), to making the food I eat seem somewhat more special. I quickly found myself looking forward to breaking my fast each day, and for that reason what I chose to eat became more deliberate and I guess more celebrated. Not just something to tide me over on a busy day, but rather something I wanted and looked forward to more than I normally would. It was the best part of the whole experience and a good lesson in perspective.
An eating window from 1pm to 9pm basically skips right over when I would’ve normally had breakfast. The idea was never to skip any meals, just to compress when I ate them. This was the hardest part of the challenge for sure, and where I ended up falling short. I just didn’t eat the same amount I normally would, and I ended up losing a little weight. While I’m not surprised this happened, since it’s just numbers in and numbers out, it wasn’t what I wanted to happen. I understand it’s a goal for a lot of people, but it is definitely not one of mine.
It’s been a few months since this challenge, and I haven’t really kept up with it. Losing weight turned me off to continuing on as I had been. While I appreciated the positives from the experience, seemed like if I couldn’t find the appetite to maintain my weight while fasting, then it was probably best to move on. I can imagine coming back around to it with a little more effort put towards avoiding that pitfall someday, but I guess in the meantime, what am I having for breakfast?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m no stranger to cooking chicken on a stove, but just about anything outside of that is foreign territory. A fact that’s always drove Alexis a little crazy. So I challenged myself to cook everyday of April. Seemed like a simple way to make her happy while also learning a thing or two along the way.
I focused on cooking dinners. It ended up not being an everyday event when leftovers were factored in, but it was somewhere a little over twenty days total. Also forgot to take a few pictures.
At the start of the month I was reading and rereading every recipe as if it were a complex math problem. But by the end, I was feeling more loose and fluent with it all and the time between prepping and eating was cut down a lot. Unfortunately after a month of working at it, I’m still not a Michelin Star rated chef. Go figure. The reality is, a lot was learned, I’m better off in the kitchen than I was on day one, and Alexis and I had some fun together.
My biggest takeaways? Recipes can sometimes be more suggestive than prescriptive. Roasted seasoned chickpeas are amazing. Sour cream is in more things than I’d ever known (or like to know). Zesting is a thing. You can never have enough olive oil in the house, but you can certainly have too much of it in a pan. I had the smoke filled kitchen to prove that last one.
I accomplished exactly what I set out to do this past month, and I’m honestly excited to keep up with it and have cooking be a more regular part of our daily life. I just hope the fire department never needs to get involved.
I challenged myself to track everything I ate for all of March. I wanted to get a better idea of what was going in the tank. Calories, nutrients, all that. Figured it’d be an easy one. Wow was I wrong.
Plenty of apps out there help you log what you’re eating and I started using one straight away. Learned pretty quick though, if I wanted accurate measurements, I’d have to do some actual measuring. Who’d have thought? That meant weighing food and preparing every single meal from scratch. That was way beyond what I mentally signed up for, and not really something I was interested in doing. So I quit.
I logged my best guesses of what I was eating, but they were just guesses. It wasn’t working, and I didn’t want to waste the month. So after just a few days I switched gears and took on about as unrelated a challenge I could think of. Learning to play the ukulele.
Alexis got me a ukulele for Christmas a few years back, and it’s hung on my wall untouched ever since. Always wanted to learn it, so figured I’d give it go. I know how to play a guitar, so there’s familiarity there, but it’s still a different instrument. If it were the same, I’d be able to play it the day I got it. I spent around 15 minutes every day watching and playing along with tutorials. Chord shapes, strumming rhythms, and a few songs. Some days even an hour would slip by while I played.
There’s still a lot to learn, but it’s pretty cool to think that just a few weeks ago my ukulele was just wall decoration, but today it’s another outlet for happiness. This one was a lot of fun for me, and I’m so glad I did it. Sure as hell beats weighing chicken breast seven days a week.
Some ukulele playing by yours truly.
I set out to run at least a mile everyday for all of February. I ended up running 26 of the 29 days, totaling just over 76 miles. Did the best I could while still keeping it enjoyable. Never kept track like this, but It’s probably the most I’ve ever run in a month. Says something considering I was once no stranger to 8 mile runs.
I know people hate running. Even the ones who enjoy exercising hate running. It’s always been good to me though, and I’ve learned to appreciate it more as mental than physical. It brings me peace, clarity, and in creative drought brings a flood.
It was a lot for being out of practice and I quickly learned the difference between wanting to run, and having to run. Even still, I had fun with it. Really hadn’t run as regularly as this in years, and can’t really say why. But I missed it.
I’ll probably do something like it again, but in the meantime, I think running more often instead of running everyday suits me just fine. Maybe next time around I’ll go for 100 miles.
As part of a long list of New Year’s resolutions, I challenged myself to no alcohol for all of January. I’ve gone longer stretches without a drink in my twenties, but those years are far and away. Now I’m usually only a week or so from the next one.
I only drink socially, so I’m not drinking too often, but often drinking too much when I do. A truth that at its tamest, has left me hungover on the couch wasting two thirds the day, and at its worst left me having to say I’m sorry. Needless to say, I was excited to take a break and maybe form some better habits along the way.
For the most part, I followed through. I did drink one night, but not to excess. I signed Alexis and I up for a tiki cocktail making class as a birthday gift in December and the class was in January. I wanted to enjoy it as intended, so I had a few tiki cocktails that night. I pushed the challenge another two weeks into February to make it up to myself. So by the numbers, out of 44 days I drank only one night. Can’t let a night ruin a month.
I get I wasn’t moving mountains here, but I really didn’t find the challenge to be very… challenging. The only obstacle was social. Alcohol is a cornerstone of just about every adult social activity out there. I turned down a lot of drinks and nights out over the course of those 44 days. Saying no to friends isn’t fun, but the real ones understand.
I learned that it wasn’t hard to give it up for a bit, but that I’m not interested in giving it up for good. Drinking socially with friends has brought me so much happiness and great memories over the years. Of course there are pitfalls, but there’s been so much more good than bad. It’s reason enough to want to preserve and improve my relationship with alcohol, instead of trying to erase it. These 44 days have been a reminder to drink responsibly, or else not at all, as well as what I stand to lose if I can’t get that figured.