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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.