I know, a years end reflection post shared halfway through January isn’t exactly timely, but it takes more time to make the internet than to consume it I guess. In any case, 2021 is over and I’m still here, which means I survived my second annual long list of resolutions and monthly challenges. My main goal was to have no zero percent game development days. This meant doing something every single day to get closer to the dream of developing and publishing my own game. Even if there was only a few minutes to spare some days, and even if I didn’t have access to my computer. I set this goal because game development is still so new to me and it’s been hard to gauge how much time and effort is really required to create what I’m envisioning. Figured a year straight of dedication would give me a better idea. To answer whether or not the dream is even possible. I stayed pretty true to the goal, and I do have my answer now. The answer is yes, I can do this, but it’s going to take a really, really long time. Years. It’s clearly an amount of work that isn’t meant for a single person, especially when it’s not a full-time job. It’s all really tough, and all really time consuming. Thing is, I have so much fun doing it. So long as that stays true, and I hope it does, then I’m going to keep at it. This goal has shown me that it’s okay if it takes a really, really long time to see this through, because clearly it’s supposed to.
Another goal I had was to read more books. I aimed to read at least every other day. Somedays I missed the mark while plenty others I read back to back to back. So a bit of a wash. I read four books, nothing short of a miracle given my reading track record. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikalsen, recommended by my wife Alexis. Let’s Talk About Hard Things by Anna Sale. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I enjoyed them all. Those last two were also recommends from my friend Kelsie. Glad I made reading a priority for the year and plan to keep the goal alive. I got a lot more back from it than what I put in, and that shouldn’t be ignored.
My last stretch goal for the year was to eat vegetarian at least two days a week. Inspired by a challenge I had in 2020 to eat vegetarian for a month straight. Making it a part of my year long resolutions was meant to be a small, painless step towards changing a personal habit, where the cement has already been dried a long, long time. For the most part I made good on what I set out for. Some weeks I slipped up, but others I exceeded my modest goal of 2 days a week. I have every intention of keeping this one going with more effort, more nuance and more intention along the way.
For my monthly challenges, I did everything I set out to do at the start of the year. You can read my rambling thoughts about those experiences here. I left December open for any ideas that I might’ve come up with along the way. What I ended up doing for the month was… well, nothing at all. Innovative, I know. More specifically, I committed to not commit to anything. It was an everything in moderation, even moderation itself, kind of month. Capping off a year of discipline with a little rest and indulgence. I stayed up late, slept in, skipped workouts, ate the bad things, you name it. A good change of pace for me, but one that had me ready to get back on the rails by the end of it.
Looking back on the year, I’d say I learned a lot. Formed some better habits along the way too. Glad I took it all on. Out of everything though, the one thing I still can’t understand, a true mystery for the ages, is just what in God’s name I was thinking when I decided to take 60 second showers for an entire month.
We traveled to Florida in late October to spend some long overdue time with family. Our first stop was Anna Maria Island to see Alexis’ siblings and nieces. We spent our time exploring the island, chartering a boat, swimming, grilling, building a sand metropolis, carving pumpkins, and getting our Halloween costumes good and sandy. It’s not everyday we get this group together in the same room, so I designed (under Alexis’ supervision) some commemorative shirts for some added fun. By our last day I even got called “Uncle Kyle” a few times, which is always as equally terrifying as it is heartwarming.
After a few days we were off to Estero Island to see my parents at our family timeshare, where one Smith or another has been making memories at for over 35 years. Here we got a few good sunsets in, tore across the Gulf of Mexico on some jet skis, and drank an amount of alcohol that would be cause for concern if we weren’t on vacation. We were also lucky enough to catch up with some aunts, uncles and cousins who we rarely get to see, but who were also vacationing on the island.
Before we headed back to California we had just enough time to clink glasses and crack some jokes with my brother, as well as drop in on some friends in Fort Lauderdale. It was a long trip, that went by all too fast, which is really just a roundabout way of saying, we had a great time.
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.
Our self-professed full blown Formula 1 maniac of a friend, Duncan, had an idea to get the gang together for a Formula 1 race happening in Austin, Texas. He’s as old now as his dad was when he died, so he wanted to celebrate life, and we wanted to help him do that. Wasn’t long then till our friend Drew took the reins and made this seed of an idea into a full itinerary. The next thing I knew, I was dropping my bag in a hotel room at a city I’d never been before and heading to the rooftop bar to hug some pals who just flew in from about every corner of the country. Some of which I hadn’t seen in a long while. We were only in Austin 4 nights, and this was a few months ago now, but I’m still hesitant to say I’m fully recovered from it. To put it simply, we made it count.
Our first full day was as full it gets. This was the qualifying race day, and it started a little later than the actual race on the following day would. What this meant was, we had some time to fulfill a dream that many of us have harbored our whole lives. Having Texas Barbecue in Texas. We settled on Terry Black’s BBQ by recommendation of Drew who ironically doesn’t eat meat, but luckily happens to be an avid reader of the internet. It was a home run.
When it was time to head over to the track, we had a “party bus” take us there. A better description would’ve been “decommissioned public transit bus, with a few string lights.” It was perfect. Couldn’t ask for much more sipping a drink and watching the view through our windows grow increasingly more wide and rural with every passing mile. When we arrived at the grounds and stepped off our bus, we were still at least a ten minute walk to the gates. But the thing was, you could already hear the surreal harmony of engines in the distance. And it truly was surreal. Like nothing I’d ever heard. I turned wide eyed to Duncan to find him silently nodding with a smile. The feeling you get hearing those cars before you see them, growing louder with each step towards your destination, made me understand why people are into this. It’s powerful and it’s exciting.
Not only have I never been to a Formula 1 race, but I’d never been to any race at all. The track was enormous, with even more space surrounding it. This meant a lot of walking. Even with all that space we were still somehow just about bumping into people the whole time. Our friend Tyler put it well when he looked over at me and said, “This is very… covidy.” Apparently 400,00 people were in attendance that weekend. By the grace of God, we had seats with backs on them when we needed to seek refuge.
Although it was just the qualifying day, the powers at be upped the ante a bit and set Billy Joel to headline the night. I’m not a die-hard Billy Joel fan, but I know the hits and know how to have a good time at a show. His iconic Piano Man however, stands in a league of its own for me. I keep it in the company of some of my very favorite songs ever recorded. I’ve sung it at karaoke more time than I can remember, and hearing it live was really something. But what happened next could only be described as divine intervention, or just surgical precision planning. Just as he sang “It’s Nine o’clock on a Saturday,” I looked at my watch, and it was Nine o’clock and it was on a Saturday and then I lost my goddamn mind. The best example I can think of that captures the full range of emotions I experienced as this realization hit, comes from this masterclass of acting. It was a bucket list item I didn’t know I had.
Our ride back from the track was what could only be described as a post apocalyptic party school-bus. The driver at one point asked if one of us could literally pull on some cables by his feet for him because somewhere along the highway the gas pedal stopped working. Hell of a ride, but we still managed to stop off at a barcade for some games and a few more drinks, eventually getting back to our hotel, all in one piece.
The next day, was the actual race. The stakes were higher, the crowds were denser and people were FIRED UP. Duncan guided us through the in’s and outs of the drama unfolding in realtime, while I asked him in what way was Harry Potter related to Formula 1, since the word “Petronas” is seen everywhere. As uninvested as I was in the sport, I still found myself on my feet and cheering like a maniac for the last few laps. It shaped up to be a pretty dramatic battle between the top two contenders. I knew it’d be a fun experience, but I was surprised at just how fun it all really was. Also didn’t hurt that Duncan’s team won, and really that’s all that mattered to the rest of us.
Race day started and ended a lot earlier than the previous day, so by the time everything wrapped up at the track we still had plenty of daylight to kill. Most of us spent it floating in our hotel’s rooftop pool, with more drinks than any of us probably needed. It wasn’t long then till we headed off to celebrate Drew’s birthday at dinner followed up by a fancy cocktail bar, flaming drinks and all.
On our last full day, I found a little time to explore the city on foot, making the capitol building my loose destination. About a mile or so in, I learned that “Texas Heat” is not just a marketing buzzword for hot sauces. Jeans were a poor choice that day. Luckily, we booked out an air conditioned theater to see Dune, as guys do on a guys trip. We had a food and alcohol limit to hit during the screening which basically equated to everyone eating and drinking way too much, and almost brawling discussing whether or not Dune was or was not a good movie. It was a great time.
For our last night, we went to an Idles show. Most of us didn’t know the band very well, but our friend Drew did, and it only ever takes one of us to care about something for the rest of us to get behind it too. Of course it was a fun time, and the braver among us even pushed their way to the front where things get rough. It’s a miracle we ever saw them again.
Our last morning was spent packing up and saying our goodbyes in the lobby. It’d be fair to say we were all pretty much just fantasizing about our couches and takeout by this point. It was a fun, exhausting, memory filled trip that could’ve only happened when you get this group together. Like I said, we made it count. Most importantly of all though, is that our self-professed, full blown Formula 1 maniac of a friend, Duncan, had the absolute time of his life, celebrating life.
Bonus: Michael surprised us all with a fun video he cut together on his flight back home, what a guy huh?
Alexis turns 34, and we all put some ugly sweaters on for her. The only tell she’s even aging at all was her falling over in the photo booth. Seems a little premature for a cane though.
Countless people take part in a drawing challenge every October called Inktober, and though I’ve participated many times before, it’d been a while since my last one. I decided to make sure it was one of my monthly challenges this year since I don’t always do it, but am always glad to have done so in the end. I traveled a bit in October and didn’t draw everyday, but I still ended up with 31 drawings for the month.
I have a true love-hate relationship with this challenge. The end result is always something I’m proud to have done, but getting there, at least for me, might be harder than the average onlooker might think. My drawing style isn’t very technical or time consuming, and the act of drawing itself brings me peace, but coming up with interesting ideas is always the hardest part. I pull a lot from the well of my everyday thoughts and feelings, but wells dry up fast when you’re drawing from them everyday. Guess if it wasn’t a challenge though, wouldn’t feel as rewarding.
I share my Inktober drawings on social media for the friends, family and even strangers who seem to genuinely enjoy watching them unfold, and in return I appreciate the appreciation. But I hadn’t been on Instagram in some time. I took a month long break from it that snowballed into almost 2 years. Logging in after that long was a weird thing. Like opening a time-capsule buried by people you almost forgot about entirely. Where I remembered newborn babies, I now saw toddlers with personalities and new siblings. New cities, new houses, new lives. Everyone sharing everything except for the not so fun parts.
I know what’s shared on social media is in most cases meticulously filtered and curated, but seeing it all, all the time, somehow still makes me feel low. The knowing doesn’t seem to be enough. Maybe it’s envy. Not in a keeping up with the Joneses kind of way, but maybe just wanting in on some of that never ending happiness everyone appears to be experiencing all the time. This is the feeling that drove me away from it in the first place. I feel better without it, and oddly enough, it was a drawing challenge that reaffirmed that belief in me. I deleted Instagram again about a week after the challenge ended, but I’ll surely be back for my next Inktober. What I can’t say is if I’ll ever do all 31 days again, because man, by the end of it that well was bone dry.
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 recycled 14 years of sketchbooks today. Was really starting to take up some space, and I’ve never really liked having too many things. I did flip through them all one last time though. An experience that was part nostalgia, part rescue mission. I tore out and kept any page that held any ideas that were never seen through, or just plain forgotten about. I’m sure some still may have slipped through the cracks though.
It was fun finding scribbled notes in the margins here and there. Everything from questions I thought were important to ask on my first career job interview, to a list of things I needed in order to get settled at my first apartment I ever lived alone in. Plenty of directions and phone numbers to places and of people that I don’t remember. And to do lists, so many to do lists.
Flipping to the occasional personally potent illustrations brought me pause. Remembering how hard a time was or what I was feeling in that moment. This is something I do from time to time looking through Six Foot Giraffe, but running my palm across the actual page I drew on so many years ago is something different. Like reaching out and touching a piece of the past, wanting to tell my younger self connected to that page that we’re gonna be alright. Seemingly dramatic, I know, but very true.
If I’m being honest, writing these words is giving me a sudden sense of panic to leap out of this chair and rescue these relics of my life from that recycling bin. Preserving tangible facts that I was ever even here. But I still think it’s okay to let them go. I already preserved the works I thought to be important, keeping them safe here on this site. I even have them stored offline at a much higher resolution to preserve fidelity. So I tell myself again, it’s okay to let them go.
If I start losing sleep over it, recycle collection is still a few days out, so I may possibly be getting fitted for a hazmat suit this week. Luckily, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy over many years making Six Foot Giraffe exactly what I need it to be. So I think I’ll be sleeping just fine tonight.
UPDATE: I panicked about 48 hours later. Got some gloves on and went on a rescue mission. I decided there’s value in having the work exist in some tangible form. Just not in the way of scattered throughout a stack of sketchbooks spanning over a decade. So I think I’ll make something of a coffee table book. Like this site, something that curates the meaningful parts in and organized and interesting way, but now in a tangible form. Until I complete that, there’s a chance I might need those sketchbooks. Maybe a file went missing, maybe I didn’t scan something at a high enough resolution. Who knows. I decided once it’s done, I’ll let them go for good.
Middle Kids at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles. Ever since the first time I saw them and realized she was playing a right handed guitar, left handed, I knew I was sunk. They’ve quickly made their way into my list of favorite bands that I haven’t already been listening to for over a decade.
Edge of Town by Middle Kids
We had some fun out in Joshua Tree with friends on a long weekend in late September. It was exactly what I’ve come to expect when you get this crowd together. Good laughs, good food, good drinks, and good memories. Of course I also spent a life-threatening amount of time in the hot tub. Wouldn’t be a weekend getaway otherwise. It’s a nice thing when your agenda for the day doesn’t equate to much more than watching the setting Sun and the rising Moon.
The house we stayed at and particularly the surrounding scenery, was out of this world. With a little color correction, it could probably serve as a backdrop for an alien planet in some sci-fi film. The landscape always seems so surreal out there, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. This felt especially true because of how secluded the house was. Trying to spot any other man made structures on the horizon felt like playing “Where’s Waldo.” A welcomed change from my everyday sights.
We did venture out toward some civilization one night to see Modest Mouse play at Pappy and Harriet’s. I seemed to miss the Modest Mouse train when I was younger and don’t know much else outside their hits. Even still, it was a really fun show and didn’t hurt that it was at a pretty unique venue. The Districts were the opening band. I’d never heard them before but glad we caught them. Been listening to them on and off ever since.
Cheap Regrets by The Districts
After a few days dehydrating ourselves in the desert, we headed back to Los Angeles for one last outing before we all went our separate ways. James Blake at the Hollywood Bowl. If I’m being honest, I had absolutely no idea who this guy was. Thing is though, The Bowl is a truly magical place, and in my experience it doesn’t really matter who’s playing. So long as it’s a nice night out, you’re gonna have a great time, and we did exactly that. Also didn’t hurt that our seats were absurdly close considering the layout and capacity of the Hollywood Bowl. We’ve got a friend who’s a good guy to know, to say the least.
Our friends Jenn and Duncan even flew down from Sacramento for the night to join in. I know, sounds exhausting. Thing is, they have three kids, and I have to imagine a chance to catch up with friends and have some adult conversation for a change, is a juice well worth the squeeze. Glad they made it and even more glad I get to be in the company of friends like these.
“They are playing Taps now. I used to think it sounded nice but all those bugle calls sound different when you are on the inside.”
My Aunt Janet recently shared this letter with me, and I’m so thankful she did. My Grandfather wrote it to his future mother in law, while he was at Ft. Riley, Kansas. I’m assuming it was the first place he was sent after being drafted. Seems he wrote this just before he was shipped off to Europe. Never really heard him talk much about this time of his life. Don’t know if that’s because he didn’t care to, or just because I never asked. Sure wish I had though. Think he was Twenty years old when he wrote this. It’s hard to imagine, considering what I was doing at Twenty. Anyhow, I really enjoyed this small window into a big moment of his life, and felt like it should be preserved.