Sunday, October 12, 2014

Community & Challenge

The last few months have been hard for me. I've lost a lot of social interaction, as a result I spend most of my free time alone. A weekly get-together of friends has been put on hold, and I don't really talk with people at church, mainly because the vast majority are a different generation from me. My hobbies have fallen flat, too. I can't settle on a coding project, and until this month I have not had the ability to sit and write for very long. Games... just aren't fun anymore. Doing things in regards to Christian and theology and the Bible don't keep my attention. Being exhausted from work doesn't help in any of this.

I've long wondered why this stuff is happening to me. A couple weeks ago I think I found what I was looking for. Community and challenge. It seems so bloody obvious! I'm a social creature, and one who craves having something to work toward. These are what make me enjoy life.

Community
Things done alone, or that'll never be seen by anyone, or that doesn't serve a group of people are things I often have trouble staying motivated on. What's the point of them, if they're only going to be seen by me? If there's no use for it? It's just a waste of time.

This is particularly evident in my choice of games. I've found it's so much more fun when I'm part of a gaming community. Having others who can see what I'm doing in the game, or being part of a team, that sort of stuff. I remember I used to play a Facebook app called Starfleet Commander, where I was part of an alliance. Interacting with people was part of why I played that game almost daily for a year or two. I also used to play NationStates. It was fun enough pretending to lead a country and see what kind of government my opinions would form. I was also an active member of a region, the in-game name for an alliance. Eventually I ended up being part of a region's government. If I were just logging in once every couple days to do a quick task or so, I would have gotten bored very quickly.

This need for community explains why a couple things I'm doing right now are succeeding. First off, I'm taking part in NaNoWriMo this year. I'm part of a community, specifically the NaNoWriMo forums. Talking with other people about plotting and reaching 50,000 words is exciting and motivating. I'll probably reach the word count goal this year, too. Normally I can't get very much of a story written down. Oh sure I'll get a basic plot and maybe a few thousand words but somehow I end up being distracted and disinterested. It's the presence of a large community that draws me to it and makes me want to keep going.

Second, as I've mentioned here and there, I'm a volunteer soundboard operator/radio host for my church. Even though the task is easy, I enjoy it greatly. That's because I'm doing it not for my own sake, but for that of my church. It's something I'm doing for my community. I'm being useful not only for a group, but also an ideology that is important to me.

Socially speaking, I've been terribly lacking in community lately. It seems like I've drifted out of most of my friendships. Text messages are usually StraightTalk telling me I need to add more time to my phone. I get a bit of interaction on social networking sites, but not much in real life. This is hard to deal with. Even though I'm introverted, I'm still a human, and humans are social creatures.

Challenge
A few years ago I would have told you my ideal life is one where I had no challenge or problems. Where everything I wanted, I could get with minimal effort. I've come to realize I would despise that sort of life. I need to be on a mission. I need to have something to work toward. I need a goal to progress to. I'm a problem solver. I need challenge.

That's why programming is something I like so much. It's mental stimulation, figuring out how to get to the desired goal. There are programming projects I have attempted but never completed. It's a shame, really. They were the kind of challenge I need. Enough that I would learn something new, but not so much that I couldn't figure things out.

This is also why I'm doing NaNoWriMo. It gives you thirty days to write a 50,000 word novel. This is something I can sink my teeth into.

What to Do
So I guess, if I wanted to get these into my life more, the first thing I ought to do is get some more community in my life. The challenge part is around in ample supply; I simply need people to experience it with. For writing, programming, and gaming (and whatever else might catch my interest), this is simple enough - find online message boards or people I know in real life who are likewise into these things, and start going through things with them.

General social life, getting out of the habit of sitting in front of my computer alone all day, is significantly more difficult. Friendships are slowly made, but are often hard for me to maintain. I don't know why this is. What I need to find, I suppose, are people who are equally willing to stay in touch. Or more willing, as the case may be. That's especially challenging, perhaps more challenge than I can take on, because I don't live somewhere that is known for its young adult social scene. To be terribly honest, I'm not sure how to tackle this issue.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Projects October 2014

Here's what I have going on for the month of October.

Web development: Been inactive in this area, don't really see myself jumping back into it any time soon.

Writing: The story from 2009, presently titled Failed Hero, has gone through its first round of editing. I made it sound a little less preachy. I want to lengthen it somehow, but that will have to wait for a month or two.

I spent much of September contemplating and writing another story that I've titled First. I see a lot of potential in this one.

Now I'm beginning to plan out my NaNoWriMo novel, which doesn't have a name yet. The premise is basically this: two years after a global pandemic killed off all adults, much of the western United States has come under a loose organization called the Order of Friendship, which is trying to restore public utilities and social order. About 1 in 200 people have developed an effect called the red eye, where under fight-or-flight situations their irises turn red and they increase in physical strength, speed, endurance, and the like. One of the people with this effect is part of a sort of special operations group in the Order of Friendship's militia. After her boyfriend dies in battle (I really don't want this to be the only reason, I more want this to be the event that pushes her over the line) she defects and starts opposing the Order. I still need to figure out the rest of the plot.

Minecraft and Gaming: There were a few weeks when I was playing this almost daily, building some of the fresh ideas I had. But now I'm really burned out on the game. I haven't seriously played it in a couple weeks.

Instead I've been dabbling with Freeciv, a browser turn-based strategy game. I like strategy games but I don't have the quick wits for real-time strategy. I also found a Facebook app, Game of Thrones: Ascents, which I kind of like. It's simple enough in terms of mechanics.

Honestly, I'm just looking for something fun. I'm big on strategy, logic, and puzzle games. I am getting tired of combat games, and ones which require you build up your little down and go through an unnecessarily long tech tree before you can actually do anything. I just want to play already!

Freelancing: Made a little bit of progress here. Right now I'm not active with it, and I'm not sure I will be any time soon.

Exercise: Work is my main form of exercise. I weighed myself last night and I'm down to 187. I finished the summer of 2013 (last year) at 185, so eventually I'm going to start making some record lows. I don't plan on doing much in this realm, but if things go right I'll keep losing weight.

Religious activity: So far the position as soundboard operator/radio host is going well. It's really not a terribly demanding task.

Reading: Finished A Clash of Kings last month, so now I'm reading A Storm of Swords. I'm currently about half way through it. I timed myself, and I seem to read about 20 pages per hour, so that's the goal I put on myself per day. I'm going through George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Projects September 2014

I can't freaking believe it's September already. Here are miscellaneous projects and stuff I'm doing in my free time.

Web development: Redesigning my website. What I need to do right now is come up with a good theme, either by finding it or making it myself. So far I've been having technical issues with that.

Writing: A few things going on.

First, I've finished editing a story I wrote in 2009, and am looking for ways to push the word count to 50,000. That's considered the minimum word count for a novel and I've never actually written a novel before. Once it's done, I don't know, I might make it an eBook?

Second, I have committed to doing NaNoWriMo this year. That's right, I'm going to take the challenge finally. I have a skeleton for the plot figured out, and some scenes in my head. I will flesh it out next month.

Third, I'm going to try and get a short story published at Strange Horizons. It's right up my alley, and I think it would be cool to see my work in a public medium.

Minecraft: I have a bunch of concurrent projects here, which makes things fun. I have a castle in progress, a redstone-powered underground base, and a couple other things going on.

Freelancing: Not much been going on here. Really should try to get back into this. The main problem is time and energy. I have so much I want to do, but working a factory job expends most of my energy.

Exercise: Been slacking on this. I currently stand somewhere around 193-195 pounds and have been there for a few months.

Religious activity: The devotional I've been reading has grown boring. It doesn't really have any theological meat in it. I need something that stimulates my brain more. Haven't taken much time to read the Bible. There are a few books I've read several times now, it's hard to motivate myself to go through them again. A few months ago I started reading The Defense of the Augsburg Confession since I'm trying to get deeper into Lutheran theology. The archaic language makes it a dry and difficult read.

On the plus side, I've started doing the sound board and radio broadcast for my church. I'll probably handle it for a couple more Sundays, then go on a rotation with the two others who do it. So about every third week I'll be in the church balcony, and the other Sundays I'll be in the pews.

Reading: Almost done with A Clash of Kings, then will start A Storm of Swords. I'm going through George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Growing Up

Twenty-Three
With the exception of my 21st birthday, I've made a post on here to remember each birthday since I started this blog. My God how I have changed over the last four years alone. This past Sunday was my 23rd birthday.

If 22 didn't feel significant, 23 does. At 18 you're legally an adult. At 21, you're able to drink. At 22 you're generally the age where people graduate from college. 23 feels like the transition from adolescent to adult. At this point, I can't help but feel the excuse of youth no longer applies to me. People are lenient on those who are young, because they probably don't understand how the world works. 23 is still kind of young, but not like 21 or 22.

When I hear 23 I think of someone who is done or close to done with the training that is high school, college, and those messy relationships where nobody actually knows what they're doing. It sounds like someone getting themselves firmly planted in life.

Now Is My Time
Now's my time. I will still have family and close friends to rely on, but the world isn't going to baby me anymore. All my life I was pushed in one direction, encouraged in another. That stops at this point. It's no longer expected that I'm going to screw up. It's expected that I'm going to do things right.

In a way, 23 is a scary age, because it's one of change. It's the point where I'm removed from the coddling of youth and placed in the realm of adulthood where I'm expected to pull my weight or drown in the current. Those supportive institutions I could fall on before? Yeah, those are for a certain age range and I'm no longer in it.

But it's also a bit of an exciting age, because now it's up to me where my life goes, more or less. If I want to make progress in my hobbies, I need to be diligent to pursue those things. Nobody's going to do them for me. Nobody's going to go out of their way to make me better at them. It's up to me to find the resources and the people. The world isn't looking to make me happy or smart. The world is full of people just trying to keep themselves alive and somewhat content.

What Do I Want?
If I'm going to set into motion making life into something I like, it has to start now. Indeed, on Sunday I began the process. The yearning for simplicity I've wanted for so long? I'm going for it. It's hard fighting things that are so deeply ingrained into my psyche as to almost be instinctual. But I'm not expecting perfection from myself right off the bat. I've gained some vision in the things I want to devote my energies in. I haven't (yet) jumped back on the weight loss bandwagon. I need to figure how how I'm gonna fit time into doing that. I wanted to find a way to serve my church, and in a few weeks' time I'll begin acting as one of the radio hosts for my church's Sunday broadcasts. I'm also going to (try) and become more intentional about dating and the like.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Exhausted

Does anyone else get periods of time, ranging from days to weeks, where there is no motivation to do anything, at all? I have been experiencing such a thing for the past week or so.

I think it's partially due to my job. I've finally landed a full time job, but it's factory work, so I'm on my feet for 8 hours straight. With it being summer in Kansas, the shift starts at 5 AM. This means I'm getting up stupidly early in the morning, and expending a lot of energy the entire time. (It is nice being home and showered by 2 PM, though.) This takes all the energy and motivation out of me. After I'm cleaned up I'll watch an episode of whatever sci-fi series I'm going through (currently Star Trek: Enterprise) and read for an hour. After that, I don't really do anything.

I don't know, I guess nothing catches my fancy anymore. There has always been something that interested me. But it seems like that's all gone. I feel like I've basically done all I want to do in Minecraft. Although I've wanted to get into Android development, the software needed to do so has fought me every step. Eclipse is a frustrating piece of software. I'm at the point in my web development knowledge that I don't have anymore challenges to tackle. More powerful languages like Java, C#, and so on are already familiar enough to me that I haven't much more to learn.

Taking in as much film and book as I have recently has given me a little boost in writing. New ideas keep popping in my head. I almost wonder if this is something I could channel my energy in. But I can't push myself to get some stuff figured out. I'm exhausted.

Oh, and there are some odds and ends. I briefly had an infatuation with Age of Empires, but that has since passed. I started a blog for learning how to do a math course I'm not too good at. Haven't touched it in over a month. And a couple other miscellaneous blogs.

Work has sapped much of my energy, although I think it's still there. I need something to channel it, though. There are two things I feel would help me. First, I could benefit from finding something practical to do with my skills. I know how to code well enough, but what good is that knowledge if I'm not using it? If nobody is seeing or running the stuff I write? At the moment I just don't have any use for that skill. Or consider writing. I write for the sake of writing sometimes, but it's kind of pointless to me right now. I could try to find an online magazine or something which takes submissions, and write with the intent of being published. The stuff I'm writing isn't being seen by anyone. It's not being published anywhere. There's not much use for it.

Second, it could be time to plain try something new. I was going to do this with Android development, but technical issues got in the way. Trying new things helps me get out of the rut of being exhausted and burned out. I've found it often jump starts my creative and mental energies. What might I try? I could start a vlog. I never do get much privacy, though, and that kind of thing would need to be done with some privacy. I've mentioned my interest in learning history, so that's an option. Or maybe something else. It's not terribly clear to me where I should go from here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Don't Want it Bad Enough

(Edit: friend and fellow blogger Simon wrote a post responding to this one, suggesting that what I lack is not desire, but determination.)

There are a lot of incompleted and failed projects in my life. For all the impressive things I have done, countless others have fallen by the wayside. I come up with all these plans and thoughts and stuff, but ultimately nothing comes out of it. Why? I think it's simply because I don't want it bad enough.

I've always been told that if I came up with smart goals, planned stuff out, and worked at things a little bit every day, I could accomplish anything. It sounds nice, it sounds true, but I'm beginning to think it isn't. There's another element involved, one that you can't pencil in: desire.

I'm very good at planning, scheduling, coming up with to-do lists and short term goals. I do it a lot in my free time. But the weird part is, most of the things I plan to do, never get done. There are so many things I want to do:
  • I want to finish my coding projects on my website.
  • I want to become a published novelist.
  • I want a short story to be published in a magazine of some kind.
  • I want to become a successful freelancer.
  • I want to learn about church history and the Roman Empire, post-Julius Caesar.
  • I want to build awesome things in Minecraft.
  • Etc...
To accomplish these things I've gone through my usual routine of planning and goal-setting. But this has mostly failed. All because while they interested me and seemed cool, once I got into the details of making them happen, I discovered I didn't want it that much. Indeed I could say that about so many things. I like it, I want it, but not bad enough.

Perhaps this is the cause of so much frustration. I set up a plan to do something and give up after a few days or weeks. I take all the steps to be successful. Yet in the end, my heart just isn't in it. 

I don't give much attention to my emotions. Maybe this is one of those times I should. If I don't really want to do something, then I won't if I don't need to. I'm proud of my ability to be productive. When nothing is terribly interesting to me, I can't be productive. Hence the frustration.

I'm not sure there's anything I can do about this. I can't stir interest in something that doesn't interest me. I can't make myself love anything. At least, not in any way I know. It's just one of those things I need to learn to work with. Be nicer to myself when I'm not putting every minute of my time to good use. Realize that sitting on the computer is OK, because it's not like I can bring myself to do anything meaningful anyway.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Check-In #19


Starting weight: 205 lbs.
Last week's weight: 198 lbs.
This week's weight: 198 lbs.

This is annoying and discouraging. It doesn't make sense. My job is basically manual labor, and comparatively speaking I just don't eat a lot. I know it's possible to plateau, and maybe I'm hitting one right now. Oh well, here's to next week.

7 pounds down. 58 left.