As I begin to write this many-times-deferred update, I’m surprised to find that we’re already at September’s end. Since my last update, I’ve been working at a small personal project I set for myself: to reconnect with my old “passions” and make myself interesting again. For so long—and well before COVID—I’ve been complacent with that detached sense of self that’s been the recurring theme of most of my posts this year. I feel more a passive spectator than an active participant in life, this consciousness that performs knowledge work to pay bills when not busy with academic studies. Work, school, eat, chores, sleep, repeat. That’s all there usually is to say about myself, with too much modesty and no effort to make it interesting when communicating it to others to where it sounds like I’m describing the least I could do.
I’ve also reflected plenty this year, how creating a wide gap between myself and all of my emotions in times past affected the good ones as much as it helped with the bad ones, leaving me in this state where it feels like I’ve forgotten how to be a person. And so in engaging with all the things below, I’ve been putting effort into opening myself fully to the experience and drawing feelings of satisfaction/contentment from the process and outcome, rather than treating everything like a rote mechanical obligation cluttering up my already-long list of things to-do.
This perhaps has been my area of greatest improvement. It was a jarring realization to come to that the COVID pandemic didn’t really affect my day-to-day, in terms of not seeing people in person outside of school and work. As the past year and half unfurled, it was similarly disheartening to see myself still excluded from the widespread adoption of remote telecommunications in lieu of in-person gatherings. Within the past month, I’ve had more texts/calls/video chats with friends that I have the rest of the pandemic. With each successive exchange, there’s been a subtle paradigm shift in me. The guilt of having stayed out of touch for so long and the aversion to having to answer those catch-up sort of questions has been replaced by the normal contentment that comes from hearing from the friends and loved ones made along the way in life.
I’ve been a runner for a very long time now, such to the point that I’ve been one for the majority of my life. Even though I managed to find love for the cardio I once used to loathe in my adolescence, my efforts with weight training and muscle building have been virtually non-existent. Over the course of this month, I’ve finally buckled down and started to do something about it. Being in the initial phases still, I hate it. Each session has been like an active demonstration of the ab/back/arm/chest muscles I don’t have. Though I can feel the gradually improvement as time moves forward, my attention is mostly captured by the muscle fatigue and soreness that impede my ability to run consistently. Or even worse, make using the bathroom an awkward and painful ordeal.
In addition to weight training for muscle growth, I also started with the Hyperbolic Stretching program to increase flexibility and (hopefully) gain the ability to perform the splits. I haven’t been able to keep up with it on a daily basis when sore from ab/squat workouts to hit the advertised splits-in-30-days, but I’ve still been seeing gains in how far I’m able to spread my legs apart and benefits to my running form.
The strongest and long-neglected passion of my adolescent years. I recently had my bass guitar repaired to a play-ready state, and fished the keyboard out of my closet. I bought a couple of applications—GuitarPro & Synthesia—that I’ve been meaning to get as soon as the associated instruments were made usable again. It’s been disheartening to learn just how foreign the strings of a fender bass have become to my fingers. I’ve been slowly retraining them to their slightly callused state and capable of rendering my favorite rock bass lines.
Things with the keyboard have been less active, as I know next to nothing when it comes to that instrument. Not only do I have the simplest basics to pickup, but piano doesn’t have a nice alternative format like guitar tablature to work around not knowing how to read sheet music. With so many other things going on, I haven’t been able to make the deep dive I would like to if I had nothing but free time without any responsibilities.
Though it’s never been me forte, I’ve also noticed myself singing more. It used to be a daily activity back when I owned a car and the periods of privacy during a commute to/from work, but I hadn’t been doing it much at all over the recent years. Now it’s back to being a regular activity, and one I’ll do even if I don’t have an empty apartment all to myself.
Back when I was growing up in a pre-mobile internet world, reading used to be my favorite pastime. A book was easy to carry and keep by, and offered an insightful escape from the doldrums of reality. As an adult, most of the reading I do is purely informational—news online, academics when in school, and technical reference when working on computer side projects. It’s a point of embarrassment for myself to realize that Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record and Michelle Obama’s Becoming have been sitting on my book shelf (and Audible library) still waiting to be completed to this day.
To start, I’ve been carving out at least one hour each week to devote entirely to leisure reading. It’s a minimum effort for now, but hopefully that practice will root itself to where I start giving it enough time to reach an ideal goal of one new book each month.
This is something completely new, yet fascinating. Early August, I found myself in possession of a $15 Amazon credit set to expire. Since merchandise needed to be sold & shipped by Amazon, I had a hard time identifying what to apply that discount towards. At the 11th hour prior to its expiration date, I decided on a whim to purchase a sewing machine that happened to be on sale as it was. Despite my internal objections against taking on something new that would need time and energy to learn about, I went ahead and did it anyway. Days later, I would come across a promotional offer for a full year’s Craftsy membership for only $3.
Much to my surprise, I’ve taken a keen interest in the craft. This month, I created a series of throw pillow cushions, two which were made as birthday gifts and one even being sold to my downstairs neighbor as my first sale of something I’ve handmade. In the queue, I’ve got a tote bag, some wrist bands, and a simple dress that will be my first pattern project. For all it’s stereotyping as feminine work, it feels just a “manly” to me as if I were hardware shopping at a Home Depot for a small construction project.
Learning, and not “education” since attending this college semester is looking dubious due to the current unemployment situation. Though it may still be possible to register late for a shortened class or down to get some credits knocked out, that’s going to be dependent on how things go over the next few weeks. As a backup plan, I did purchase access to a couple of top rated Udemy courses in financial analysis and PostgreSQL. If not formal academics, I can at least work through those over the next month or two and hopefully open up better employment prospects as a result.
Admittedly, I’ve been having some doubts about this aspect of life. Lately I’ve been seeing more activity from public-facing high level business professionals proclaiming their college education to have largely been “a waste”. Similarly, it’s not an uncommon lamentation among peers whom have ultimately found themselves in a career that’s not directly related to their academic specialty. Nonetheless, my reasons for pursing academic accreditation are as much personal as they are related to vocational-financial growth, so an active goal it remains.
At the start of the month, I made a lifetime access purchase during Elegant Theme’s summer sale. Up until then, I had my WordPress sites running on the GeneratePress theme. It did the job, but having a recurring renewal fee for a WordPress component has been nagging at me, given that one of the main draws of WordPress is that it’s a free blogging system. A renewing theme license on top of the my web hosting service fee has made me consider abandoning WordPress altogether and experimenting with a modern website builder like Squarespace or Wix. Ultimately, the desire to own and keep as much control over one’s content wins out over convenience in my mind. With WordPress powering approximately 40% of websites on the internet and Divi being a consistently #1 rated WordPress theme, the lifetime access plan seemed a good deal to resolve my issues with a yearly theme license while at the same time opening the door for possible client side work.
Soon after purchasing that, I got to work at trying to setup a local development environment. A couple years back, I purchased a license for VirtualHostX for this very purpose, having chosen it over MAMP Pro for reasons I don’t clearly recall. However, one big hurdle I ran into back then—and again this month—is the lack of support resources. Popular solutions like MAMP have an established community built around them, but resources for VirtualHostX are limited to the handful of pages on the application’s website. When things don’t work with the out-the-box installation of the virtual machine, it’s been a more time-intensive effort contacting the developer for support or trying to extrapolate solutions from community activity for the Vagrant platform it’s using under the hood than I imagine it would be if using MAMP. In spite of this, I can’t say I mind the forced introduction to Linux systems and command line usage.
Things with the purchased themes themselves have been less than smooth as well. The first few days were spent going back and forth with the support team for the theme, reporting bugs and errors with both the Divi and Extra themes they provide. It was frustrating to the point that I almost took them up on the 30-day guarantee for a refund. Yet, letting cooler thinking prevail, I’ve pretty much decided I am going to keep this lifetime access plan. Now that I seem to have a working local development environment, I’m in the process of rebuilding the personal and professional WordPress sites in these new themes, and might look to take on more similar work afterwards.