Humble Beginnings

It’s been a good few weeks since I’ve done some writing. I’ve been neglecting both the blog and my offline journal, focusing on the goings of daily life, exercising, and planning my next steps carefully. The last update I posted on the blog was very cathartic for me; getting into a lot of the smaller details about the past couple years and everything that’s changed in that time has given me a sense of finality to a chapter of my life that I needed to bring to successfully bring a close since my younger self decided it was something worth introducing to the web. Moving past it, I feel like I’ve just woken up from a bad dream to a giant mess to clean up.
From experience and what I’ve read on the matter of productivity and goals, journaling and capturing life at its different stages provide excellent points of comparison against which to measure progress made. Here is the narrative at present.

Career

I’m 27, and on the cusp of turning 28. I’ve been in a prolonged state of isolation, almost two years, in my own journey of personal development. I’ve fought to reconcile myself with my past, reclaim my sense of identity, and redefine myself, my goals, and my expectations in life. I fight to give myself the opportunities a person of my capability deserves and to realize my full potential. I also recognize that the road ahead is long, and filled with challenges greater than those I’ve already overcome. Though I showed great promise as a child, I was not raised in conditions that agreed with academic achievement. I didn’t produce the scores and work to qualify for scholarships or even realistically apply to any university. Without any money having been saved by my family to pay for college, I joined the work force immediately after leaving high school. My plan was to take a couple years off to just have fun, and save money to buy myself a car and a computer capable of running software for graphic editing and web design, then return to school starting a local community college, and transferring into a university after a couple years.
From 18–20, I worked a series of jobs in retail and coffee shops. I bought myself a car, which was stolen only a year after I bought it. I came upon the opportunity to work a part of a startup marketing company that a group of close internet friends decided to form at the age of 21. For the first time in my life, I was able to apply all of the technological and organizational skills that I’d picked up through my hobbies and areas of interest for self-study. I spent 12–16 hours a day in front of my computer, writing emails, drafting documents, templating stationary, coordinating teams, managing projects, conducting research, processing data, and compiling business plans and campaign deliverables. The results the team produced opened the doors to some great experiences, traveling to Japan and meeting the bands I used to listen to in high school in a professional capacity.
Eventually, the marketing startup phased out of operation, and I returned back to “normal” life. I worked at a couple of restaurants before landing a job in a tech-oriented field as a support specialist for a local SEO company. At this point, I started making good enough money to buy myself another car, and build sufficient credit to finance a MacBook Pro to replace my aging computer that was unable to keep pace with my performance needs at work. Early last year, I transitioned away from that job, and after a couple of months wading through a highly competitive job market for a replacement income source, came upon my current position as a temp for Union Bank at a corporate office site.
Right now, I find myself frustrated and feeling trapped by my current situation. My job entails duties that are way below my capabilities. I’m constantly bored, and resent that I’m forced to spend my time doing what I do when I could be doing something more meaningful, and in turn, higher paying. I’m at an age where I should have a bachelors/masters degree and time invested with a company, or finishing up a doctorate degree. Since college wasn’t academically or financially viable for me and all that time lost can’t be reclaimed, my path is now forced to be one of the self-made success. I’ll admit that despite my age, I do have a strong intent to obtain the academic dress of a degree. However, the cost of education is something that I’m going to have to find a way to finance myself. Essentially, I’m going to be doing things backwards – getting the job to make the money for the degree, not getting the degree to make the money. Unconventional, but that’s just the way my life is.
Right now, I work my day job to cover the essential living costs. I’ve been in a constant state of financial constraint for almost a whole year now, causing me to further resent myself for letting myself get into this current position, but also motivating me to do something to change it. In my down time, I’m focused on buffing up my knowledge in various disciplines in a systematic order. Right now, I’m concentrating my efforts on getting acquainted with computer programming by learning Python, and soaking up everything I can in relation to finance and taxes. One thing I’ve noticed in all the loan applications I process at work is that successful people applying for high principal loans all have extensive investment portfolios – indicates to me that I need to learn how those work. I’ve also been planning to make a stronger effort to develop my writing ability, both by building a blog with read-worthy content and keeping my private offline journal consistently up to date. Once I can successfully design & build for the modern web landscape, I aim to freelance my development talents to make the income needed for school, and to upgrade my lifestyle. Ultimately, I’d like to be able to make another income stream out of building useful software for computers and mobile devices.

Health

Along with the career situation at present, the subject of health commands the majority of my efforts at present. I’ve been meaning to address my physical deficiencies for a very long time now, and I’ve grown tired of constantly carrying the guilt of failure at actually getting anything done. Over the past year, I’ve been making solid strides in making that part of me that enjoys running a regular part of my routine. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been completing my 5+ mile routes multiple times a week. Admittedly, I haven’t been dieting too well because I’m hesitant to push to a lower weight at the moment – doing that would mean having to buy new clothes, and I’m still not out the woods enough to accommodate that investment. Still, I run regularly now, and have also starting implementing arm and core workouts into my exercises.
This year, I’m going to reach those high goals I set for myself so long ago. I’m running out of 20’s, and while I’ve still got youth on my side, I want to experience the what “the other side” feels like; I’ve been a husky kid and an overweight guy pretty much all of my life, and I’ve got no excuses for letting things stay that way. I want to enjoy runs in different parts of the world. I want to be able to go rock climbing and hike long & difficult trails. To know what it feels like to sprint down a shoreline or lose myself in the middle of a crowd at a dance festival without a shirt on and feel confident.
There’s a giant laundry list of experiences and sensations that I want out of life, and being the pudgy, sedentary, overweight smoker I’ve been over the past few years has outlived its viability as an option.

Relationships

In my time away to myself, I aimed to get myself back to a state of mental/emotional self-sufficiency. Though I’ve proven to myself that I could very well live out the rest of my life in permanent solitude and in perpetual pursuit of a better self, living life isolated and alone is not how I want things to ultimately pan out – one of those just because I can doesn’t mean I will type of situations. So in addition to everything I’ve got on my plate in direct relation to myself, I also aim to start reestablishing my “tribe”. Back before I started focusing on all of this self-improvement, I was a pretty active social butterfly and networker. Now, after so much time apart to myself, staying in touch and constantly in communication with people has come to feel very strange and irregular. Yet, now that I’m once again confident in my ability to create, nurture, and maintain relationships with people, it’s a part of life that I’m very eager to once again partake in.

In Closing

I look ahead at what the year will bring, and I see wave after wave of continuous hardships and challenges. I no longer have the naive belief that I’ll reach some certain “point” at which I’ll feel happy and content. I’ve got a lot of dreams that I want to accomplish and some pretty high standards that I’ve set for myself, and I’ve got a lot of lost ground to make up for. My story hasn’t been a happy one, nor an easy one, but I accept it. More than that, I celebrate it. Had my life played out to all of the better alternative outcomes of my past experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. For a long time, I focused on all the negative results of those experiences – the self doubt, the feelings of abandonment, the unwillingness to fully trust the people closest to me in life, etc. Now, I’ve reconnected with that inner fire, that unwavering confidence in my identity and capabilities. I’m ready to pick up the fight again and start doing everything I should be for myself.
May this year be filled with things that I’ve legitimately earned. I’m ready and willing to hurt, sweat, and bleed however much it takes to get things done.

Reconciliation: Recovering From a Mid-Life Crisis at 27

In migrating my self-hosted installation to my previously-abandoned wordpress.com blog, I’ve found myself re-reading past entires as I’ve been going through and changing the visibility on past posts I’d forgotten were still on the web; I archived everything when I was self-hosting, and you know…consistency. One entry that stood out at me was one that I composed back in August of this year regarding my personal journey in isolation throughout 2012. I can vividly recall my mindset when I wrote that: I felt unburdened and free, yet lost. I’d been a highly self-critical introspective mental-emotional train wreck for so long that when I allowed myself to let go and move past that, I didn’t feel like I had an identity of my own. So I wrote about the circumstances, the inspiration behind my decision, and the result (which, admittedly, is something that I’ve done many times before, each one feeling like I failed to capture all I really meant to say). Though the writing was on the wall throughout the entire length of that post, the one thing I didn’t touch upon was what the core issue was: I had been recovering from a conflict of identity and lack of self-esteem — a “midlife crisis” in my 20’s. This is what working through that has been like.

Depression

I tried to work these things out at the age of 25 when I first identified and acknowledged them, but it was like working a math problem that just didn’t add up. How could someone who’s constantly told that he’s capable and produces great work still be wading in the shallow end of the career pool at college-graduate age? How could someone who grew up knowing a large loving family turn out to be a person whose family is his greatest source of emotional anguish? Why, if I’m as smart as I think I am, have so many of the choices in life I’ve made turned out to be costly mistakes? Every day felt like I was trapped, confined to an contradictory existence. Day to day life felt like I was trapped behind an invisible screen, watching some meaningless life unfold. I remained functional; I went through the motions — went to work, hung out with friends, spent time with the little family I still had an active relationship with — but at the end of the day, I felt hollow and worthless, a pitiful jumble of inner turmoil and self doubt.

Resistance

In 2011, things improved financially to where I was finally able to stabilize myself, and could afford more time and mental energy to really focus on self-improvement. Though I’d been trying for quite some time to sort things out alone, convinced that I could solve my own problems by myself, I finally caved and decided to seek out professional assistance. So I started seeing a therapist.
I’d wager most people picture a patient lying down on a couch having a cathartic emotional breakdown when the subject of therapy comes up. I’ll admit, that was part of what encouraged me to give it a shot; maybe if I just loaded someone up with all the details and have him systematically hit me with each one, I could just cry it out and move on. The reality (which is much better than what I’d been secretly hoping for) was rather ordinary. It was like paying to have the conversation I needed to have. To discuss my innermost truths with someone of an objective and analytical mindset, not with someone who’d be quick to feel sympathy or validate my opinion as friends are prone to do. Someone who would carefully listen to what I was actually saying, and know the right things to say and the right questions to ask. That helped alleviate a fair amount of the pressure, and for awhile, things were looking up. Then things in the then-present personal life took a steep nosedive. I hit a breaking point, and I snapped. So I made my decision to have my 2012.

Self-Exile

In that year alone, I put a distance between “me” and myself. I stopped seeing my past as a linear history, and more like a collection of different people that I’ve been. It was partially externalizing all the chaos in my head, and partially an invitation to escapism. I put serious consideration into the idea of leaving all my social media accounts deactivated, getting a new phone number, disappear and head off to the opposite end of the country, and just completely start over during those first few months. While this approach helped me in getting some needed distance to get a better perspective on my sense of self, there was an unintended consequence. With every day restricted to absolute minimum social interactions and lots of time with my thoughts, there was nothing to really trigger emotional response or engagement. Day after day without the company of friends of the comfort of family to look forward to. No love, no happiness, no sadness, just…me. I stopped processing emotions, and was still in a detached state, only without the saddening pull of depression.

Reconciliation

When you spend that much time with a person, you inevitably have to make peace with them. This year, I focused on filtering out all the negative “programming” I’ve picked up through life and reconnecting with all those “past selves” I turned my back on. Around the same time I wrote that post on 2012 in August, I read an article on artofmanliness.com that analyzed the quote “the child is father to the man,” and described something very similar to what I’d been feeling in regard to my own history. This November, I toyed with the idea of partaking in National Novel Writing Month. As I did some research on story structure, I read about the “Hero’s Journey”. I tried translating my own experience into the monomyth model, and realized why it is I’ve been having such a hard time writing about this all. I thought I would find myself at the final stages in the model. Ultimately, I placed myself towards the beginning, at the step labeled Atonement with the Father. Since then, I’ve reconciled myself with the child I used to be, and hold in such high regard. I accept that he’s gone through some heavy ordeals in life that have led him to a place of unhappiness, and that his story is mine. The grief I carried for so long is not a result from an inability to meet societal standards or the expectations of others, but simply in having failed to deliver on the promise I used to hold, like I somehow managed to make all the wrong choices in life for myself in spite of my better qualities.

Redemption

Things now are, for the most part, in a pretty good place. I’ve got a laundry list of things that I need to get done in the near future – namely, developing a second income stream and finding something to replace my current primary – and some financial hurdles that I’ll be carrying over into the coming year. Those details aside, I feel whole and in complete control of myself, something I’ve been struggling to regain for a very long time now. I’ve rediscovered my inner warrior, that part of me that is fearless and thrives in adversity. I’ve been actively exercising, running 5+ miles on a regular basis. I’ve also been buckling down and pursuing mastery in the various areas of interest I’ve acquired over the years, my present focus placed on writing and getting to know computer programming by learning Python.
When I was a child, I envisioned my adult self to be someone who is genuinely interesting to meet, one of those people who are knowledgeable and proficiently skilled in multiple disciplines. Now, after so much internal struggle, I’ve remembered who I really see myself as, and have belief in “me” to give myself the chance to become that person.

Getting Started: The Hardest Part

Two weeks ago, I wiped the slate clean on this blog in an effort to start building a cohesive online identity that supports my present goals. In contemplating the process, I’ve been admittedly overwhelmed by the various points of consideration that have crossed my mind. I’ve more or less decided not to engage in any extensive reputation management efforts and clean up the traces of my past scattered about the internet. Being an internet user for so long and having delved into so many different services and technologies over the years, doing so would be a time-intensive endeavor that I cannot afford. This leaves nuking all of my profiles and content as the only feasible alternative, and it was hard enough to do that with my prior blog posts; I simply can’t bring myself to support the notion that all of the experiences in my past and the time I invested in documenting them have to be eliminated for the sake of appearances.

Moving beyond the past and shifting focus to the present & future, I find myself similarly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of goals I want to accomplish and the various knowledges I aim to acquire and master over the the next few years. It’s a lot easier for me to come up with ideas for things that I should write about than it is to stay focused long enough to translate the ideas in my head into text — this is something that needs to change immediately.

Luckily, this weekend is a three-day holiday weekend. I have nothing scheduled, and am free to utilize it for productive purposes to get caught up with myself. This is something I’ve been in desperate need of, since the hours my current job had me working up until the start of this month have been taking up the majority of my time and leaving me too mentally exhausted to use my free time productively. I’m really feeling the pressure and necessity to upgrade myself and my life to get myself to the point where I need to be, and this is where it all begins.