Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

I try to be honest with myself. I probably don’t always succeed (I almost certainly don’t): I’ve found that I am amazingly good at self-deception. But I try.

Among other things, I try to look at my life in the same evidence-based manner that I stubbornly insist is the correct way to look at the world. If I notice that I’m doing something which contradicts what I say I believe, I take a very hard look at that belief to try to figure out if it’s something I actually believe versus something I just wish I believed. Almost invariably, it turns out that the belief isn’t real and I attempt to adjust the claims I make to myself and my others based on that.

As an example, I used to claim to believe that I was an incredibly hard worker who could and would accomplish great things by the sweat of my brow and my prodigious willpower. This is clearly bollocks. I am very much a slacker. I’m not going to change the world. I’m not going to be filthy sticking rich. That’s not who I am and that’s just not my ambition. (That’s not to say I wouldn’t want someone to hand me a pile of money. But that sort of thing just isn’t important enough for me to really work at it.)

Once I realized that this idea I had of myself was false, I took a good hard look at who I actually was. As noted, I discovered that I’m a slacker. I want a simple life of leisure and comfort. I want to go in and put in an honest day’s work (and while there, work hard and well; otherwise, it’s not really “honest”) and have an evening of couch-sitting and Net surfing as my reward. I’m not trying to climb the corporate ladder. I don’t want to run out and start a company and get bought out by Google. I want my bosses to be able to depend on me, but I also want to keep a very clearly-defined line of what it is trendy to call work and life balance. And that’s who I am. And I figured it out by looking at what I actually do every day and week and year.

And once I figured out that I’m not that aggressive, ambitious person and that I don’t really want to be (because if I did, I’d be doing it), I was able to become a lot more content. I was no longer struggling against the person I wished I wanted to be. I was just being who I wanted to be. That’s a lot easier on the ol’ psyche.

Which is all a too-lengthy introduction to what I’m really writing about. Today (assuming I got the scheduled posting set up correctly) is one month after New Year’s Day. Like most cynics, I don’t make new year resolutions. I personally feel that I already fail at enough things without creating a new list of things to fail at. Moreover, I think that if there were things I could “resolve” to do, I’d already be doing them. So clearly, a new year’s resolution is a waste of time and emotional energy. They’re also arbitrarily pegged to a day that happened to be when Pope Greg decided to start counting days. So I don’t do them.

Today, though, (one month after New Year’s that it is) is also my birthday. The earth has traveled `round the sun 28 times since I was born. I figure I should mark that day somehow. I could make some Birthday Resolutions, but those suffer from the same fundamental flaw that afflict their more well-known cousins: if I were serious about them, I’d already be doing them.

So instead, in deference to the life philosophy I so poorly tried to talk about above, I’m going to do something a little different (but still, I think, in a similar vein). I want to take a look at what I’m actually doing today, decide what that says about who I am as a person and what will move me towards more happiness and contentment, and just sort of take a look at those things and try to figure out what it means to be more awesome at those things and if that’s something I’m willing to do.

Ready? Go!

I want to be well-read. And while I do want to become more familiar with the more “literary” works (from both the classic set as well as the well-regarded contemporary authors), I also intend the genre fiction that I love to be included in there. Take a look at the 2010 Hugo Nominees. From the list of written works, I’ve read 2: the novel The City & The City and the short story “Eros, Philia, Agape”. That’s just pitiful. I love speculative fiction: how am I missing these works which are almost by definition some of the best that are out there. That has to stop.

I also want to read more non-fiction. Where I’ve previously only read about string theory (thanks, Dr. Greene!) or space or maybe some math. I want to know more about the world: I need to read books about history and current events and great people and their ideas.

And I know that I want to be well-read because I’ve been doing it. I haven’t read a lot since college (I’ve read some; but not nearly as much as I did when I was living at home). But last April, I got an iPad and it’s been sort of a literary renaissance for me. I’ve been reading tons since then. I got a Kindle for Christmas and I think that will help me read even more (it’s such a pleasant reading experience!). So that’s one thing I’ll be actively working on for my 28th year: trying to make more time to read and being selective so that I read better books with my time. So far, so good.

I want to know more about what’s going on in the world. I want to know what’s happening and I want to be able to place current events into their broader context so I can understand why they’re happening. I want to be able to have my own informed opinions instead of just parroting whatever Influential Person of the Day says.

To that end, I’ve found myself adding current policy books into my non-fiction reading list. Books from liberal thinkers and conservative thinkers, economists and politicians and historians, and whatever I run across that I think will elucidate things. I’ve also started reading more news (and, with Calibre’s help, trying to read the entire NYT on my Kindle every few days or so) from various sources and trying to stay in touch with what the professional bloggers are saying about it.

With the amount of reading I want to do, I’ve already exhausted all of my free time. But there are even more things that are important to me, so I press on.

I want to write shippable Mac apps. I do a solid bit of programming at work, but it’s enterprise software. No one’s going to make real emotional connections with the stuff I work on. And I’m okay with that: it’s still reasonably important stuff that’s a small part in making the world better. But no one’s going to ever feel the same way about it that I feel about, say, MarsEdit (which I’m using to compose this very entry).

I might never actually release any software (indeed, I have no plans to), but I want to create something that I at least find useful. So far, though, I’ve got a folder filled with Xcode projects of a general idea but nothing usable. I think I might start to move beyond that this year, though. I’ve already got a couple of projects which I think actually have a good chance of holding my interest. We’ll see. But I have good hopes. (But of course: even if I start a hundred little magpie projects, I’m going to count it as a win as long as I’m having fun.)

I want to write. Note that I don’t say “I want to write well”, because I know for a fact that that takes years of hard work that I clearly have no interest in. But, at this point, I think it’s obvious that I want to spew words onto the Internet. Since mid-last-year, I’ve written reviews for the books that I read (you may have seen them on this very blog!). I’ve also been trying to write blogs more. Though I admit that one post every couple of months is hardly regular blogging, I’ve been writing far more than I used to. I hope to continue that trend if not increase it a bit.

And I think that’s all I have time for. I’m also looking forward to playing a few video games this year (BioWare is going to steal a lot of my leisure hours), but I don’t think that that says anything about me as a person. I don’t think video games drive me in any way: they’re just something fun to kill time. Same with TV shows (which I watch a lot of with my partner) and movies. As far as this blog post goes, I think I’m in the Goldilocks zone for how much time I spend on games. So there’s not a lot to say about these topics.

But what I’ve already listed threatens to take up all my free time. And the nice thing is that failure is defined as “only reading the Sunday NYT” or “reading 45 books instead of 50”.

I wish my other failures could be so rewarding!

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