This Has Been: January 2014

This month has been my first of the “real world”? There’s a question mark there because I’m not even sure I know what that means. Am I a part of the real world now just because I’m done with school assignments? That doesn’t seem right? What world was I in before? Nevermind that though, we can leave the philosophic musings for another time.

Some highlights from January include:

Going Snowboarding for the first time in a few years. I never got a chance to go while I was at school in Chicago (the midwest is far too flat), but I finally got a chance to go to the mountains down here in SoCal. I’m excited to go again and for the many other adventures that are sure to come.

Started to write a DONE list in the evenings, reminding me of the things I did get done instead of beating myself up over procrastination.

Brought my scooter in for a tune up. Not sure that this is really a huge high point, but my scooter is cleaner and runs better now than it has for the last few months, so I’m pretty happy with that.

Got back to blogging. One of my new years resolutions is to get back into the habit of blogging (more on my new years goals in my one little word post, here).

Came up with a routine to start following and have been tweaking it and reorganizing it ever since.

Lot’s of reading! Ton’s of TV! I’m still reading some of the stuff books I got for Christmas and I’m searching for new books almost every day on my Kindle. Gotta keep my eye out for those deals.

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Overall it’s been a weird month. I struggled a lot this month with not having a schedule and the same structure that I’ve been so used to for the past 16+ years of my life, but I think I’ve figured out a way to rebuild that structure and am getting to a better place for it.

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Characters Don’t

I’m always amazed when I read books and watch television at the grand scope of the lives of the characters that I become entranced with. Tally Youngblood stops a war and causes the mind rain in the Uglies Series. Joan and Sherlock of Elementary spend their time detonating small bombs and putting away bad guys.

When I put my kindle down and turn off the TV the only thing that awaits me is a pile of dirty dishes and a message from a friend asking if I want to hang out later. What will be my grand moment? Graduating college? Seems a bit trite compared to solving crime or saving the world.

The only times we ever see characters in fiction doing the normal, boring, everyday chores we are constantly bogged down by is at the very beginning or end of scenes. Before or after the more important and vital portions of the story are mentioned.

Just for today, let’s take a moment to imagine them being done by the main characters from some favorite TV shows.

Leslie Knope looking for a parking space.
Alicia Floric washing dirty dishes.
Abed Nadir taking out the trash.
Patrick Jane going to the grocery store.
The Doctor checking the mail.
Will MacAvoy watering plants.
Any of the Downton Abbey characters watching TV.

These people’s lives seem richer and fuller than ours, simply because they’ve cut these parts out. I’m not saying that we should change the way these things are made. More that we should imagine our lives with all these parts cut out. Yes, we have to dust the furniture, and cook meals for ourselves, but if our lives were as fantastical as those of the character we love? We would still have to do those things, we would only be so much more focused on the fun, romantic, or adventurous portions of our lives that we wouldn’t even notice the mundane background tasks.

 

Start with the Minimum

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I’m a bit of an overachiever.  As a kid I would always want to do more than was actually required.  Read the optional summer reading books. Climb to the highest point in the tree. And when I got math problems wrong or I couldn’t find the right puzzle piece I would get frustrated and give up the whole endeavor. I can’t tell you how often doing homework resulted in tears.

But even when I was only able to do the minimum, I was always surprised by often just the minimum was enough.  By just showing up on time and having read the assignment I managed grades I was happy with.

This isn’t to say that school was always easy, or that I expect that life will be the same way.  But I think that this is part of why I’m psyching myself out over finding a job.  I’m trying to overachieve, but I don’t even know what the minimum is yet.

So this week I’m starting with the minimum, and we’ll see where that gets me.

Future-Tripping

Future-Tripping (verb) : Daydreaming about what the future will look like when one achieves all personal and professional goals (i.e. getting the dream job, finding the perfect spouse, taking the best vacation ever). See also: waste of time.

This term is one that a friend of mine introduced to me about a year ago. At the time I was dreaming about what it was like to be done with school. What it would be like to be able to find a job that will set me up for a career I want. Always thinking “Someday” and getting lost in “One day”.

It’s not that future-tripping isn’t fun. It’s nice to imagine a day when I am employed. When I can support myself and finally feel comfortable in this city of angels. But it’s not helpful; it’s not productive.

What is productive is making small steps toward the final goal. Helpful is taking those dreams and finding a way to make them a reality. And making dreams come true? That can only be done with your feet on the ground and your mind in the game, not off in the clouds.

I’m a dreamer, yes. But I also want to be a do-er. I want to reach for my goals and meet them head-on. From now on, whenever I find myself daydreaming, future-tripping, I want to pull myself out and determine what of my daydreams can be turned into reality. I want to write down my dreams to turn them into goals. One day instead of future-tripping, I’ll be reality-tripping.

One Little Word: Planning Freedom

Like I mentioned in my last post about my word for the year, I’ve split the year into four so that I will be working on focused goals over the period of three months. I’ve already determined how I want to frame each season, even if I haven’t quite figured out all the details how these frames lead to goals.

Planning Freedom

January to March is about Planning Freedom. Not only will I be spending a lot of time in January planning my larger goals for the year and how to achieve them, but some of my goals have to do with planning as well. I’m breaking it into three main goals that I’d like to acomplish by the end of March.

Finding employment

Obviously it would be ideal if I am able to find an industry job within this time, and I am hopeful about doing so, but I’m also aware that it could take longer than this. Regardless, I would like to have some type of either full time or part time employment by March. If not an industry job, then certainly a part time job to give myself some structure while I spend more time searching.

Blog Re-Vap

This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and since I don’t have a hard schedule right now, this is an ideal time to focus on it. I want to get a new layout, either by purchasing one and installing it myself, or through a designer. I especially want to get my own domain name and transfer everything to my own .com space.

Creating and Sticking to Good Habits

Another long-time goal of mine that I’ve already started to implement. I’d like to get some sort of rhythm going that can easily be continued once I’ve found something full time. Getting up on time, incorporating exercise and movement into my week, and cleaning my apartment more regularly.

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Hopefully, by working on these thing through the coming months I’ll be able to come back at the end of March and show off a handful of successes. I’m excited to be putting these things down on paper and solidly defining what I want to work on.

What are you working on this month?

One Little Word: Free

In 2013 my word was fearless. Even though I didn’t do anything in particular to bring it out, fearless brought me to Los Angeles. It took me from whatever strange space of student, but not at school, that I was in early in the year and brought me to living on my own in a tiny apartment with a new community and the end of my academic career for the time being (no, grad school is not on the table right now).

I’m so glad for fearless. But I knew that 2014 would bring new challenges, new changes, and a new word along with it. I spent a lot of December deciding what that word would be, but in the end free chose me.

2014 is the first year where I have the complete freedom to make my life whatever I want it to be. Now that I have a degree I can start applying to jobs, instead of just internships. I have the freedom to choose what I want to do every day. I am free to explore Los Angeles. Free to plan new adventures. Free to write whatever I want without worrying about something fitting into the assigned guidelines. Free to stay or move. Free to live my life.

And this year I really want to take full advantage of free. Instead of it just being a mantra, I want to make my goals and achievements match my word for the year. To do this I’m going to be targeting specific areas for every three months.

For free, I’m framing every three months with a few targeted goals. In the end I’ll have 10-12 major goals, and setting them up every three months will give me more time to spend developing and refining each goal as I go along.

Next time I’ll be talking about my first set of goals for January to March: Planning Freedom.

Family of Hope

It has just occurred to me recently that as I plan on living here in Los Angeles for the long term, this is probably the place where I will settle down and start a family. At this point I don’t even know if that’s in the cards for me, but I certainly hope so. It’s amazing to me that this city that I am still getting familiar with could eventually be a place that I call home.

I have a million little hopes and dreams for settling down. Things like the kind of house I want to live in and the hope that immediate and extended families will get along. That we will be happy, that we will be safe. That we fight fair and that we are spontaneous and whimsical.

I hope that whoever I marry will be whimsical and adventure-some with me. I hope they will be able to treat everyone with respect even if they disagree. I hope they will be independent, because I can’t imagine putting my dreams on hold for someone else and I would never ask anyone to do the same for me. I hope he is a good man.

I know that even with the best of intentions that people are human. I know that I’ll mess up. People annoy each other and it’s only a matter of time before I’ll complicate things in my head and I’ll make some snap decision that should have been discussed before and everything will be a mess for a little while. I hope that whoever I wind up with will find a way to forgive me. I hope I will find a way to forgive him when he screws up too.

And so, a little prayer for my future spouse, my future family:

Dear Lord,
I am so excited to meet my future. I don’t know what it looks like yet, but you have everything planned out perfectly. Help me to find them. Help us to lean on each other when things are hard. Guide us though our lives so that when we meet we will be ready for each other. Help us build each other up and make each other better. To make each other more like you. Amen.

In Defense of Fanfiction

Fanfiction

I’ve mentioned in fanfiction in passing before, but I’ve never really mentioned how much I love it or why. When I first dove into procedural TV as a teenager I quickly found the fanfiction community to be a place that not only encouraged my interest in television, but also my interest in writing. The first steps I took as a writer outside of school work was entire notebooks full of bad fanfiction that never even got to the computer screen.

The fanfiction community exists only on the fringes of general public knowledge. Put simply fanfiction is stories that fans write about the characters in a favorite movie, book, or TV show. They can run the gambit from novel-length epics that imitate the story of an original work, to 100-word drabbles examining a single character or moment.

Often fanfiction is looked down on in general society and is a taboo topic for the entertainment industry. While no fanfiction writer is trying to steal the characters they are writing about (in fact many put a disclaimer on their work), some creators dislike people considering their characters in any way other than they originally intended. Outsiders sometimes see it as plagiarism or copyright infringement, but at it’s core, fanfiction is just a way for fans to express their love for a story.

Besides that, fanfiction builds friendships and community. In the same way that a group might gather based on participation in a sport or a shared interest in model boats, fanfiction creates a community of people who share love for whatever they are writing about. Writers get to know each other, encouraging each other’s work and building each other up. Friendships take root online and solidify at conferences. What starts as a shared love of Doctor Who becomes an investment in each others lives.

Lately I’ve found myself returning to fanfiction. I’m reminded that these are my roots. Fanfiction is where I started writing.  It’s how I became interested in pulling back the curtain on my favorite TV shows.  In a lot of ways, fanfiction was the first step that brought me to where I am today. And even if I never find a job in LA, if I wind up doing something else entirely, they can never take fanfiction away from me. 

The DONE List

Currently, I am unemployed and am making up my own schedule. Because I’m doing a lot of the same thing every day, it’s sometimes frustrating to get to the end of the day and not be sure how much I’ve actually accomplished.

With the start of the new year I’ve added a new ritual to my nightly routine. In the evenings before I go to bed I make a list of all the things I’ve accomplished during the day. Sometimes it’s a series of small victories. Things like doing the dishes that have been in the sink for a few days or catching up on the new season of Downton Abbey. Sometimes I’m listing big accomplishments like going for a job interview or meeting all the fitness goals on my new fitbit.

Big and small, all the day’s accomplishments are ranked equally on The DONE List. And yes, I write DONE in all caps when I write the list out in my journal underneath the morning’s entry. The list itself is a small thing, but I’ve found it to be extremely helpful to my sense of productivity.

It’s also a great record of what got done on what day. If I forget to make a not otherwise of when I sent in that application or weather I remembered to call my mom, I can check back and be reminded of when things got done. Speaking of, I should probably call my mom sometime today… Then I’ll get to put it on the list tonight.

Phrases to Live by: Get Up, Dress Up, and Show Up

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Get up, Dress up, and Show up.

I’m not even sure where I first heard this phrase. I seem to remember it from childhood, though I can’t remember my mom ever saying it to me. “Put a sweater on” when I complained of cold, yes, but not this one. I seem to have just taken it from whoever or wherever I heard it from and repeated it over and over until it became a part of my inner monologue.

Lately I’ve been seriously lacking in motivation. Since I finished school in December I’ve been filled with ideas, but all I’ve WANTED to do is sit around and watch TV. I’ve been slacking the most here. Even though we’re more than a week into the new year this is my first blog post of the year.

Looking back I remember a time when I consistently put out four blog posts a week, but now I don’t even know how to begin. It’s been so long that inertia has rocketed me into inactivity.  The unfortunate thing about inertia means that once at rest, I’m likely to stay there.

Thankfully, it only takes a little push to start building inertia in the other direction. So this is my promise to myself. Even when I’m not feeling like doing anything I’m going to get up (hopefully before 9am), dress up (even if only in yoga pants), and show up (to whatever the day has in store for me).

I have a long list of ideas of people to contact and emails to send. What I need sooner rather than later is a job. But until then get up, dress up, show up. To job applications, to exercise, to friendships, to church, to blogging.

Nothing ever happens if you don’t show up.