Thursday, January 04, 2007

Remembering 2006

I've spent some time looking back and reflecting. There's nothing special about New Year's Day that makes it particularly suited for Reflection and Resolutions, other than the fact that it's a convenient mark of time passing. A more natural time for R&R would be one' s birthday, but New Year's has the questionable advantage of happening for everyone at the same time. Plus, I was busy on my birthday, whereas I had copious quantities of free time on New Year's Day. So here's a collection of my thoughts and observations looking back over my life for the past 12 months. In random order:

2006 seems like a long year in retrospect. That's unusual for me; I generally look back time passed and wonder where it went. But this year, things that I know happened last Spring seem like the distant past. Even my hike in King's Canyon in August seems like something that happened years ago. I'm not sure what accounts for the time dilation, but it strikes me as odd.

Surprisingly, I didn't miss internet access while I was hiking in King's Canyon. Then again, being way the heck away from absolutely everything is one reason I went on the trip. Also, I'm not sure what I was expecting from the trip. I went expecting something a little dramatic or life-changing, ala one of the dramatic stories you hear from Outward Bound kids. Instead I got a nice vacation with two friends. I had a great time, but the dramatic moment of revelation wasn't there. Or, if it was, it hasn't sunk in yet. I did learn a few things about myself, but I'm not sharing -- for anyone not me, it'd be a long, boring story.

A lot of things break on houses. I've spent more time than I'd like fixing things that break. Some of them are little, but some are pretty important -- like the back gate and the front door. This past Friday I got home from work to find the front door wouldn't open; the deadbolt was stuck in the closed position. Better, the thumb latch covers the screws when it's in the locked position; I couldn't even take it apart to fix it without some complication. And this sort of thing happens All The Time around the house. I understand it happens in everyone's house, not just mine, but that doesn't help.

I'm happier if I don't have games on my writing computer. And I'm also happier if it has internet access (and it's required for the blogging computer). So I have to stay on the computer with the games (it's the only one with web access) and hopefully develop some willpower. I don't want to totally scrap my game collection, but I need to be better about tuning out the voices when I'm trying to write. When I'm having difficult writing moments (which, honestly, are most of my writing moments), I can hear Ding Chavez, Ian Dresari, Sam Fisher, and Jaden Korr arguing with each other inside my computer case about who would be the most fun to hang out with for a while. Either they need to shut up, or I need to learn to ignore them.

I have expensive taste in toys. One of the reasons I haven't really bought much this year is that I don't want anything I can afford. I also daydream about toys for toys' sake. F'rinstance, I've spent a lot of time this year looking at the new MacBook, even though I really don't need one; the reason I want one is for writing, and all of my current computers are fine for that, even my 9-year-old Win95 laptop. The MacBook is totally unnecessary, so it's probably good I can't afford one. If I had the money, it'd be one more toy I own and don't need. Most of the rest of my dream toys are the same -- superfluous, but fun and new and shiny.

On a related note, one of my big discoveries is that lack of toys is a convenient, but false, excuse for not getting stuff done. As an example, I need to shore up our little porch deck. For a long time, my excuse was that I needed a nail gun to do the job right; the pounding required to do it with a hammer would cause more harm than good. But I had a nail gun on loan for a few weeks, and I never did fix the deck. Similarly, I have a daydream about writing in coffee shops. But even when I've got the laptop from work with me on unofficial loan, I still don't hit the coffee shop and write. I need to stop using lack of toys as an excuse for anything.

Exercise is easier in five-minute increments. And, if you really think about it, you don't work any particular muscle group longer than that most of the time anyway. It's not as beneficial as a full real workout, but it's not bad. And it's so easy to do a five-minute workout. I'm likely to spend a month not working out because I don't have a whole hour to devote to it, but it takes about as much time to do a five-minute workout as it does to rationalize not working out. And, since it's so short the prep time is zero. You can do a five-minute workout in whatever you're wearing, wherever you are. Jumping jacks, push-ups, isometrics, whatever. Maybe I should write a book about this. All I need is a quack doctor or exercise physiologist to "co-author" the book and put his MD/PhD on the cover....

This year I started noticing a few early signs of aging. I'm starting to show a bit of grey hair, and it shows more in my beard. I think I need bifocals. I no longer move as fluidly as I used to. Plus, I actually said, "kids these days!" a few weeks ago, and I wasn't even trying to be ironic.

I spent a lot of my internal time this year worrying about money. It's nearly a constant with me. There are things that I'd like to spend money on (like new tires and new glasses) that I'm just not able to rationalize, and I'm reminded of it every time I bicycle-pump my tires and every time I look at something around my glasses. I'm very consciously aware of the fixed-sum nature of my personal finances; any money I spend is money I'm not using to pay off debt, and I weigh every purchase against that. The constant presence of money worries are starting to wear on me. We're doing pretty well about paying down our debt, but I've got more worrying about money in my near future. I'm thinking about getting a part-time job somewhere -- maybe signing up with the stagehands' union and taking some calls. It pays better than part-timing at Borders Books, and it's work I'm good at.

Being married is a lot of fun. It's gotten more fun as I've gotten better at it, and I adore the Cute Blonde Girl. I like a lot of the little routines of our life together. I enjoy making latte for us every morning. I enjoy the fact that we set the alarm at least fifteen minutes early every morning so we have time to snuggle and cuddle before we begin our day. I'm glad I have someone I can talk to about nearly everything in the world, someone who will always give me her honest opinion. I like that she gives me another pair of eyes, through which I can see a different version of the world than my own.

Looking back, I really didn't see many movies this year. There was a time when I saw a movie or two every weekend, but that time is long past. I'm trying to do a mental count of first-run movies I saw in the theater, and I don't think I averaged a movie per month; I can only name nine movies I saw on the big screen. I still watch trailers and say to myself, "I gotta see that!", but usually when opening weekend comes my interest level doesn't outweigh my to-do list and my schedule. This might be the first year that I didn't see any movies by myself; they were all social occasions. I also didn't watch much television. In January we watched season one of 24, and I've seen probably a total of a season of Smallville on DVD (we own all five). Add in another few episodes of a few other shows on DVD, and I'm averaging less than an hour of television a week. And I'm really not missing it.

I enjoy being good at what I do. And I like my job. I know a lot of people who don't like their jobs. And, I've had jobs I didn't like; right before I quit working for The Church, I was routinely showing up half an hour late because it was so much mental effort to drag myself to the job (plus, it was the kind of job where I could get away with extreme regular tardiness). But now, working for the Arts Council at the Artsgarden, I have a lot of fun at work. And I like the people I work with, both my coworkers and the whole host of performers and professionals I deal with. The past year held a bunch of projects that expanded my skill set and my comfort zones; working with the ESPN guys for the Final Four last year was highly educational and exposed me to a different side of techie work than I had seen before. I did some big projects, and I worked with a lot of new musicians and performers. The fact that I like what I do for money really helps balance my life. I'm thankful for it.

I just counted -- I wrote around 87,000 words here on Jeff's Random Thoughts in 2006. That's a lot of text. I know it pales in comparison to the output of a professional writer, but it's basically an entire novel worth of words, all in the form of online text. I find that somewhat gratifying. And it means that actually finishing a novel is within the realm of possibility.

That sums up most of my reflections on the past year. Disjointed, but true.

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