Building A Better 2014 and Beyond

I’m not normally big on New Year’s Resolutions. Partly because like most people, I don’t tend to follow through on them but also because I always found it odd that there was one specific time of year where we should focus on self-improvement. It should normally be something you just strive for all year, right? At the same time, the transition to a new year sort of gives an opportunity for a clean break, a time where you can draw a line and say “Everything else is behind me, time to move forward.” This post is late into January because frankly, I still hadn’t planned to do any resolutions this year. However, after a lot of internal reflection in recent weeks, I’ve changed my mind.

2013 ended up being a lot more mentally challenging for me than I thought. Some good things happened, chief among them my girlfriend and I bought a house, a great one that we love and got a bit of a deal on to boot. Unfortunately, most of that good stuff was overshadowed. Work was stressful and not in the every day kind of stressful. My employer had some serious problems that had me fearing for my job for a while (the staff were recently chastised for discussing too much inside baseball online which is bad juju when you’re a public company so I’ll leave it at that) and I really began to feel like I was stuck in neutral there and questioning whether it really had a future for me. Worse still, it was a year full of unexpected deaths. We suddenly lost Ryan Davis last Summer, something that hit me like a ton of bricks, despite having never had the pleasure of meeting him. We lost Hilden from DGRadio, a podcast I’d given up on some time ago but which still hurt a lot. Last but not least, we lost Nick Keiser from Gamers With Jobs to the monster that is cancer. Nick was a delightful person and a shining example of what a Goodjer can be and he exemplified everything that was and continues to be amazing about that community. I still miss them all dearly and just bringing them up here is hard.

Come Christmas time, I was a bit of a mental wreck. I’ve suffered from depression for years and though it finally felt like I was starting to get it under control in 2013, circumstances tried their damnedest to derail that. I hit mental rock bottom in 2010, to the point where I was really questioning if it was worth trying any more and though things had been improving since then, it was and continues to be a constant struggle. By Christmas, I was burned out which wasn’t helping. I hadn’t had any time off work since the Summer and was tired and cranky pretty much all the time. I seriously don’t know how my amazing girlfriend Sarah tolerated me and my misery as well as she did last year (and up to then for that matter) but it’s a testament to how wonderful a woman she is and why I love her so much. My Christmas break gave me a much needed chance to just relax and recharge and that alone was a big help. However, I also decided I needed to really close the door on that year and try my best to only look forward, trying not to let the sadder elements of that year drag me down, while also not forgetting them.

I thought on it a lot, I talked to my therapist about it, I talked to my friends and my girlfriend and decided that I needed to set some goals for the new year all with the aim of self-improvement not just in the immediate but building towards long-term, sustainable happiness. For the longest time, all I thought I needed was my girlfriend, financial security and enough money left over to keep myself in games. All those things are great and valuable beyond measure but I realised I need some other elements too. I always thought my brain demanded relatively simple things to be happy but I don’t think I’ve been feeding it enough and I intend to change that.

I don’t write personal posts on here very often but I figured this was the perfect venue to state my goals for 2014 and get them written down somewhere public. I can just state them to myself but I feel getting them out in the Internet ether someone makes me more accountable. Not a lot of people read this and fewer care what my goals are but if I tell them to you dear readers, I’ll feel like I’m letting people down if I don’t follow through. I can’t guarantee that all of these resolutions will see their end objectives met this year but I do intend to make a solid efforts towards attaining them all. These are wide ranging goals spanning multiple facets of my life and some are more serious and profound than others. Hell, I don’t even know if these will ultimately make me happier or more content but I need to do more than I am now so maybe a shotgun approach is the best option. So without further ado, here’s what I hope to accomplish this year:

I’ll get my weight management back under control
A little over 2 years ago, I just decided one day I wanted to stop being a 330lb fatass. My girlfriend and I started eating better and I started doing an hour of treadmill every single day. I kept it up and lost almost 80lbs of the 100lbs I aimed to lose. I felt great and was really proud of myself. Then we moved last year and that stress combined with everything else made me fall off the wagon. I started eating worse and stopped treadmilling and have put about half the weight back on. This is going to change. I’ve already made strides to eat better and while I’m not treadmilling yet, I am taking our dog for hour long walks every night which is helping. However, I need to make this routine and I need to start supplementing the dog walks with treadmill again. I’m not going to do an hour every night but I’m going to do enough to get my weight loss going again, at a slower pace this time so I won’t fall off the wagon so easily.

I’ll put a significant dent in my gaming backlog
I’ve been saying this for years but enough is enough. I’m not going to stop buying new games entirely but I’m going to focus far less on buying everything day one and I’m not touching next-gen consoles until there’s more out on them. I’ve already been going through my Games for Windows Live titles with that service potentially shutting down this year and I also intend to attack bigger backlog titles like Dragon Age and The Witcher series. I’m going to live stream a lot of this stuff. My pile is way too big to eliminate entirely this year but I’m going to kick it in the face.

I will not slack off on my YouTube efforts and will expand them
I’m not going to lie, it’s been harder to make content for my YouTube channel lately because my channel’s popularity is flat and almost non-existent and YouTube only promotes what’s already popular so it’s really hard to get noticed. But I’m not going to let that stop me any more. I’m going to keep producing content, at least one or two videos a month, I’m going to try to ramp All Together Now up again (this should happen in early February) and I’m going to either start a new series and/or do at least one longer form project for the channel this year. I’m already considering doing a Let’s Play of Chrono Trigger (which I’ve never played, a big backlog entry it is indeed) and trying my hand at a long form Retro Flashback on a lesser known computer platform. They may still get no traffic but maybe these are what the channel needs. I’m also going to be soliciting other YouTubers for advice and feedback, something I’ve been nervous about doing.
I’ve also deleted all the VLOGs I had on the channel. Not the Geek Bravado Rambles, just the actually channel update VLOGs. The reason for this is those videos were about 75% me bitching about my life at the time than providing anything useful about the channel itself. It diluted my other content and didn’t serve any purpose. When you’re a big channel, doing video updates makes more sense but not when your average video gets less than 50 views. I’ve deleted all of them both from the channel and my local storage and I won’t be doing them any more. Channel updates will come on here and on Twitter.

I will either significantly expand my IT knowledge set and/or start learning to program
One of my chief problems at work and for my career in general is stagnation. Nothing’s really moving forward and my knowledge isn’t growing. This isn’t good for me, my career or ultimately my employer. My review is coming up in a couple of weeks and I plan to heavily push the idea that I need more training and that the company should help me with that (subsidising training is a big part of the culture there.) I’ve been lucky enough to build my career up to this point almost entirely on experience, with no certifications under my belt. While I think a lot of certifications are bullshit, there is a lot of knowledge that comes with attaining them and I need some of that if I’m ever going to move forward.
My employer’s current situation may render them unable to assist this year and if that’s the case, I’m going to turn my attention to learning to program, likely through local or online college courses I’ll find the money for myself. The number of times in the last year I’ve wished “there was a program to do this thing” is substantial and many a time, I’ve thought I could make something cool if I just had the core knowledge. It’s time to stop thinking about it and actually do it. My priority will be expanding my IT knowledge but if that’s not possible, I will focus on getting myself a foundation in programming. Maybe I can make developing my own application a goal for next year?

I will get my finances restructured and start saving
A good portion of this is underway already. My finances weren’t in bad shape in 2013 and given that I was inches from bankruptcy and homelessness in late 2010, it’s frankly remarkable how much better they got in only 3 years. But they still weren’t good enough. I have a lot of debt I’m still paying off from my old, failed company and while it’s only about 40% of what it was 3 years ago, it’s still hangs around my neck and I have no savings whatsoever beyond my work RRSP. I’ve already restructured the debt again so that it’s much more manageable and with my Chartered Account girlfriend’s help, I’m planning to set things up so that I’ll put the same amount into it each month until it’s paid off on a set timeline. I won’t be stressing any more about whether I’ll get any freelance work in a given month to overpay debt.
Any freelance money I do bring in will be split between two savings pools: One a personal savings goal for something big I want to buy and another that will be a rainy day fund. It may take longer to pay off my debt this way but I know when it will be gone and I’m confident that getting to keep my freelance money and disposable income from my day job will make me feel much more satisfied as a result.

I will stop being jealous and frustrated that people I know are having families
I know this one sounds weird. I’m 34 years old as I write this. Most of my friends are at the time in their lives where they are either having kids or are actively trying to. My girlfriend and I don’t really like kids and we have absolutely no interest in having any of our own. We both understand that may change some day but it certainly won’t any time soon. We have 2 cats and a dog and are quite happy with them as our pseudo-family. Being some of the only people in your circle of friends who don’t want kids is tough and it’s really hard to not feel a certain measure of jealously when seemingly everyone you know is having them. After all, their amount of free time and what they’re doing with it is changing substantially and as a result, they don’t have as much time for you. That mini human is obstructing your fun! There’s nothing wrong with that, I know there’s isn’t, I know that feeling jealous and even to a certain degree, angry about it is irrational. But brain chemistry cares not for what’s rational.

Some of the goals listed above tie into overcoming this. My girlfriend and I are very introverted people. We don’t have many friends and don’t make new ones easily and that probably plays into it. The thing is, I’m also happy being introverted. I draw energy from relaxing by myself and working on personal projects and though society still in many ways sees introverts as being “reclusive shut ins”, I don’t and I don’t see my introverted nature as unhealthy. So in the times when my friends aren’t as available because they’re tending to their families, I’m going to find things to fill that time with instead of being bitter about what is likely the happiest element of their lives. Whether it’s attacking the backlog some more, doing my training, learning to program, spending more time with my girlfriend or just taking the dog for longer walks, I’m going to find a way to fill the void, not be mad about it existing. In the end, I think not only myself but those around me will be happier for it.

I will stop being yet another asshole on the Internet
I saved this one for last (and it’s a long one) because I think it stands to have the biggest impact on my mental well being. If you’ve been following my Twitter feed (you can also see it to the right), you will notice that I’ve been posting a lot less in general the last week or so and that I’m trying to be a lot less negative. This is the beginnings of a strategy. Jeff Gerstmann said that all social media and Twitter in particular had become “a giant asshole factory” that is “ruining society.” Slightly hyperbolic perhaps but he’s also not wrong. These services have become a breeding ground for cynicism, snark, hatred and the worst elements of when humanity meets anonymity. It’s been the subject of many a discussion in the last year, particularly in the gaming space. Twitter even more so because it’s obsolete 140 character limit essentially forces snark in the name of brevity.

For the longest time, I held a similar view to TotalBiscuit, a YouTuber I respect and admire greatly but who is also legendary for being a massive asshole on social media. That being that Twitter shouldn’t be taken seriously and that nothing meaningful can be said in 140 characters. Like many other people, I essentially had another personality on Twitter, one that encompassed what I really thought but had less of a filter. Anyone who knows me personally knows I don’t conduct discourse in the way I often did there. I don’t mince words in real life but I’m also not as blunt or snarky as I was on Twitter. In fact, I often called out others for being snarky, seemingly unaware of the irony.

The snark was cathartic. It felt good to call out bullshit that I saw and state it as such in a venue where you knew people were seeing it. Just shouting what irks you into the wind simply doesn’t have the same impact as shouting it into the wind when you know it will echo into several people’s ears. The problem is that this kind of catharsis is like a drug. It feels good when you first do it but before long, you find yourself doing it more because each time doesn’t bring the same sense of relief. Eventually, you find yourself doing it not because it makes you feel better (it actually swings back and makes you feel worse) but because it’s just what you do. I’ve decided that needs to stop.

My approach to this is two pronged. Firstly, I’ve gone through the list of accounts I was following and cut about a third of them. I will probably do another pass soon and cut even more. Some of the accounts I cut were redundant (i.e. things like news sites that just report the same stories), some were people that just didn’t have anything meaningful to say and some of them were the biggest contributors to the snark echo chamber. The reason for this is simple: Out of sight, out of mind. The less of this crap I see, the less I’ll be tempted to feed back into it. It’s nothing personal against anyone I unfollowed, people should be able to post whatever they want but the reason Twitter is an asshole factory is because snark is like a virus or yawning, it’s contagious. I may replace some of these unfollowed accounts with others but any potential future follows will be heavily scrutinised first.

Secondly, I am now running anything I’m considering posting against multiple checks in my head before I do so. Previously, I just kind of blurted out a thought on Twitter whenever it occurred to me and didn’t think much of it beyond that. I never considered if what I was saying was in any way valuable. This is how all social media companies want you to be because the more stuff that’s fed into the system, the more for them to data mine but it’s not what I’m going to do any more. I think about what I want to post before I start typing and then I make myself evaluate it again before pressing Enter. This has caused me to hugely cut down how much I post and the quality of what I’m saying has gone up substantially as a result. In addition, if I see a post from someone that is either interesting or makes a good point, I just retweet it without adding my own, often snarky commentary as I inevitably did before.

I’ve decided that I should no longer have a “real life personality” and a “Twitter personality” but that both should represent who I really am. I don’t plan to start my account over or scroll back through my massive timeline and delete the stuff I think I shouldn’t have written. I plan to leave my history in place as a testament to who I used to be and what I’m endeavoring to get away from. Don’t get me wrong, I still plan to call out bullshit when I see it and this changes nothing for Geek Bravado. If I think someone should be called out for a good reason I can substantiate, I will still do it. The key thing is, it will no longer be off the cuff and without merit, it will only be done after careful consideration and when I’m confident I can back up what I’m saying. That’s how I write posts here and the time it takes me to do so gives me that added time to reflect. I’m just applying the same rules to social media.

My biggest inspiration for this is also TotalBiscuit. Earlier this month, he did a VLOG about his own New Year’s resolutions. He’s admitted that he’s “a real prick sometimes” but in the past, his commitment to curtail that never really stuck. He actually said he didn’t think it would change this year either but based on his Twitter feed since that video, he really seems to have taken that to heart. He’s posting a lot less, most of what he posts is informational and his replies to others are far fewer and much more civil. His feed is a Hell of a lot more popular than mine and he gets a ton more vitriol from it that he has to process. If he can manage it with an account that size, what excuse do I have not to be able to do the same? I think I will be a lot happier from doing this and ironically, by posting to Twitter a lot less and cutting out a lot of useless feeds, I’m not taking it as seriously as I used to, which is what I was preaching about it this whole time. We’ll see if it sticks but I’ll be honest with you, after the first day, it got real easy to just not pay attention to Twitter as much. Once I got over the hump, it really wasn’t a thing.

So there we have it, a bunch of New Year’s resolutions that I normally wouldn’t bother making at all. In the context of my life and my personality, some of these are very bold resolutions indeed but that’s kind of the point. Several elements of my life have felt stagnant for a while now and when you’re fighting depression, stagnation is one of your greatest enemies. Rather than just talking to a therapist once a month, it’s time for action. Instead of just shoving my depression to the side, it’s time to start curbstomping it in the throat. You can’t kill it but you can wound it severely enough that it has a Hell of a lot hard time standing up and getting in your face again. I plan to make it used to staring at the floor.

If you’ve been following Geek Bravado or any of my other efforts, thank you very much for doing so. It means more than I can possibly articulate and I hope you will continue to do so in the future. I have some big plans now! It remains to be seen if I can pull them all off but damn if it isn’t going to be engaging to try! I hope you have a fantastic 2014 full of prosperity and happiness and that I can maybe share in some of that too. Here’s to a great year for us all!

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3 Responses to Building A Better 2014 and Beyond

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