But before you or I judge, let's think about that, really. I busted my hump all through school, K through 12, to get good grades, good test scores, and the resultant good scholarships. My family made it very clear to me that college was not in the budget, no matter how hard they tried, so it was loans and debt or full-ride academics for me. I continued to run myself ragged in college(1) to keep those scholarships and to graduate on time after a freshman/sophomore major change that transferred almost NO credits between the two. I got an internship in New York which started a month after I graduated college, got hired straight into my associate editor position from the internship, nearly killed myself holding down that job and doing stand-up comedy, then wandered around the country just being a bohemian bastard for awhile.
When I finally stopped moving in 2006, it was the first time I had ever actually done that. I did nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be. When people ask me how I ended up working at Wal-Mart, or Kroger, that's the long form answer I'd like to be able to give them, if it were a question they were genuinely interested in knowing the full story behind. I wanted to do nothing for awhile. I wanted to do something I could train a monkey to do, so that I could wander into the quiet library stacks of my brain that had been gathering dust in all the commotion. Was I lazy? Yes, for the first time I indulged that side of me fully. I've always been what I call a "Proactive Slacker" and a "Professional Crastinator," but this was the first era in my life when I said, "You know what? I want to be a bum. A lousy stinking bum." Which isn't, of course, to say I didn't do anything at all. Just nowhere near what I had been doing.
It was a welcome reprieve from a publishing industry I was sick of, a writing career I was tired of beating my head against, a comedy career that had damn near killed me, and a corporate desk job that made fifth floor windows look very appealing(2). But sometime last year it started to wear thin. The novelty was gone, and I was starting to feel like a slug. I was putting on weight, feeling the roots start to set in, and that was never the intention. Lazy wasn't a lifestyle choice. It was just a break after 25 years of "ZOMG WORK!!1!one!"
So...January. What did I do with you?
- I lost 20 pounds. That's my 16 pound bowling ball and my big orange cat of me that isn't there anymore. My clothes fit better, my energy level is up, I've disavowed HFCS almost entirely (it's almost too prolific to completely avoid), and all in all I'm just brighter and glowier. These things have been noted by people who know nothing of my plans and progress. I call that a victory.
- I am getting back into the habit of writing. I have produced more words this month than I have outside of NaNo purposes since 2004. The blog, while still not regular by my old standards, is practically erupting by comparison to recent years. We're making this happen. And while I have not dedicated this renewed drive to write to any one singular project for the purpose of submission, I feel more and more comfortable sitting down at a keyboard again, and less and less critical of what comes out. So while I didn't technically meet my resolution of three submissions per month, I did increase my production a hundred fold. We'll call that a draw.
- I landed three job interviews, two of which went very well and will (hopefully) leave me back in a steady nine to five weekday job. Structure can only do good things for me at this point. I have to think that was part of why I was so productive in New York. There was a definitive time for everything. Except sleep. Another victory!
- I indulged my long-standing desire to teach or tutor, based on my previous experiences and the steadfast belief that I could actually do some good with someone if they were willing to give me their attention. I took on the daughter of one of my mother's friends as a student, and after one week of work she brought home her first 100 on a biology test. Ever. Her mother actually started crying when she checked the grade online and saw that. And it made me really proud for her, too, because her main problem is confidence, not intelligence, and I can see that needle starting to tick its way up as I work with her from a place of exceeding familiarity on the subject. Victory!
- I acquired a guitar and began working on building my skills and callouses back up. I remember more than I thought I would, and I'm making a dedicated effort to actually study the theory this time, not just memorize tab. I downloaded some recording software, and if the job thing comes through I'm getting a bass. Already have a drum kit. Home studio, anyone? Aww yeah. Maybe not victory yet, but definitely win.
So far, I'm on pace for an outstanding 2011. It's just a matter of carrying this momentum forward against the naysayers and the dream crushers and the people who just don't understand what it means to be genuinely driven to do things other than sleep, work, and die. I think I'm going to need more bubble gum.
1 - With the notable exception of my freshman year, when a deteriorating relationship and driving 1000 miles (not an exaggeration) almost every weekend drained my will to do anything but order pizza and sleep. Sometimes simultaneously. Sorry pizza guys I stood up at the door.
2 - Just an aside, defenestration is my favorite word in the English language.