I had decided that I wasn’t going to do these after a year, but since I’m still committed to the changes I made a little over a year ago, and I need to post something today, to keep the chain unbroken, I’m going to check in and see how I’m doing. I haven’t actually thought about these things until now, so when I give myself a grade today, it’ll be an honest grade, based on where I am right now.
If this is your first time hearing about the reboot, here’s what you need to know:
Just about one year ago, I took an honest look at myself and I didn’t like what I saw. I needed to reset a lot of habits, make some significant changes to the way I approached just about everything in my life, and keep working at it, even when it was hard.
I can’t even believe that it’s already been a year, and that it’s only been a year, because time feels like that when you’re 44, I guess.
Here are the things I decided to address:
- Drink less beer.
- Read more (and Reddit does not count as reading).
- Write more.
- Watch more movies.
- Get better sleep.
- Eat better food.
- Exercise more.
Every month, I wrote a post that looked into each of those things I decided to change, and examined how I was doing with them. That was a helpful part of the exercise, because it made me look at myself and my choices honestly and fearlessly. At times, it motivated me to work harder, and at other times it encouraged me by making me realize that I was doing better than I thought.
This time around, since I haven’t done a public check-in since October, I’m going to give myself two grades on each point. One will be the overall since last time, and one will be for January. Here we go.
Drink Less Beer – Well, I’ve gone a full calendar year without having any booze at all, so I think I get an A+ on this one, and I can take it off the list going forward, though I don’t plan to start drinking again. In the year since I quit drinking, I got a lot of clarity in my life. I got a lot done, and I accomplished a lot of stuff, personally and creatively. It was a big change that wasn’t always easy, because I really like good craft beer and fancy whisky. But I definitely liked it too much at times, and it was making me gain weight, slowing down, and it gave me a soft escape from the frustrations and difficulties of reality a little too often. Cutting alcohol out of my life hasn’t magically given me all the things I have wanted for years. I haven’t had a sudden explosion in acting work, and I actually worked less as an actor in 2016 than I did in 2015. (It’s interesting to me that the first place my mind goes when I think about this is how much I’ve struggled to get on-camera work, or even the opportunity to audition for on-camera work.) But! I’m healthy. I have better mental health than I did a year ago. I have better relationships with my friends, who I see more often. I am a better husband and partner to Anne. I’m not pouring away evenings, feeling sorry for myself. I’m in good shape and some random lady even thought I was attractive the other day, so there.
I haven’t finished the all the books I want to finish, but I’m getting there. I haven’t gotten the on-camera jobs I wanted. I haven’t solved the Hollywood puzzle, and maybe I never will. But I have sort of regained control of my life in a way I didn’t even know I needed to. I have to remember that it’s okay, and it’s normal, to feel the bad things and the sad things, and that it’s also okay to feel proud of myself for making this change and sticking with it. Grade: A+/A+
Read More – I made it a goal to read 30 books in 2016, and I barely got there, by finishing a Kindle Single on New Year’s Eve. I could have counted magazines, and made it to 30 by the end of March, but that would have been cheating. The whole point of reading more was to expand my intellectual world, to find artistic inspiration as a writer and an actor (and it feels really stupid to say “as an actor” because I don’t think I’ve worked on-camera as an actor in close to a year, so I don’t feel like one). That was a total success. I mostly read fiction, but I also read some non-fiction, including a lot of books that have helped me grow as a writer. I have learned a lot about structure and how to break a story. I’ve read novels and short stories that inspired me to create my own works of narrative fiction. I’m making a decision almost every day to invest time in feeding my brain (that Tyrion Lannister quote about books and swords and whetstones comes to mind) and at this point, if I were to read more books, I wouldn’t have a lot of time for much else. So this is becoming a maintenance thing, going forward. I can probably take it off the list, or at least change the wording. At the moment, I’m reading two books, and listening to a third. Grade: A/A
Write More – I finished the puke draft of a short story that may technically qualify as a novella, and I’m in the last 10-15K words of a short story that turned into a novella that decided to become a novel. As I say whenever I mention that one (which I’ve given the working title “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything”), I don’t know if it all holds together, but even if it doesn’t, I can break it up into a few different short stories, and the very best part of the entire experience in writing it has been gaining the confidence to just write what’s in my head without judgement. I’m getting better at telling stories, and I’m getting better as listening to the characters who are in them. I’m starting to think about how I’m going to publish these things. Am I going to self-publish? Will I try to pitch a publisher? I don’t know, though I’m leaning toward self-publishing. But that’s a bridge that I can’t even see right now, much less think about crossing. Since October, I get an A. Currently, even though I’ve been writing in my blog daily for almost two straight months, I’m only giving myself a C+, because every day I look at the rewrite that I need to finish, and come up with some excuse to not do it.
Watch More Movies – Again, the wording needs to change on this one, or maybe it needs to come off the list, because I think it’s done its work for me. I’m watching, on average, three movies a week, and at least that many episodes of long-form narrative television that isn’t escapist fun. So if I was going to watch more, I’m in the same problem as I would be with writing. Just like reading, the goal here was to get inspired, and find my way back to the Art. Did I ever write about the day I realized I was unhappy all the time because I needed to find my way back to the Art? I feel like I did, but now I’m not sure. Oh, yes, I did: I took this whole year off from a lot of work so I could be a writer. I was depressed and unfulfilled and unhappy and sad, all the time, because I felt like I’d spent years doing other people’s work. I’d lost my way, creatively, and I know this sounds wanky but it’s true: I needed to find my way back to The Art. I needed to write stories and tell stories and finish stories. I needed to grow as a writer so I had the confidence to start a thing, and keep going when it got tough. I needed to develop the discipline to put down words without judgement and go back to fix things later. I needed to be the Writer that I was telling people I was, before I got distracted three years ago and didn’t write every day. I needed to do something to express myself creatively because I want to be a writer when I grow up. I need to honor the very good writers who I know and love and respect who tell me that I am a good writer, and that I need to write more. So that’s in the context of writing, and I wrote basically the same thing about watching movies, so that’s obviously something that’s been weighing on my mind for a long time. It was working in October, but I’m not sure it’s working now. Maybe it’s my stupid Depression Brain, but when I watch a movie I love right now, more often than not, I don’t think “Wow, I sure would love to do something like this!” What I actually think and feel is, “Well, I’ll never get a chance to do something like this, and I better figure out a way to get okay with that before it kills me.” So I’m watching more movies, and a wide diversity of movies, and I’m also watching some truly wonderful television, but I don’t feel like this is a thing that I need to do any more. I think the new goal will be something like, “Get offline and work on something you’re proud of. Don’t waste time paying attention to garbage that doesn’t matter.” Grade: B/A
Get Better Sleep – Last time I looked at this, my brain was giving me nightmares and not letting me sleep for more than a couple hours at a time. Since last time, it’s been basically the same. I’m not remembering most of my dreams, but I am waking up with vague memories of them being bad. It’s nearly impossible for me to fall asleep before midnight, and when I do, I wake up at 2am for at least an hour. I have no idea what this is about. I have tried everything from only having caffeine in the morning, exercising myself nearly to exhaustion, meditation, every kind of calming, relaxing tea you can imagine, pure CBD sublingual oil, and over the counter sleep things. The OTC stuff sucks and makes me feel awful. I’m not even going to consider things like Ambien, because this is more of an inconvenience, than something that’s affecting my quality of life in a way that I think justifies something like that. The CBD actually helps about half of the time, without any icky side effects, and I may look into something a little stronger in that area. Teas don’t seem to help, but I still like them a lot. The Kava Calm and Bedtime teas from Yogi Tea are great, and probably work for someone who doesn’t have a totally broken brain like I do. Maybe it’s just my lot in life to sleep for a little over 8 hours, starting at 1am, and feel like a groggy bucket of shit for an hour every morning. I realize this is a stupid artist problem that people who work for a living will have no sympathy for, and I respect that. Like I said in October, I’m doing what I can do so that I can get better sleep, and my asshole brain just isn’t getting on board with the program. So I think I’m going to give myself a C since October, and grade myself on a curve to C+ for this month. I’m trying my best, and that’s all I can do, right?
Eat Better Food – If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been cooking almost every night. Anne and I got Blue Apron, and we like it. I’d give it 3 out of 5, but that’s a whole post of its own. So we are making good food, healthy food. But since December, I have developed a massive sweet tooth for real Cadbury Milk Chocolate, and I’m drinking sodas like twice a week. I’ve replaced homebrewing with breadmaking, which is really cool and satisfying, but is mmmmmmaybe leading to me eating more bread than I probably should. My weight hasn’t suffered that much, though I have gone back to 156-158 from the 154-155 I’d worked so hard to maintain. My scale says my body fat percentage has increased from 17.9 to 18.2. I’m sure that the added sugar in my diet is a big part of that. But here’s the thing: even though I apparently have this new vice in my life (the highest quality chocolate I can find and afford) and I eat ice cream almost every night, I’m staying within my in/out calorie goals, and for fuck’s sake, world, I’m not going to deny myself everything that I like just for the sake of achieving this number on a scale. I feel good in my skin (most of the time), I’m able to run almost as much as I want to, I have to go get all my suits tailored because I’ve lost two inches off my waist since I got them eighteen months ago … it’s like, it’s fine. If I’m going to have one thing in my life that isn’t totally good for me, I’m okay with it being this. Still, grades: B overall since October, even counting for the holidays, and a C for this month. I know that I can do better here, but I honestly just don’t care that much right now. I have other things to hate myself about. Maybe I’m a little defensive about this, now that I read it again.
Exercise More – Oh, Wil. You were doing so well. Maybe it’s the cold and dark of winter. Maybe it’s related to all the stress from the holidays. Maybe it’s something entirely different. All I know is that I went from looking forward to running daily to making myself run at least three days a week to maybe running once a week to trying to run and oh fuck me my goddamn knee and hip hurt again. Still, when I do run, I’m almost able to run for 30 minutes without stopping. I’m getting my 5K time close to 30 minutes, and I know that I could get under 30 if I were in an actual race. I have a lot of dumb aches that are probably the result of the extra sugar in my diet and the reduction of exercise at the same time. So this is going to stay on the list, and I’m going to be honest with myself: I can do better. I need to do better. I will do better. Even if it’s just walking, even if it’s just fifteen minutes to go around a few blocks, it’s something that I can find the time to do. And it’s a good excuse to listen to a podcast, or some more of my current audiobook. Grade since October: D. Grade this month: C.
I’m not looking forward to scoring the whole grade here, but working out the average, I see that I get:
Quarterly Grade: 22 points out of a possible 28 for, like … I guess it’s a C
January(ish) Grade: 22 points out of a possible 28. That’s going to be a C, also. Weird how that averaged out. Maybe I actually feel like 22 out of 28 at this moment in time, and I subconsciously gave myself grades that get there? I don’t know. This version of the timeline is really fucked up and about to get a whole lot worse.
Maybe I’m being tougher on myself than I should, because today my self esteem is garbage and my Depression brain is having a field day with that. But this is down from 36 points last time. I think I need to meet with my advisor and consider some tutoring, or maybe adjusting my class load for this semester.