Thursday, January 19, 2012

Facing 40

Well, it’s happened. I have turned 40. It has not been especially traumatic. It doesn’t really feel different. It is a reminder that time is passing, though, and that nothing has really changed significantly.

Back in the days when I was working at Intel, I remember thinking that if nothing had happened in terms of becoming a professional writer or getting married and having children by 40, then I would need to reevaluate, and maybe I would need to think about becoming a foster parent, or going into politics, or going back to school to become a teacher. I have still not ruled any of these things out permanently, but I am not changing making any of those changes right now. Instead I have set some long-term goals for things I would like to do when I am 50, so that I have a plan to guide me through the next decade.

It started with the thought that I would like to do a triathlon when I am 50. Now, setting a goal for that far off can easily be completely useless, because it’s like the procrastination is built into the goal already. That is not how this is going to work.

For me, part of it is that it will take me a while to reach that level of fitness. It would not take me a whole ten years, but it could take five. However, I don’t want to just get in shape, do an event, and then let it all go again. It’s kind of that I want to be doing a triathlon at 50 so that I know that I am entering my older years in a good way, that I might still be doing one when I am 60. It’s more about the kind of 50 year old that I want to be.

That has been part of the plan for a while now—I don’t even remember when I first decided it, but I have also put two other goals with it. One is that I will have visited all the continents, and also I will make a movie.

Obviously, for those things to happen, many things need to happen in between, and I have some ideas on that.

The travel one is the easiest, but it was originally a goal for when I was forty. As it is, I already have three continents down, so I really only need to do one new continent every three years, and then go to Antarctica when I am 50. Of course, that’s the one that’s melting, so I may just have to do that one sooner. Julie and Maria want to go on safari for their 40th anyway, which is 2017, so that will get Africa. The first one will probably be South America, and then Asia sometime after Africa. Travel fits well into my normal mode of life.

(Yes, I will do some more things in Europe and North America, even though I have already been there. Repeats in Australia are less likely, but not impossible.)

For making the movie, the first thing that happens is that I need to catch up in writing. That means catching up on all my pending blog posts (this would be easier if I quit coming up with new ones, but that’s not going to happen) and writing two more screenplays so that I do actually have nine of my own. Also, I need to rewrite the existing ones, adding more detail. I tend to write with very Spartan descriptions, because then the director can fill in their own looks, but sometimes it is more appealing if you give them some description. They’ll make the changes they want anyway. This process can take us much as two years, and it is all fine.

Afterwards, I will need to start filming things in different lights, indoors, outdoors, daytime, nighttime, human, animal, athletic, dance, panoramic, microscopic and so on, just to really develop a good working idea of how to capture the look that I want. World traveling will not hurt those efforts. I will also want to work on some film editing. I think a lot of this will come down to music videos. I can do tribute videos on Youtube with film or television clips, and shoot music videos for local bands.

This should give way to doing short pieces—maybe some stuff for funnyordie, or I could make my own Youtube channel. I have thought it would be good to do some demo videos for emergency preparedness. Anyway, this is how I will build know-how. I hope to be pretty competent with filming and editing within six years.

The other thing I should probably take some time to do prior to that is maybe taking a month or two and writing a bunch of six page scripts. There is a regularly running contest for 6-minute films, and a lot of people like doing films to show their ability to do special effects, but they are not writers, so I could have an opportunity to make some connections and be helpful there.

Certainly there are opportunities for networking, and maybe seeing if I can get some jobs or do some volunteer work locally on the independent scene, or even with some of the professional shows that film around here, but then it will also be time to start planning. I will need to pick a script, scout out locations, and get all those things ready. If I go super fast, maybe I can film it when I am 49 and then spend 50 entering it into film festivals.

Finally, what about that triathlon? Well, this is not an ambitious beginning, but the first thing I need to work on is sleep. I do not have good sleep habits, and that affects my eating and exercising and focus.

On the activity side, I have prepaid for four fencing lessons this year, and I want to bike to work at least five times this year. Not terribly ambitious, I know, but I am taking a slow approach. Also, if Forest Park has that thing for covering all the trails, I want to do that. I found out about it too late last year.

Other steps along the road will include taking swimming lessons, because I can paddle around okay, but I have no form, and that will make a big difference, and building up my endurance for all three events. I have been okay at swimming and biking before. I have never been anything but horrible at running, but I am a good walker, and I will start adding small runs to the ends of my walks, and as I start feeling more confident I will probably take a clinic. The good thing is I know a lot of runners, and I am fond of Foot Traffic, and there is just a lot of help for runners out there.

You may notice that I have no intellectual or spiritual goals there, but I find that those work better in the short term. I would not have any idea how to make a goal for my spiritual self for ten years from now that I would not think that I should get done sooner. I’m not worried about that.

Obviously, even these three goals could change, as unpredictable as life is, but I know they are okay, because they are things that I want to do, and that I will enjoy, and that will keep life interesting for the next decade.

Basically, I just intend to be awesome.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

End of the Year Clearance! Everything Must Go!

Okay, not really everything, but compatible desires for less stuff and more money have had me posting lots of things on Craig’s List.

It started around Christmas time. Julie got the idea that maybe we could sell things to pay for our principle excursions in Mexico. The big ones are that we have a tour guide who will take us to Chichen Itza and Tulum (that will be $165 each) and then our admissions to Xcaret Ecological Park will be about $71 each if we buy online.

Now, that does seem like a lot of money to hope for, but we have a lot of stuff, and Julie and Maria were mainly looking at getting rid of some Disney things. There were two Pooh Cookie Jars, a Cinderella snow globe, and a Wedgewood Cinderella figure.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but they are all collectible items, and have been marked by others at fairly high prices. The problem with collectibles is that you have to find someone who wants them. I got lucky a few years ago, and I found someone who came and took a set of Pooh snow globes and several ornaments without haggling. I was hoping she would see these, but maybe she went out of business.

Our timing was somewhat off. I think we should have gotten them posted a full week before Christmas, but it is a busy time of year and we didn’t. The week went buy, and the only thing that went were Julie’s spare Medifast items (those things are gold!). We just posted again.

I added some items of my own. There are two more sets of ornaments, a set of Pooh mini-snow globes, portable keyboard, and a food sealer.

Mainly they are things that are collecting dust now, and we could use money, so there are very practical issues there, but there is also an element of letting some things go, and letting other things stay.

I honestly wish I had never bought any figurine in my life. Once you have them, and have spent money on them, getting rid of them feels like a waste, but keeping them isn’t necessarily rewarding. (I’m not even trying to sell the Cherished Teddies, but if I thought anyone would pay for them…)

Also, sometimes it is letting go of plans, but maybe they weren’t good plans. The food sealer was for food storage, and especially for packing up pet food for pet 72 hour kits. I have never opened it. We still have a respectable food storage, and that’s growing. I don’t have great pet kits, but I can do what I want with Ziplock bags and duct tape. I didn’t need to be so complicated.

The keyboard is awesome. It is a Yamaha PSS-140. I know the Casio SK-1 had better name recognition, and that was actually what Danielle started with when we started the band (such as it was) and it seemed like a wise choice. Later though, when I felt like I needed my own keyboard, I had to go for the Yamaha. I think it was the drum pad that really won me over, and of course it was bigger.

I do feel like I will go back to music some day, and start writing music again, and this time I will somehow get down actually being able to pick out the notes, rather than just having to remember them in my head (or use that cool software like in Drumline). However, I think I will stick with the piano. I like the texture and the resistance with the piano better, despite my fondness for the sample rhythm on the Yamaha. The keyboard is fun, but I don’t need it.

With the Disney stuff, a lot of it was more, oh, that is cute, and I have disposable income, which is why you make small children save half of their disposable income and train them against impulse buys when they are young. Otherwise just being able to buy things is kind of intoxicating when it happens, and it’s not awful, but it’s not valuable either.

Some of them had plans. The Wedgewood figure was going to be the topper on Maria’s wedding cake. I’m not saying she will never get married, but she may not need Cinderella on top. They may not end up with separate households requiring cookie jars. We have so much junk like that. I did accumulate a hope chest, and most of the items have either come into use here, or been given as gifts, or been given away. We are now using Julie’s china set, and Maria’s bathroom set. Really, just save cash. Even if your circumstances change, by the time they do, your tastes may have changed also.

So we will see. If they don’t go as marked, we may try eBay or Amazon marketplace. They don’t need to go, and we will still do what we want on our trip if they don’t sell, but it would be nice.

Let me know if you want anything!

Sunday, January 08, 2012


This is the flip side of “Loser”. Without ever getting an amazing lucky break or windfall, I am nonetheless having a pretty good life, and that takes a certain amount of intention and follow-through, and it is completely okay not to have the big break. However, is it enough?

This is not so much a matter of whether or not I need more to get by. I would like to have a bigger travel budget, but I can live with it. The question is whether I should have more.

It’s not like I have never asked the question before. I remember when I bought the house thinking that it was my first real milestone since I had graduated from college. Without getting married and having children (which I am not even going to touch in this post, but there is a multi-part series coming up), not a lot necessarily happens. I went on a mission, graduated from college, got a job, and just worked, eventually buying the house.

Sometimes I would catch up with schoolmates and they would be impressed that I worked at Intel, but I would downplay it, because it was not really a prestigious job, or a loved job, just a normal job that I was good at, and that paid okay, and for which my education was completely unnecessary. I never climbed the corporate ladder, with Intel or CDI, and I didn’t really want to. Now I have to think about whether I want to do that at Regence.

To be fair, one thing that helped me stay content at previous jobs is that I got to try a lot of new things, being creative and taking new responsibilities, so it kept me stimulated. This tended not to result in an increase in pay or a change in job title. That possibly could have been different if I had pushed a little more. I turned down some options because I didn’t think I would enjoy them, and I accepted one job change not because I wanted it, but because I knew anyone else doing it would be disastrous. I took the job because it was going to be less annoying than having to deal with someone else in the job.

I know there will be people who find that completely pathetic, and now approaching forty without much to show for it, they may be right, but then I go back to having mostly enjoyed my life, which not everyone can say.

When I went to Italy and met my family there, I wanted to make sure I could communicate, so I decided I would ask everyone about their jobs and how they met their significant others. Those seemed like reasonable questions, where I could listen and get to know them.

No one had much to say about their jobs. They had jobs, and they told me what they did, but it was so utterly unimportant to them. They talked more about their personal lives—their families, trips they had taken, things they enjoyed doing—that was what mattered. I kind of like that.

At the same time, I do have a really good brain, and I don’t want to waste it, and my real strength is language and I am not using it for my career at all. I think you see my quandary. Of course, part of what got me here was that my plan was always to work with language. I was going to write.

Around the time I started college I read a column by William Raspberry advising his niece (who wanted to be a journalist) not to major in English. Instead she should study the world and then she would have something to write about. That sounded very logical. After all, the popular writers then were Michael Crichton (who went to medical school), John Grisham (law school).

Also, it corresponded with my own desires. The classes that interested me were foreign language and history, but those worked. Studying other languages enriches your grasp of English, and studying history is studying everything—science, psychology, sociology—everything that happens for any reason comes into play in history. Also, I had no desire to take English classes, because the first year or two is graduate students trying to make you write like them, and who needs that?

So that was all very logically planned, and enjoyable, and the only real problem is that I am still not a professional writer. I have written one novel, one children’s book, and six screenplays on my own, plus collaborated on another one, and developed a pilot for a television series, and I have made $0. It’s times like this when you need to reevaluate a dream.

I have thought about other ways of doing it. I could try and go in for technical writing more, as I have actually done some as part of my other duties. They usually want certification, but that’s doable. I could set up a freelance writing business, and that is probably something I could do well at after spending some time building up a clientele. The only problem is that those plans generate no enthusiasm for me.

I hate selling myself. It’s bad enough having to pitch screenplays and write query letters—trying to get people to let me write their ad copy is not going to happen. Getting into technical writing would be easier, but it wouldn’t be a real step up from what I am doing now, and any of those efforts would take away from my already scarce time.

It seems like I need to stay as I am. In one sense I am viewing every job as a temporary job, until I can support myself as a writer, but that is only horrible if the jobs are horrible, and none of them really have been. Even as dysfunctional as the last one was, I was so deeply into it that I didn’t see it. (Also, it was a lot more functional while I was there.)

That was one thing, where I was having this slow realization that a lot of my obstacles were disappearing. The job that took so much out of me was gone, the draining writing project was finished, and the ward that took so much out of me was gone (more on that later too). I had a good visiting teaching companion and route, and Mom’s knees were done, and I was thinking, okay, maybe it is time to really make some progress on things I want to do, and then I got really sick.

Now I am healthy again, but moving into the time of year when overtime is encouraged. That doesn’t last long, and who knows, maybe the house will burn down, or—no, I don’t even want to put any of those things out there. In the eleven months that I was unemployed, I had flu, there was severe weather, people died, I was depressed and financial and emotional strain of the unemployment led to family stress, and I wrote four and a half of those screenplays. There’s always going to be something hard, but it doesn’t prevent progress from being made.

Ultimately, I still have to be writing, because I am not right in my head if I don’t. Characters and situations get in, and I keep replaying things over and over until I get them written out, and then they move on. It’s the same with the blog and the journaling—nothing really gets resolved until I have written about it, and I have about 35 blog posts that I know I need to do, plus at least one journal session, not even counting the fiction. Do you know that the soap opera is a dying genre, and yet I still have two going around in my head (one inspired by Jaws 2).

I’m afraid I’m not terribly impressive, but I am me, doing things my way, and I was never going to pull off anything else.