Under Construction

Today got off to a bit of slow start. I found out the text I’d ordered was the wrong edition (my fault for not checking on the site I ordered it from), and the one I have is seven editions behind. So I have to make due, and order the current-gen one, which, while only 10 bucks roughly after shipping, is still me spending more money (a resource I have in quite limited supply right now).

I think I’m going to stop kidding myself into thinking I can run on five hours’ sleep. Three weeks of me trying and failing have proven otherwise. I’m going to go back to the strategy I had before of using sleep cycles to determine how long I sleep, and go for a nice, rounded six hours per night. Hopefully that’ll let me get up as early as I’d like and get the most out of the day.

A close friend of mine (the person I’ve actually known the longest and still keep in contact with who isn’t family) re-added me on Facebook today. When last we spoke, I got angry at her over some interpersonal stuff, and she deleted me from FB with little in the way of why that was the last straw. When we spoke again, we cleared everything up. She suffers from social anxiety, and has a tendency to shut down and disappear when someone she cares about is really upset at her. Given the type of stuff I write about on here, I couldn’t really be justified in blaming her. We made up, and things are good now. We also had an interesting conversation about what it is to admit to yourself that you struggle with mental illness.

There are a lot of social stigmas attached to MI, and despite being a socially active generally aware person, it’s still easy to fall into the stereotypes. I was afraid to admit to myself that I had some pretty major cognitive and emotional issues, probably even MORESO because I’m a psych student. I’m supposed to help OTHER people with that stuff, right? I couldn’t possibly have it. Somehow I tricked myself into thinking that if I had enough knowledge of the biology behind it, I would be bulletproof against the aspect which stems from unhealthy thought patterns. Yeah, right. I’m realizing more and more that there is a REAL dichotomy between the limitations of knowing neurobiology and being able to counsel and understand the emotional-cognitive aspects that underlay harmful thought patterns. They’re just… SO entirely different, and to even chart the relationship one has to the other is so much more complex than we even are at this stage of scientific study. I mean, part of me has to MARVEL at just how labyrinthine the human brain is that we’ve barely even scratched the surface, despite the incredible amount of knowledge we possess in the Psychological Sciences.

I guess I used that illusion that biology is one and the same with cognition to try and distance myself from identifying as someone with an MI. Given my proclivity for finding ways to make excuses and a previous tendency to not try my hardest and persevere as much as probably could… I was afraid if I acquired the identity of “someone with a mental illness” I’d use it as an excuse to not push myself. But I know now that my identity is not determined by an illness I have. Just like it’s not determined by a TV show I like, or the fact I’m into video games, or the fact I’m a psychology student. The whole is greater than the parts, even if some of the parts are still under repair.

Writer’s Block

My brain feels kind of fried today. I got up plenty early, started time tracking, started my work warm-up ritual of reading for 30 minutes…. I could barely get through 15 before my vision started to haze over and my attention started drifting. I have a blogging assignment in my Computers and Society class I have to do by the 28th. We got to choose our topic, and I chose the subject of how the internet can help those dealing with mental illness. Now, by all means this is a topic I’m particularly passionate about. I have plenty of information to link in, and a vested interest in the topic. But when I sit down to write…

Nothing. Okay, well not nothing. More accurately, an opening paragraph that could’ve been spewed out of any high school student with a modicum of writing ability. I could tell just by reading it over, it wasn’t really my voice. It’s one of those little intangible obstacles with writing, writing with your voice. When it’s there you can feel like whatever it is that you’ve written is YOURS, whole and unique. Even if the message is the same as someone else, the method is your literary fingerprint. The opposite experience is what I had this morning; kind of an amorphous gray blob of text. The ideas are there but the phrases and expression isn’t. Or if they are, they don’t so much get written so much as they congeal into something vaguely resembling Chapter 1 of A Beginner’s Introduction to Writing <–not an actual textbook. Well, actually, wait. Yeah. With a name that generic it probably is. Anyways. Wouldn’t be half as annoying if the due date weren’t looming like that black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

That being said, the past couple days (since I gave myself a kick in the ass in my last post) have been much better. I’ve started time-tracking EVERYTHING, not just work periods. Meal durations, clean-up, showers, internet breaks between working, everything. Just having the data there adds a structure to the day that helps a lot. It’s satisfying, in the same way I felt when I first started keeping budget and body composition spreadsheets. It compresses an airy-fairy, qualitative phenomenon into something quantitative that I can compartmentalize and put to work for me, rather than the other way around. There are still usually one or two things I miss or forget to do per day, but with the amount of progress I’m making in other areas I’m happy to take the bad with the good and be grateful for the latter. Making a couple more job applications today. Hopefully that turns up something.

Oh! Also, I picked up the latest book I am to review for the e-zine I write for. It’s actually pretty awesome so far. I’ve only had it for a bit over a day and I’m already half way through it. It’s called The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith. Check it out on Amazon or what have you if you get the chance. The blurb on the back does a better job of describing the plot than I currently can. It’s really riveting though and definitely worth a look.

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Vince

Mediocrity Cannot Stand

I haven’t been the person whom I owe it to myself to be lately. I honestly believe I have the potential to do great things. I see things in different ways than others do, I’m passionate about the things I like and enjoy communicating that passion to others, and evoking positive experiences in those around me. And I have the intelligence and the communication skills to do that. The main problem: I’m soft. I’m quite often lazy. I never had to work hard when I was a kid, or even as a teenager. My mom worked hard enough that I always had what I wanted, and only had to put in the minimal effort. There was always a safety net if I hit the consequences of not putting my all in. I hated my dad, who sat in a chair all day and drank beer while my mom did everything to maintain the house WHILE working to pay for everything. But I know now, I wasn’t much better at the time. Working in Vancouver last summer, I learned what I was capable of, and the value of hard work, faced with the prospect of being homeless unless I worked two jobs. So I did. I worked 16 hour days beginning at 4:30AM, 7 days a week, and biked 30k a day to get to each of them. And I made it. I came back to Ontario weathered, hardened, better. But I’ve gotten too comfortable. My surroundings are too forgiving. I’m encircled by too much privilege, enticed into believing that if other people don’t have to work hard, than neither do I. Bullshit. I let my grades slip. I let employment opportunities pass me by because I couldn’t be bothered to get off of my ass. I’ve had many friends try and be supportive by saying that, “everyone has off days”, “don’t worry, it’ll get better”, and reminding me of positive things I’ve done in the past.

But this this doesn’t help any. I don’t have a problem with beating myself up in terms of my intrinsic self-worth. In fact, it seems the only thing that’ll really get me motivated these days is a good mental drill sergeant. The thing that gets me pissed off is the fact that I often DON’T live up my potential, DON’T take advantage of the resources I have at my disposal, or put in the time and work necessary to be as successful as I could be. I lived a large portion of my life under the “good enough” philosophy. But the thing is, one of my biggest fears is dying in obscurity. I want to be known. I want to be remembered beyond my lifetime for adding something significant to the world. But if I am to be something special, “good enough” isn’t good enough. Everyone may have off-days, but I don’t want to be like “everyone.” And what kind of has-been would I be if, at 21, all I could do is reminisce on what I did in my PAST? Shit, I haven’t lived half my life yet. If I’m at that point already, something’s gone terribly wrong. I’m acknowledging now that with the path I’m on, I’m no better than my dad, or any other snivelling, excuse-making, lazy, live-with-their-parents-at-30 man-child I’ve come across who infuriate me with their very existence.

Whenever I let my brain go on autopilot and fail to reflect consciously, to be in the moment, I make the decisions a boy would make, not a man. I procrastinate, I laze about, I turn my alarm off and go back to sleep, I look at porn online when I should be working, I don’t go to the gym, I don’t eat well. And then at the end of the day I have the TEMERITY to complain that I don’t have enough time. I’m going to make a greater effort in being conscious of the moment, and holding myself accountable (calling myself on my bullshit out loud if necessary) for my decisions. I need plans. I need systems. I need discipline.

I can be better, and therefore, I WILL be better. I deserve the best life I can possibly create for myself, and therefore, I’ll take the steps necessary. Mediocrity cannot stand.

Victoria Day/Hurt Heart Spiel

It’s Victoria Day in this neck of the woods. Most stores are closed, and lots of people are getting together for various acts of barbecuing and ample drinkery. I, however, am buckling down for a long session of writing, reading, and coding. A bunch of friends of mine are getting together for a BBQ of their own and invited me, but I kind of made my bed with the amount of procrastinating I’ve done with my schoolwork. It’s difficult to make the decision to stay in, especially since one of my goals earlier in the year was to get out more to try and overcome my social anxiety.

Admittedly, part of that difficulty was wondering whether or not I was making the decision to opt out based on my academic needs, or based off of the fact that my most recent ex, whom I’ll call Enth* here, would be there. Normally, getting along with exes isn’t that big of a deal for me, but following several months of back and forth either trying to reconnect with me or push me away, Enth* gave our social media connections the snip and asked for me not to contact her by any means. Harsh, but fair enough. Thing is, she’s a fairly main pillar of our mutual friend group, and hosts a grand majority of the parties we all get together at (not to mention she’ll be the President of the university cluib we’re all a part of next year. Yay.). As such, the “cutting-off” has made it more and more difficult for me to spend time with my friends, who are all busy of their own accord. I teeter between two mindsets:

1) Getting along as best as possible while in the same space, while giving her the appropriate space, so that even if we’re not friends again we can at least interact amiably.

2) The other part of me wants to tell her, in no uncertain terms, to go fuck herself, make sure she knows she’s not welcome in my life in any respect, let her know all the most unsavoury things I think about her emotional instability, arrogance, and inconsideration, and how difficult she’s made it to come out of my shell to go out with my friends, and generally overcome emotional challenges I ALREADY have difficulty with, in the past months.

I’m generally someone who wants to go along to get-along, and assertiveness and the ability to say no to someone when they ask something of me that goes against my best interest is something I’ve had to work on. As such, I WANT just… everyone to get along and be okay and even just for both of us to pretend we DON’T have any history, relationship or otherwise, and just start over as friends. But at the same time I feel genuinely hurt by things she’s done and feel like I’m owed an apology. Because despite expressing the sentiment that she still wants to be friends someday, Enth* has done anything but treat me in a way that is in any way reminiscent of the way you’d treat a friend, or even a potential friend, or an acquaintance you had the slightest hint of consideration for.

Wow, didn’t think that post was going to go the direction that it did. Well, I guess that’s what a journal is for.

Jealousy and Pedestals

It’s been a couple days since my last post, and I’m going to try and be a bit more regular with this. More things are beginning to be added to my schedule with my summer courses now in full swing, but that’s no excuse. I’ll just have to buckle down and be more consistent with my time management. Anyways, time for an update!
The party went off alright. As expected, a pretty low-key affair. People mostly chilled in the living room and worked their way through most of a season of Archer (really funny show, by the way). I played Halo Reach for the first time! It was odd going back to Halo games after a 2-3 year hiatus, and the series has changed a lot. But I had a good time getting the hang of it again, doing my usual running satirical commentary with a few drinks and some good friends, making it an overall fun night. I’m glad we did it.

Not a lot of luck on the job search side of things, unfortunately. Guelph isn’t great for jobs at the best of times, and during the summer when most the students have gone home, it’s largely a ghost town. I already have a part-time job, it’s just that between rent and, y’know, FOOD, it doesn’t lead to me saving a whole lot for the future. However, I’ve decided not to fret over it. I’m just going to keep consistently putting out resumes over the course of the summer and not put all my hopes into any one application. I’ve realized that lacking in success in one field doesn’t necessarily have to extend to others, and so I’m also focusing on making this summer worthwhile by honing my current skills, picking up a few new ones, and improving my academic habits. I’m writing on a regular basis (hence the blog for practice) for The Bookshelf e-zine, writing scholarship essays, reading up on lots of interesting topics, keeping myself fit and learning new recipes… not to mention my four Distance-Ed courses I’m taking. It’s easy to forget about those. For once I’m actually excited about the classes I’m taking (one of them involves examining the socio-cultural implications of the information age and robotics! *nerdgasm*), and more than that, some new approaches to studying I’m trying.
I’m trying a new type of note-taking called Cornell Notes to encourage a more holistic understanding of what it is I’m studying rather than just rote memorization (the latter I’ve kept on doing for the past few years with continually diminishing returns…). So far I’m liking it, and hopefully I get a few new conceptual toys to play with during the semester as well, courtesy of some useful feedback from the forum users over at studentawards.com.

I had a bit of an epiphany at the gym yesterday. I’m a pretty fit guy, but during the summer it seems to be when the big-time gym freaks come out to play. The dudes at the GoodLife I go have been HUGE lately, and a lot of them are bodybuilders/provincial-national level powerlifters, and so I’d ended up feeling self-conscious and a bit jealous of the hard-won physiques some of these dudes were sporting, and even getting down on my efforts. You know the drill, “I’ll never be as ________ as THAT guy, the goal just seems so far away,” etc. But then I realized that the notion that there were guys who had become that strong through their work should show me the OPPOSITE. That I should be grateful that there are guys who are that much bigger and stronger than me, in that they prove that reaching that level IS possible. Not only that, but if I actually had the balls to ASK, that chances are they could be a great source of knowledge. It’s a common misconception that gym-rats are musclebound morons. In most pursuits, genetics and physical talent only get you so far, and once you reach a certain level, you have to make use of both your mind and body to keep making progress. It’s both training smart AND hard that gets you there. As a result, 90% of the scary-looking dudes I’ve talked to, while looking like they could bend me into a boomerang-shape and toss me, were some of the nicest and most intelligent guys I’ve met. Now, I’m not going to be asking the dude with the acne scars, ray-bans, and bleached blonde mohawk for advice any time soon, but he’s the exception to the rule. 😛

Anyways, that’s my brain spiel for today. Thanks for reading!

Foggy Days

In more than one sense of the word. This is my first post without, to my knowledge (maybe it’ll come out as I write) any big revelations.  Slept in far too late, and as is usually the case, have been navigating a thick brain fog for most of the day. I was irritable, had difficulty focusing at work, I was slow, and just… my threshold for the number of things I can process at once was gutted. As I noted in my earlier post, I have trouble waking up early, even though the occasions when I do are the ones where my biology is most happy with me. Today… was not one of those days. I’ve gotten absolutely squat done. I’m hoping that at least committing myself to this one small act of creativity will get the ball rolling enough to gain the mental momentum needed to put in some work on a couple of personal projects.

In other news, had a bit of a small heart attack today. Figuratively, not literally. Went to the wrong page on website for the Provincial Student Loan Office and thought I was not going to be getting any funding this semester. A couple of phonecalls and a little re-navigation later, I found this wasn’t the case. Phew. Close one. I’ve had more than one friend have to run the labyrinthine maze of bureaucracy that is dealing with OSAP, and I’m lucky enough to not have to contend with that three-ring circus as of yet. *knock on wood* 

Feeling a bit of anxiety right now as well. I’ve got a small gathering of friends coming over on Saturday for a little housewarming get together. Enough people have accepted the FB invite to where I think it’ll be a fun time, but I still feel the inexplicable worry of, “What if people are bored? What if they think the party’s lame? No one will ever want to come over again!” In case you haven’t guessed, I’ve never organized a party before. Even a small one. I was the awkward turtle in high school, and have had a pretty small apartment so far in university. Not great for entertaining, so this is my first shot at it. I don’t know if I should organize stuff to do (aside from chilling with a few drinks, watching a movie or two, playing video games or a game of Munchkin) or just let it run. I guess I just have to come to the realization that like most things I worry about, even if the worst-case scenario DOES occur, it won’t be the end of the world. There will be other parties. My friends won’t shun me if I don’t throw a great party my first time round, and if things don’t go off as hoped, I’ll still have the knowledge of stuff I might’ve done better next time. Only thing to do is to just do the damn thing and enjoy the ride instead of getting lost in my own head.

On that note, I figure now’s a good time for the 1st Round of 3 Things I’m Grateful For, to remind myself things aren’t really that bad.

I’m Healthy: Exceptionally so, at least compared to the national average. Under 15% body fat, I can squat more than my own body weight, can deadlift almost 1.5x that (235lbs), and am edging closer to my goal of being able overhead press 135lbs and barbell power clean my own body weight (I’m currently at 145lbs for a 5-rep max). I eat well, I actively look for ways to eat and workout better, and have continued to do so after stumbling towards my health/fitness goals. I treat my body the way it deserves to be treated, even if I sometimes make mistakes.

I Know What I’m Passionate About: I know what it is that makes me happy. Talking about the geeky things I love, sharing and deconstructing stories and storytelling media/methods, and making people think and feel in new ways. Exchanging ideas, learning, and exploring even the mechanics underlying the basic day-to-day thoughts that permeate human existence, and that we take for granted so foolishly. I love being creative: putting my opinions and ideas and goofy thoughts down onto a page and blurting them for the world to hear, in hopes that they pollinate the mind’s of readers so that new, grander, and wilder ideas grow from them.

My Mom: With Mother’s Day coming up, this seems especially apt. My mom is my hero. She took the shambles of her life that remained following my dad’s mental breakdown when I was 12 (and soon after, the loss of her father) and just soldiered on. She continues to work 2-3 jobs to send me money to help with school when she can, while paying for a house on her own. She’s about 5’3”, and she is the strongest person I have yet to meet in my life. She’s my friend; when she gets angry at me I can always tell it’s because she loves me and is afraid of what will happen if the more risky career ventures I want to pursue don’t pan out. And yet she acknowledges my autonomy as an adult, and has the faith in my intelligence and my capabilities to let me go and support my decisions even when she doesn’t agree. I am so, so, SO grateful to have a mother as awesome as her, and when I’m about to give up, she’s my inspiration. If there is one thing I want to do before I leave this Earth, it’s to make her proud.

Phew. I think that’s about enough of a brain dump for today. Thanks again for reading, and I’ll see ya when I see ya. 🙂 

A Disclaimer and An Explanation

As I eluded to in my first post, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I intend to do with this blog. I initially started it upon suggestion from a friend of mine to have a place to look at my thoughts, take account of things I’m grateful for, sketch out creative ideas, and generally reflect. I’m glad that some of you who have stumbled upon my tiny corner of the internet have found some meaning or enjoyment from what I’ve posted so far, but hat being said, I should probably put a disclaimer up concerning my writings here.

I’m a guy who tends to have a lot on his mind. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression in the past, and often still struggle with a number of fears and insecurities about myself and my life which occasionally bubble to the surface. Some of these are accompanied with a sort of private shame at their very existence, when in this day and age we are typically expected to have our mental shit together. Or, if we have mental/emotional struggles, to have them at an appropriately designated and discrete time and place, and about a certain subset of acceptable topics. For those who are familiar with these struggles, you well know things aren’t often that simple. Fears and thought patterns often bleed over into unwanted (and seemingly unrelated) areas, or be about things we are secretly ashamed to admit to even our closest friends or even to ourselves.

So why, you might rightfully ask, am I posting about such personally distressing stuff on a public forum? Well, there’s an old saying that goes “Some things you can ONLY say to a stranger.” I, like most people, want to be empathized with, or at least understood. I want to know that I’m not terminally unique in the possession of these thoughts, these feelings, these fears. But more than anything, I’m tired of being ashamed, and I hope by taking the first step in putting a part of myself out there, I can find something of a place of peace.

That’s all for now; thanks for reading.