A Mixed Bag

So I decided I needed to take a day to myself to get everything back on track. What the result was, was well… it was moderately effective at doing that. I finally got some groceries done, and only came in $9 over budget for the month, so while not stellar, not bad either. Also got a bit of reading done for my philosophy class done, as well as some cooking to prep my meals for the remainder of the week. Finally, I also went to the gym for the first time in three days. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for my conditioning circuit, so I kind of herp-derp’d my way through an improvised circuit. Not my best, but it felt really good to get the blood pumping again.

So that was the good. Now for the not so good…

I meant to sit down and play an hour of Borderlands 2, to take a break between tasks. I ended up playing for three. I can’t describe how frustrating it is to love a medium so much as gaming, and yet be so at odds with it so often as well. It’s just so frustrating to be consciously AWARE of the fact that the thing you’re indulging in is specifically designed TO induce that sense of flow where you’re not aware of the time flying by. Especially when you’re someone like myself, who is especially susceptible to that gamer’s cocktail of progression, challenge and perfectly scheduled minor rewards… JUST enticing enough to get you to keep playing.  So. What’s the Solution? Well, I think I’m going to have to start scheduling my days hour by hour in addition to task-by-task, and keep my phone next to me when I start playing, with an alarm set for an hour after I begin playing. Making the amount of time I am going to play explicit and prevalent in my environment (ie. making it so that I can’t just ignore or forget about it) will help. Hopefully. I’m going to give it a try.

Second, I got my monthly body composition today. I posted a 1.5% gain in body fat percentage, which in solid numbers translates to a 3.2lb gain in fat mass. I posted a fat mass gain last month as well, so to say that I was disappointed would be a significant understatement.  All wasn’t terrible though. I  also posted a 2.8lb gain in muscle. Not ideal, but at least I didn’t ONLY gain fat. I’d be lying if I said I was surprised though… I’ve been making some poor choices insofar as my diet lately. More to do with the distribution of my carbs/protein throughout the day, but also with the frequent indulgences in junk food (I had a good cup’s worth of chocolate chips in little bits over the course of today, for example 😦 ). When you get really personally invested in physical health, it’s so discouraging to look at yourself and the way you’ve been treating your body for “X amount of time” and see it’s not at all consistent with the beliefs you espouse about treating yourself kindly, diet-wise. I guess I still need to work more on not beating myself up  for my mistakes, and more readily look forward and take practical steps towards a cessation of them in the future.

Soooo…. What’s The Solution?  Well, I need a couple of changes. First, I need to stop eating so many carbs and large meals during the day. It’s activating my parasympathetic nervous system, tiring me out and putting me into a catabolic state as well. These two things are not conducive either to me getting work done OR improving my physical health. So, smaller, carb-lite, protein heavy meals in the afternoon (once I finish my fast), and a big carb dump at night with a SMALL dessert will hopefully improve things.

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I Plan To Live

Bleck. Decreasingly productive days at the tail end of last week led into a pretty slothful weekend which, even now, bathes my mind like the fog of a fresh hangover. So here I am, trying to put the pieces back together of precisely why it occurred in the first place.

First, as it was elucidated to me in a conversation I had with a few friends at our campus coffee shop, I perform much better when I DO track everything that I do. Without tracking what I eat, I feel less accountable for eating crap and then feel depressed when I feel sluggish and not feeling like going to the gym. When I don’t write down my workouts ahead of time, I end up feeling directionless and wasting time while I’m at the gym, or worse, make excuses not to go in the first place (because I’d need to put together workouts first, and I “just don’t have the time.” Bullshit. You’d have the time if you’d actually managed to keep up with your schoolwork earlier on in the week…). My day-to-day tracking of task completion helps me notice patterns and blind spots of productivity I might not otherwise notice, and I need to remind myself of this fact. My ravenous desire for knowledge about the world and about myself is possibly the deadliest weapon I have in my arsenal, and this is one of the best ways I can make use of it.

I feel like the reason I periodically stop tracking things is part laziness, but also part negative self-judgment. I’m still self-conscious about being considered “weird”, or “obsessive”, or hearing people’s worries that I’m pushing myself too hard by doing this. Ironically, it seems in the last few days, quite a few words of wisdom have aligned themselves in my sight, and as such have helped to give me some direction. The first is a quote from Seth Godin, entrepeneur and public speaker: “You will either be judged, or you will be ignored.” I’ve been struggling against the tide of caring about what others think about me, and letting it distract me from doing what I need to. I have a primal drive to reach towards what I want, but sometimes those years of conditioning are too much to overcome, and I lapse into conformity. But a fear of being ignored? Or being irrelevant? Or being forgotten? It chills me so deeply that somewhere along the journey the isolating cold turns into this burning fury; a driving anger: One that says, “I REFUSE to be forgotten. I WILL be heard. I WILL change the world, and god DAMNIT, people are going to know that I was here.” And that gives me the desire I need to pick up and keep moving forward again.

The second set of wise words comes from the incomparable Henry Rollins, whose work I’ve been foolishly ignoring up until now, to my detriment (a pattern I hope to cease in the near future):

To not be afraid to work your ass off, and to have someone who also comes from a working-class background acknowledge what it feels like to not come from money, and have to struggle for things that so many people around me take as given because, well, they were given it… it’s incredibly vindicating. And just… the encouragement that, YES, you will have to work harder than you ever have before, and that the one thing you can never afford to give up is your personal dignity, your identity, your morality… just… FUCK. I’m reminded of the famous Morgan Freeman quote from Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.” I feel like I’ve spent the grand majority of my 21 years on this planet drifting, isolated, awash in a womb of apathy and sloth, afraid to reach outside for the fear that my hand would be slapped away, and I would be shamed for my attempt.

With today’s culture, which revels in the delight of watching people fail at their dreams (take a look at the ratings for the American Idol tryouts to see…), thereby validating their own choice not to try, I now recognize that to some degree, I WILL be ridiculed or shamed. I will be put down, criticized, told to give up, even by people who care about me. “We just want what’s best for you”, they’ll say. But there comes a time that I just can’t listen anymore.

I’m Vincent Smith. I’m 21. And I plan to live.

Sheer Wonder

Haven’t written in a couple days, figured I’d catch up. I’ve been thinking in the last couple days about answers to the question of what I want to do/be. I know in a previous post that I said I want to write movies, but that no longer seems like a sufficient enough answer to the question. The real answer is that looking at any one profession and going “That’s the thing I want to do” is no longer enough. Everyday, I absorb more inspiration through my experiences interacting with people, reading, watching, listening, working out, writing, etc. from EVERY outlet I can possibly find.  And with every new fount of information and experience I find, I find new ways to connect those experiences to other ones in novel ways. Ways that apply knowledge in ways you might not normally.

The fundamental nature of what I find interesting isn’t any one particular profession or area of expertise, but rather, the fact that all of them have enough analogous qualities that almost, if not every, domain of human knowledge could be modified and improved by taking into account the discoveries of all others. Therefore, it’s the interactions and relationships BETWEEN different domains of knowledge which fascinate me. The connections are all there, and the fact that there are so many more to be explored, examined, clustered and recombined into new ones, which then can ALSO be recombined is mindbogglingly wonderful. It almost makes me sad that I only have a certain amount of time on this planet with which to check all of these really cool things out. So much to do, so little time.

So when someone asks me what I want to do for a living, I don’t know what to respond, because I want to do everything! I want to write, blog, host, talk, voice-act, storytell, innovate, produce, edit, revise, CREATE. The career label is merely the incarnation of choice which I use to accomplish any of those given tasks at any given time, and so the question seems almost inappropriate in the tiny scale at which it is asked. But I’m comforted by the fact that such great minds as Henry Rollins and Chris Hardwick have felt the same kind of itchy curiosity to rip up the carpet of contemporary culture and look at all the little, intricate wires which connect every single aspect of them. Even moreso, I’m driven by the idea of the urge to mix and match the way those connections are structured, and pontificate and experiment with what the potential results can be.

There’s a level of beauty in the adjacent possible, the potential of one thing to be something entirely different to someone else at any given moment in time that almost exceeds any single incarnation of that thing that exists at a single point. Even typing that sentence, it’s like art and quantum physics and engineering and business and internet culture all colliding at a hundred miles an hour into an infinitely dense, hot mass of ideological potential, ready to birth an entire new universe of possibility.

And the fact that I have the desire and resources to explore that is… simply beyond words, beyond concept in how grateful I am for it. I won’t stop doing it until I am long-dead and in my grave, and I can only hope, can only dream that the fervor of my passion will be enough to inspire yet another to take up the cause once I’m gone. Inspiration: the most beautiful form of immortality there is.

“Okay, so that didn’t work.”

Well, I shouldn’t make such a universal statement, but regardless, the day after I made my pledge to start using my new money saving plot to avoid eating junk food, I do just that. But maybe going over what led me to break down and buy ice cream will help me stop entering into such willpower-breaking situations in the first place.

So, I went to the gym this morning to do a cardio-conditioning workout with the plan of picking up groceries on the way back. I arrive at Bulk Barn, resist the urge to buy chocolate chips along with my usual comically-oversized bags of almonds and walnuts for various dishes during the week. So far so good. On my way out I realize that, with my gym stuff and the bags from Bulk Barn, I won’t be able to fit the items I want to buy from No Frills in without A) breaking my already beat up backpack, or B) something falling out, being crushed, or being punctured. At this point my body is CRAVING something to eat as a post-workout meal. I realize I don’t have the ingredients for any of my usual post-workout meals at home UNTIL I make my trip to No Frills later on, but my mind is  beginning to race, and my body is getting twitchy and irritable at this point, so the attempt to hold myself over is failing fast. At this rate I won’t be able to have something to eat for several more HOURS, on top of still burning more energy through biking back and forth from my house to the gym and grocery stores.

I realize that the mall is right across the street and figure that I’ll pick up one of the healthier subs at Subway for lunch (still a bad choice because of the abundance of bread), but I eat the sandwich and feel only a small pang of regret. Unfortunately, there’s a Dairy Queen right in the same food court, and I’m still feeling a serious lacking in blood sugar. I cave and buy a Blizzard. A big one. Fuck.

Reflection and Revision

Okay, so let’s break this down, piece by piece. I think the thing that began the downfall was that I even entered the mall in the first place. If I get tempted, it stands to reason that the closer in proximity I get to that temptation, the more difficult it’s going to be to resist it. Regardless of the fact that I was going to Subway to eat a relatively harmless sandwich, being in close vicinity to a Dairy Queen when my body is crying out for sugar is a recipe for disaster. So, mistake number one.

The second big factor was the fact that I didn’t have anything at home to whet my appetite before I did my grocery run for the day. So I didn’t have anything to fuel my rationale of, “Just hold on. Just hold on for 15 minutes (the time it takes to bike home from Bulk Barn) and you’ll have something to eat). Other than trying to space out my food usage over the week, there wasn’t really a whole lot I could do to help that.

In retrospect, it might’ve been just better to go straight home from the gym and do both my Bulk Barn and No Frills grocery run in one go. At least then I could’ve cobbled SOMETHING together in my house to fill my stomach before heading out. Yeah, now that I think about it, attempting to shop smart, first of all without shopping S-Mart, and second of all, right on the heels of a blood-sugar draining conditioning circuit, was probably pretty dumb.

Alright, so a couple of things to do differently for next time. For now though, I’m going to record those calories I ingested today, and fight the urge to just not write them down and pretend this blunder never existed. Holding myself accountable for my missteps is, well, the FIRST step to making sure it doesn’t happen again. But I guess if you’ve reached the end of this post, you probably already know that. 😛

Cheers,

Vince

Stumbling Towards Progress

An interesting thing happened today. It was a lazy day (I slept in until 11AM, and kinda took the day off from productivity). Later in the afternoon, I got a craving for a DQ Blizzard, and coupled with the stir craze I was starting to feel from being trapped in the house all day, I hopped on my bike and rode down to the nearest Dairy Queen to kill time until the rest of my podcasting crew arrived for our recording. To my dismay, I opened my wallet to find that I’d left my credit and debit cards at home, and that I had no cash on me.

I was initially frustrated, until I remembered that I’d set aside an “anti-spending envelope” to stash my extra cash and cards in unless I needed them, for EXACTLY THAT PURPOSE. This taught me a couple things. One, that I need to create more failsafe mechanisms for when, not if, my willpower fails when it comes to dietary concerns, or other things. This one worked, but there are still other areas of my life which could use “just in case” -type measures.

Second, it showed me that I’ve failed to establish a progressively rewarding system for managing my diet. Unlike my task-completion Quest game, time-tracking, or Fitocracy’s ingenious level-up progression for workouts, I haven’t created a system where I can tangibly see the effects of me sticking to my diet. Sure, over a longer scale I’ll feel better and see the changes on my body, or even see that stats change on my monthly body composition tables, but that doesn’t help my dedication to the cause on a day-to-day, temptation-to-temptation basis.

So here’s my new idea. Every time I’m barricaded by one of my failsafe measures from buying or indulging in some form of junk food, I’ll put away a small amount of money (if I bought it, it’ll be the amount that food item would have cost) away. At the end of the month, I’ll allow myself one big purchase (something other than junk food) with the money I’ve put away. I’ll track the money put away on one of my spreadsheets, so every time I resist a temptation, I’ll be able to see that result of that money going towards something else. It’s still preliminary, but I’ll tweak it as I go.

Other than that, I had a couple of stumbling blocks in the rest of the previous week too. I missed another class on Thursday, albeit a different one than I missed on Tuesday. Lesson learned: when I go to campus, I am to STAY THERE until all my classes are finished for the day. The temptation to just stay home and make justifications for skipping is just too large if I go home in the middle of the day. If this requires that I pack my own healthy lunch ahead of time, so be it, but I will not continually miss classes like I did last year. It’s not an option.

Anyways, those are my thoughts for the day! Thanks, as always, for reading.

So I missed my first class.

…of the semester. While this might not seem like a big enough deal to warrant a blog post, it’s the thing that probably caused my utmost downfall (tied by perhaps procrastination) last semester, and I swore to myself that I would keep impeccable attendance this semester to make up for it. But this morning, I didn’t. So now I’m in the midst of battling two absolutist mindsets: The first tells me it’s not a big deal and that it’s only one class. I don’t want to take this mental route because it’s exactly that kind of lackadaisical thinking that I used over and over last year, and which made me miss so many lectures. I need to recognize just how important keeping to my schedule (and going to bed early enough to wake up on time) is for my academic performance.

But at the same time, I need to ward off the mindset of catastrophe, which is just as harmful. The part of my brain that tells me that this is only a sign of things to come, and that this is supposed to show me that I’m only deluded in believing that I can improve my attendance habits. I know that’s the anxiety and fear of failure talking, but it’s something I’ve carried with me for a long time and it’s going to take a while to fully exorcise it from my system. But this blog helps.

A couple of more positive things… I’ve getting better at approaching and talking to strangers whom I find attractive. I can’t tell you how genuinely surprised I was when my attempts at casual conversation in a public setting were actually met with enthusiastic responses rather than disgust and stonewalling. I mean, occasionally I get the hint from women who don’t really feel like talking to someone, say my polite goodbye and move on, but I’m finally beginning to feel like it’s not something that’s wrong with me that’s causing it.

I still get self-conscious, but I’m beginning to find a couple of little tricks that help me shake that mindset and become less hesitant. First, posture. Walking purposefully with my shoulders back and head up does wonders for a feeling of confidence. It sounds corny, but it definitely is one of those biofeedback phenomena that actually does work (EVEN if it’s sometimes I challenge to do when I’m carrying a heavy backpack :P). The second thing is just something I’ve discovered in the past couple days. Walking around with the slightest beginnings of a smile on my face immediately puts me in a better mood and more forthcoming/social, even to strangers, than when I don’t. To the point where if I AM feeling nervous or hesitant, I just remember to do it, and (together with straightening my posture) I immediately begin to feel the anxiety ebb away.

The only odd little occurrence that still seems to bug me is the difference between my confidence levels when I’m wearing my glasses versus when I put in contacts.  It truly does feel like a Clark Kent/Superman-type phenomena, where I can almost feel myself hiding  behind my coke-bottle lenses, shrinking into shyness when I wear them. I’ve been contemplating getting a style of frames that’s a bit more stylish (maybe the thick hipster frames :P) might help a little bit. But who knows.

Anyways, that’s your glimpse into the goings-on of my brain for today. Ciao!

Back To School: Challenges, Reflections, and Next Steps

Blargh. I feel like death warmed over today. I’m not even sick, either. The combination of allergy season and the inexplicable dryness of the air in my house has left me leaky, congested, and with eyes the colour of a boiled lobster. And I have to work tonight. Bliss. Oh well. I’ll pick up some antihistamines on my way to work and get some change for laundry this evening, and everything should be hunky dory again by the time I get home tonight.

On the bright side, I started back to school this week. All of my classes seem interesting: the profs are enthusiastic about what they’re teaching, and I have an arsenal of new strategies to bring to bear on my courses this year. I’ve organized a study group, and we’re going to start meeting Friday afternoons in the library on campus. It’s not a lot, but we figure having a regular period of time where we can get in a solid few hours of work would aide us all in performing better in our studies. Plus, y’know, having the social resources if any of us require someone to quiz us on material or offer perspectives on new review strategies. So hopefully that works out.

The Rogues’ Gallery is off to a bit of a slow start this year. While our written contributors have been great about doing written content for the site consistently over the summer, trying to get the cast together for a recording session this past couple weeks has been like herding cats. Add that to the fact that a couple of our members are bowing out for work and school reasons, and the organizational issues which have arisen have been… a bit of a challenge to say the least.

Exercise has been consistent. Diet… has been up and down. As mentioned earlier, I’ve started tracking calories again, so I have a bit more perspective about the significant contribution to my daily total intake that my decisions to ingest junk food make. It’s not easy to succumb to a craving and suddenly BAM: that’s 1/4 of my total intake for the day. That’s a big portion being taken up by crap. Especially since almost every day this week has involved at least one of these binges. I THINK I’ve realized the mistake though. I’m a snacker, and all the food I have in the house, while good, involves effort to prepare and cook. So after work today, I picked up some apples to accompany my almonds for a good boost of sugars that is nonetheless very low on the glycemic index scale. It’s an additional cost, but if it’s spending an extra $5 a week on apples and almonds in exchange for better health (not to mention not spending money on junk food), then it’ll be far worth the investment.

Task completion, again, has been up and down. I’m falling back into my old habits of taking notes when I’m doing an initial read-through of my textbook chapters, which has been shown to be detrimental in me actually being able to draw upon and apply information in new contexts later on. Plus, it takes much longer and is much more mentally taxing. I think it’s just because I’ve done it for SO LONG that I’m having trouble unlearning the conditioning to do so. Oh well, yet another challenge to overcome this semester.

I still need to make an appointment with Student Health Services to start booking in counselling sessions again. Just a weekly review of where I’ve been and where I’m going is something that I think will really aide me. Sometimes all the things in my life I keep track of in my head gets to feel like too much, so it’s nice to bring it into perspective.

To end off, a little bit more good news: What started off as a rejection letter from my editor at The Bookshelf for my review of Linwood Barclay’s latest novel unexpectedly turned into an offer to confer with said editor for a section of The Bookshelf website dedicated to contrary views on popular properties (movies, books, etc). I have a meeting with him on Monday to discuss ideas concerning it, and I’m pretty excited. 🙂

Anywho, I think that’s all for now. Wish me luck in the weeks ahead, and thanks for reading!