#54: The New Year

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2019 is finally here. 2018 is over and done with.

It’s a new year, which means new habits, new routines, new celebrations. I spoke in my last blog post about what new things I’m looking forward to in the new year, such as taking more personal initiative during troubled times, so hopefully this blog resonates in a similar way. I’d like to talk about my goals for 2019, now that it is 2019 (although I’m writing this in 2018 still; don’t tell anyone!)

Here’s what I’ve come up with, so far:

  • Write 300 words on my blog at least once a day (with occasional breaks when necessary, like when I traveled to Michigan and couldn’t keep up)
  • Do Duolingo at least once a day, or at least maintain a streak for over three months (stay realistic, don’t overburden yourself with goals that are too lofty to achieve!)
  • Wake up before 10 every day
  • Go to the gym at least 3-4 days a week
  • Plan frequent weekend trips with Alex to the places we love
  • Discover the career of my dreams
  • Begin seeing a therapist again
  • Adopt and care for a brilliant, lovely little dog
  • Finish my novel by the end of the year

The first bullet point, about writing on my blog more frequently, is a goal I’m carrying from 2018 into 2019; I’ve found this regular writing about my life to be oddly fulfilling and inspiring, and so I’d like to continue doing it and reaching out to people on this website. It will hopefully fill me with the same joy and motivation it did in 2018. Also, it helps having stuff written down, as it almost confirms that it is true, and that I can leave it from my mind for a bit. Having these goals on here also helps me stay accountable; if I’m not holding myself to my own established routines, I can look back on my post about the new year and remind myself of them. Accountability is everything when it comes to goal-setting.

The last bullet point… well, I haven’t started writing a novel yet. But I know I have a novel waiting to be unleashed and read by people, it just isn’t written as of now. I know, though, that at some point, it will come out. I just need to wait on it for a bit. Eventually, you’ll start seeing chapters pop up on here, and sooner or later, they’ll merge into a fully-fledged story before your eyes. Watch out!

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#46: Names

What is in a name, after all? Shakespeare had the right idea by asking these questions in “Romeo and Juliet.” Names are tricky, complicated things. A name carries baggage with it, interpersonal connections and backgrounds and inspirations and histories and school peers and more. But a name also has personal meaning, as, when you think about it, no person has had authority to give themselves their birth name (or dead name.) Names are thus thrust upon us by someone else; we bear the titles that others have decided we are worthy of, without our choice in the matter. It’s interesting to look at people in the media through that lens.

As for myself and my personal demons, I struggle with saying people’s names in conversation or in general greetings. It’s a weird struggle to have, and yet it exists regardless of how weird it sounds. Sometimes we are given cruel gifts in life.

I noticed it for the first time a year ago, when I didn’t know how to refer to Alex’s mom. Do I call her Ms. Costa, or do I just say her first name? What’s the most appropriate, respectful, and polite way to refer to a person you’ve only met a few time, without causing awkwardness or rudeness? These questions are in my head as I think about social cues and rules, and remember how deeply anxious I am when it comes to navigating the complexities of social situations. Nothing ever comes easily, and without generating dozens of questions first. At least it provides for good writing material, and by writing about it I feel like I am slowly conquering my anxiety, piece by piece of it.

I thought of this issue in the car today, as I remembered that I will be traveling to Alex’s home state of Michigan soon and will have to confront this specific issue of naming once again. Hopefully all goes well, although I tend to just ignore saying people’s names entirely under stressful situations. It’s a choice I choose to make, although I regret it almost every time.

#43: The Mythic

Mythic dungeon runs in World of Warcraft are stressful, nerve-wracking, and high stakes. They can sometimes take an hour or more to complete, and their completion insists and relies upon five people and their ability to coordinate with each other through dangerous obstacles and trials. One healer, one tank, and three damage dealers join together as a makeshift team to take down bad guys and delve far into some of the most deadly places you can imagine. Often, the obstacles in the way test the stability and patience of those brave enough to venture inside. Bosses, which are difficult enemies that require more intense coordination and mechanics to triumph over, line the path to the dungeon’s exit. Trash, which is what the nameless enemies you face between bosses are called, can test your patience too, if you’re not careful enough. Trash often is grouped up and has to be aoe’d down (aoe = area of effect, which are spells or moves that deal damage in an area, affecting multiple targets, rather than just a single one.)

The difference between a mythic dungeon and a regular dungeon is that mythics are timed. Each mythic dungeon has a specific, preset timer that your group needs to overcome in order to progress through your key. If the dungeon key is a high enough level, you might even face against certain “affixes” that make it even more difficult, such as quaking, which makes it so that every 20 seconds or so, your character exudes a large area move around them that deals friendly fire damage to the team. The strategy for dealing with this, ultimately, is to keep separate so that the area doesn’t overlap with anyone else’s before it spawns. Accidents happen, as they often do, and strategies can dissolve in an instant if the unexpected takes place. The truth to overcoming a mythic is complete trust between group members: trust that they won’t screw each other over, and that they will do their best to avoid making other people’s lives miserable.

More often than not, the dungeon has a clear path from beginning to end, leading through all the aforementioned baddies. But, sometimes the dungeons have branching paths, and sometimes there are efficient shortcuts that skip certain packs of trash, if you’re careful enough to avoid their sight range. Sometimes, the trash is as powerful as a boss, and there’s lots of trash to clear on the way to the end. There are, however, some common strategies that help you take down these threats. It’s the tank’s responsibility to “tank,” or command the attention and aggression of, all the enemies you face, while keeping the rest of the party safe. The healer’s responsibility is to cure any wounds the party faces along their journey, while the damage dealers are glass cannons: especially weak to damage, but especially good at dishing it out as well.

Now by this point you might be thinking, this sounds stressful (remember that they are timed, too). And it is, no doubt about that. But the rewards are often worth the stress that goes into it. Mythic dungeon runs are repeatable, and each new difficulty level (+2, all the way through +25) has a chance to award new levels of gear for completing it. If your character wants to progress at all, they’re probably doing some manner of mythic dungeons.

#42: The Blog

Having a blog is a wonderful, positive thing in my life, and it is something I truly cherish during tumultuous times. I haven’t had to give this up, basically, and I know I always find ways to return back to it after years of absence. It’s stayed with me throughout all the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced over these past two years and plenty more. And consistency and stability are two things I’ve learned to deeply respect thanks to my experiences. I am thankful beyond words for the ability to write about my life and reach a limited audience through it. It’s impossible to quantify exactly what this means to me, but I hope it might also mean something to you, too, wherever you are right now, reading these sentences. (I know I have some dedicated readers who regularly check this out via email or browser… Hi!)

I want to also, temporarily, discuss the state of my blog. It’s turned into a bit of a “Wonderful!” like experience, where I share what matters to me while sharing about my personal and professional lives. It’s a hodgepodge of writings, and I hope that this style works for those reading my blog, whether or not you are frequent readers, because it’s a style I quite enjoy. It’s also easy to write about, and as someone who needs motivation to write for a long period of time, this style has provided me with a great deal of inspiration. It’s also helped me find out exactly what I’m looking for in a creative sense: personal blogging, at least for now. I try to intersperse some more creative writings when I can, and when it feels most appropriate also. Hopefully those will be returning soon, as I think it’s been awhile since I’ve tested my creative capacities in that way. It can be exhausting (and somewhat repetitive) to come up with topics to write about for this blog, but poetry has to come naturally. It can’t be forced into being.

Speaking of, I’m of the belief that creativity is like a fine-tuned skill; you need to hone it from time to time, to make sure the skills don’t disappear. You have to tend to it, or else it will not be the same when you return. But it is also like riding a bike, in that you don’t need to worry about ever totally “losing” the skill. It is always a part of you, somewhere on you, craving attention after a long absence. You just need to unleash it through whatever medium appeals to you most: filmmaking, photography, painting, music, theatre, dance, creative writing. There are more mediums that exist than what I just wrote down, but I hope it serves as a good jumping-off point for other ideas. Creativity is the source of many people’s happiness and joy, and it deserves to be appreciated from time to time, in whatever form it chooses to appear in.

#3: To Be Happy in 2018

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Terrible news stories threaten our basic humanity and sanity on a daily basis. There is so much to grieve for, so many lives ruined or worse, taken away, and for nothing. Racism, xenophobia, and bigotry abound. Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Florida, Reno. Sandy Hook, which took place fewer than 30 minutes from my apartment. The news punishes us for paying close attention with overwhelming anxiety for the state of the world.

But it’s more than the news. It’s the reaction to the news, the callous, thoughtless tweets and statements made, the petty arguments, the reactions to the reactions, the cruelty and inhumanity and total hostility. The lack of empathy in the world. The dwelling feeling that the universe is inherently cruel and nothing will change, that you will wake up another day this week to another tragedy or crisis, another friend directly targeted or another group unfairly prejudiced, and, by this point, you know that feeling is right.

But you feel selfish when you decide to avoid the news. Have to keep your finger on the pulse, have to monitor everything. Can’t be without knowledge. Not knowing means not caring, but you do care. You care a lot, perhaps too much, for other people. “You’re a feeler, like me; you absorb the feelings of the room,” my therapist said once. You feel the high happinesses and glories, but when doom and gloom dominate every corner of the news, you take it all inside you and curl it up until it disappears. You prize happiness with your life. 

You wish it were as easy for you to not care as it is easy for all the heartless and careless, the ones who cause all this to happen in the first place.

There is a way out, though. The world is a hectic, chaotic place, and nothing is certain to last in our lifetimes except us. From studying existentialism in college, I recall Sartre’s Nausea. When all around you appears confusing and exhausting, look within. Stay calm inside the eye of the storm, knowing that your life is the only thing that is truly yours. If you erased all knowledge of the things you cannot directly influence or change, it would leave you with purely auto-biographical knowledge. You are you. Invest in others, but hold on to yourself, too. Remember to help yourself up first when your life is threatened. Avoid the news if it’s taking such a mental toll on you. Spread goodness through how you treat others. That’s the most we have control over.