What happens when you mix a long-term writing project with poor time management and a looming deadline upon which you place far too much importance?
The 31 Things I Know Now That I’m 31 becomes the 32 Things I Know Now That I’m 32.
The plan had started so simply — find a month with 31 days and write a post a day on the lessons I’d learned in my years so far. With my July birthday, it should’ve been easy enough to write it up for August. Or October. December. All the months I mucked about in 2015… but another birthday came and went before I could get on top of things.
It was — sadly — another example of moments in my life where I overpromise and underdeliver.
In my ideal world, I’d be blogging every day with months of content queued up so I could spend my days exploring other interests, and living my life like a normal person — like those people I see on Netflix who go to bed at reasonable hours and look so well-rested when they get into the office in the morning. I wouldn’t be plagued by piles of ideas large enough to keep a fire going a few nights, thinking all these half-written posts good enough to start from… but usually just ending up with more half-written posts. I’d never suffer bouts of writer’s block, feeling like I’ve said everything worth saying with a tired and heavy soul unable to keep up. I’d never feel overwhelmed by all this work that feels undone, chasing after resolution that constantly feels out of reach, taunting me with visions of what life could be like if I could just get my act together. I feel like there’s just so much I could do if the cards played out a slightly different way, not making it as hard to get things done in a life trying to pull me in so many directions.
But this is the life I have, and the hand dealt to me to live it. It’s up to me to do what I will with it all, using every last thing I have in me to do the very best I can with what days I have.
Ain’t no one gonna make your life easier for you but you.
In the #BloggerLife, I need to accept that success won’t come overnight. I’ve never been the best at exercising patience, but if I’m looking to build something that’ll last and make its mark on the world around it, I need to build it right, giving it whatever time and effort it needs to grow into something magnificent.
To this end, I often tell people I’m working with a 25-year plan. Oprah was around my age when she started the Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago, a then-little known radio personality who producers were giving a shot with a regular TV time slot to build her audience. Through the decades that followed, she built that chance into the empire we know today, with millions clinging to her every word as she shares intimate moments with some of the most powerful and influential people known today!
That’s how I see my brand — something eventually growing beyond the bounds of a blog, letting me tell stories that people wouldn’t hear otherwise. Even in the moments where the momentum’s at a standstill, the Gmail inbox devoid of anything interesting and the brain struggling to come up with an original thought, I’m learning more and more that there’re only 24 hours every day, and with the few available to hustle on the side diminishing as I grow older, I need to appreciate what I did accomplish in a day — not lament the things I didn’t.
I’ve been running some numbers lately, and it occurred to me that I don’t have a whole lot of time if I want to get the last 24 entries of the 31 Things series done before my July 15th birthday, so it’s time to get to grind mode and see what I can do!
Truth be told, not everything’s been amazing lately. I’m not the type of blogger who pretends that everything’s peachy all the time — life isn’t perfect, and sometimes you’ll need to overcome obstacles just to keep your sanity.
It used to be so hard to rile me up. I’ve always been about finding solutions, not dwelling on problems, convinced that most of the stuff we fret over simply wasn’t worth the energy. I used to know the few times I’d lost my temper with someone who wasn’t family — the time I’d been wrongly accused of screwing something up at work and tasked to fix it. The time I felt a peer was disrespecting me and undermining my position — one I’d worked so hard to get. Cool, calm and collected were the only ways I wanted to be, and little could get under my skin.
But these days, there’s someone out there consistently bringing my ugly side to light. They don’t respect me or my time, constantly lording their power rather than work with me to get results. They’re a bully to the core, and I’m not the type to take it lightly.
I’d be a fool to think I could solve these problems overnight, though. You can’t change people — you can change how they perceive you, but don’t expect a foul-tempered peer to become your BFF if they don’t want to. I’ve learned, instead, that we need to find coping mechanisms when faced with these struggles, and knowing our individual worth doesn’t always quite cut it.
When I’m so clouded by rage that I can barely see straight, I pick up an old habit of mine and draw. Draw all my feelings, feel it all flow through my pen, and let it express the things that words don’t quite do justice. I don’t always finish, but I assure you — I often feel far better once I’ve gotten a piece out.
So the next time you’re mad, don’t fly off the handle — harness that rage and do something with it! I’ve heard people say they aren’t creative, or complain that they aren’t good enough, but that’s not the point. If you’re creating, you should create for you. When you express yourself, make sure what you’re creating meets your needs. It’s like oxygen masks on an airplane — if you can’t help yourself and make sure you’re getting what you need to live, how can you expect to help anybody else?
They say that you shouldn’t get mad — you should get even; what better revenge is there than showing the people who piss you off just how great you can be?
May your worst moments help bring your best ones to light!
Until the next, mi amigos,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
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Everyone should have at least one experience that’s truly for themselves — something utterly indelible from their life story that lays the foundation for everything to happen from that point forward… the stuff of epiphanies. Too often, we take our lives for granted — too many of us have grown accustomed to having things simply handed to us, no longer fit to fight for anything we really want from our lives. We simply expect that water comes from the tap when we turn the faucet, or that the Internet will load blazingly fast when we use it. In the “developed world”, we’ve become soft. Lazy. Woefully complacent, quietly accepting mediocrity as our standard, not fighting for something more.
I wish I could show people what it’s like in my head.
Though I don’t always produce by putting content out as often as my peers who have, let’s say, more time on their hands, the intent’s always there. The #BloggerLife’s constantly competing with the rest of my life, trying to find the time to thrive where, truthfully, not much exists. It’s news to no one that my time’s well-invested in parenting my son and supporting my wife — and that’s already outside of the full-time job that usually has me running around when I’d prefer to do otherwise. I’ve learned there’re things that people won’t let you say “no” to, wanting your skills and abilities for their purposes rather than see you strive for anything of your own. While my goals and objectives become clearer the more I grind, I feel like I haven’t done enough to push myself forward so I can meet them.
If I could figure out what I’m trying to say with the hundreds of draft posts I have, I’d sleep far better at night. I’d schedule them in, get about six months ahead with content, and use the newly found spare time to handle other outstanding work in my life!
But that’s not realistic. I can’t turn my creativity and inspiration on at will, constantly struggling to fill the blanks in my stories, looking for the words that’ll make them sing. It’s a vicious cycle where I only make it partway through my thoughts each night, too tired to bring them to a close, having dance the exhausting productivity waltz with my mind for nights in a row. Then I go through my day, sit down at night, and try to get it together — knowing it’ll take more than I’ve got to give to write something I’ll love.
We all have our decisions to make — how we spend our time, what’s actually important to us — I just hope I’m making the right ones.
Life is a lot like the old folk tale of the Little Red Hen. To paraphrase for those unfamiliar with the tale, the plot follows a hen who finds a grain of wheat and (SPOILERS!) over time cultivates it into a loaf of bread through harvesting the grain, threshing it, milling it into flour and baking it. Through the story, she asks other animals for help, but met with a smug “Not I” every time. When the bread’s baked and she asks who’d like to help eat it, the same animals eagerly volunteer — but by then it’s too late; since none of them worked to create the bread, none of them get to partake of it, either.
Sadly, the same applies to our ideas — no matter how amazing they seem in your head, unless you make them tangible, you’ll find it really hard to get others to believe in you.
Don’t tell me what I can’t do.
“Can’t” is a word I’ve heard often in my life.
“You can’t do that — you need to focus on your studies so you can become successful!”
“You can’t write on that — it’s too risky! No one will care!”
“You can’t chase your dreams — it’s time to grow up!”
Though my current situation makes me immensely glad I never threw the towel in on the #BloggerLife and kept pushing forward, there were plenty of times I nearly listened to the people who didn’t see my vision.
Life changes only help cement things we know already. At our 2011 wedding, I knew there were plenty in attendance who I wasn’t seeing again anytime soon, with me moving from Mississauga to eastern Toronto, and frankly, changing my priorities as I made room for new things in my life. Same goes for fatherhood — things were already changing with marriage, social media and an ever-shifting job situation being major influences, but my son changed the game entirely, putting my focus in a whole new direction and giving me less time to dabble in things I used to find important.
Along with growing up, I was outgrowing much of what defined me for so long, but that’s part of life — it was time to come to peace with it.
Though I’m only 18 months into my parenting journey, I’ve already taken note of ways my behaviour’s impacting my impressionable little son. Like his surprise one Saturday morning upon waking up from a nap, finding me at the kitchen table instead of at my computer desk where I was evidently supposed to be. Or his understanding that I won’t give in to toddler terrorism — all the fussing and whining in the world won’t get me to give you a banana when you’re supposed to eat your dinner.
It’s stressful, knowing your behaviour and decisions will have very real consequences in shaping your child’s future; you spend most days winging it, tackling each new issue as best you can, knowing there’s no standardized textbook to guide you through the steps.
But the problems are far from new — the confusion, the worry, second-guessing your decisions… I wouldn’t be surprised if this was exactly what my parents felt when they raised me.