Though I’ve listened to plenty of rap since buying my first boombox in ’97, I’ve rarely heard anything representing me. Sure, it’s largely Black music, but from a different narrative than my life altogether. Middle-class. Raised in a two-parent home. Private school education, married with kids—nothing you’d want to hear about in the club. And though I found some kinship in Childish Gambino’s “Not Going Back” and Drake’s “You & The 6”, the struggle of growing up Black while lacking enough Blackness for your peers only reflects part of my identity. There’s so much more to my life!
But life is full of surprises. You never know who’s going to create the work that speaks to your soul, and a former hustler from New York’s Marcy Projects would be the last person I’d expect to understand me, but with his thirteenth album 4:44, I can tell you for a fact that JAY Z gets it. With topics like legacy, family and the constant pursuit of excellence, it’s an album speaking to everything I’m trying to build with my efforts here at the blog!
I didn’t know it then, but before my eldest started junior kindergarten this September, life was simple. Taking an extra eight months away from the office after her mat leave to be with the boys (and because two kids in Toronto daycare is really expensive), Sarah took the boys on various adventures as they grew. I mean, it obviously wasn’t perfect—I’m not entirely sure how Sarah finished those twenty months with her sanity intact—but for the most part, we were in control. We taught them what we wanted, chose what stimuli affected them, and saw them grow in the world we created for them.
But what we hadn’t considered was a new factor just over the horizon—something we couldn’t control that’d affect our son in entirely new ways.
So you may have noticed the blog a little lacking of late. Life hasn’t been so forgiving lately, and yes—it’s been a struggle. Whether it’s the transition to being a schoolkid’s Dad and the rigorous schedule that comes with it or the 12-hour days the 9-5 had for me in budget season, I’ve been continually choosing some things at the cost of others just to keep my head above water.
But now that I’m through a period that had me at my wits’ end more often than I liked, licking my wounds isn’t an option. The world didn’t stop turning while I fought to find my way, and several weeks later with a to-do list filling four sheets of lined paper double-sided, it’s time to kick it up a notch and start producing like I know I can.
And I’d say there’s no better time to do it than NaBloPoMo.
NaBloPoMo — Because This Dude Ain’t Slackin’ No Mo
“If you went back and told your 18-year old self, can you imagine?”
— an old friend’s thoughts when discussing my current #BloggerLife
It’s no secret to anyone who’s made it through high school—adulting ain’t easy. We’ve got bosses who don’t give two craps about us; consumer debt ’cause no one walked us through personal finance; shady friends, poor nutrition, and realising that it’s much harder to make your dreams come true than you ever thought before. We don’t know what we don’t know as kids, and though staunchly convinced things will get better when we’re old enough to do things our way, it’s a big, bad world out there, and no one ever really prepares us for it.
Reason #1 — Because We’re Never Really Ready for the Bigger Box.
I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t go back in time to tell their younger selves the things they know today. It’s so much easier when you can measure your self-worth with letter grades and many of the people who matter most are all under the same roof… but things can change so quickly—and for many of us, they do.
“You feel the pressure? Man, I know the pressure.”
— Drake, “Views”, Views (2016)
If 2015 was the year with the world as my oyster, indulging in travel and extravagance to keep the brand growing, 2016’s the one that brought me back to Earth, life with two kids completely changing the way I do my hustle.
It’s been one helluva year, though—alongside the new addition to the family, the blog’s been booming with new opportunities, not to mention the full-time job that rarely kept its hours to 9-5. I’ve veered away from my comfort zone with series like Tales from the 2.9, broadening my world in a plethora of ways, and though I didn’t see it coming in January, it was shaping me up to become a very different Casey Palmer by the year’s end.
But the clock’s ticking—though enough bloggers are in denial, thinking the gravy train’s running forever, the #BloggerLife’s only got so much of a shelf life, and soon enough it’ll be time to move on to the next thing.
Life with two kids is a whole lot busier than I thought it’d be. I remember thinking my hands were full with onewhen he first arrived in 2013, but it’s clear to me now that I hadn’t the faintest back then of how complicated things can get!
“You can’t knock the hustle.”
— Jay-Z, “Can’t Knock the Hustle”, Reasonable Doubt (1996)
It’s a whole new ballgame the second time around. Some things are familiar and actually improved with baby two—you play better, console better, and generally do everything for your second that you just fumbled around with for your first—but there’s plenty that wasn’t part of the picture: a toddler craving attention, whether through refusing to sleep at night or testing his boundaries and limits to see what reaction he’ll get; the daycare drop-off and pickups mixed in with a schedule growing ever more complicated; and a little more age that’s seeped into your bones, making things a little harder to do than they were the first time.
But you don’t just quit because something’s hard—though I’m weeks deep in unfinished stories and lapsed deadlines, I do what I can each day to keep moving forward, trying to connect the dots in what feels like a complex puzzle of my life I’ve only but begun to solve. But I have to keep realistic about my pace—we only recently got Little Man sleeping through the night again after weeks of sleep regression; I’ve teetered on the edge of burnout with a fierce creative block forcing me to dig truly deep for content; and after a year of planning, training and configuration, the system I’ve shepherded at work is finally live to 350+ users, and as the first point of contact, let’s just say that my work life is busy.
Many would see all this and say I’ve got more than enough to manage already. Many would tell you that I’m just too hard on myself—I’m already “living the dream” with my wife, two kids, and stable employment to pay for the clothes on our backs and the food in our bellies—society would call me successful; what more could I want?
But that dream isn’t enough to sustain me—that dream does not a legacy make. If we live striving for the bare minimum, I wouldn’t call that “living”—I’d say we’re simply participating in the lives we’re given, never really figuring out what we’re capable of because it’s too hard. Or we’re scared. Or any of a million reasons that I’ve simply no time for—life is for living, and I’ll keep testing my limits until I’ve made the most of mine.
So all this to say… what? Sorry I haven’t been posting like I used to? Sorry that my ideas aren’t as timely as I’d like them to be, the unexpected twists and turns of parenting young children whittling away at the time and energy I once had for the craft? Or sorry that this journey will take a bit longer than expected, with life trying to show me what I can handle at this point in my life, not where I think I should be when I keep comparing myself to a bevy of peers?
Or maybe it’s just learning not to say “sorry” at all, realizing that there aren’t many bloggers writing with two kids under 3 to look after, and that the trips away, tasty dinner events, and most of what previously kept me busy in my #BloggerLife have to go on hold ’til we’re slightly more stable. Or remembering that this blog isn’t my full-time job like many of those who’ve made a success of themselves, and that I’d benefit more from expectations that let me maximize what time I can offer the craft each day, not ones that keep me pushing myself too far, winning some short-term battles, but winding up too exhausted to be in the war.
It’s accepting that my reality isn’t one that many share, and accepting that is something long overdue in my life.
The State of the #BloggerLife, March 2016: Still Getting that Blog On Between Diaper Changes and Piggyback Rides
So that’s what’s up—who I am and the world I live in today. The grind to create work that challenges blogging as a medium, not simply follows the beat of the bloggers who came before. I bare my soul, revise without end, and fight with every fibre of my being to reach my potential. This is but another paragraph in the story I’m still crafting, but with every sentence, the path’s a bit clearer.
That said, it’s time to get back to the grind—these incomplete blog posts won’t write themselves, and I have a number of commitments I intend to keep. Some may doubt me, and some may think my time has passed, my various obligations keeping me far too busy to post as frequently as some of my contemporaries… but I see the vision in my head and remind myself there’s much yet I have to share with the world—and I look forward to every last word!
Until the next,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
It’s been more than a week since I finished the month-long Tales from the 2.9 project, and there’s plenty I’ve wanted to say—there are conversations that need to be had to further explore the Black community, seeing what we can do to elevate and not denigrate its people within. It’s not as if I’ve lacked for ideas—I write a little every day, teasing out the words I’m really trying to say, no matter how buried in my subconscious they may be. What’s really holding me back are the expectations I have for myself and the work I put out into the world, and they’re far from realistic.
Return to Form: Getting Over Myself and Finding a Way to Get Back to Doing Great Things
“Long as we continue to have that dream, it’ll never be too late.”
— Trevor Craig
Good parenting tells us not to compare our children to other kids—to expect the best of them individually with the skills and abilities life allows them, not pressure them to work beyond their means and keep up with arbitrary standards that do them more harm than good.
I’d be wise to apply some of this thinking to myself, remembering that there’s only so much I can do in my life, with a wife, full-time job and two kids under 3 commanding enough of my attention to put any other priority far behind in the running. But despite the fact I won’t take trips and leave my wife on her own with our two little monsters; that most events in the #BloggerLife cut right into the thick of our bedtime routine, counting me out unless it’s especially special; and the fact that most opportunities are for families with kids older than mine, or the bloggers without any kids at all, I still want the things the other bloggers have. Traffic in the hundreds of thousands. Staggering follower counts on my social media channels putting local celebrities to shame. A life where I don’t even have the time for boredom with my brand partners constantly throwing new and lucrative experiences in my direction.
But as much as I want to become the next Oprah 25 years from now (not even joking), I need to grow comfortable with baby steps and the fact that not every day will be an amazing one. I need to create amazing stories and not rely on the world to give me things to write about. I need to work hard to find the purest way to express the thoughts I want to share with the world—not feel trapped by the blogging medium. Every time I feel worn out and that I’ve accomplished all that I can with my brand, I need to straighten up, redouble my efforts, and show everyone what I’m really capable of—creating a blog so engaging that even the most casual readers can’t help but click to see what’s going on.
So after my unintentional hiatus—largely due to a lovely case of pinkeye laying me flat while the rest of my life continued pummeling me from every direction—it’s time to get back to the hustle and handle my biz with the #BloggerLife and get my house in order. I’ve made my list—checked it twice—and if nothing else, I have the beginning of something that could turn out to be marvelous if I can suss out the momentum to keep on moving.
Thanks for your patience, everyone—2016’s shown me it has no intentions of being an easy year, but with enough focus and a heckuva lot of determination, maybe I can still make it the best one yet for this #BloggerLife!
Thanks for reading and until the next,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
I can’t even lie, guys — coming up with a list of 100 goals for the fourth year in a row was hard — ridiculously so. I’m a very different me than I was when The 2013 100 came out, back when free time was still an abundant commodity I didn’t even know I was taking for granted, trying to fill it with countless things that’d keep life interesting.
A problem I most definitely don’t have in 2016!
As I work at surviving the upcoming year — especially with our second child’s imminent arrival — I needed to make the list a lot more realistic; I’m all too skilled at chasing ambitions that exceed my lifestyle’s capacity, and I’ll need to keep wary of that in 2016 if I want to see myself make it out the other side!
So without further ado, The 2016 100. It took a couple of days to polish off after recovering from the gauntlet that was 2015, but I feel like it’s a list that will really make waves in this life o’ mine should I see it finished!
But hey — that’s what I say every year ????
Thanks for reading!
1) Write an amazing series for Black History Month 2) Win a vacation for my dry cleaner 3) Watch Creed; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; Ant-Man 4) Take Eric to a sporting event so he can stop complaining about getting left from sporting events 5) Phase my old 3.5″ hard drive out 6) Get rid of my old electronics 7) Stop biting my nails 8) Get rid of the wedding thank you cards I never sent 9) Clean out the basement crawl space 10) Build shelves into the crawl space 11) Give my FWD Powershot 2 to my old manager the hockey coach 12) Do the CN Tower Edgewalk 13) Sort out my old TD employee RSP 14) Consolidate everything down to a single notepad
Though a chiropractor I started seeing late into 2015 told me I’d developed some mild sciatica in my back, I didn’t need him to tell me I carry too much STUFF. In a digital age where we can pack mountains of information into a single device, there’s really NO NEED for me to carry all the draft posts and note that I do — save the fact that working from hard copy’s the way my brain’s WIRED.
In 2016, I need a little more focus to keep all my ideas stored in one place so I’m not constantly carrying EVERYTHING in my house made of paper, knowing that I probably scribbled SOMETHING on ALL of ’em.
15) Sort out the Internet situation at home so I can stop relying on tethering to LTE data 16) Learn enough Spanish to understand my sister-in-law’s Mexican wedding in May 17) Find time for date nights, which will involve finding someone who wants to babysit two kids… how about we just find more awesome things to do at home, just in case? 18) Try Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake 19) Get to 0 drafts on CaseyPalmer.com by converting everything into live posts 20) Install the growth chart for my kids that we got at my office baby shower 21) Update all the old content on CaseyPalmer.com 22) Upgrade the site infrastructure to better support contest traffic 23) Redesign the heck out of the blog (Twenty Sixteen, what up) 24) Find the time to pack more lunches for work 25) Clean up and optimize my Pinterest account (I still have that copy of Pinterest Savvy lying around somewhere) 26) Shave more regularly 27) Hand out my remaining business “cep” cards so I can put in a new order (wait — do we still do business cards?) 28) Clear out the bookshelves to prepare for Baby #2 29) Replace the lost key to our 2011 Ford Edge 30) Figure out what I ACTUALLY need to run my site and invest in THAT. 31) Replace our bathroom sink 32) Meet with the people who I never seemed to schedule in through 2015 (Aaron, Emma, Ria, Adrienne, Dianna) 33) Get a Brookhaven Computer Cabinet
The 1% of the Casa de Palmer workspace I use to do all the things isn’t the best — in fact, it’s falling apart. As I get older and start formalizing my #BloggerLife, Sarah and I agree that my workspace should evolve to show that. It’ll take some saving to make it happen, but it’d be a nice addition to the home.
I’m writing this in the first moment I’ve had in a while to just sit down and write what’s been trapped in my head. Though the blog’s been at the forefront of my mind despite everything that’s swallowed my time, it’s been just out of reach, the thoughts that make up my posts not coming together like they should to keep me pressing forward.
But I won’t stop — I can’t stop — I have to do better than the bloggers who’ll write content indiscriminately, always searching for material that’ll fill their post quotas instead of crafting the words that’ll speak to their souls. I’ve gotta do better than those who see blogging as little more than a business, never bothering to put more into their work than the copy from their clients and the blanks they fill on the content templates they hold dear. The hordes of those unable to see past the next post, trying so hard to prove how good they are, they fail to realize their actions will eventually rend them irrelevant as the world moves on to something better.
I need to do better because I refuse to settle for “good enough”.
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Being sick for most of November’s been a royal pain, keeping me from doing everything that was on my list for the month. My stack of blog drafts’ as thick as ever; house doors still squeak in dire need of some WD-40; emails sit unanswered in my Gmail inbox; and I couldn’t tackle Movember with the gusto I would were I at 100%.
It wasn’t for a lack of ‘stache — my facial hair’s grown in nicely (much to my wife’s chagrin), and I’ve taken photos along the way to prove it. But it’s fitting that one of Movember’s foci are on mental health, because I started feeling a real sense of burnout as I started closing 2015 off ?