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Gaming the System 006 - James' First 30 Days As a Digital Nomad in Thailand!

Parkreiner

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  1. So "just enough" is starting to feel like it actually isn't enough for you? You feel that you want more and better?
  2. Day 21 – October 2, 2017 Today wasn't super successful. Yesterday's failure took the wind out of my sails more than I thought it did, and I didn't end up working on anything today. I woke up at 8 in the morning and laid in bed for about four hours just thinking about things. I've known that I need to gain skill in what I'm interested in since I started, but it's only now starting to set in for just how far I have to go, and how little just being aware of and having an interest in the things I want to learn has helped me in the past decade. It's one thing to appreciate good work and another to do it yourself. I'm starting to pull myself back together, though, and I'm realizing that more than anything else, I need to embrace failure. If I'm going to be working towards anything hard, failure's going to be inevitable. So, one, I shouldn't dwell on failure, and two, I should squeeze it for all the lessons it's got. This is something I've been thinking about for a while, but there's value in being able to master something. There's value in being so good that you stand on the shoulders of giants and become such a foundation yourself that you can help other reach ever greater heights. But that takes work. It takes sacrifice. It takes uncertainty and failure and dejection and above all, suffering. It often means not being able to devote yourself to something else to the extent that you want, just because there aren't enough hours in the day. The path to mastery is muddy and arcane and winding and often feels like you're just going in circles or even regressing. But there's satisfaction to be found in that. There's satisfaction in being able to commit to something wholeheartedly, satisfaction in not being satisfied with where you are right now. It's a hunger that doesn't kill you but sustains you – drives and compels you. A lust and gluttony for more prowess. There's so much to learn until the day you die, and I'm only now starting to realize the value of education. I remember people talking about the need to be a lifelong learner when I was in high school, and it was even part of our school motto. Naturally I tuned it out, because I didn't get just how cool and crazy the idea of public education is. Somewhere along the way, people realized the need and value of knowledge and chose to create ways to pass it to the masses. The system certainly isn't perfect, and at least in America, it looks like it's going to get worse with our current secretary of education, but the core idea is just so noble. But the thing is, video games short-circuit all that. Not only do they provide escapism to entirely different worlds, but they provide escapism for competency and skill. I don't want to disparage professional gamers too much, but there's a stark difference between what it takes to become one of the best video game players and what it takes to become one of the best in a more traditional field of study. And that's because the skill floor is raised so much in games. Very few games want you to feel dis-empowered or incompetent or even lost, so they provide a limited set of actions you can do, often with limited to no variations in how you can do each one. Push the punch button in Street Fighter, and you're always going to punch the same way. You don't have to learn the right technique for punching or even how to deal with the injuries a real punch would likely give you. That punch won't ever change; you have the guarantee that it will always be perfectly-executed. So games not only get you up and running much faster and are much more easier to pick up, but they also condense the path to mastery. It's a lot easier to get better at a game once you've played a few others, and your objective is always going to be bound to a level or a mission or a battle or a match. They're bite-sized encounters that keep you constantly engaged, such that you don't have the time to second-guess your progress. If you're playing a side-scroller, you're probably going to get closer to your goal by just going right. Any moments of feeling lost or confused don't last very long, and there's a host of strategies online if you're still having trouble. It's basically a recipe: "just do these set of steps, and you'll be guaranteed to get through this thing giving you trouble". And once you finish one level, you'll often be pushed straight into the next, or if you just finish a match, you can just jump into another. You don't really have to deal with the question of "what next" until you beat a game, and plenty of people dive right back into it through New Game+. Even in open-world games, "what next" isn't really scary, because while you might have plenty of options to consider, you have some guarantee that you'll have fun. Real life doesn't work like that. You don't get feedback that you're improving or failing as immediately. You're constantly asking "what next", and depending on a set of choices that might make perfect sense in the moment, you could just end up on the street. There's no restart button to redo your choices; if you want to fix something like that, you have to invest far more time and effort to dig yourself out, assuming you can. It's much easier to become discouraged, to realize how insignificant you really are in the grand scheme of things, to acknowledge that you're not a protagonist the world revolves around. Life is far harder than any game, as is just navigating through it. Sometimes, it just sucks. But there's a wealth of good things, too. They just take far longer to reach and achieve. They require investment and commitment, and as a result, I think they can be far more gratifying than any game. Because also unlike games, real life has freedom. The freedom to mess up, but also the freedom to do what you want, how you want. You want to punch? You're going to have to practice a lot to master it, but then you'll have far greater control over what kind of punch you throw. --- I rambled, but basically, I think games undermine true progression and achievement. They provide successes and allow you to minimize the failures over a much more compressed time span. Never does playing a game feel like work until you're actually doing it professionally; there's always some promise of fun. You might have to get through some frustrating boss, but implicit to that is the notion that once you do, that's going to be its own success, and then you'll be right back on the fun train. They can distract you from what you can't do or what you're unable to deal with, and that does have some positives, but I don't know if I can ever find true satisfaction in them. I did start talking to one of my friends, though, and we're actually going to be taking an improv class together, starting this Wednesday. I'm going to have to miss the second and third classes (thank god it's free), but that's another thing to get better at.
  3. Maybe I just missed it, but I am curious about what you're hoping to get out of the detox. The point of the detox is getting away from games (forever for some people), yet you're interested in streaming. Is it just to get a clearer head so that you have a better relationship with games when you return, or do you mean streaming something not unrelated to games? Especially when it sneaks up on you. It's like that parable about how frogs can only tell they're getting boiled if the water they're in changes temperature quickly, but they can't tell at all if the water starts tepid and gets hotter over time.
  4. Days 18/19 - September 29 & 30 I didn't actually end up doing much on these days. One notable thing is that my dad's brother got really bad news; he has cancer, and it's progressed to the point that he probably only has 2–6 more months to live. The two of them have been incredibly close for as long as I can remember, and the two basically call each from thousands of miles away every two days at the worst. I don't even know what's going on in my dad's head right now. I've always been aware of the fact that I or anyone I know I could die at any moment, without warning. There are things to increase the risk, like being obese (my mom) or smoking several times a day (my dad), but sometimes it can just blindside you. I barely know the man, but I just feel some weird mix of emotions right now. It's not pity, because that feels patronizing, but I guess I just want to wish the cancer away, so that he can live longer. It's crazy that the human body can get to the point where it can destroy itself so rapidly. So, my dad wants to visit him at least one more time, and he's leaving this Friday. And I'll be going with him, partly to help drive, but I just also want to be there for my dad. He's done so much for me growing up, and he continues to, considering he's the sole breadwinner of the house. He puts himself through an incredibly stressful job supervising a section of the DC Metro, and for years, he would do constant overtime. My dad and I spent time together when I was younger (between the ages of 1 and 8, or so), but I just never took to the hobbies he liked and wanted me to try, like fishing and flying model airplanes. That was around the time I really got into video games, so part of me does wonder if that was part of it, but around 9/10, we just kind of drifted apart. We still get along fine, but I've spent 23 years in the same house as him, and barely know him. He was always busy, but for the big things, he would take the time off to be there, and I didn't even realize how much that mattered until now. He's sacrificed so much for this family, and I don't know where to even begin returning the favor. I guess Friday could be a big chance, both to support him and to bond with him. Though, come to think of it, part of the reason why I've been so apprehensive these past few years is because I flunked out of college. I didn't care about my grades that much during high school and didn't even have the context to understand how much they did, and I basically took that attitude to college, where that simply doesn't work. And because I had a B average with a sprinkling of A's and didn't have any extra-curricular activities and didn't try for scholarships, most of the bill for college came out of my dad's pocket. His and his alone. I've burned a lot of his money with nothing to really show for it, and I do want to make things right. I've thought about it before, but if I can even make low-class wages with whatever work I can land after completing FreeCodeCamp, I'd be willing to put most of it aside to give to him. He might not even take it, but even if he doesn't, I at least want to put some money back into the house to get it cleaned up or just to pay off the mortgage. It's actually not that far away from being paid off, since my parents have been paying for it for 20 years or so, and a couple tens of thousands could make that much faster. I don't know; part of me wonders if he'd still refuse, and would just want me to put that money towards what I what I should have done since the start of high school: building a future. I won't know until I have the money to present. Though going on a surprise road trip this Friday is throwing a spanner into my plans. I was hoping to make another web development project and finish it 15 days from now, but I'd be losing at least a week for this, especially on the days when we'll just be on the road (it's a 21 hour drive to get to my dad's brother's house). I'm trying to do as much of the work I absolutely can't do away from home before I leave, but I'm going to be cutting things really close. Still, if the project gets in the way of being there for him, I'll just have to put it aside. Family's more important. Day 20 – October 1, 2017 I didn't work constantly today, but I did start working on the website project. I actually got the layout and most of the sections figured out, and for the most part, I can see exactly how to implement it. That's not going to be that bad. I just had one problem: drawing an emblem for the main section. I was watching some videos for tips on how to do make icons like that, and one suggested that I just spend an hour making 50 designs or so. By being forced to create so much content in so short a period of time, you don't get too hung up on any one idea (because you have to jump right to the next thing), and you can get all the bad ideas out of the way quickly. I still don't know how to draw, and I know the key to making a good icon is being able to break something into its basic shapes and stylize them, but I couldn't do it. I knew the drawings weren't really going to be lookers and that I'd have to spend more time on the computer turning the best one into something good, but I couldn't even come up with more than 10 ideas, and all of them were bad. What was supposed to be an hour of coming up with ideas rapid-fire just turned into 30 minutes of feeling worthless, unskilled, and untalented. Just the thought "I can't do this I can't do this I can't do this" constantly repeated itself in my head. The gap between what I want to make and what I can is much bigger than I thought. I know that given my situation, I'm basically trying to build myself up from nothing, but I have to go through a period when I genuinely am nothing. I don't really have anything going for me, and while I'm trying to fix by doing at least one thing to improve my skills every day, I feel like I have to do so much catch-up. I have to develop skills that make me worth something in the workforce, I have to rebuild or remake my social circles, and I have to take care of the things that have plagued me to varying degrees since I was born. It's daunting, and I really have no idea what I'm doing. All I can really do is hope that FCC will pay off and get through its content as quickly as possible. But part of me wonders if I'll even be passable after that. There are so many unknowns, and my best option is to press onward and hope for the best. My future's scary, but I think that even scarier than that is the possibility that I just might not be that good at anything, and this ineptitude is going to hover over me for the rest of my life. I've seen plenty of screenshots making fun of artists who practice for well over a decade, while barely improving. It was like their skills were in stasis the entire time. I feel sorry for them, but I also fear that's going to happen to me. That not only will I fail to develop skill no matter how many hours I spend practicing, but that I'll be so delusional that I won't even be able to tell that I've plateaued hard. I've done a thing a few times now where I make something and am really pleased with it, but the moment I come back to it a day later or show it to someone else, I quickly realize that it's garbage. So to some degree, I have that delusion in me, and it could easily get a lot worse and damaging.
  5. Day 16 – September 28, 2017 Short entry. I woke up on time, but didn't get to do everything. I kept working on the course I resumed yesterday, did some design work for a personal project I'm working on getting out in two weeks, and kept working on my FCC project. I also started to practice driving again so I can finally get my license. I've already got a decent number of hours and get most of the basics, but I still need to log 15 more hours before they'll let me take the test. I didn't do everything I wanted today, and I'll cover why tomorrow, but at least I made some progress. The FCC project itself is almost done, though. I still need to do some fine tuning for the design, clean up the code, and make the layout work on phones and small screens, but I should finally be done tomorrow. Not super great. I don't eat sweets or fast food or drink soda or anything, but I do like my carbs. I have been either cooking something or drinking a protein shake for breakfast every morning since I've started, but everything past that's kind of a crapshoot. Dinner's usually something processed. Once I get everything else sorted, I'm really going to start taking my diet seriously and learn to cook more recipes, especially since I enjoy it. Homemade's is always better than the boxed stuff could ever be, but it's hard to beat the convenience of just throwing something in the oven. I've been about the same weight for a few years now, but I could probably stand to lose 40-ish lbs. (18 kg). I'm really tall, so that kind of helps hide all the extra mass, but I've got a ways to go.
  6. Day 15 – September 25, 2017 Today was kind of another flub. I woke up on time, but still felt really tired, despite going to sleep relatively on time, so I went back to bed. Then I woke up late, and didn't do all of what I wanted to. I did start going through a web development book that I kind of burned out on due to its really high difficulty curve (according to most beginning programmers who've tried it), to the point that I hadn't even done anything with it for over a month. But I'm starting to get back into it, and I think more time and exposure to related concepts have made it a little easier to digest. I also scrapped my first Free Code Camp project and started from scratch. The layout ended up being completely different, but I think it's much better. The old one had a gimmick that could've looked cool, but I didn't know what to do with it, and throwing design gimmicks for the sake of it isn't exactly good design. I'm still figuring out exactly how to get things how I want them, especially since I'm going beyond what the assignment asks for, but I might be able to finish it tomorrow. I just need to figure out some technical issues.
  7. Day 14 – September 25 I didn't actually do that much that produced tangible work. My little brother recently got a job at a grocery store, but because they're so short-staffed, he's been working 6-day work weeks, 8 hours a day. He's always tired when he gets home (especially since this is his first job), so he hadn't been able to use my computer in nearly a week. I basically let him have it all day, and just spent the day reading, especially on things I want to get better at. It wasn't a total waste, but I feel like I could have used my day better, at least to practice something. The thing is, all the things I'm learning and working towards professionally are pretty dependent on a computer. I'm gonna figure out something to do during days like these. If nothing else, I guess I could spend the day drawing. Though the time did give me time to reevaluate where I'm planning to go in the future. I already said that I'm interested in graphic design, drawing, and acting. I'd also love to learn a second language and get back into translation (I used to do translation editing for a friend, but I was always iffy about the accuracy of my changes, since I didn't know what the original text said). So, taking all that into account, I've basically got two possible career paths I want to go down, both of which are equally appealing right now: UI design for programs and applications, and voice acting. UI design's got the highest possible success rate, but if I somehow manage to get a decent living with voice work, I don't know what I'll choose. Right now, I feel that meeting the right person at the right time could easily sway me. But for hobbies, there's whatever I don't choose, drawing, theatre acting, cooking, and translation. I fear that all that plus actually going out and, you know, maintaining relationships with people is just going to spread my time super thin. So, I'll just be trying to do too much, and won't be especially good at anything. That's not really a concern right now, since I've got my short-term career goals figured out, but once I have the money to transition to something else, I don't know what I'll choose. Still, it's funny how much of my interests can be traced back to one game, Persona 4. I've been going back to menus of Persona 5 on and off over the past 2 years,and I still find new things in them. Shame the English versions are so bad, since I'm pretty sure they were done by a different designer who wasn't working with the original one. I also got my real first gaming craving. Pretty much the only game I had been playing the past few months, was a complete mess when I left it. The latest expansion had just come out, which I had shelled $40 for a bunch of card packs on, and one class single-handedly defined the entire game. The balance was in a really bad place, but I found out that they released a balance patch a few days ago, and while the jury's out on the long-term effects, my absolute favorite class is finally #1 for the second time in the game's entire history. It was always at least decent if you knew what you were doing, but it's almost always been middle of the road, if not worse, for three years straight. I do want to see what the game's like, since things are so topsy-turvy now, but I've made a commitment. I know the 90 days will be taking me past the launch of the next expansion, so it's possible this may never happen again, but that's just the sacrifice I have to make. I can play a game for a few hours and have short-term satisfaction, or I can work towards building something much more long-term and enduring. Day 15 – September 26 I haven't relapsed, but I feel like I hit a bit of a slump today. I don't know if I was just feeling off, but I didn't exercise until later in the morning (despite waking up and staying up on time) and couldn't really focus on the things I was working on. I also quickly looked at gaming news to see if anything major had happened since I had stopped looking at them for the detox, and while there was pretty much nothing, I did notice myself creeping into the old habit of just looking at news, refreshing things in the chance there would be something new. I do not want to go back to that, but I'm going to work harder tomorrow to make sure that today was just a fluke. I don't know if it has much to do with graphic design, just going off the description, but it definitely sounds interesting. Thanks for the rec. EDIT: Oh, wait, I actually decided to look through the table of contents, and this looks perfect. I was already interested before, but I'll definitely be sure to read it ASAP now.
  8. Yeah, I definitely want to make it out there eventually, if nothing else than to see a bunch of punk and underground bands. Maybe for the 2020 Olympics. Man, I don't watch that much anime anymore, but Champloo is like my number 2. That soundtrack. But apparently Japan's super strict on drugs. I've seen a few stories of people getting jailed for crazy amounts of time just for having a little bit of pretty benign stuff.
  9. You didn't really touch on it in the intro, so I'm curious: how has gaming interfered with your relationship with God?
  10. I remember playing a bunch of flash games around the mid-oughts. It was Jay Is Games, Newgrounds, and Kongregate. I fell off Kongregate before they added achievements, but I went there constantly for a little bit. How was Japan, though? I've always wanted to go, if nothing else than to check out all the great underground and punk music coming out of it. People always think about the bustling cities, but apparently the countryside is really nice, too.
  11. Day 13 – September 23, 2017 Didn't do a whole lot, honestly. I slept it and didn't exercise, but I did spend almost the entire day reading things about graphic design and practicing it. I spent a few hours making an icon for a web project I'm working on. Turns out it wasn't good enough when I tried fielding it around, but that's how it goes sometimes. I did get some feedback on how I might be able to improve the existing design, but I don't know if it's just a dead end and not a great idea in the first place. It was interesting, because while I was looking at guides for how to choose typefaces, I saw so many parallels with voice acting. The guides I read stated the importance of an emotional destination – what a designer wants the audience to feel, that complements the rest of the content. To some point, it helps to read the content or at least be aware of what it's about. This notion can then inform a lot of the design decisions, but it's all dressing for a core message. That's basically what voice acting for commercials is – you're picking up context clues from the text about how to create a believable performance. Then you figure out the right read and set of acting tactics to lead the audience on an emotional journey, hopefully placing them at a destination that leads to them buying the product being advertised. A little later, I don't know what got into me, but I had trouble sleeping that night and ended up listening to a few graphic design podcasts that I had downloaded. The first one is special, because it actually involves someone whom I've know about for years, but never talked to, because we went to the same college, but he had graduated before I even started. While I went there, we both had a few mutual friends who were still in school. Plus, he was pretty single-handedly informed the aesthetic of the student group I spent the most time with – he made the logo (which is still used, 6–7 years later). But it was interesting to get some perspective on this person I've never spoken to, never even seen, but who just has this interesting life. By the end of the episode, (1) I left with the impression that he's just a really cool and likable person and (2) I felt affirmed in wanting to get into graphic design, specifically UI design. That's what I want my job to be in eventually, which is why I'm trying to develop skills adjacent to it that can still make me money until I can break in. My work is genuinely terrible. I have the potential to change that – to become incrementally less awful with practice – but I have to work hard to do that. I have to work really, really hard. It's not a given that I'll ever be good, even with every waking moment poured into getting better, but if I don't do anything, my awfulness is a guaranteed lifelong constant. I just have to be comfortable rolling the dice. Day 14 – September 24, 2017 I'm starting to hit what Ira Glass of This American Life calls "The Gap". It's the idea that whenever anyone starts at something they've never done before, they're going to suck. Hard. What's more, that person probably has a good idea of what work in that field looks like. They have some semblance of taste. That's the gap: the gap between what you're capable of right now vs what others are, that you know you have the potential to produce but just can't. But that's okay, because with time and practice and dedication, you can bridge that gap, you can develop actual skill. I've been following design for years, but I haven't done that much work myself, so now that I'm really making an effort to make things, it feels like the gap's even more pronounced. Were someone to work consistently throughout the years I was just following design, they'd be really good. If that were me, I could be really good right now. But I didn't, and I'm not. It's just frustrating, because I can't even produce a good rough outline for what I want to do. Like, say good design's like cooking and can be broken into three steps: gathering the ingredients (the ideas that can fuel the design, even they're disparate), figuring out the recipe (deciding how to unify these ideas into a single, simple concept), and cooking it (realizing the concept into a real-world design). I'm generally good at the first step, below average at the third, but abysmal at the second. I lack the skill to see the relationships between ideas and draw them from imagination, so even if I can feel there's something good in what I have, I can't make it come to anything. At least if my problems only were with the third step – mostly mechanical skill – I'd be able to come up with a decent concept for a design and just flub the execution. Right now, I don't even know what to do. It feels like I've got good input, but I have no idea how to even begin to turn that into output. It's just one big mystery, and I don't even know how to begin addressing my problems. I have nothing but drive but no direction, not even an inkling of one. At the very least, this is making me realize that if I don't develop the skills essential to drawing – being able to see and break things down to their core components – I'm going to be dead in the water sooner or later. I just don't know. Part of me's just tempted to get Megg's History of Graphic Design (about 700 pages), and read through the thing, hoping to get some context for how graphic design is done a professional skill level. Otherwise, I can tell I'm just going to be flailing around.
  12. Day 12 – September 23, 2017 Woke up early and exercised, per usual. Other than that, I did all the things I've been focusing on these past few days, namely programming and graphic design. I did start on my first project for Free Code Camp (I'd be there sooner if I weren't trying to learn multiple aspects of programming at once), which is to create a tribute webpage for someone or something we like. Since I've been trying to learn color palettes lately, I chose Josef Albers, who wrote one of the most widely-read books on color theory, Interaction of Color. In the fifty years since it was written, some people (mostly scientists) have poked holes in the things Albers said, but he got the majority of it right. I'm sure that plenty of other artists were aware of what the book covers to some extent (especially Isaac Newton, who invented the color wheel in the first place), but it's crazy that it took until relatively recent history to consolidate all that information – information covering something that almost everyone perceives – in one book. But working on the project is making me think about a few things. The first is that even if a program or website or application is ugly as sin, the programming itself can be amazing. There are so many computer scientists who have no aesthetic sense – and for good reason, since I feel like the idea of graphic design literacy for developers is relatively new – but their work is often a lot better than that of a great designer who's only a decent coder. A graphic designer can come in and give it a new coat of paint, but turning mediocre code around is a lot more work. Very few of the other tribute pages I've looked at are lookers, but I'm starting to appreciate the other kind of work that can go into these project, and how hard it is to do it well. It's humbling to see how much there still is to learn, and even more so to know how long it'll take to get good at even a few of them. The second ties back into something I mentioned in the first point. Most people don't know how to make things look pretty. That's not because they're inherently worse at it than others – I think anyone could get up to speed after reading a few resources – but it's interesting how different life priorities can equip us with different skills. I'm guessing most of the coding newbies I'm seeing never learned graphic design because it either didn't interest them or because they valued other things more. That's fine, but it does me wonder about what skills I'm missing that to others is second-nature. How different priorities back then could have opened new opportunities right now. The last thing is something that I can tell is going to be a big hurdle in the near future, if not tomorrow. That would be my bad habit of trying to go above and beyond what a problem asks for, and then getting discouraged because it turned out to be overly ambitious for my skill level. The first project isn't that hard, and if I didn't care, I could probably knock the entire thing out in less than an hour, but I just had to add a bunch of new elements and tricks that are beyond what the lessons have covered. I don't really know what I'm doing, but I'm going to have to be mindful of how I react to that this time. Before, I would just give up a lot of the time, because what I wanted turned out to take more than I can give, but I didn't want to settle for something that I wouldn't even like. This time, I'm going to try working through it. This time, the project isn't that overly-embellished, so I'm going to treat this as something to bring me out of my comfort zone. I already asked from help at other places, which is something I've never done before. Still, even if it proves to be too much, I'm going to rein in the scope until it's something I can do. If I'm not happy with it afterwards, I can always come back to it later and redesign it with a new set of eyes/even more skills.
  13. Day 11 – September 21, 2017 Today didn't go exactly as planned, but I still managed to salvage it. I did get up and exercise at 6 in the morning, but I didn't get a real start on my day until about 9. Then the power went out, and by the time it had come back, I figured I might as well just spend the day learning, so I just forewent the taxes. I basically only did two things, practicing icon design and work for FreeCodeCamp, but I ended up taking more time than I thought I would on the icon design, and that was just for one that I don't really like that much. Still, that's to be expected when I'm new to it; I'll keep doing it whenever projects call for the skill. I also tried making a color scheme that came to me all of a sudden just as I was about to sleep last night, but I can't get the colors right just yet. I'm working with four colors, and there's always one that throws off the rest, which makes me change them all, and then there's another that's giving me trouble. It's oddly addicting, but it's also just another thing I'm going to have to practice, since I've barely done it. One thing I am noticing, though, is that by getting up every morning around the same time, days have suddenly started to feel a lot longer. Before, when I was just using games to procrastinate, it got scarily easy for me to lose track of entire days, and my sleep schedule was a total wreck. I would get up late in the afternoon, and before I knew it, it was 6 in the morning, I had done nothing with the day, and I just back to sleep, unfulfilled. I'm still messing up at some of the most basic things, but I feel that if I keep at them, I'll learn to deal. I'm also going to try to use tomorrow morning to be a little more active in the community. I feel so guilty that so many people have been commenting on my posts, offering help, yet I haven't returned the gesture yet.
  14. Day 10, September 20, 2017 Continuing to do more. I'm making progress in FreeCodeCamp, figuring out how to put together a good recording set-up, and Harvard's intro to computer science course. I meant to do more graphic design and a little more coding on top of everything else, but I ended up not getting that much sleep and and then woke up early to exercise, so I had to crash halfway through the day. All in all, though, I'd say I put in about 6-ish hours of work. Still, I'm starting to understand the value of sleep. Before, it didn't really matter, because I didn't have anything to do during the day, but now that I have reason to pay attention, I can feel the effects of short-changing myself. I'm not going to make the same mistake tonight. Other than that, though, I finally got around to taking care of my taxes. One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that I have a bad case of phone phobia – I've had it as long as I can remember, but I'm sure it's gotten worse in these past few years. What that means is that whenever I have to call a stranger on the phone, my heart starts beating much faster and I get a shortness of breath. It's so bad that I basically have to plan out what I'm going to say before I call. I never make a script or anything, because that would just sound super robotic and stilted, but I just try to organize a set of talking points. So, back in April, I did my taxes, but I must have messed up somewhere, because the filings got declined. Even though I got the amounts wrong, I knew that I didn't owe money (meaning no penalties for filing proper forms late), so I just kept putting talking to someone to fix things off for a month, and then two, and now five. I only got the state taxes situated today, but it took a while just to psyche myself up to make that phone call. I'm glad I did it, but I still have federal taxes to deal with. I'm hoping I'll be able to do that tomorrow, but I know I'm going to be uncomfortable throughout it. But it just has to be done. I've had counseling on and off over the past few years, but the thing is, I somehow got to this point where my therapist and I got on this tangent years ago, and we've just been addressing that ever since, not really addressing the big things. And since she always ends up leading the conversation and goes off notes from the previous session, it just keeps going. It's helping me address genuine issues in my life, but all this time, we've just been dancing around the core problems. I considered just trying to make a fresh start by registering with a new therapist, but that's not really fair to my old one. It's not her fault I haven't been speaking up for myself. I think I'm going to schedule a new appointment soon, and just try to start from square one with her.
  15. Day 9 – September 19, 2017, Part 2 Day ended up going a lot better than I thought it would starting out. I finally committing myself to learning some of the subjects I've been sitting on, and I'm starting to make progress. At the very least, I've further along than I was yesterday. I woke up late, so I didn't managed to get to everything, but actually getting things done felt so good and rewarding that I think I'm going to have few problems doing it again tomorrow. I considered confronting them about their conversation (not aggressively, though), but I decided against it. I'm just going to focus on improving myself until the results speak for themselves. That's really good advice. Unfortunately, I don't think renting out an apartment is going to work out. I already think my mom and brother don't have much faith in me, and while my dad's far more neutral, I feel like they'll be able to sway him however they want. Plus, I see all this as my problem. I've basically allotted nine months for me to complete the entirety of FreeCodeCamp and find a job using its support network afterwards. Given the cost of living in the area, renting an apartment would likely cost them a minimum of $7,200, and even then, I'm sure from their mind, they have little guarantee that I'd even be willing to pay it back or hold myself to my timeline. My family's weird, though. The relationship's supportive on the surface, but we all have a bad habit of bottling up our feelings, which just leads to things like that or my mom yelling at our pets, or so many other "little' things. The kind of things that are probably really obvious to anybody visiting, but because I've grown up with this all my life, I'm just blind to most of it. Honestly, though, my brother's probably the most toxic member of the family. He's a total goon – completely abrasive and constantly cursing up a storm. He calls me "Dickhead" as a term of endearment. He also tries to do the same thing that he and my mom did today towards her with me, though I always try to back out of it. There are some things that annoy me about her, sure, but he does seem a little too gleeful about it at times. I'm trying to be understanding towards him, since he just turned 18 and actually tried committing suicide this past April (and the whole family was genuinely supportive while he was in the hospital), but honestly, I'd say he's the biggest damper on my self-esteem. I don't know how much of this is just because of the inner demons he's dealing with, though. Still, moving out is definitely my first order of business once I have a job. Beyond being sick of just being in this house for most of the past four years, I'm just tired of my town. Even though there's a navy base right within walking distance, there's next to nothing outside it – not even a grocery store, which is why we always have to go to the next town over. The few times I've checked Facebook, I've seen old friends talk about how much of a difference getting out of my entire county, and while I'm not aiming to move as far as they have (the nearby cities actually have really good local communities for my goals and interests), I know I just need to move out some distance.
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