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90-Day Detox – Aiming to Update Daily


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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.

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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.


Better not relapse! I'll kick your ass ;0

Seriously tho it sounds like youre doing fine just take it slow when youre feeling the burnout. Whats your diet like?

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.

Edited by Parkreiner
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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.

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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.

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