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Comm's Daily Journal


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Day 1.

It's a hectic day, in university land. There's multiple assignments coming due, and the old procrastination bug has reared its head again. It's late in the day, and I'm only just cracking on now. Both with this journal and coursework. Still. Late's better then never, and I've got a kettle and more tea to hand than any sensible person should have. I'm writing this now, as a commitment not to let this happen again. I've said that I'll quit before - Every time a deadline comes around, it feels, and consequences finally catch up. I've signed up for the program this time. I'm hopeful the sense of structure will hold me to it more than I've been able to do on my own.

I've been gaming for a long time, but it really took hold a year or so after I finished high school. I found myself delaying university study to help with a family business that had fallen into trouble. It was a stressful environment, and pervaded every aspect of family life, to the point that we ended up living on the worksite in what had begun life as a staff room. There was no real divide between work and home, and no real power to take action on the things that were the cause of the stress. I started gaming ritually in the evenings, for as long as I could. It didn't make me feel better, but at least it stopped me from feeling worse. It became an escape from conditions that I didn't feel I had any power to change. Those days are (thankfully!) long behind me now, but the habit overstayed those conditions by long years, and become steadily more disruptive as the pandemic keeps me at home longer.

With the looming deadlines it'll likely be a late night - So, by necessity, these journals are likely to start brief. I feel it's important to have something written down though, if only for my own sake.

For all that, having a commitment to work on it is liberating. Even if it is intimidating. Acknowledging the hill's there is better than waiting for the landslide.

Edited by Commissar
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Welcome and congratulations on making the commitment.

Procrastination and escapism seem like common reasons to end up here. Definitely something you'll want to keep an eye on as you go forward. Things like how you feel towards gaming when you are in stressful parts of your life and how the structure of your working days change as you move away from games.

Good to start working on it. Great thing about university is that each semester is a fresh-ish start 😉 Imagine how it'll be next one if you can get your habits under control during this.

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Day 2.

Day 2. The good news is I've been too busy chasing down assignments to even think about games. The bad news is I've been too busy chasing down assignments to sleep since my last entry. Had a consultation with a counsellor as well, around all of that, and there's some hope of arranging sessions in future to come up with some more productive habits and chase down that procrastination-bug.

So, this one'll be very short before I crawl off to bed. If I ever have to write the word hydroelectricity again, it'll be too soon.

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Day 3.

Final teaching day of the semester. Finished off a group project that had stayed reasonably on-track thanks to my team members and the horrific, crushing shame that would have come from missing the deadlines that I set for us in the first place.  They're good folks. Chased down an extension on another assignment and a buddy who's already finished it, so that'll be happening over the weekend. One small piece of assessment didn't get completed today. I didn't have the know-how to get through it. Thankfully, it's only of marginal worth to my grade. There's still a lot of catching up to do and it's uncertain how much ground I can make up this late in proceedings, but it's nice to have a plan. We'll keep paddling and see where this all ends up. I'll have assignments and exams circling like vultures for the next few weeks but, just now, I've got a moment to catch my breath and reflect.

I've been taking walks in the morning since I committed to taking my hands off the keyboard. The weather's beautiful, if swelteringly hot. It's a day like a mousetrap, that lures you out with the beauty of it and then slaps you about with the heat until you scurry back inside, red-faced and sweating.

Got caught up on cleaning up the house. Was feeling about as mentally capable as a boulder after that last assignment, so pottered about with a mop and bucket, and tidied up a few other bits and pieces that are typically done by other family members over the weekend. Tidied up the slew of papers that's been slowly creeping across my work desk like a tumour. There's several there I'm confident I've never seen before, and can only have come from that strange, half-dimension largely occupied by washing-machine devoured socks and lost lego pieces. Set these ones down carefully.

Games are on the mind, of course. I played ancient RPGs in role-playing communities, and it was a creative outlet in addition to an all-devouring hellpit of a time sink. I'll have to find some other activities to fill those voids. Though, that'll have to wait until the end of exam season. I really wish I could kung-fu my way through an exam, but - Well. I've got doubts. Saw the animal welfare place in my city is looking for volunteers, and had our cat die a month or so back (at 18! Not bad, for a stray who wandered in under the house.), so I'll put my hand up for that in a couple of weeks if they're still taking applications.

I lost a couple of hours to web surfing (and reading journals here!) which is something to be aware of going forward. It'd be a shame to just jump from one time sink to another. For the time being though, it's not a videogame, and I'm quietly proud of that.

I'd really like to set down some of the behaviours I noticed developing in myself as a result of the gaming. Dishonesty, inattention, withdrawal from interaction and a sort-of all encompassing emotional numbness. I'm not bitter over any of it. It's happened, and I'm grateful for the experience insofar as it teaches me things. It'll be helpful to have, and go back, and read on in the years to come. And, who knows, it might help someone else recognise it in themselves before I did. Those deserve their own entry and I'll let them have one over the next few days.

The big thing I've noticed has been the length of a day. For a long time there, the routine was wake-up, do errands, duck out for a cup of coffee, and then sit down for 'work' between 8-9am. Work inevitably consisted of firing up the game of choice ('Just one round! My friends overseas are online. I haven't spoken to them in ages. It's twenty to eight, the work day hasn't officially started yet. It'll help me settle in!' Excuses and justifications in motley legion.) - And then glancing at the clock to realise it was 4pm, I'd missed lunch, and the deadlines were massing on the horizon like stormclouds. Whoops. That's the sort of thing to make anyone anxious. Better jump back into a game.

Without that all-devouring maw, the gap between 1pm and 5pm is massive. Noticeable. It's gone from a 'Well, it's too late to start anything now.' to 'Oh, wow, that long?' I'll find productive activities to fill that time. For now, it's just nice to have some small sense of control over the hours.

Used the spare time productively to find a bird avatar around cleaning and team project-ing. Thanks, Falseknees.

 

Edited by Commissar
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8 hours ago, Commissar said:

I lost a couple of hours to web surfing (and reading journals here!) which is something to be aware of going forward. It'd be a shame to just jump from one time sink to another. For the time being though, it's not a videogame, and I'm quietly proud of that.

That happened to me too, and I cam to the same conclusion. Early days nearly anything is better than gaming so long as it doesn't become another long term habit that replaces it.

Actually I empathize with a lot of what you wrote. Gaming seemed to cover things up so well. Only getting rid of them do you notice 'wow, I'm not the person  I want to be'. The emotional numbness for me started to get a little better around ten days, and by that I mean I experienced happiness for a brief moment lol. Hopefully it's similar for you, looking forward to hearing your thoughts more on it.

More positively, Nice idea about the animal shelter. And noticing the difference in the length of the days.

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Thanks for the feedback, @Lampshade. There's something comforting in knowing that a lot of folks've had the same experience. It's a very isolating kind-of hobby, and easy to convince yourself that it's some issue particular to you. I'm so glad to have stumbled on this place after so many off and on attempts to quit over the years .

Day 4.

Brief one, today.

Saturday morning sleep in and breakfast with the folks, then home to study. Watched a couple of weeks of lecture content and made an attempt on one of the two outstanding quizzes. I'd budgeted it taking me about two hours to figure it out and it ended up taking closer to eight, and that's just squeezing a 50%. Brain's a bit of a blur, but it's the first time in living memory I've been able to sit down and watch a lecture all the way through. Little steps. Working through Cam's modules, and drew up a schedule. There's a lot of empty space there with the formal end of classes for semester and the transition to exam and final assessment preparation. I'd be interested in hearing how you folks work to keep yourselves on track when you're given that much freedom to do it.

Started reading G. R.R Martin's Dream-Songs over the morning coffee, which is a fun collection of short stories.

Wayward web-browsing's definitely going to be a problem. Found myself reaching for the phone to check - Well. If you'd asked me, I probably couldn't have told you, but I needed to power on that magic rectangle. Wanted to nip that in the bud before we grow another cancerous habit, so went and dusted off an old Nokia that was lurking in the cupboard, dug out what had to be the only paperclip in the house, and shuffled my sim card over to that. It's web-enabled, but in the old-fashioned, hammer-your-one-key three times for letters fashion. Not too much risk of losing time to that. Not unless I fancy losing use of my fingers along with it.

I've got an even older 6000-Series Nokia sitting in the cupboard (the old black-and-off-yellow display, comes pre-installed with snake, and has existed so long that the rubber on the power button has melted and oozed into the case) that I'm very fond of. If it hadn't outlived the network it talked to I'd still be using that. One day I'll figure out a way to bring it back to life as the Frankensteinian monster it deserves to be.

For now it's an hour's reading then off to grab an early night.

Edited by Commissar
Book was Dream-Songs, not Dragonsong!
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Day 5.

The strangest thing, I think, has been the sensation of stillness.

Today was Sunday and I've taken it easy. Slept in until 9am, then went out for breakfast with family. Came back and did another of Cam's modules. Toddled about setting up an old battery-drained Surface in the corner to run some Headspace meditation first thing in the morning, since the anti-web browsing mobile doesn't support apps and I really don't want to be firing up the machine I used to game on first thing in the morning if I can possibly avoid it. Having to use it for work is challenge enough. The battery problems made the Surface useless as a travel PC, so hopefully it'll do well in its new life as a meditation platform. I've always been one of those 'Bah! Humbug!' types when it came to meditation and mindfulness, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. No use signing up for the program if I'm going to pick and choose what parts of it I take on.

The first three-minute session was relaxing.

For the first time in a long time I don't feel like I'm in a rush to get somewhere. The time I used to spend gaming was nominally relaxation, but it was never relaxing. Even my weekends were spent all-but running about my morning errands to get back to a computer as fast as possible. I might have been sitting with family, chatting, walking - But there was always that gremlin itching to move, to get back to the PC. I'd be running out from family gatherings, my coffee bundled up to take-away, just to get back to the screen five minutes earlier. The vast majority of my conversation was a hodge-podge of 'Yes,' 'Really?,' and a wide variety of communicative 'hmm's. Even when I got to the PC I never really slowed down. Had to get that next level, capture that next point, tell that next story. No wonder I spent so much time feeling exhausted.

I still do, to an extent. But it feels more honest. I spent a lot of my time draining all of that into a screen. It'll take a while to come back.

I got caught behind a couple on the way back from the supermarket, dawdling along at their own pace. Last week, I would've all-but ran around them. Today, I slowed down, dawdled along a way back at their pace. Drank my take-away coffee as I wandered. It's a little thing.

But life's made of the little things. It's nice.

Didn't get to study today, but tomorrow's the first day of the shiny new schedule. I've got high hopes.

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Day 5 - Part 2: The Promised Gaming Behaviours Special.

On Day 3 I talked about setting down some of the ugly behaviours I noticed in myself as a result of my gaming. It's an uncomfortable topic to write about because, for the longest time, my ability to continue gaming was dependent on denying the existence of these behaviours. On maintaining the illusion that I wasn't the sort of person who'd behave like that. That I was still, fundamentally, the person I was ten years ago before gaming got its claws in, when I was academically very successful, had a nice growing collection of awards, and was generally doing quite well, thank you very much. That I hadn't changed, not really. I was just going through a rough patch and, if I just kept on, things'd work out, the ship'd right itself, and I could go merrily back to living life, no uncomfortable change required.

As long as I could somehow make myself believe that (and boy could I!), I could dismiss those days and months and (eventually) years wasted gaming as aberrations. They weren't the norm. An excusable, temporary lapse. A temporary lapse that, as time went on, came to define my day to day routine far more than any phantom of the Commissar of ten years ago.

That's enough nervous circling. Let's get to the meat of things. Here are the behaviours, in all their scab-encrusted light. Look upon them whenever relapse calls, ye Commissar of the future, and remember.

  • Withdrawal from other activities.
    I used to be active in a range of activities. I helped run a school running club. I was very active in a youth development program, and hugely proud of the progress I saw people make through it. I was involved in weight lifting and hiking. I helped raise money for big overseas trips and charity donations. I ran half-marathons. I gave up all of that, inch by inch. Because I was tired. Because I was gaming. Because it was hard, and I could use that time to sit in front of a computer.
     
  • Withdrawal from friends.
    I neglected real-world friends to focus on games; and those real-world friends I retained were exclusively those who were prepared to game with me. Event invitations went unanswered, facebook messages were left to marinate for long years - And, eventually, inescapably. People stopped trying. And I was relieved. One less distraction from what really mattered. Squeezing out another hour of screens before exhaustion drove my head into my pillow.
     
  • Hiding my time spent online, even from online friends.
    I grew so ashamed of the time I spent online that, after a session with one band of online friends, I'd toggle myself to 'Appear Offline,' so I could keep on gaming until the early hours. So I could game in solitude, free of any possibility of ridicule. I lied to real-world friends and family about the time I spent online.
     
  • Neglecting studies.
    It hardly needs to be said that playing for sixteen hours a day doesn't really leave time for academic work. I did what I could, around the time sink. There were periods of frantic, anxious effort, just to try and squeeze out passes that failed as often as they succeeded. My thesis was weeks late, and saved only by special exemption made due to the pandemic. I didn't start writing the thing in earnest until the weekend it was due! A document that's meant to take twelve months to prepare! I'm tremendously grateful to have an understanding faculty, but, boy. Talk about making life harder than it needs to be.
     
  • Dishonesty.
    I've always had a great relationship with my folks. It made covering up the extent of my problem easy. I never enjoyed saying 'Oh, yes, I had a productive day, thanks. How was yours?' with a game frantically alt-tabbed and hidden from view. But it was easier to say that than it was to deal with the shame of losing yet another day. I was hideously ashamed. What sort of human being is incapable of making themselves close an application? So, it was always something else. The content was too hard. I'd misjudged the time it took. I just didn't find the time today. Whatever.
     
  • Inability to think.
    For the longest time, my brain was jittering and kicking like a damaged VHS. My default thought had become the HP progression by level in the RPG I played. It's what ran through my mind when nothing else was. In the shower? Here's your level progression. Out for a walk? Level progression. University lecture? You bet, level progression. Dragging it to anything else was like trying to change gears with your foot on the accelerator. It didn't accomplish much more than a horrific stuttering grinding noise.
     
  • Loss of passion.
    It became impossible to care much about anything. Even my interactions with friends and family were driven more by courtesy than by genuine emotion. I was kind, but only because I felt it was the right thing to do. I only rarely felt it, down in my bones. Successes ceased to matter. Failure ceased to matter. It was all just so much background noise. Of course, I still knew I cared about these things, on some fundamental level. But it was all-but impossible to translate that to any sort of action.
     
  • Lack of future planning.
    God no, the ship's crashing. Why on earth should I want to look ahead? There's a crisis to deal with. There's always a crisis to deal with. Meeting obligations was a hardship. Forward planning was a fantasy.

There it is, in all its glory. I said I'd write it and I've written it. Future journals will be much more focused on the present and the future, but I felt it was important to set this down while it was still fresh. Before I forget, and time softens the severity of what I was doing and what I did, the damage I inflicted on myself, and the people around me who suffered for my lack of care for them.

The funny thing is, you'd think for all this time flung at games, I must have at least enjoyed them. I didn't. Every moment I spent in a game I spent acutely aware of the responsibilities I was neglecting. I didn't enjoy myself. I played more frantically, swifter, quicker, just so there wasn't time to think of anything else. There was no joy there.

I admit, there's a note of self-pity in all of this. For the longest time, I had nothing but contempt for people like me, who couldn't control their own lives. The realisation that I was one was a very difficult pill to swallow and that denial, I think, is part of what made me so slow to actually make a sincere effort to fix it. It wasn't comfortable to write, and it's not comfortable to read. 

But perhaps that's a good thing. Honesty's always a little uncomfortable.

Let's not go back there.

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17 hours ago, Commissar said:

For the first time in a long time I don't feel like I'm in a rush to get somewhere.

I'm still amazed at how much more time is in a day compared to before.

17 hours ago, Commissar said:

Loss of passion.

How's this part been since stopping? Any changes yet? It's been one of the things I'm struggling with

17 hours ago, Commissar said:

Dishonesty.

I think this is one of the most rewarding parts to acknowledge, forgive, and improve with beating addiction. Being able to think better and have more time for your goals is great, but becoming a more honest person affects the people around you so much too. It's freeing to be able to answer a question openly without feeling like you need to quickly decide whether or not to tell the truth. Hard to do that when a person is ashamed of the amount of time they spend gaming or its consequences

 

I feel like you're on a great path @Commissar, keep it up. And thanks for participating in other people's journals as well!

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Day 6.

Thanks for the kind words, @Lampshade! Honestly, it's been busy enough that I've not had any real time to reflect on loss of passion since I put the keyboard down. I'm certainly finding I can focus better, which results in me getting more done, which tends to mean I enjoy what I'm doing more. I suspect a lot of the lack of engagement for me came from the feeling that the efforts I was making weren't resulting in anything (because I was distracted all the time). Sitting down for three hours and feeling like you're no further ahead then when you started'll sap anyone's will.

I'm hoping that'll get better as I get more competent with various other things. We're not quite there yet, but it's better then it was.

--

First day of the new schedule today! Went reasonably well. Got up at 6am, dragged my long-suffering roommate into meditating with me. They're into that sort of thing, and have been a bit stressed out themselves lately. Maybe it'll help both of us. Then it was a fifteen minute run, back home for breakfast, and off to grab the morning coffee.

Came back home and finished off the last of the Respawn modules. Which hadn't been on the schedule, but as far as procrastination goes, I've certainly done worse. Dawdled around installing productivity extensions in chrome to stop me from getting distracted. Which did an excellent job of distracting me. Still, they're all installed now, and tentatively seem to be helpful in cutting down on my tendency to immediately open other tabs the moment a lecturer starts to sound like they might be about to educate me. I'm finding the urge to mindlessly web-browse is hitting me more often than the urge to game, so with any luck the apps'll help with that. Poked the registry with a stick to stop chrome's incognito mode from working, so I can't just instantly circumvent all of them. Then ran over to the shops again to pick up a few things and some lunch.

Ended up starting university work in earnest around midday instead of the intended 9am. But it's definitely an improvement on the traditional gaming panic-start at 9pm.

There's still a lot of work to be done to get this assignment done for tomorrow and I'm doubtful I'll get through all of it. It's likely to be another late night, but we'll see how we go.

Expect a short, sleep-dazed journal tomorrow.

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Day 7.

Woo! A week!

Slow day today, as expected.  I was up until nearly 4am working on that assignment. Progress was limited; and I hit a few roadblocks that, had I been a bit more proactive about it early on, I could have got help with and polished into something of a fairly high standard. As it was, it was more than a little rushed and missing a lot of functionality. On the sunny side, I found myself able to focus on it a lot more effectively, and was able to work on it for pretty much 6 hours straight before dinner and the start of the dreaded all-nighter. It might not be to the standard I'd like now, but it's a promising change of habit.

Flopped out of bed at 6am after a couple of hours of shut eye to keep the morning meditation routine with the roommate. Then immediately flopped back into bed when it was done to catch up on sleep.

More than a little violence to the newborn schedule, then.

Dusted myself off around 10-11am, grabbed a late breakfast and a coffee, and dropped off a couple of things for fixing up. I've had my grandfather's wristwatch lying around for the longest time and have been meaning to take it in for repair, so did that, and had a bit of a really? moment when the fellow (shorter man, bald, wearing a red shirt and a look of angelic patience. I think there's only one watchmaker. He seems to be the same regardless of the country I find him in.) at the store pulled me quietly aside, wearing the sort of expression typically reserved for use by indulgent uncles at family dinners. The conversation went a little like this:

"I can't change the battery on this." He handed it back to me, heavy and solid. It might have been gold once, but it has to be at least sixty years old now, and it's faded to a uniform silver-yellow. The date is stuck on '2,' and has been for the last eternity.

"Oh." I blinked. "Why not?"

"Let me tell you something." A grin, small. "It doesn't have one. These older watches. They're self-winding. Rely on being worn, and walked about. You can tell, y'see? They're so much thicker than modern ones. All that machinery. I usually get a lot of them bought in after Christmas. People figuring it might be the last one they have, last chance to pass them down."

I thanked him and slid the thing back into my pocket. He waved me off and returned to some unknowable bit of machinery at the back of the shop.

I'll carry it around the next few days. Let it wind itself. It's been stopped for years, ever since I got it. Silly thing, for a mechanical engineering student, but I'd always just assumed the battery was dead. Still. I'm moving now, and it's ticking.

If that's not about as blunt as incidental metaphors come, I don't know what it is.

I've been a bit tired today, and the disruption to the schedule's made gaming tempting. This is typically the sort of day where I used to go; 'Well, I've just handed in a major assignment, and I'm knackered.' and just fire something up. I'm glad I put so many barriers up towards doing it. Willpower's unreliable. Better to put the work in while I've got the motivation, to carry me through in the days like today where I don't.

Instead, I finished off one of the two outstanding quizzes, and I'm watching a lecture to prepare me for the second. Had a call from work to book a counsellor at some point in the future. That's probably going to be the biggest casualty out of all of this.

I love my job. It's the best in the world. I work with fantastic people doing something that I'm convinced is important, and could not imagine a more supportive organisation. But the academic failures thanks to our old friend mean I'm very likely to lose it. The formal process has been underway for a few months now. It's a big organisation and things move with all the speed and certainty of a glacier. I'll have the chance to make an argument in my defence, but I'm realistic about the chances. The big changes I've made came too late in this semester, I suspect, to make the results I'll have terribly persuasive. I can hardly blame them. I've been given more chances than I can imagine any other employer offering, and I did try to make changes. Just never quite hit on the right ones. This time is different, but it may very well be too late to save the job. It's a bittersweet thing, to finally land on how I can start exerting some control just in time to likely lose the last big thing my old diligence won me.

It's not the end times, of course. If the most likely thing happens, I'll still finish putting myself through university and collect my sheet of paper. Then the plan's to find some short-term work, and run myself through some other, low-level courses. Collect a couple of certificates. Then re-apply with my current work and a folder full of achievements to wave around so that I can demonstrate that I've fixed the issues. It's a one-of-a-kind place, and I'm loathe to let it go that easily. They've supported me a lot and I really want to give them something back for all that time and trust.

For the time, it's steady on and a lecture at a time. I'll sleep well tonight.

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 Day 8.
Day 1 of 30 of Challenges.

Ladies and gentlemen, we're back to our regularly scheduled sleeping hours. Thank goodness for that. I'm not yet as productive during the day as I'd like to be, but things are happening at least. Watched the last lecture I needed to and submitted the final quiz for that subject before midday. Counsellors got in contact, and I called back immediately to schedule things. Three sessions lined up now, pre-Christmas. Even that felt like a little triumph.

Used to be that phone calls only bought bad news, and I'd put off actioning them until I absolutely had to. ‘The guilty run where none pursue, and all that. Thanks, Catholic primary education. It's empowering to take control, even of little things like that. I honestly feel like I'm on the right track now, so I'm not sure how much benefit I'll get from them - But, hey, I put off going for help for so long in the first place because I was convinced I didn't need it. I'll head in and give it a go.

I'm sure I'm wearing out my keyboard the number of times I've checked the BBC website for election updates. It's an exciting time to live in. Picked up a second set of running clothes, since it's blisteringly hot here, and re-wearing the same set on subsequent days falls somewhere between an exotic form of torture and life as a human marinate.

Spent a long time chatting to my roommate last night. We're both trying to make some changes, so we'll see how things work out. Everyone's going through their own struggles.

Noticed a bit of a hole in my early mornings where I was working on the Respawn modules, now that they're done. Motivation hasn't yet reached the point where I'm ready to sit down and power on with work immediately at that time of day, so I think I'll have that as a bit of a variety hour to try things out and get rolling for the day. I picked up Cam's book of challenges to get me started and, with any luck, by the end of the 30 days I'll have found something to make a semi-permanent fixture in that timeslot.

I'll be documenting those challenges here I work through them. Here's the first one! (And, goodness, what I wouldn't give for a BBcode-style editor on these forums).

Challenge 1.

---
Part 1 - Letter
---

Dear Comm,

Well. You finally made the call. Good on you. Games had their place in your life, but that time’s gone now. It’s a new and exciting time, and a second chance to be the person you always had it in you to be.

It’s an end, to the disruption, to the inability to focus, to the excuses and the anxiety. Or, if not a final end, at least the discovery of the path. All that’s left for you to do is walk it.

It’s a time of opportunity. Games weren’t the problem, not exactly, but they blinded you to what the problems were, and to the room you had to grow.

People have put a lot of faith in you over the years. It’ll be nice to finally repay some of that.

I don’t know about you. But I’m relieved and excited to be on this journey. When I first quit, it was out of desperation. I didn’t know what I wanted; beyond that I didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling. That I didn’t like the sensation of not being in control any longer, and that I couldn’t hide from it anymore.

As the first week’s gone on, that desperate need has given way to a – Well. Boredom, yes. Which is pleasant, in its own way. But also, for the first time in a long time, excitement about the future. I’m thinking about where I’ll be, where I want to go.

That’s a nice feeling.

To drag out another boat metaphor, the sails might be in tatters and there’s holes in the hull. But we’re fixing it, now, instead of locked up in the cabin drowning out the noise of the flooding. It feels good to be acting instead of waiting for the next breach. It’ll probably be a while yet before the ship’s able to move in the direction we want to point it in. But, keep working. It’ll get there.

I’m glad to be taking this journey, and I hope you are too.

Good luck, cap’n.

Comm.

---
Part 2 – Sentences & Perception
---

How am I perceived currently?

Well-meaning, but incompetent. A tendency to rant in conversation, rather than listen. There’s a quote I saw somewhere in the Respawn program, describing someone ‘amicably failing’ their way through life. That one struck home.

 How would I like to be perceived?

Well-meaning and competent. An interesting conversationalist and interesting person. Well-disciplined and well-motivated, with a range of hobbies. I’d like to be the sort of person that helps support the people around them.

 Three Behaviours or Characteristics to Change

  1. Computers as an entertainment tool. Games are a huge start, but it’s a big energy drain for me, and it’s got to go. That means you, recreational BBC haunting. That means you, Reddit. That means you, endless tide of adorable animal pictures.
  2. Being present. I want to be more attentive in my dealings with others, and make an effort to genuinely listen, rather than the minimal ‘Yes’-Grunt-‘Really’? Part of that’
  3. Physical fitness. I’m beanstalk, rather than overweight, but all this time indoors has really done a number on my general fitness. I want to get on top of that, and expect it’ll help with energy and motivation elsewhere, too. I lifted weights in high school. Looking for a gym so I can get back into that. Ideally without breaking anything important.

---
Part 3 – The Grim-Reaper Relay
---

If everything goes by life expectancies, I’ve got 18,741-odd days left to live. Call it the early 2070’s. I’ll miss out on the return of flared jeans.

 

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Appreciate the support, folks!

Day 9.
Day 2 of 30 of Challenges.

Today was a great one. The schedule's taking hold, along with the creeping ache in my legs from morning runs. Bite me, calves.

For the first time in a while, I didn't need to be on a computer to do my study so just got to sit down with a cup of coffee, a stack of tutorial sheets, a calculator, and a ream of paper. It's a personal sort of heaven. No phone calls, no distractions, just a nice window view and a stack of paper. Managed to work through six weeks worth of sheets in preparation for an upcoming exam, and planning to work through the remaining six tomorrow.

For someone who was struggling to complete one in a day previously it's an incredible feeling. Goodness, was it always this straightforward? Was I under that much of a cloud?

Day 2 of the challenges was listing goals, and identifying one to work on. I'm going for three, since I'm already working towards the 5K coincidently anyway, and not doing assignments isn't really an option. The three goals for the next 30 days were:

  1. Complete assignments before deadlines!
  2. Complete the first four weeks of Couch to 5K!
  3. Build a portfolio of 30 Sketches from Learn-to-Draw book.

... Come to think of it, I'd better throw the first goal in there too. Three goals it is. I'll replace my morning run routine with the Couch to 5K three days a week, starting next week; and crack on with that Drawing-For-Dummies guide I picked up years ago for an hour each evening. I made a trip to the shops to dutifully pick up the recommended equipment in the introductory pages. I've got no idea what the difference between a 4B and a HB is, but I've got both of them now.

Today was a good day.

So, naturally, I'm going to rant about a pet peeve. Someone was wrong on the internet!

--
Rant: Samuel Langley and Simon Sinek
--

The Challenge for yesterday came with a recommendation to watch Simon Sinek's 'How Great Leaders Inspire Action.' The man really rubs me the wrong way. There's a lot of conflating, and a lot of boldly-repeated 'The science says!' without ever actually providing the science. It's a neat marketing gimmick loaded with pseudo-scientific terminology, and an attempt to slap neuroscience terms on what's fundamentally an opinion - Quite possibly a useful opinion! I can see the utility of asking yourself why you do what you do as a company. But it's dishonest to present it as a fact, to hand wave it with an enthusiastically repeated 'it's biology!'. As if repetition made truth.

The man seems to have an objection to saying 'Hey, what I've got here is a useful model.' rather than 'Hey, look, I've found a fundamental truth!'

All of that is, I suppose, excusable to some extent. Hyperbole is hardly foreign to marketing, or to TED talks. No.

My real objection is what he does to poor Samuel Langley.

Characterising Samuel Langley as 'the Wright Brother's competitor, who was just in it for the money!' is both blatantly wrong and hugely disrespectful of a man who begun with no formal education and devoted a large chunk of his life to science and manned flight. He was born in Massachusetts in 1834, and had no formal education, but taught himself well enough to find work as an engineer and architect for thirteen years. He rose to become the secretary of the Smithsonian, and a professor of Maths, Physics, and Astronomy at various institutions of the day. His failed efforts at manned flight were, despite his numerous other successeses in other fields met with ridicule from Congress and the press, and the poor man died in despair in 1906[1]. Yes, his approach was flawed, and he skipped over critical steps (lack of study of gliders, experienced aviators, etc), but it's disingenuous to wave Samuel Langley around as someone in it for the money to support some cockeyed theory.

He was a good man, and deserves better than that.

Kipling met him, and described him as follows:

"Through Roosevelt I met Professor Langley of the Smithsonian, an old man who had designed a model aeroplane driven—for petrol had not yet arrived—by a miniature flash-boiler engine, a marvel of delicate craftsmanship. It flew on trial over two hundred yards, and drowned itself in the waters of the Potomac, which was cause of great mirth and humour to the Press of his country. Langley took it coolly enough and said to me that, though he would never live till then, I should see the aeroplane established." [2]

Further, the Smithsonian Collection on Langley notes of June, 1905:

The Smithsonian's accountant, W. W. Karr, is accused of embezzling Institutional funds. He is later convicted and imprisoned. Langley holds himself responsible for the loss, and thereafter refuses to accept his salary.

Langley, already aging, was prepared to devote himself to the cultivation of a breed of flying machine that he did not think would reach maturity in his lifetime. He flatly refused to accept a salary after embezzlement occurred on his watch. This was not a man who was in it for the money, nor was he in any way uncertain of purpose (Sinek's 'Why?') and even the most cursory reading would have revealed that to Mr. Sinek.

Samuel Langley deserved better than to be held up as an example of avarice in front of the 13 million people who have watched Sinek's talk, and I would certainly expect some modicum of research on the part of someone holding themselves up as an industry leader.

I would much rather have Samuel Langley up on a stage talking then Mr Sinek.

(Yes I am fun at parties.)

And because I can't claim to be any better than Sinek if I don't provide sources, an informal list of references for the above claims:

References
[1] Eighth Edition of John Anderson's Introduction to Flight. 
[2] Kipling's 'Something of Myself: for my friends known and unknown' (Retrieved via Wikipedia here. Admittedly, I don't have access to the primary source.)
[3] The Smithsonian's Samuel P. Langley Collection (Again, summarised on Wikipedia. But the Smithsonian collection is linked, and viewable directly).

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Day 10.
Day 3 of 30 of Challenges.

Today was a good one.

Morning runs are doing wonders for the mood, even if my legs spend the rest of the day screaming protests. Meeting with the counsellor went well, and he's of the opinion I don't really need to be there, which is a positive reflection on the changes over the last ten days. We've scheduled in a couple of check-ins before next year at my prompting - It'll do me good to have the potential of a couple of checks down the way, just to keep me honest while I settle into these new habits.

Didn't have time to do study today, unfortunately, around having to make a run to university to sort out IDs and travel out and back for the session. Did grab what time I had to set the groundwork and get software packages set up for a couple of upcoming projects though, so I know they'll be working for the weekend. A good thing too, as it turns out that Autodesk gets on with Windows 10 Antivirus in the same way gasoline gets on with a match. Thwacked it, looked up troubleshooting, and did everything short of feed a sacrificial goat into the USB port. Eventually got it working.

Challenge for the day was to pick up and read a chapter of The Slight Edge. My usual reading's fiction, and I've spent a lot of years cultivating a quiet, internal contempt for self-help books (my folks went through a 'Law of Attraction' phase way back when that dumped me firmly in the 'Oh God, if I have to inanely recite what I want once more, I'm going to scream.' camp), so I'm surprised to find the going's not quite so hard as I expected. The goal was one chapter, but between the time spent on busses today and some reading over lunch, I'm about halfway through the book. It's all about those little habits, and how they wind up shaping where you end up. It's a cool idea - I'm unsure if it needs to be stretched over an entire book, but it's a light enough read, and there's things worth taking from it. I plan to pillage relentlessly.

First evening of drawing went well yesterday. I made a window. Thanks, Idiot's Guide to Drawing. Settling down in the evenings to watch Peaky Blinders with the roommate. Tommy's a scary dude.

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8 hours ago, Commissar said:

First evening of drawing went well yesterday. I made a window. Thanks, Idiot's Guide to Drawing. Settling down in the evenings to watch Peaky Blinders with the roommate. Tommy's a scary dude.

Tommy's such a cool, badass character. The first couple seasons of that show were awesome.

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I don't check in to the site regularly anymore so I had to read all your entries in one go and there's certainly many, many similarities between you and I which is pretty common here. When you strip away all of the individual flavor in people's lives, addiction is addiction. It's great that you're setting goals for yourself and that you're reflecting on what led you here. What you said about dishonesty particularly stood out because, to me, that's one of the hallmark traits of an addict. It doesn't matter what you're addicted to, if you're an addict you're a liar. That's probably one of the major points that makes addicts so difficult to help... there's no way to know if what they're saying is true. I lied about my drinking for over a decade, pretty successfully. When I start telling little white lies, it's a major red flag for me that I'm not living the way I want to and need to do something ASAP.

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It definitely is, @ceponatia, and there's that deeply uncomfortable period where you're aware you're doing it and do it anyway. That 'first couple of seasons' is worrying, Lamp! But, I suppose we'll get there when we get there.

Day 11.
Day 4 of 30 of Challenges.

Busy! Exam's looming on Monday, and there's a lot to get fresh in my head before then. Been making flashcards all day. Still got a few weeks worth of content to get through, but I'd like to have them all done by tomorrow, so I can just hammer them into my skull over Sunday.

Being honest, making the cards was a little indulgence of the old anxiety-bug. I sat down to study, immediately panicked, and had a 'No, I can't use printer paper for cards! I know! I'll wander over to the shops and buy some proper cards.' I was through the doors and halfway up the centre escalator before I realised that I'd just managed to excuse-myself out of starting work for another twenty minutes. Sneaky.

Still, I'm making them now, and they're helpful.

Thankfully, the challenge for this morning was something I'd coincidently already done - Just setting the morning schedule, with meditation and physical activity, and all that good stuff. No real changes to make there at this stage. Did adjust the Pause App to wait five minutes instead of five seconds before opening websites I've got on the list, since five seconds wasn't really enough to keep me from idly web-wandering. That includes Game Quitters, so I'll be cutting down on the visits to once or twice a day. It's a really good extension, and I'm liking it a lot. It helps that I lobotomised chrome to disable incognito mode, so I can't just jump into that to disable all the extensions.

Back to flashcard making!

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Day 12.
Day 5 of 30 of Challenges.

Morning breakfast with the folks, then home and back to work. Exam's tomorrow, and I've still got a fair bit of review I'm hoping to get through tonight. A little anxious. There's a lot to cover, and only so many hours in the day. Will do what I can. Daily drawing continues apace.

Made a vision board for today's challenge. Was very dubious of the idea, but found it was a bit of fun once I got stuck into it. Continued reading Slight Edge around other things. Continuing to enjoy it.

Set up [email protected] on the old gaming machine. Might as well do something semi-productive with the hardware.

Back to study.

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Good luck with your exam. The Slight Edge is an amazing read. I'm re-reading it right now myself. I removed the hardcover sheet after a little while and now it's starting to look like an ancient text.

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It really is a great one. I've been getting a lot more than I expected out of it. It'll definitely be going on the re-read pile. Olsen writes very fondly of Think and Grow Rich, so I'll probably put that on the list next. I've never really been interested in that style of book before, but - Y'know. Familiarity is the first part of interest, so a little more reading can't hurt!

Day 13.
Day 5 of 30 of Challenges.

Exam went well! Not as well as it could have, had I been studying like I did the last couple of weeks all semester, but an awful lot better than they tended to go while I was gaming.

Had a little panic when I arrived outside the exam hall, and heard two nearby people exchanging technical terms that I'd never heard before in my life. Turned out they were running multiple exams in the same hall. I started breathing again.

If I'd kept up with my other work throughout the semester, I'd be sure it was a pass for that course - As it is, I'm not sure if the exam itself will be enough to carry me over the line, but it'll certainly be good enough to quality me for supplementary assessment if it isn't. It's a nice feeling, and a nice little verification of the work over the last couple of weeks. For the first time in a while I ran out of time to answer questions (and only barely!), rather than questions I could answer.

Had to skip yesterday evening's drawing and this morning's run, due to exam study and the actual exam respectively. Although, when I say 'Exam Study' last night, those last couple of hours ended up going down the reddit rabbit hole a bit. A hell of a lot better than losing the whole day, but I should probably have just admitted to myself I was knackered around 8pm and taken some time for myself rather than expecting heroic efforts. On the whole, it worked out.

Morning meditation's on track! Just about through the Headspace's 10-Day beginner program now. Adopted a gratitude journal as well. Say this for the program, say I'm a lot more open to new things (hippy nonsense! Humbug!) than I was two weeks ago.

A little weary today, so just been downloading and setting up a lot of uni software packages I've been neglecting for years. Looking forward to a walk this evening.

Found a baby bird that had fallen out of the nest and was hiding under a car on one of my weekend walks, and saw that someone else had stuffed a towel into a fork in a nearby tree - Probably to try to hold the little guy. Picked him up and put him back. He's an invasive species around here, but I don't think he knows that. He (or she!) screamed at me the whole time for food. Came back the next day to find the towel on the ground and no trace of him. Hope he's alright. It got pretty windy last night.

Two assignments due now, and then that's it for the semester. Next one's due Thursday, though I'm going to put in an extension request and ask for another week. I'm more or less on top of my schedule now, but it's a fairly large project and doing it in two days is a little unrealistic if I want to do excessive things like sleep as well. The university's been very good about granting extensions, so hopefully they'll grant me this one more. I've got high hopes it'll be the last 'I failed to regulate my life, please help.' letters I'll ever write.

Didn't manage Cam's challenge today, either. It's the 'Ask for 10% off your coffee!' one. Which, in all honesty, I just feel super awkward doing here. Australia doesn't really do negotiation on price, or tipping. The price is just - Well. The price. That, and I know most of the folks who work at the local coffeeshops, and they've been struggling a lot with the virus. It doesn't sit right with me to ask them for a discount. I'll think of something else to do to check the feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway box. I welcome suggestions, if anyone's got a replacement for me!

Also, two weeks tomorrow! Woo!

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11 hours ago, Commissar said:

Morning meditation's on track! Just about through the Headspace's 10-Day beginner program now.

Grats on that! Headspace was the thing that finally got my meditation habit to stick. Having that bit of guidance in the early days was key. I've got a code for a free month if you haven't subbed yet: REW15-L69YTP4RTDDS

 

11 hours ago, Commissar said:

Didn't manage Cam's challenge today, either. It's the 'Ask for 10% off your coffee!' one

Yeah that's awkward af. I feel like it would make the cashier uncomfortable too. I've done jobs like that and hated when people thought they could just say whatever to you because you had to be there and had to act friendly for minimum wage. I dunno, maybe the point is to just put you in uncomfortable social situations? How's the rest of the book been so far?

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Yeah, Headspace has been great! I went ahead and subb'd to it straight up to tie myself into sticking to it, which seems to have worked. The book's been fine otherwise, though we're leaning more into the dangerous and uncharted 'Develop Social Skills' waters now. We'll see how it goes! It adds a bit of variety to the day, if nothing else. I broke the rules and read ahead a day, so tomorrow's challenge is to grab a selfie with a stranger. I'm not quite sure how I'll manage that, since my anti-web-browsing phone may not actually be able to take photos. I'll have to check.

Day 14.
Day 6 of 30 of Challenges.

Lulls, today. Finally, the much-vaunted boredom arrives.

Did a couple of little things towards organising a Christmas trip, sent through an extension request on that assessment item, read some more of Slight Edge. Also, adapted Cam's challenge and bought a coffee for the person behind me instead. It's not quite the same uncomfortable-social-situation thing, but it's something a little out of the ordinary, so I'm going to go ahead and count it anyway. I darted off with my coffee before I saw who it ended up being. Felt like knowing spoils the mystery.

I've found I'm exhausted when I have to spend the day working on the computer, as I have today. It's just super motivation-sucking. I signed up for Brilliant to refresh myself a little with some basic coding and build some confidence before I jump on the next assignment. It's all fairly rudimentary stuff, but I've been able to get more than halfway through what exists of Brilliant's python course, which indicates I've at least learned something at university!

Been tempted to game a bit more now, as the impacts slide slowly into the past. I was meaning to stay off discord until I hit at least thirty days (and uninstalled it from my desktop), but bumped into the app last night while checking the (now stripped of its sim card and stuffed unceremoniously in a draw) smartphone while I was getting some photos I needed. There's a few folks there asking where I got to. Which is fair enough, I did vanish without a word. Was in that space where any delay at all meant I wouldn't have done it. They'll have to wonder a for a couple of weeks more before I can jump back in and at last extract myself from all those groupchats.

Back into the drawer of shame, smartphone.

I'm glad I've made it so difficult for myself to fire up games. Paying dividends now!

Eyes on the next two weeks. Soon, thirty days.

Soon.

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Day 15.
Day 6 of 30 of Challenges.

Lot of travel time, today. Had to get out to the other side of town for an appointment, so ended up losing five hours to just getting there and getting back. Public transport in my city's great, but it still takes time.

Little habits are settling nicely. Jumped up to ten minute morning meditation now, so the routine's fallen into wake up, dress and make bed, meditation, run, gratitude journal, shower, breakfast, and then swoop down on the nearest coffee shop like a raven on tinfoil. Which is more in a couple of hours than I was previously managing all day! Finished reading the Slight Edge too, and heartily recommend it. I'm not implementing steps in every segment of life Olsen identified just yet, but I figure health and happiness are a good start.

Realised I'd not put Think and Grow Rich on the eReader, and ended up opening up a copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom I bought on a Sabaton-induced whim a while back. Attitudes of the early 20th century aside, Lawrence's writing has an air of unreality to it. Not untruth, necessarily, but a sense of something not quite real. Will report more once I've read enough to form an opinion.

Not too long left in the day now, but want to get at least one Brilliant module done before I head out for a walk and settle in for the evening. A fair bit of work to be getting on with over the next week - There's the last two big assignments of the semester, both due in a week, and I've started neither. The bad news is they're due in a week. The good news is that, with today's appointment out of the way, they're all I have to do over the next week. Should be perfectly doable.

Haven't had the chance to fling out today's challenge, but the day's not done yet.

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