August, Squam

It’s that time of year where I head back east to see family, and spend some time on Squam Lake. It’s also usually a time of reflection and taking stock for me, and it’s been a while since I wrote something like that here, so forgive the rambling post. For those that don’t care, here’s a picture:

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Never seem to get tired of this view.

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Still here? Cool. My last life post was around the new year, so it seems like a good time to weigh in on things.

Goals Report Card: Meh?

I set some broad goals for myself at the start of the year, so let’s look at how we’re doing on that:

  • Get fitter: C-. After all the walking in Japan, I was definitely feeling more fit (even got a few comments about looking fitter, too), but I’ve not been very good about keeping that up. Something I have some ideas on how to work on when I get back from Squam.
  • Travel more: A-. I took a big trip in the spring (to Japan), and have been doing smaller day trips around the Pacific Northwest during the spring and summer so far (revisiting national parks and national monuments, trekking through back roads in the national forests, wandering up the coast). And (of course) the trip I’m on right now. While there’s more I could be doing (hop on a plane somewhere for the weekend, or a weekend drive farther afield), I’m pretty satisfied with this and would like to continue at around this pace.
  • Connect with people more and try to foster stronger relationships: C. This is hard. I’ve been trying harder to reach out to people to at least say hello and that I’m thinking of them, which is a step in the right direction, but a) fuller communication than that takes two; b) it’s still been pretty sporadic, and I can easily think of a dozen people off the top of my head that I SHOULD reach out to but haven’t recently; and c) my in-person efforts have been absymal – the social anxiety is real, the lack of social energy is real.
  • Organize my time better: D. I’ve been a bit better about analysis-paralysis, but otherwise allocating and organizing my time more productively has continued to be pretty terrible, and even the thought of getting onto a more reliable routine currently feels a bit daunting.
  • Create more: B. I was originally going to give myself like a D+ or a C- here, but when I stop to honestly think about it, I’ve been pretty good. I’ve blogged a lot more than in past years (though it has become more sporadic this summer). I also stopped dithering about galleries, picked a solution, and started posting more. I still wish for a better solution than what I’m using, but it’s counter-productive to sit around kicking the tires constantly and never actually putting anything out there. On top of that, I’ve been photographing more (though admittedly not as much as I would like).

So… plenty of room for continued improvement, but there’s still some progress there. That’s something.

Other Happenings

There have been plenty of things occupying my mind at various points. A big one (especially towards the beginning of the year) was that my father was diagnosed with cancer this winter. Let’s just say that December and early January was… stressful. I didn’t talk about it on here or tell many people, mostly because it’s his story to tell, and I wasn’t sure how public he wanted any details to be. Now that he’s through chemo and looks to be on the mend, it feels a bit more okay to mention.

Another big brain-occupier has been the state of world. I don’t generally talk about politics on here (and don’t plan to start), but suffice it to say I’m not thrilled, and despite my attempts to not let it eat too much of my time, energy, and attention… it still does. The shift towards authoritarianism (and even outright fascism) seems to be prevalent and rising around the world, post-capitalist economics causing some of the worst income inequalities in history, global warming spiraling out of control… it’s a scary and frustrating time. (I’ll leave this topic here, as I don’t feel my ranting about all this will help much – I’m sure you all get plenty of “signal-boosting” and hot takes and rants from lots of other sources, and my adding to that cacophony I don’t think is necessary or even particularly useful. I promise, if I think of something actually notable to say, I’ll say it.)

Other than that, the usual bits of life take their places in my brain. Work continues to be pretty good, and I’ve been able to dabble a bit with Python (and to a lesser extent Javascript and Groovy) as part of that. I’ve met a few interesting people lately (always a plus), and reconnected with a few others. I’m still struggling with depression (and related social anxiety), though I’ve not yet managed to exert the effort of finding a compatible therapist (but acknowledge that it’s time to do so). The depression and social stuff has always been a bit of a struggle for me (to varying degrees), as I tend to prefer small groups or one-on-one connections, and seek solitude as a way to recharge. That said, it’s important to note that being alone is not the same as being lonely, and feelings of solitude are not the same as feelings of isolation. In both cases, I look for the former, and struggle with the latter.

Relating

I’ve also been thinking a lot about relationships. I’m currently single, and don’t particularly want to be single anymore, so I’m faced with modern dating in my late 30s. Those that’ve looked at modern dating know what this means, but for those who haven’t had to pay attention: it’s terrible. Like, we’re talking 70s dating gameshow levels of bad. If you’re a woman, you’re flooded with attention (usually low-grade, crude, or out-right offensive and harassing). If you’re a man, it’s a wasteland of bots and ghosts, with a constant pressure to say or do something to set you apart from the last 47 people trying to connect. For both men and women, the entire process ends up feeling shallow and vapid and frustrating, and no one seems particularly happy about it.

Part of it, of course, is on me: I’m kind of picky. I didn’t think so at first, but as time went on, I realized it was true. What do you look for in a partner? I look for someone I can communicate well with, who I feel a connection with, who is smart, and kind, and has some degree of creative streak. Simple, right? That’s basically the same things I look for in friends anyway. But here’s the thing: people are more guarded now than I think I’ve ever experienced (at least partially for good reason, since opening up too much, too soon could expose you to harassment or discrimination, now more than in the past). That makes it hard to build the sort of communication that leads to strong connections. (This isn’t entirely anecdotal or just me, for what it’s worth: there have been a ton of articles lately pointing to this being a problem, including some material I’ve linked to in the past.) It’s a little embarrassing to talk about this stuff on a personal level (why not just post links to articles about it and let the subtext do the talking), but sometimes it can be cathartic to swallow your pride and talk about it directly, and also as a friendly reminder to all those in the same boat: it’s not just you.

What Next?

If this is (roughly) my half-year check-in, what am I planning for the rest of the year? A few things: find a therapist, join a gym, keep putting stuff out there (photos, blog posts, writing, random code), and start planning my next trip. Since I usually try to make it east for at least 10-14 days to see family each summer, vacation time is at a bit of a premium, so I need to think about ways to leverage other time off. Work tends to shut down (as a holiday) between Christmas and New Year’s, neither of which is a big event for me or my family. Which means that’d be pretty ideal timing to go take another trip without eating all my PTO. My current thought is Portugal, but I’m open to other ideas if anyone wants to offer up a suggestion!

Yep, life. That’s what’s up.

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