A New Decade

The twenty-twenties have begun. A new set of ten years- a new decade. It is fun to reminisce about the previous decade. The past ten years hold so many experiences and memories, that I am more than excited to see what the next ten years have in store.

In the past ten years I decided to leave the United States Naval Academy. I received my undergraduate degree in political science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. I was awarded as a USILA All-American in lacrosse. I became a husband to a beautiful wife, and the father of an amazing son.

On top of those things, I became engaged in the Coliseum in Rome. I stayed in a villa in Tuscany, swam in the Mediterranean, and explored the Amalfi coast. I moved to and lived in California for two years, and coached lacrosse at the youth, high school, junior college, and college levels.

I worked in San Francisco, dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean, and spent many days on some of California’s most admired beaches. I drove up and down coastal highway, and visited some of Sonoma and Napa county’s famous wineries. I spent a few weeks in rural Oregon, and a few days at Yosemite National Park.

I made a trip to the Dominican Republic and lounged on white sand beaches, and drank out of coconuts. To top it all off I was lucky enough to visit Kauai and surf in Hanalei Bay. I would have never had any of those opportunities and experiences had I not lived by myself in Annapolis, MD for a year.

My time alone when I was 25 was when I first truly connected with self and spirit. Before then, I had never really known who I was or what I wanted out of life. I set down roots and built a launch pad which was sufficient to propel me through a wild five years. Looking back, it all seems like a dream. I suppose you truly can’t put a price on experiences.

I must admit that I am a much better person than I was in 2010, and I guess that is what truly matters. I have bettered myself and my life and not vice versa. There were many times that I felt as if life was at a standstill and potentially over. There were times when I have pondered cutting it short and ending it myself if I am going to be truly honest.

I have never been more appreciative, excited, and grateful to be alive. Despite its inexplicable complexity, its sometimes mind-boggling trials, and its up and downs, life is a gift and a miraculous experience when lived properly. I suppose the key is to do your best to become the best possible version of yourself, hang on for the ride as best as you can, and have a positive influence on everyone that you meet along the way.

I am so grateful to be alive, so thankful for each and every day that I am still breathing, and am looking forward to a new decade of experiences and opportunities. The real question is, am I choosing my path, or am I just along for the ride? Is it free will or destiny? Either way, I feel truly blessed to be a part of this cosmic play in an infinite universe. I’m going to do my best to stay grateful, stay positive, and live life to the fullest for as much time as I have been allotted. I wish all of you a happy new year, and a rich and fulfilling decade.

A Break at 100 Pages

I have written 100 pages of my second novel. I am also now on the last day of my one week break from writing. The routine of 1,000 words a day became burdensome rather than enjoyable- which let me know a stop was needed. While it has been a nice reprieve, I know that diving back into my novel will be difficult.

Patting myself on the back for 100 pages felt nice, I must admit. However, the finish line is still in the distance. With approximately 50,000 more words to go, it seems daunting at best. The project may end up being a little longer or shorter than the standard 80,000 word count, but, either way, I have a significant task set before me.

I am going to recommit myself starting tomorrow. I am going to take it 1,000 words at a time as I’ve done with the first 30,000. As long as I make it routine, the rest will essentially take care of itself. With a completion date of March 4, the task is manageable. My urge to start today is a good sign that I am ready to begin writing again. One foot in front of the other starting tomorrow morning. Wish me luck.

CTE

I recently read an article about a former USC defensive back. It wasn’t about his charity work. It wasn’t about him pursuing political office. It was about him wandering into traffic and getting hit by a Chevy Astrovan. He was 31 years old.

Like many football players, he was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. It’s a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries. Symptoms include behavioral problems, trouble thinking, and mood problems. It often becomes worse over time.

After 20 years of contact sports, I am intuitively inclined to think that I have and am developing the very same disease. Reading the article was like reading my own biography. We shared the same issues, same mood and behavioral problems, and “a headache that never seemed to go away.” We have both self-medicated to no avail.

CTE is often misdiagnosed as bipolar of schizophrenia. They share similar characteristics, especially as the disease becomes more injurious to the mind. I have trouble staying awake, I have focus issues, and chronic depression. I’ve had too many concussions to count, and I feel like the effects are finally catching up with me.

I find myself in a time warp of sorts- days, weeks, and months are gone in a flash. I have memory problems which only seem to get worse. My sense of smell is almost non-existent (an early indicator of CTE). And instinctively, I know that something is wrong between my ears. I know that I’ve done severe damage to myself, but I’m unsure of the extent. I’m hoping a new test and treatment options are made available soon. As of now, there is no conclusive test until death, and there are no treatments available. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Really? Maybe…

My fingers tap out letters on my keyboard without my doing. They fly to buttons here and there with ease. How and why I’m doing this is unclear at best. Am I typing of my own free will? Am I actually typing these letters, or is it the mere production of a stream of subconscious that destines me to publish this post? I’m not sure. I don’t think I’ll ever know, and I don’t think I’m meant to. None of us are. Wouldn’t life be an incredible bore if we knew we weren’t in the driver seat- that we were just along for the ride? Then again, maybe it being out of our control requires what people refer to as “faith.” That concept had eluded me until writing that sentence. What a powerful concept. But, is it blind?

What if we are the in the driver seat and in control of our destiny? It seems to make things more complicated, but it’s no more complicated than the first scenario. However, your decisions may very well be an illusion of choice. Even if that’s not the case, would you still end up at the same end point? Or is there an infinite number of actions, and an infinite number of outcomes? I feel like there would have to be an infinite number of parallel earths, and the frequency of your vibration would have to determine which earth you experience…because thus is the nature of energy…right? Not quite sure of that one either.

The first two paragraphs are a bit jumbled, but that’s typically how my mind runs laps around this question. I think this life is a combination of free will and destiny. I think we can make choices up to a certain point. I think the choices have to fall within a certain spectrum of frequencies of vibration. I think our destiny varies as much as our narrow band of choices does. I think there are a multitude of possible outcomes (destinies), but not an infinite number. Mind is all over the place. Enjoy.

A New Day (Earth Spin)

Every morning, I stand outside and greet the sun. I ask myself, “What am I going to do with this earth spin?” The sun never rises and the sun never sets, the earth just keeps spinning, that, you should never forget. I know it sounds elementary, but we chunk up our days as if they were governed by the sun’s illusory trajectory.

If we truly take advantage of the time we’ve been given, we can better ourselves at all times. I know that our bodies abide by a circadian rhythm, and I know that we need to eat and sleep an adequate amount, but I find myself wondering why most people remain comfortable in performing the bare minimum. Rise with the sun, go to work, head home before sunset, and fritter away the remaining hours before doing it all over again the following day.

I suppose gone are the days where people like Benjamin Franklin would work with a metal ball in their hand. When the ball dropped if he drifted off, he would wake up and continue working. He operated on around four hours of sleep. He was clearly the exception and not the norm. But, I suppose Elon Musk could be today’s modern comparison.

Maybe this is a chastisement upon myself. I find myself heading to bed before I am sufficiently tired. I notice that I am wasting my time by surfing the web or using unproductive apps. Maybe I am just “normal.” There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but I aspire to be like those who seem to suck the juice out of life with an unmatched efficiency. Perhaps if I keep striving to be on that level, I will reach it. Will it make my life any better? Maybe. Maybe not. Only one way to find out.

Only 54,000 Words To Go

Just writing the title made my stomach drop. I’m 26,000 words into my novel. And actually, after doing some math, that’s not so bad. I’m about a third of the way finished. That’s solid progress. The problem is that I feel as if I’m running out of plot, dialogue, and context. Should I scrap the project? Should I cut it short? Should I stick to writing 1,000 words and see how it plays out?

I’ve made it this far, I think I’ll continue to do my 1,000 words a day and see where I end up at the end of January. I’ve set a deadline for the revised manuscript for March 4th, which should be plenty of time. I need to remind myself that if it was easy, everyone would do it. I’ve begun an endeavor that most people only talk about. But, until I’m published, it will remain an unfulfilled pipe dream.

The process is arduous, but for the most part it’s enjoyable. If it remains unpublished, I’m sure my family and friends will enjoy reading it, and that’s really enough for me at this point in my fledgling writing career. There’s no point in speculating, however. What’s going to happen, will happen. If I stick with it, I will eventually succeed. I need to hit the 10,000 hour mark, which is still so far in the distance that I can scarcely see it.

I’m going to do my best, and that’s all I can do. If this project, or even the next one or the next one don’t pan out, I’m going to continue to write. I write because I enjoy it. If I get published, it will be icing on the cake. It is a nice goal, and a nice dream to pursue if nothing else, I suppose. Only time will tell. For now, I’m going to put one foot in front of the other and see what happens.

Instantaneous Results

Following an eye-opening review of my screen time, I decided to enact more discipline in terms of my reading and writing habits. So much time had been spent on Instagram and video games, that I could not overcome a seeping sensation of guilt. Yesterday I decided to take the “drastic” measure of deleting the apps.

Not only did I free up a few hours of time, I read a 215 page book, posted a blog post, and spent quality time with my son. I was not only more productive, but I was more focused, more relaxed, and in an overall better mood. I hadn’t realized that the time I was wasting on Instagram and video games was causing me anxiety. It was almost as if I knew on a subconscious level that I was wasting my time.

Following one of the most productive days I’ve had in recent memory, I’m going to continue the fledgling habits until they are automatic. I shouldn’t have to think about reading 100 pages and writing 1,000 words every single day, and eventually I won’t. Once they become the norm, it will be difficult to imagine my life without them. But, I guess that’s the ultimate goal- to be so immersed in my craft that it becomes a concrete component of my character.

How far along would I be on my writing path had I enacted these habits a year ago, or even a month or a week ago. It’s not to say that I wasn’t reading or writing every day, I just wasn’t as strict as I should have been. I could have been so much more focused, productive, and at ease. “Shoulda, coulda, woulda.”

The lost time, lack of focus, and stifled productivity can easily be transformed. It will take discipline, and a focus of will that I have not previously enacted. I enjoyed the first day of it immensely. Having read a book in a single day, I felt so accomplished. I’m hoping that the initial momentum will carry over into today and into the following weeks until they are the unshakable foundation on which my writing career is built.

Procrastination

I recently decided to take a look at my screen time statistics. There was a cringe and a sinking sensation of guilt. So much time had been frittered away. Instagram and video games made up a huge percentage of usage. I asked myself, “Are either of these things helping you achieve your goals?” I felt even worse thinking about how much reading and writing could have taken place during those wasted hours.

However, hindsight is always 20/20. This brief assessment was all I needed to change my ways. I promised myself to enact more discipline in terms of my daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Essentially, my new goals are to read at least 100 pages and write 1,000 words every day. If I can accomplish those two things, everything else will fall into place as they should.

If I find myself falling back into old patterns of behavior, the more drastic action will be to delete the apps. Would that really be drastic? It sounds so trivial. Why don’t I just do that now? Mainly because I feel like there needs to be some balance. Burnout is a real possibility without some release valves. I can always read and write more than my daily goals, but I can also reward myself with some screen time.

How seriously do I want to take my writing career? How much reading do I really want to do? Those are two questions that I continually ask myself. As I progress into the discipline, these two questions will eventually answer themselves I suppose. The more seriously I take this endeavor, the more disciplined I will become with my practices, and the more proficient I’ll be in both reading and writing.

Following this new set of goals, I’ve set limitations on screen time-no more than an hour a day. This should be more than sufficient as a release valve. If I’m finding and engaging with quality reading material, this may be much more time than I actually need. I’m going to experiment with striking a balance, and hopefully, with practice, I’ll find the equation that works best for myself and for my fledgling writing career.

The Holidays

This was the first year that I didn’t partake in a traditional Thanksgiving. There was no turkey. NO TURKEY- it felt almost sacrilegious. I was a part of the 0.5% of the American population that had a strictly vegan meal. It was complete with organic sweet potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, and last but not least- a “tofurkey.” Despite my initial hesitations, it was a surprisingly satisfying meal.

We decided to skip our yearly attendance at a massive family gathering-full of second and even third cousins whom I only see once a year. After the experience of a cozy, quaint, and personal dinner with my wife and young son, I don’t think I’ll ever be attending again. And because of the level of enjoyment, I think we’ll be skipping a similar gathering for Christmas.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of my extended family. It’s just that I enjoy the company of my immediate family more. Not only that, but we aren’t traditionalists. Christmas has become a consumer-driven holiday. The true meaning has become lost in and avalanche of decorations, toys, wrapping paper, stockings, and trees. I’d much rather stay home, enjoy a cozy fire, sip tea and spend time with my son. Call me crazy- but I don’t think I’ll ever be celebrating either holiday in the “traditional” sense again.

The holidays are supposed to be about giving thanks and spending time with loved ones. Of course you can achieve this with the traditional methods, but haven’t they become utterly convoluted? Maybe it’s just me- or maybe it’s just my family; but after seeing Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, I’m pretty sure that most people have succumbed to the consumerist brainwashing of mass media.

I don’t care if people call me a non-conformist or an outcast or even evil. I’m going to do what feels right. We won’t be buying or decorating a tree. We won’t be hanging stockings and filling them with candy and knickknacks. We won’t be buying and wrapping and unwrapping things we don’t need. We’re going to spend time as a family, give thanks for our blessings, and enjoy each other’s company- isn’t that what it’s supposed to be all about? I feel like the rest is frivolous at best.

Annapolis

My wife and I visited Annapolis for the first time in two years. We met up with her father and step-mother for three days in the waterside city. We rented a small townhouse a few hundred yards from the center of downtown. It was a historic house with a nautical feel. The owner was a Naval Academy grad and his bookshelves were filled with the seafaring tales of Patrick O’Brien.

The house itself was situated on a cozy side street, hedged in by two parallel rows of similar homes. A crisp breeze blew continually from the waterfront, and the blustery weather ensured the use of winter coats and hats. Winter raised its icy head as we traversed up and down Main Street under the shadow of the Maryland state house.

Taking pictures took place in-between meals. I was not phased by the paparazzi feel of it, because I was so focused on the cobblestone streets and the enjoyment of people-watching shuffling crowds around the city. We toured the Naval Academy and memories of formations, marching, inspections and the other-worldly feel of military life came rushing back.

It is now almost ten years ago since my military “career” (three and a half short years of military school) ended. The architecture and prestigious nature of the school had eluded me in my younger years. There was a severe lack of appreciation for the path that laid before me. In the end, I was unaware of the longevity of life and the long-term repercussions of cutting a budding military career too short.

However, I don’t think I would change my decision. I have become a more well-rounded and worldly individual. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like had I stayed in, but the frivolity of such thoughts quickly disintegrates as I look at my son. My world is now my family, and I’m not sure if I would have ever been lucky enough to have such a loving environment had I pursued my previously chosen course. I guess it was not meant to be…but at the same time, all of it was.