Sometimes I imagine…

Sitting on a bench, with a ball of white fluff on my lap and licking my fingers, already sticky from the sorbet I had eaten earlier, with a book just turned over on my right and a writing notebook just behind it. Quite a few of my friends, my New Yorker friends, some of them from my elementary school Churchill, are at the park, grinning and laughing and talking about the new show that just came out or that crazy movie, or what’s going on downtown, with ice cream that we’d splurged on but eccentric clothes that scream to the passerby around us, ‘West Village. People right in that creative niche of New York. May or may not be starving artists.’ And we laugh and talk about plans. Three of us want to do that 5K fundraiser next weekend, so we use our phones to sign up right there so we don’t forget. One of my friends might be living in Vermont, and I’ve roped another friend to come see her with me over a rare long weekend, at the end of the month. We talk about hiking and skiing a bit, and I tell them about the winter vacation I’ve planned as a large backpacking and backcountry skiing trip. They share their own adventures and plans, and when we all have to leave for the night we wave and I head to a cafe overlooking the park, one of those with vegan goodies, biscotti, and tea, and go back to my writing, or my book if I was just at a cliffhanger.

At work the area is nice, the buildings are clean, and people nod and say hi as I walk to my desk. I have a lot of control as a project leader and it excites me whenever we complete something, or get praised by our clients. The reports we do periodically record the economic and environmental impacts of our work. The work could be environmental consulting, new product design, documentary making, or video game design – but in any case the atmosphere is inspired yet not cutthroat, and long nights come during a busy week leading up to a final project but aren’t a regular thing.

I’ve tried out many classes each week, including photography, guitar, acting, and singing, so now I walk around with a digital camera looking for interesting colors on the water or puppies and post them to my photoblog as often as I’d like. Sometimes I make digital illustrations for my story or just for fun. I’m lucky that I have a well-enough paying job, because my musically-inclined friends tell me whenever a concert is happening and we go. Not all of them are high profile ones, but I’ve been impressed by many of them. I’ve really gotten into the music scene in New York, and I’ve actually been fortunate enough to meet some of the performing artists. I’m always adding bands to my playlist. I make it a point to see a movie or a show once a week. Or shopping – I no longer need or really want to limit my shopping trips to four times a year, whenever I would freeze or burn if I didn’t make them, and some of my friends really love going.

My editor has been calling me, sending me edits and questions and working with me a lot, although it’s a bit slow because I’m not a writer full time. But her enthusiasm helps keep me going through this long editing process. There are so many deadlines, but if I make them all I might get my epic novel published by mid next year. I’m lucky that my job is mostly a 9 to 5 one that gives me some extra time to think and write.

I head back to the train to commute home. I either have a place in the city like Brooklyn or someplace like Westchester. Wherever I am, the neighborhood is warm and inviting and has its fair share of crazy progressives.

Besides almost every moment in and around the city, I love getting to travel. I’ve done the Peace Corps and had my eyes opened quite a bit more from that experience. I can also speak Spanish almost fluently after all of that time – almost. Afterwards I’ve visited many areas of southern Africa and even spent a week with an indigenous tribe there – and got to write all about it. I’ve got goals on my life list that I am just now planning out – taking months off eventually to hike the Appalachian trail, completing an ironman, writing a song.

That’s more than enough to keep me smiling as I walk down the street. My phone goes off. It’s a text from him saying he can make it to the cafe and movie tonight, and that the last concert was even better than last week’s. And should he buy the new fiction book that’s on sale that I’d reviewed. He’s at the store now.

I text him back ‘NOOOOOO’ and then ‘Well I won’t drag you out of there but…’ and then an ‘It’s YOUR money…’ and grin because I was walking to the same place. In ten minutes I round the corner to the bookstore, look inside, and see him near the front of the line. I can’t see what he’s buying but he’s at the register, so I go around. As he’s leaving I jump on him and yell ‘GOT YOU!’ in front of the whole store.

He’s still laughing when we get to the movie. I’ve got his hand in mine. We’re going to talk about our trip and our future a bit together tonight. It’s almost been two years. I squeeze and don’t let go.

That last part might all be in my imagination. Even more than my job is. But getting eight hours of sleep a night and making money to keep my dreams alive and loving my job would be more than enough to keep me smiling every day as I walk through the street.

I’m not in a great place at this very moment, but I will be. One day.

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Work+Concentration+Internet+Goals!

Look at who can FOCUS ON ONE TOPIC!!!!!!!

Hahaha just kidding. I’ll break this down.

This is basically a ‘ahhh… surviving WORK’ post and a ‘I spent too much time on the internet yesterday!’ post in one. But also a Life List Club and ROW 80 -related post. I was going to have links here to each different part of this post but am having trouble with the HTML… =/ Feel free to skip or skim!

Work + Concentration

Today I had a reaaaaalllly hard time concentrating at work. This is my eleventh and last week of my internship, in which I’ve organized this Metro bus wash monitoring project – largely independently, doing research and visiting sites on my own without too much orientation (except for one very helpful mentor who knows all about controllers!). Sometimes I had reports or a presentation to do, oftentimes I was on the phone asking salespeople for specifications or quotes, and at one point I was even doing water testing – in our three-foot square temporary kitchen in the office… =)

However this week I just have two deliverables – a last project report with instructions on how the project should be continued when I’m gone, and a Powerpoint presentation with that same information. I was planning to have that report done by today… but I. could. not. focus. It was really strange. I usually work with my headphones on, my email accounts open, and maybe before 9 or around lunch check out a fun site for a few minutes or chat (we have an hour for ‘lunch’ and we can adjust our hours… well, by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ as I’m now the only intern in the office, with just two project managers…). But I have goals for the day in mind, write them down, break them down, and get them done. Each day.

Maybe the ‘finishing up’ part is the hard part for me. If I was going to continue to be involved in the project, I think I would be getting this out-of-the-way faster so that I could… DO STUFF! Like PROGRAM! INSTALL THINGS! Find INTERESTING data and ANALYZE IT! But this isn’t really a ‘final report’ as much as a ‘progress report,’ but it’s my own ‘final report’ – I guess I find it hard to finish something that doesn’t seem finished to me. Even though what would count as ‘finished’ (or at least result-worthy) to me will need even more weeks of time and installation – weeks after I leave. And if I finished that report today, and that presentation Tuesday, what would I do for the rest of the week? (Edit them. Add to them. Discuss them with my supervisor and mentor. Duhhh. Tell that to my subconscious or whoever calls the shots around here.)

Finishing things has ALWAYS been difficult for me, though. I kind of wonder why. Whether it’s taking a social research project past the research level, planning an environmental club at MIT, designing posters for the UA Sustainability Committee at MIT, getting exercise groups at my living group organized – I’ve entered each with enthusiasm and found my feet stuck in cement when it came to pulling them through. If there’s a ‘Just FINISH IT Group’ in the blogger-sphere… take me THERE.

Well, I am finishing my report TOMORROW (Tuesday – leaving early to FINALLY get my visa to China as well!), and the presentation by Wednesday/Thursday. Despite my short time here, it will feel AMAZING when I am finished with my part of the project!

Internet + Goals (update!) This weekend I somehow had too much time on my hands, and wandered all around the internet. Around blogs, in particular. This is how I discovered the “Life List Club” and “ROW 80” – two groups that encourage people to make goals and give support in the forms of posts and comments. And that’s why I went a little crazy yesterday and started my own “Life List Club” page and “ROW 80” page (the latter is a writing challenge). And I don’t regret it one single bit. That statement will probably have more weight when I say it on say September 22nd (the end of ROW 80) or July 31st, 2012 (the end of the first 12 months of my “Life List” – and my first set of goals). I encourage everyone to check out both clubs – Life List Club and ROW 80 – and try them out!

I thought I’d just give an update for my first day for both, not that I’ll be updating these lists daily:

Life List Club – I’m planning to add ‘drink 8 glasses of water a day’ and ‘sleep 8 hours a day.’ I think in junior (or senior?) year in one class, when my English (or government?) teacher asked what the most valuable lesson we had learned over the summer was, one girl said “Drink water. Trust me. It is SO important. It CHANGES YOUR LIFE.” Did I listen? Of course not. But I remembered. Water has helped me soooooo much here – every day is better with enough water.

And the same goes for sleep. When I was trying out rugby last spring at school, even though I wasn’t quite in shape, with ten hours of sleep I had enough energy to be involved for my whole B-side game (and awkwardly block the forwards while I was at it because I was a n00b and didn’t know where to go… ANYWAY…)

Got to work half an hour late (one of my goals is to be on time) – we technically do not have strict hours so it did not realllly matter – the reason was that I packed my food and left it and had to buy food on the way >.< New goal: ‘REMEMBER YO STUFF?’

ROW 80 – I planned for 500 words a day and have 287 from yesterday. Plus (not including) this snippet I wrote while trying to get started:

Hello world…

Today be the first day this girl woman specimen thing here err-writes for this here err-challenge-err when she’ll be writing 500 words a day. 500 words a day folks? That right there is almost as frightenin’ as that ol’ Jack Sparrow thinger come to life agi’n man. But she insists she c’ do it, ’tis only a paaai~ge (or two paiges double spaced methinks laddie?). So what can I tell ya. Notin’ I can do ‘ere ‘cept sit ‘n watch ‘n wince ‘n chew me tabacco or bark cause they’re cheap ’round these isles an’… “SHUT UP I’M ACTUALLY DOING THIS!!!”

So anyway… I got work done, but I still need to get in the habit of creating SCENES. And writing all the back-story. Without just barfing out exposition. How does 723 words tonight sound? Possible? Feasible? Maybe not really… since I have an oovoo call with friends, and am getting out of work early tomorrow, I’ll do some tonight and catch up tomorrow. WooHOO!

(Just started using this wordpress spell-check thing and it doesn’t like me much at all, especially my talking to myself and my WooHOO’s, oops…)

All right, end of updates! MUSIC TIMEEEEEEE

Life List Club!

Hey all! This is a post that will probably turn into a page, as I’ll keep referring back to it and changing it.

Inspiring symbolic waterfall from Yosemite National Park, on a hike in June 2010!

It started with the idea of some bloggers – why not make lists of goals and share them with others to keep each other motivated? So bloggers started their own life lists – I believe it is organized by Marcia Richards and Jess Wilkins, and two writers and contributors are Carrie Mumford and Pam Hawley – the writers that wrote both of the writing/productivity-focused posts I mentioned last time!

So I’m trying this out for size – seems like you make a life list (a list of goals for the next twelve months – however many you want), subscribe to other Life List Clubbers, follow #LifeListClub on Twitter, and keep your site updated on how far you are in achieving each of your goals! And anyone can do it?

Well I think I’m anyone, and I’ve clearly got a thing about ranting about productivity, so I have probably mentioned all of these in previous posts, like, multiple times shamelessly, so here goes…

I read that you can format these any way you like, so I’m starting big/just um slightly idealistic, and will reapportion goals if needed to next (next) year if necessary.

I thought it would be nice to put some long-term/realllly idealistic goals at the end so that I could take steps to get myself closer to them, whether it’s reading related books or just organizing my life and studies around them more in general. (I hope I’m not, um, breaking the rules…)

Without FURTHER ADO! Number of stars is kind of like the number of ‘YAY”s I have when I think of each goal… like ‘YAY I REALLY HAVE TO DO THIS’…

1. Write my novel! A complete, draft manuscript… in twelve months… then I can play with it for another twenty four months… *****

2. Run a marathon in spring 2012 ****

3. Run triathlons in spring 2012 (right now my goal is a sprint one, and then an olympic one?) ***

4. Run a (cross-country!) 5K in less than 23 minutes (… is this possible in… twelve months…) *

5. Design great websites – for a friend’s club, for my own club/cause, and a personal project… ****

6. Learn how to design computer games with Blender, Java/C++, and storyboard my idea (the rest will take longer than twelve months) **

7. Budget money well and be more on top of finances ****

8. Budget TIME and be on time 99% of the time ****

9. Write the 3+ Supernatural fanfiction stories that I can’t get out of my head (any writing is practice…. riiiight?) **

10. Do well in all classes, aim for a 4.5+/5.0 GPA ****

11. Read a book a week ***

12. Stay on top of the news by reading newspapers and magazines daily **

13. Blog at least every other day, and get all the “queued” posts done (reviews of books, movies, music, Department of Energy conference…) **

14. Develop my writing craft through reading (“like a writer” – Francine Prose!), taking classes (with Junot Diaz!), doing workshops ***

15. Can’t forget – write (creatively) EVERY DAY! *****

Goals that are longer-term or may eventually add to the longer list if I have time:

16. Take acting classes

17. Develop drawing and animation skills

18. Learn photography and film-making and become an expert at Photoshop and/or Aperture

19. Make AMVs to all of my favorite music (I already have them storyboarded out… in my head…)

20. Finish my computer games through a collaboration or a computer game startup (haha DEFINITELY long-term)

21. Publish my novel ********

21. Start martial arts training again ****

22. Go on a long, multi-month backpacking trip ****

23. Learn to speak Spanish fluently **

Learn Chinese

Learn Japanese

Learn and study different cultures (like a wannabe anthropologist) *

Land a dream job in environmental and climate change policy, energy, consulting, etc. … with time on the side for creative stuff (OR do that semi-random computer game startup… or just do something fun that somehow has an impact… haha that’s more of a pipe dream than a goal…) ******

Do an unassisted pull-up

Learn guitar

Learn piano

Learn synths

Yup, I stopped counting.

So let’s say the first 15 are the serious ones and the others are serious if they have *’s next to them?

Yay! Do YOU have a life list yet? Start one!!!!!!!!!!!

I probably have this video up here somewhere but this is TOTALLY what the mood of this post is:

A Break from Rules + A “How to Stay Motivated” Thing

This will start off with daily personal rambling and eventually try to give advice/insights. No guarantees on the utility or specificity of any such advice, but we at Aril-where-does-this-name-come-from & Co. will always promise a dose of insanity.

Totally relevant song of the day (you have to listen to the whole thing! =D):

Yes, this weekend I went and watched this korean drama called City Hunter. Up to episode 14. Starting Friday night. With a break for Saturday morning + afternoon sleeping/going out. And then ending Sunday… at 8 in the morning.

Yo this is the FIRST TIME I’ve watched anything this summer, or stayed up anytime past 12:30 (most often) to 2. Cut me a break? Maybe? At least this isn’t the ‘normal’ here, as opposed to at MIT (still didn’t stay up quite THAT late… usually… only till 5 or 6 =P)

I had also made Saturday my ‘off day’ for exercise (after 4-5 miles and 12 striders OUTSIDE on Friday). Mostly to enjoy my new music and City Hunter. And while I was walking around, listening to “Reinventing Robert Cohn” and “I Fell Through” on repeat, I wondered where that drive was to… you know… do more productive stuff. I mean, I had all day and had decided to sleep in and then go to Barnes and Noble again. (But I did install Drupal! And write novel stuff, for two – and soon to be THREE nights in a row!)

That’s probably the way it should be, right? Taking time off regularly to chill out, do nothing, and not feeling guilty about it. (Especially now that it’s… summer, and work for me started the Monday after finals ended, no weeks off.)

I tried to do that a lot last semester. But I wouldn’t feel guilty about it while I was doing it. When procrastination and guilt coincided, it was like looking down and realizing I was walking on air. And when procrastination left, the guilt remained for a bit, but was part of what kept me on track.

Just as a note, or clarification – I don’t write these types of ‘personal’ posts just to rant and resolve or reveal my own feelings for my own sake. But I think maybe others that have similar stories, whether at a college, another school, or a job, could feel some comfort in not being ‘the only ones’ that feel that way, as cliched as that sounds. I know that perhaps only family members or friends read these posts occasionally. But just in case, I’m sharing some of my stories.

I feel like the most effective – and least personal – way to help people in school would be guides, like ‘How to Overcome Procrastination from Someone Who’s Not Writing for Fortune 500 Company Heads.’ Like ‘How to Stay Motivated to Exercise,’ ‘How to Get Enough Sleep when You’ve Been a 5-AM-er for a Year,’ ‘How to Finally Put the Advice Everyone’s Been Giving You – at least the helpful stuff – Into Action.’ Because sometimes someone saying ‘Just DO IT!’ doesn’t make you immediately spur into action.

But everyone’s different. Some people are more motivated by one of the following more than the others: financial goals, ideals and morals, or out of a love of what they’re doing (there are people that love being in labs, love designing things, love photography, etc…). In school, there is also that genuine insatiable curiosity students have to learn about how the world works, how physics works, how governments work and interact, etc. And there’s competitiveness as a further motivator, and people have different comfort zones for it.

So what motivates you? A lot of people want to change the world, make a difference – but how exactly would you want to do that? Do you like organizing things and dealing with numbers, writing code, teaching kids new things, putting things together in a wood shop? If you want to be a doctor, say, but can’t stand those organic chemistry classes and find the other classes hard, and are kind of hating life, how do you manage your classes and stay happy – or figure out if you need a change?

I feel like I’ve been trying to do some self-discovery for a grand total of two months. Despite my efforts that’s probably not enough time to claim to be a master of… motivational coaching, or something. Even that thought is pretty funny. (But it sounds like a REALLY fun job!)

I think one of the keys to overcoming school and work-destroying procrastination is to keep your goals in mind, and make a plan – formal or informal, depending on your style – to reach them. In making your goals, don’t ignore your hobbies. What you do to procrastinate. I mean, you procrastinate by doing things you LIKE to do, right?

Why not consider a procrastination tool as a career, or part of one? If you draw things or write in your spare time, maybe you could be a graphic designer, architect, or journalist for a magazine or newspaper? Or an editor? Maybe you want to have time to explore your hobbies, so what type of job would give you that flexibility (while still satisfying your other needs, like alleviating poverty, facing a challenge, discovering new scientific knowledge, etc.)? What do you need to do now to get there?

As for me, I go to work on time each day, happy to have an internship where I’m basically working on my own project. I relish the tasks – getting to figure out the company’s needs, finding the best ways to meet them by communicating information to the manufacturers that might sell us the needed equipment, learning new technical skills such as how a controller works and how it is programmed, and trying to think of new ideas of what to do within the scope of the project. At the same time I pay attention to the actual internship experience, considering factors such as the work environment, the nature of the work, and the tasks I have – and how well they match my own preferences and interests. At the end of work each day I feel accomplished and responsible. Those feelings – these needs – keep my self-expectations high, just as receiving this internship opportunity had – and it is sooooooooo much easier to do things when, at a subconscious level, you believe you CAN do it.

And then I have time each night to get exercise done, listen to music, read or write, and try to teach myself some web design or GIMP/Photoshop. Or walk around Georgetown/Dupont Circle/Eastern Market looking for Indian food. So I get to satisfy my ‘get me exploring the city or art’ needs.

So maybe the key is planning out your days with just enough structure to make sure you satisfy your own ‘needs,’ both financial and personal, every day?

That’s my working theory!

And this is what your world sounds like when you’ve had an awesome day, like the above:

(ahhhhhhhhhhh GHOST IN THE SHELL I STILL HAVE TO WATCH YOU… cough I meant go to sleep…)

Goals on a Friday

Off of work early (really, was I going to stay there when no one was there, and there are a million things to do?), and the plan for today is:

– Laundry

– Listen to more Mr. Meeble and Little People and Yoko Kanno

– Clean room and possibly locate passport for Visa to China

– Exercise (running or yoga? Hmm…)

– Write MY NOVEL… EVERY DAY… starting TODAYYYYY

If that last endeavor is successful, today (the ides of July) might go down in history. Um, at least for me. That’s totally the whole goal of this post. It will be a landmark for a beginning… or not… we’ll SEE!

Got to start somewhere, right?

(if there’s more time…

– City Hunter episode 3 [who am I kidding? This is happening whether there’s time or not…]

– Ghost in the Shell episode 1 [the thing is that I almost certainly would NOT stop]

– Configure Apache, MySQL PHP and Drupal correctly

– Finally review Oscar Wao + Joy Luck Club

– Go skydiving)

Guess what’s next?

La musica!