Year of Something (2011-2012)

I never posted about last year’s Year of Something because I was incredibly lazy, but it’s better to be late than never show up, right? I realize I haven’t even talked about what I’m doing this year, but that’s going to have to wait for another post! Last year, however, was a good year. I chose to donat 5% of my income to charities and join a volunteer group.

I’ve donated before, but never on a regular schedule and only $100 or less at a time. I think it was probably mostly because I didn’t have that much money between school, not being paid much, and my loans/credit card bills. Now that I have a well paying job, no credit card bills, and less student loans I’ve reached the point where I’m comfortable in my life and don’t absolutely need all of my income. It’s a weird place to be, but it’s definitely nice. I realize that there are tons of people who aren’t able to get to that point, or causes that need funding, so I thought it would be a good thing to try. It helped that my girlfriend was doing something similar, so I had a companion who was also donating and volunteering.

Once you budget away the money, you really don’t even notice it being gone since you know it was never yours. I tended to batch a couple of months of pay at the same time so that I could donate a lot more to organizations instead of a little here or there. I felt like that would make much more of a difference to those organizations. The first time I donated over $1000, it felt a bit strange. I’ve been wanting a laptop even though I don’t really need one since my desktop works fine; to donate the money instead of use it on myself felt good, especially because of the response I got from who I donated it to. They were very appreciative, to say the least.

As for the volunteering, I joined Ashley’s Seattle Works team and volunteered once a month on a bunch of different projects ranging from cleaning up and doing odd jobs around Child Haven to weed wacking at a farm in South Seattle to cleaning up old folks’ homes in a community. It wasn’t always fun in a traditional sense, but it was nice to know that I was helping people who sometimes seemed like they were barely scraping by.

Overall I’d say the year was a good experience. I got to help out a lot of people through donating money and volunteering and I’ll definitely be doing both in the future.

Year of Nothing/Something 2010 – 2011

It’s nearly that time of year again. The time of year in which I finish up my year of nothing from the past year and think of something else to do for this coming one. This past year I Did not use my computer at home for entertainment purposes. This was easily my hardest year that I’ve done so far; it’s very difficult to completely change your lifestyle at home when the computer is the main focus of your life. I found myself playing a lot more video games, rock climbing (managed to get a V7 indoors in the past year), playing soccer, and a couple of other activities. I also found myself going out more if someone asked me to go do something, which is something I wanted to accomplish as well. Now, however, I need to choose what to do for next year.

So far I’ve:

  • Given up alcohol for a year
  • Become a vegetarian for a year
  • Given up my car and taken public transportation/walked for a year
  • Not used my computer at home for entertainment purposes for a year

I’ve really enjoyed (for the most part) doing these year of nothings because I feel like they’ve directly caused me to grow and expand my horizons. I’ve been trying to think of what I’m going to be doing next and I haven’t fully decided yet. June 11th is coming up soon, and so far, I have this list to pick from:

  • Meditate for 15-30 minutes every day
  • Force myself to stop procrastinating/skipping things I know I need to do (floss, shave every day, doing dishes, cleaning room, etc)
  • Stretch for 15 minutes every day (with the intention of being able to do the splits after a year)
  • Volunteer at least once a month
  • Program something meaningful in a year

From this list, it looks like I’ll be giving up on the idea of the year of nothing (essentially giving something up), because I can’t think of anything that I’d really want to give up anymore. I’m kind of hitting the bottom of the barrel with it and if I were to choose something, I don’t think it’d be as beneficial as something else. Unfortunately, I’m not sure which I like best. Some seem easy (the volunteering one), some are vague (program something meaningful), some seem solely dedicated to a singular goal (meditate/stretch), and the last is a bit silly. I do believe these would all help me, but how difficult would they be and what is the overall benefit of doing it? I guess what I’m looking for is the max benefit/difficulty ratio, although I don’t think I’d shy away from something difficult if it also had a huge benefit.

Does anyone have any ideas that I’d be able to use? Remember, I work better with hard-ish goals/rules rather than soft ones. Perhaps it’s time to try to change that, but I’d also really rather not fail because I’m trying to do something against my personality type.

Being Sick Sucks

I’ve been sick since around last Saturday or so and it really sucks. It’s not the “I’m going to die oh good god” sick, but it’s just a steady headache, runny nose, stuffy nose (how are those two even possible together?), and tiredness. What sucks even more is my year without really sucks when you’re sick and confined to your small ass apartment. There’s only so many video games I can play and books I can read before I get tired of doing active activities and I want to watch a tv show, movie, or browse the web.

Ah well, luckily I don’t tend to get sick more than once or twice a year (and oddly enough almost always on the weekends). I can’t even imagine how my life would be if I were to be hospitalized or something with my goals this year. That would truly be interesting.

I have been playing a bunch of Mirror Edge’s speed runs and time trials though. I think I like them better than the actual game itself. Kind of sad really. I’ve gotten pretty damn good, but I’m not nearly as good as the guys on top (they do some insane shit).

My Third Year Without

A couple of days ago I finally decided what my year of nothing is going to be. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to not do (this was my first attempt), but I figured it out.

I’m not going to use my computer at home for any entertainment purposes. Right now when I get home, I usually jump onto the computer right away after having been on the computer at work already for 8+ hours. It bothers me because I normally don’t even have anything to do. I browse the web, watch videos, etc. I feel like it’s a complete waste of my time and I’d really rather not do it. I’d rather read, play video games, go out, work out, go to sleep, or pretty much anything else. It’s a huge time sink that doesn’t really do anything for me.

I used to have the same problem with tv, but I stopped watching it and enjoy not watching it so much more than I actually liked sitting in front of the tv. It’s the large reason why I don’t even own a tv or cable.

So anyway, this means that I can’t just sit in front of my computer and dick around. I can still use it for tool like purposes: google maps. looking up directions, checking e-mail, writing posts (such as this), getting recipes, programming, etc. I just can’t dick around on it. I have a feeling it’ll be hard at first, but it’ll get me to do stuff I wouldn’t normally do because I’m lazy. Since I don’t have much else to do in my apartment that is lazy-like, I’m hoping that I’ll stop being lazy and do more :). Not sure if it’ll happen, but here’s hoping!

My Year Without (And How I Need Your Help)

For the past two years I’ve been trying to push myself to change how I look at the everyday things I do in life. This past year I got rid of my car, the year before that I was a vegetarian. A number of years before that I stopped drinking all alcohol. Each of these expanded my views on the world and ended up changing how I interact with it on a daily basis. I can’t see myself ever owning a car again as long as I have sufficient bus transportation (especially when my work will pay for my bus pass), I eat more vegetarian meals than I do ones that contain meat (and rarely ever buy meat for just myself), and I know that if I go on a particular binge drinking episode I can quit drinking with no hesitation.

What’s weird is these little things tend to affect my whole outlook on life a lot more than I initially think they will. I’ve become a huge proponent of public transportation and open spaces. John Jensen has helped inform me tremendously about these things, and I really love to see how Seattle is becoming a better place for it. It’s interesting to look at how cities evolve over time and how buses, light rail, BART (and other types of subway/elevated rail) affect the city as a whole. I remember being nervous when first doing it because the only time I had really taken the bus or other public transit was going to the mall back home or the rare occasion when I’d take BART to an A’s game or something. Now I feel much more comfortable about it.

When I chose to be a vegetarian I didn’t do it out of altruistic means. I had wanted to do it as a kid, but didn’t ever feel it was possible because my parents were both such big meat eaters (and they made my food, so it would have been very difficult to deviate from that). Now, however, I’ve been learning more and more about local growers and how they help the environment because they have less distance to travel to bring the food to market. I’ve also been looking into how much land and resources animals take up in order to turn them into food. 16 pounds of wheat and up to 2,500 gallons of water are necessary to produce one pound of grain-fed beef. It’s making me think more and more about what foods I eat and how they get there.

I think these things have affected me in a positive manner. I’m more aware of what I do and how it affects the world. I’m coming up on my year for no transportation and I’d like to start something new, but I haven’t been able to decide what it should be. It starts June 11th, and so far I’ve come up with these options:

  • Eat only non-prepackaged food. If I want spaghetti sauce, I can’t just buy the jar, I have to create my own. I can’t buy yogurt, I have to make my own. This seems like it would be incredibly difficult, but very rewarding at the same time. I might make an exception for restaurants (since I’d never be able to eat anything there), but I’m not a huge fan of exceptions.
  • Don’t play any video games. I’m a huge fan of them, but they also take up a ton of my time. Would I use that time to do other projects? Are video games good for my life in general?
  • Don’t watch any TV or movies. I don’t really do much of this right now, so I’m not sure how much of a change it would really be. Is it worth it to try and find out? I kind of doubt it, but it’s an option
  • Don’t use my computer at home. I obviously need to use it for work, but I’m honestly tired of how I get home and jump right on it again. Then again, I do a TON of stuff with it at home that I’d probably be unable to accomplish without (digital photography being the major one). Perhaps rules to allow for things like that but no surfing the web?
  • Don’t use electricity at home. This one is definitely way out there but it appeals to me as so many people go without it in the developing world. Would I be able to do it at home? Would I include the refrigerator? This goes obviously way further than any of the other previously mentioned options, but it has a certain mystique to it.
  • Don’t buy anything for a year. No consumerism of any kind. The only exception being food, of course. Could I go for a year without buying anything? If something breaks, I either have to fix it or have to find some kind of free replacement. Too often my mindset is to just toss something and buy it anew. I don’t like that ethos. This would be especially crazy if I were to lose all of my belongings to a fire or something.

Now, you’ll notice all of those things I listed are things I would stop myself from doing. I’m absolutely terrible at things like “I’m going to work out three times a week”. I find easy ways around this (vacations, busy with work, etc), but the not doing of something is relatively doable for me if I so choose. The main problem is I have no idea what I don’t want to do for my upcoming year. Those all seem to be interesting ideas, but none of them jump out to me like the previous two years have. Any of you have any ideas or modifications to the ones I posted to give me something to not do this upcoming June 11th?