December 17, 2023

It’s just over halfway through the last month of 2023, so it’s time to take stock of the year that was and look ahead to the next 365 days on the calendar. This post is going to have a lot of rambling self-reflection replete with “I” statements like most of the other content on this website, so be prepared.

Like most of my years spent as a human being on planet Earth, this one was a mixed bag of positive, negative and otherwise nondescript events. The scales should ideally be tipped toward the positive side, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I still want to push myself to focus on those positive life outcomes while not blowing the negatives out of proportion, so let’s do just that.

The Good

As I sift through all of my short term memories, I think the most significant positive that I can take away from 2023 is the improvement I’ve made to my well-being. It hasn’t been entirely linear upward progress, but I can still confidently lay claim to some wins in this column. I’ve covered a lot of this information in previous blog posts and other parts of the website, but I thought it was worth discussing again here just to be thorough.

First and foremost, I’ve nearly fixed the problems with my teeth. After starting the year feeling constantly anxious about the future of my dental health, I bit the bullet and found a local dental office who would work with an uninsured person. The results of my first checkup weren’t exactly to my liking, I had quite a lot of fillings to get done and it was going to cost me a pretty penny, or two. Better than a root canal I guess, but still a hefty bill. After taking on extra work and skimping on personal spending, I can proudly say that I’m almost finished with the arduous process of getting holes drilled in my teeth.

I’ve managed to get health insurance taken care of at least until part of the way through next year, a benefit I haven’t enjoyed since before the pandemic started. I’ve made strides improving my dietary and exercise regimen. I’ve built upon the progress made on my mental health from previous years in small ways, including cutting toxic people out of my life. I can sit here and say that, while not perfect, I’m in a better place now than I was in January.

The next thing I’d like to focus on is my reinvigorated motivation for creative pursuits. The motivation hasn’t necessarily been absent from my life, just difficult to fully kick into gear when my well-being isn’t taken care of. Creativity is what gives my life meaning, I yearn to immerse myself in it.

I can pretty easily point to this website as a step in the right direction as far as my creative pursuits go. It may be a self-serving exercise in personal branding, but at the same time it’s also an exercise in learning a new skill (HTML/CSS coding) while getting back into one that I used to enjoy (writing).

Another non-insignificant creative activity that I got into this year was learning to modify in-game maps for Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. I’ve loved this game since I was a teenager and have always been fascinated by the wealth of custom content available for it. I made some simple entity mods to convert various single-player and special game-type maps into regular free-for-all maps for the server that I run. They aren’t quite ready for sharing yet, but I’d like to upload them to a mod site soon so I can check off the box of technically being a game modder, something my teenage self would probably have enjoyed to know about future me.

Some other fun things from looking back: I went to my first concert in about 5 years on my birthday this year and got to see one of my all-time favorite bands, Phoenix. I read House of Leaves for the first time and it has become one of my favorite fiction books ever. I built a virtual arcade on the video game Tower Unite where I can share all of my favorite retro-game ROMs with anybody who has the game, making friends with some cool people along the way. The Twitter Armageddon finally motivated me to start a Mastodon profile, an experience that has gone better than just about any other social media website I’ve ever tried. My favorite college football team had one of the best seasons of my adulthood.

The Not So Good

I guess we’re on to the negative part. Like I said, I don’t want to focus on this stuff too much, but I have to be honest and up-front about my thoughts if this is going to be a constructive process. Part of the reason I’m writing this is that I want a future version of me to come back to this post someday and reflect on what, if anything, I’ve done to fix my issues.

Mentally, I am struggling to be a functional person more often than I would have in the past. I go through episodes of brain-fog, forgetfulness, lack of focus, anxiety and depression, some more frequent than others but enough to notice a pattern. I was prescribed medicine in the past to help with panic attacks, but underlying anxiety due to health or environmental factors seems like it will never completely go away. The brain-fog is definitely the worst of it, an almost daily occurrence for me. Sometimes it feels like my thoughts are so scattered that I can’t hold onto any of them, other times I’m lucky to conjure up a meaningful thought at all.

My partner continues to experience life-altering health problems that I don’t expect to improve as time goes on. This is her struggle to go through, I don’t wish to make it about me, it’s just a bummer to see this happening to her. I love her, she’s done more for me than anybody else and I want to support her in any way that I’m able to, but I don’t know if it’s healthy to just act like everything is going to be fine.

I spent way too much of my free time in 2023 on empty unfulfilling activities, from watching forgettable YouTube videos to scrolling through mind-numbing social media posts. I continue to be tethered to Twitter’s drip feed of content despite my efforts to break away. TweetDeck is an unparalleled news service and I’ve managed to get the free workaround enabled ever since it went premium-only, but I have to admit that it has contributed to the further erosion of my attention span.

I continue to feel pretty isolated in the way I view the world as well as something as simple as my personal interests. I have to accept that some of this comes with the territory when I live in a rural area, but I’d be lying if I said this didn’t affect me. I don’t really know what to do about this problem; even if I wanted to move away, I don’t exactly have the means. Most of the people that I call friends live far away from me, and I’m not good at keeping up with people if I don’t see them face to face. I’ve learned to live with this limitation for the most part, it seems like growing into adulthood as well as the general loneliness epidemic of modern day life brings a certain amount of this feeling into most people’s lives regardless of where they live. I just wouldn’t mind occasionally feeling like I’m not taking crazy pills when trying to relate to another person in front of me.

The Future

Here’s where I’m supposed to roll out my new year’s resolutions that I’m absolutely not going back on once they’re in writing. I don’t know if this is going to be an all-encompassing list of goals or anything like that, but here’s some stuff I’ve just generally been thinking about doing.

I want to keep up the momentum of creativity started in the latter half of this year. I already have some non-personal writing that I want to publish on this website before the year is over, so if that goes well then it could be something that I choose to carry on with me into 2024. I want to work on improving my writing skills, both my grammar and word usage.

I want to work on reviving my music abilities and explore making songs on the computer in some capacity. I have an e-drum set and keyboard hooked up to my PC just waiting to be used. I’ve got to get back into semi-regular practicing if I want to have any hope at being competent with these instruments as an adult.

Other computery things: I recently bought Aseprite on Steam, so I want to use that as a springboard to get into some type of pixel art design, mostly for personal reasons like this website. I think it’d be kind of fun to get into making games again, even if it’s just something simple and mostly pointless. I managed to recover my old Game Maker project files, maybe doing something with this would be cool? I could also learn to use Godot for a little something, or even NESMaker and GB Studio for a retro project. I’d also like to get into using old programs more often from around the Windows 9x and XP eras, if only just for the fun of it.

I want to ramp up my fitness goals in 2024. That’s a common thing people point to around this time of year, but maybe this will be the time that I really mean it. I’ve been doing alright with frequent walks and using the exercise bike at home, but I need to start going to the gym more. I have a yearly membership, I’ve got to stop throwing away money on it. I also want to address some of my other health needs now that I have insurance. I’ve been averse to seeking healthcare in the past, but things have to be different in 2024 if I want to set myself up for the future.

I want to make some progress on my retro game back catalog, even if it’s just a few things here and there. My collection has gotten to the point that it will be nigh-impossible to play everything in my life, but it’s time to start making a serious effort. There are probably better things I could be doing with my time, but playing a good game fills my life with more meaning than, say, scrolling on my phone for way too long. For being a “retro” guy, I haven’t exactly lived up to that descriptor as much as I want to lately. Maybe it would behoove me to find a better, more reliable CRT monitor than what I currently have at my disposal.

I want to read more books. I managed to read a few in 2023, but not as many as I would have liked. This practice will help me in some key ways, from improving my vocabulary to maybe having some more interesting thoughts and conversation starters. Along this line, I want to be able to actually sit and read some articles rather than passively consume news on YouTube or a podcast. I’m hoping to work into my frequent rotation of websites in 2024. I kind of want to get into reading old Microsoft Encarta articles, too.

I want to explore making YouTube videos again after a long hiatus. It’s been by far my most successful creative pursuit in the past and I did legitimately have fun making videos, even if they didn’t always turn out the best. I have the tools, I’ve gained some more life experience, maybe it’s time to see what I can do. I started multiple projects in the intervening years that I couldn’t get myself to complete, am I finally going to be ready to just do the thing?

Final Thoughts

Well, there we have it. The year isn’t quite over, but I’m anxious to get past the holiday season and on to 2024 so I can work on being the best version of myself that I can be. I’ve spent a lot of time being down on myself in the past and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. It’s time to reset my outlook and rebuild my self-esteem. I don’t know how much time I have left, my life could change drastically any day now. It’s important to make the most of this period of my life while I’m still in the middle of it, I do not want to look back and regret wasting all of this free time that I have at my disposal.

I want to do what I can to feel more self-actualized in 2024. I want to be fulfilled by my interests and make more of something out of myself. I’m ready to break free from the chains that have held me down for years. I don’t feel like I have unrealistic or even lofty goals, but I do need to learn how to prioritize them. It’s unlikely that I’ll just magically reach the point that I want to be at in less than a year, but I’ve got to start my way down the path.