Perpetual January

February 1, 2018

Narrative

Holy moley -- is it February already? It seems to have gone so quickly, but somehow, simultaneously, exceptionally slowly. I attribute the latter to the sheer wealth of experiences I've had over the last month. It's amazing what you have time for when you don't spend 40+ hours a week working a bum job.

2018 rolled in with me sleeping through the New Year festivities. I had just arrived in Canada from Bangkok, experiencing a 50°C temperature difference negotiated only with shorts and tank tops, and a mean thirteen hours of jet-lag.

Somehow in my delusional frozen and sleep-deprived state, I had convinced the waitress the night before to give me her number. The swathes of old people I spend the evening with didn't exactly help my game, but they were all very excited for me -- and gave a lot of unsolicited dating advice that hadn't been relevant since the 60s, if ever.

Being in Canada meant my phone didn't work, so I was forced to call the cute waitress. I got voice mail, where I was told to leave my name and number, and she'd get back to me. She didn't. That's OK.

The next day I was back to work, and after about an hour of it, decided this whole working-for-the-man thing wasn't for me. I called my boss and quit. So far it's been the best decision I've made all year.

I spent the next week hanging out with my family whom I hadn't seen in a year and a half. We went snowshoeing, walked around a bunch of lakes, debated libertarianism, chatted about Bell Labs, went hunting for Innis & Gunn, and they graciously let me spend my evenings teaching them linear algebra. I'm not sure how much of it sank in, but it was sweet of them to humor me.

We also went to visit Grandma. She's hella hella old and a year ago was told she wouldn't have more than three months to live. She's no longer herself, and as hard as it was to see her, I've got to give it to the old bird, that protestant work ethic is as strong as ever -- I'm convinced it's the only thing keeping her in her mortal coils. It was hard to see her, but I'm glad I did.

A big goal of January was to "figure out where to be." My assumption was Thailand, but I'm tired of moving around (I've moved 15 times in the last seven years.) The thought of needing to do a visa run every month didn't resonate with my inner Buddha, plus the unpredictability of whether or not I'd get said visa brought up a lot of neuroses. I'd always promised myself that I'd move to Lithuania when I retired, and here I was, retired, so... why not?

The assumption was that I couldn't get a visa. I spent a few days researching clever ways of getting into the EU -- looking for ancestry ties I could claim, or business-visa loopholes, or whether I could register as a refugee. No dice. But then I learned that Lithuania has a cultural exchange program with Canada, and that I was eligible. So that was pretty cool.

The only problem was that I needed to apply in person in Ottawa, which was a five hour and $400 flight away from me. The embassy was not particularly organized, and I found myself wondering on several occasions whom the ambassador had pissed off in order to find himself posted in Canada.

So I flew to Ottawa. I have some family who lives there, with whom I'd spent the best summer of my life getting into trouble in Vancouver a few years previous. I hadn't seen them since, but they offered to let me stay with them. The magic wasn't gone, and our shenanigans came back. One particularly good night was spent at the Laff where we convinced the band to play only Sublime songs for the entirety of the evening and met a bunch of wacky characters. There was the guy who got drunk and video called me with his shirt off at 4am later that night. There was the woman who had just been informed of being divorced a few hours later and had decided to show up at the bar in her pajamas.

Good times were had.

I made it to the Lithuanian embassy, where the ambassador and I spent about an hour trying to scan my fingerprints. He had never done it before, so he was on the phone to his secretary, and she was trying to walk him through it. His English wasn't very good (although it's significantly better than my Lithuanian), and so the entirety of his instructions to me was to "PUSH IT PUSH IT PUSH IT PUSH IT PUSH IT." We were both visibly relieved when the computer finally accepted them. He took my $100, and promised he'd give me $9 in change the next day when I came to pick up my visa. I suggested he just go buy a coffee with it and give me the change. He didn't think that was very funny and I decided to not push my luck any further.

The next day I came to collect my visa, and the feeling of elation was overwhelming. This small piece of paper ironed into my passport represented the culmination of my dreams over the last four years -- retiring early and ending up in Lithuania.

As a nod to my Canadian heritage, I decided to do a pilgrimage to Parliament. I went on the free walking tour, and met a woman who "accidentally" attempted to smuggle a giant, illegal butterfly-knife past the security checkpoint, as well as a guy from Montreal who was bored that day and decided to drive down for the free walking tour. Our guide was a tiny, perky woman with a concerning amount of zeal for war. I convinced everyone with my knowledge of the structure of the Canadian government, but my jokes about how the Vietnam war was the one war the entire world participated in fell flat. I thought it was hilarious.

Ottawa was cold. And then warm. And then cold again. My $20 Value Village jacket was having a hard time keeping up with the unpredictable (and frankly insane) weather. A friend of my family's invited us out for dinner to meet me, and then he blew us all off -- after we'd braved a blizzard to get there. But I got a kebab and so the night wasn't entirely a write-off.

I found myself back in Denver, where my friends had organized a welcome-back party. One guy came all the way from Ireland to wish me back, which was pretty cool of him. He was supposed to be sleeping on my couch for the last few days, but my unexpected trip to Ottawa had accidentally slashed those plans. Sorry, my dude! My heart melted a little bit by this awesome coming together from my friends. I've never felt so loved.

Since I'm retired and now have what you might call a "fixed income," I decided that investing in a library card would be a good way to cheaply work on my reading goal. The woman at reception gave me one, and suggested the seventh floor would be a good, quiet place to get some work done. I took her advice and headed up there, popping into the only room that didn't have a "staff only" sign on it. Inside was a giant table, hand crafted, and embedded with plaques with the names of famous politicians from the late '90s. I sat at the one labeled "Jean Chrétien", obviously. The police showed up soon after to gently escort me out.

The next day I was run over on my way back to the library. I wasn't hurt, but seeing as it was the one time I've been in Denver and not jaywalked. The irony is thicc.

Finally, I spent a bunch of time in January working on a new video game, and have started a series of blog posts about the development of it, if you find yourself interested in the process behind these things. I also experienced the joy of painting for the first time in a year, and prepared and performed a set for an open mic stand-up night.

Mundane Epiphanies

January has been the most enjoyable month I've ever experienced in living memory. It's remarkable how lovely it is to have the freedom to chase inspirations on a whim, without any external responsibilities to get in the way. Having an extra 40 hours of time, and all the associated energy that comes with it also goes a long way.

I also can't remember ever feeling so good in my own skin. I walk around these days with a swagger of which I didn't previously realize I was capable. Relatedly, I find myself getting significantly more complements than I ever was before. There's something to be said about self-confidence here, and when I wrap my mind around what it is, I'll write more. Count on it, baby baby.

Often I feel like I'm remarkably dumb for how smart I am. I had a few instances of that in January -- the most salient of which was "wow, my energy levels are strongly dependent on what kind of food I eat." I mean, it's obvious, and was something I knew intellectually, but I'd never really realized it. Without having any external variables, the correlations here became immediately evident. I shudder to think of what other dumb things I know but don't know that will make other drastic improvements in my life -- if you can think of any, please suggest it in the comments below!

One of my focuses of the year is to get good at meeting people and building relationships. This has paid off already; I feel like I've made two fantastic friends in January -- like, seemingly god-tier quality friendships. We'll see if they can survive the honeymoon phase, but I have a really good feeling about them.

Analytics

Across the board, I'm doing pretty well on my yearly goals. They say what gets measured gets done, and that's a pretty apt observation of January.

The 50,000 foot goal for January was to "Set the foundation for the year. Get into the habit of doing the things you want to be doing. Quit work, figure out where to be. Deal with banking bureaucracy." I'm still working through the bureaucracy of banking, but the rest of it got done.

In term of the things I'm actually quantifying, it's also looking promising. The following numbers are what I've accomplished out of what I would have needed in order to be on track for the year:

  • Writing: 14459 / 6625 words
  • Books: 5.52 / 4.42 books
  • Category Theory: 25 / 23 pages through Awodey
  • Meeting People: 42 / 44 people
  • Reaching Out: 7 / 9 people
  • Dates: 1 / 4 unique people

Meeting people and reaching out is pretty trivial -- I'll probably knock those out and get back up to being on track today or tomorrow.

The dates category is the only thing that project managers would call "in the red." It's off-track, and in danger of working out given its current trajectory. I've got a few excuses for this: I was traveling for half the month without an actual base of operations, and I was barely managing to not die of cold, let alone look good. I've actually been on four dates, but they've all been with the same woman. The days in January I decided to focus on meeting women didn't go particularly well, so I'm going to need to come up with a new strategy if I don't want to lose all my friends.

Unrelatedly, I've been choosing a "key focus" for every day, and tracking whether or not I meet it. I've missed 5 / 33, although one was due to being run-over, and two were "mostly complete." Having a key focus has been fantastic for motivating myself to accomplish a particular thing; it's generally the first thing I knock off in the day, and leads to a wonderful feeling of being productive for the rest of my hours. This is probably the biggest life hack I'd suggest picking up, if you're looking for something like that.

I have a few other goals for the year that I haven't made any real progress on. I'm in discussions with the maintainer of an open source project, looking for ways to contribute, but so far it's been less than productive. I haven't started anything that could be considered academic, nor have I spent any time building a community.

It feels a little weird to end this post on such a low note, since January's been such a dope month. I'm having the time of my life, accomplishing more than I thought was possible, and plan to only get better and doing these things.


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