Towards What?

A few days ago, I had an experience which shook up my world and made me re-evaluate my perspective of my current life. It’s made me decide that things need to change.

Hope for the future?

In my previous post about my experiences with depression, I talked about some of the things that I had done to improve my life and things that had helped me feel better; how I had begun exercising frequently, how I hoped to begin working on projects again, and that I was starting to once more feel hope for the future. I believed I was starting to feel happy. Things were going to get better.

I really believed that. Having been feeling crushingly hurt and helpless in the months before I wrote that post, not feeling that way was incredibly refreshing. My aspirations quickly came flooding back and I remembered everything that I wanted to achieve.

Depression is the inability to construct a future
Rollo May, Existential Psychologist

Wanting to do something isn’t the same as actually doing it.

Not feeling pain isn’t the same as feeling happy.

Trapped by the routine

I had settled into a routine since I moved into my new house. I’d wake up in the afternoon, make some food, go to the gym for a few hours, then retire to my room and watch YouTube videos until I went to sleep. Throughout this, if I saw my housemates, I’d interact with them, and that was really great; after all, I’d spent most of the last few months alone.

Since I moved into my new house, I’ve only seen two of my other friends. I’ve only visited home once; when I got home, I didn’t even manage to visit my high-school friends.

People move on and get lives of their own, and that’s okay. I didn’t mind not seeing them. I was happy now, wasn’t I? I kept telling myself that, anyway…

One of my housemates is going through some problems of his own; they aren’t really something I really understand - in fact, he outright refuses to talk about what’s going on in his life - but he hasn’t been himself and I feel like I can’t really interact with him. His problems - or the fact that he excludes me by not talking about them? - or the fact that he lets them affect his mood? (and hence all interactions with him) - makes him essentially unavailable to interact with.

Then, a few days ago, I had an experience which shook my world. It’s not something I particularly want to talk about; it’s more the natural end to one of the dark, self-destructive actions I took during my period of intense depression.

This experience made me re-evaluate my current life and everything I was doing. It felt like waking up from a dream.

I feel like I had been purposefully blinding myself because the truth was too painful.

Startled Awake

My experience made me realise that I was incredibly alone.

I felt like I wasn’t moving towards anything. I had goals in the gym, yes. I was making progress towards those. I had goals for weight loss, yes. I was making progress towards those.

I was moving… but towards what?

I wasn’t making progress towards my goal of making my own start-up. I wasn’t making progress towards my goal of financial freedom. I wasn’t making progress towards any friendships or relationships.

I felt like I was treading water.

Evaluating Projects

I like to visualise myself as someone who works hard and who is successful, and who works on interesting projects.

Historically, this has been an accurate representation.

I worked on the Polygraf across a lot of time in 2015; it was a big project. I built the majority of the Chronograf in a few days, then fixed it in an afternoon a few weeks later.

I built the Deep Thought in a day or two on a whim, then spent the summer making this website and had fun building my hacking minigame.

And across that time I had a whole plethora of projects that didn’t go anywhere, or one shots, or…

For 2017, it simply isn’t true.

Yes, I spent the first 6 months crushingly depressed, but it’s October now. I’ve had 3 months to build something, anything… and it just hasn’t materialised.

It makes me think that I don’t have what it takes to start my own business.

Evaluating Finances

It seems to me that anyone who opts to forgo conventional employment needs to have a ‘fallback’ pot of money. Money to tide them over for the times when a client doesn’t pay, or runway money if you’re developing your own thing.

I don’t have this. At all. In fact, since the middle of August I have been closely tracking my expenditure as a student. I realised that if I didn’t change how much I was spending, I would be over £1000 in debt by the time I graduated.

I was spending £56/week, mostly on food. For September, I tried to cut down spending as much as possible, and ended up spending roughly £26/week. However, if I spend more than £25/week - including money I have to spend on utilities, I will be in debt when I graduate.

I’m trying to live as minimally as possible whilst also getting as much protein as possible. I’m buying Protein Powder to make shakes with, but it’s hard to have two shakes every day just to hit my daily goal, so I prefer to go for protein rich foods.

It’s frustrating that I can’t control my utility bill. It doesn’t matter if I mostly just shower at the gym if my housemate takes a 20 minute shower. Or if my housemate insists on using the ‘Superwash’ setting every time he cleans his clothes. It’s particularly frustrating when he complains about not having much cash, despite having his rent paid for by his parents, and insisting on eating ready meals every day.

Whilst I should get royalties from the Polygraf, Chronograf and Deep Thought at some point, I couldn’t possibly say when or how much, so I can hardly rely on it.

Graduating with £0 isn’t healthy either, but it’s currently what I’m targeting. It seems like I’m heading into very dangerous waters, and it certainly doesn’t seem like the environment that a company can successfully come out of.

Evaluating Relationships

My experience made me realise that I was essentially only interacting with one person on a day to day basis - my housemate and best friend would usually be open to talk at any time. It just so happened that at the time of my experience, my friend had gone for a 100 mile bike ride, and it made me realise I was alone.

Even with my other non-housemate friends that I had interacted with since moving to my house, I had been the one to initiate the conversation and propose a meetup. If I had not initiated it, would I have seen them?

I realised that I was only on the periphery of my friends lives. I realised that perhaps I had been forcing myself to believe that certain people regarded me as strongly as I regarded them; the alternative is a very painful thought.

Two of my closest friends at the University have graduated this year. Ironically, I became estranged from them both at various points in the past for frankly silly reasons, but it doesn’t stop me missing them and feeling sad that I won’t see them any more.

I realised that I’m very lonely and would benefit from interacting with more new people, making new friends, etc.

Evaluating Myself

Let’s look at my routine again; I wake up at noon, make food, go to the gym, watch YouTube, and go to sleep by 2/3AM.

In his video ‘7 Ways to Maximize Misery’, CGP accurately points out 7 things that people are doing that will make them unhappy.

  1. Stay still
  2. Mess with your sleep
  3. Maximize screen time
  4. Use screen to stoke negative emotions
  5. Set VAPID goals, not SMART goals
  6. Pursue empty, idealised happiness directly
  7. Don’t fight your laziness

Whilst in my deepest point of depression, I was doing most of these. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom, leaving only to pick up Pizza. I had an irregular sleep pattern and didn’t spend any time doing anything away from my screen. I could go on.

When I was first trying to fight it, I basically did none of those 7 things. I remember sitting outside reading books and it made me feel happy - relatively, anyway. I cooked for myself and I tried to sleep regularly.

Somehow, I’ve slipped back to doing some of those things. Waking up in the afternoon isn’t healthy, nor is sleeping late. I spend too much time on YouTube, and it isn’t something that enriches me.

Act.

I’m fortunate that I had my experience, and whilst painful, I believe that it will help me grow.

It has allowed me to see the problems in my life - where I am lacking. Problems I had previously ignored. Problems that were to painful to acknowledge. Problems that I was to lazy to deal with.

Projects

I’ve been taught all manner of software development methodologies during my course, but I never decided to apply them to my own projects for some reason.

I’m going to be trying to follow agile development solo, and do sprint works to complete projects. I’m going to couple this with SMART targets so that I stop leaving projects behind.

My current project, one long overdue, is to make a website portfolio for my sister’s tattoo business. I encountered an issue where Jekyll didn’t quite work as I expected it to, which complicated the matter and stole all of my enthusiasm for the project. Yesterday I completed a Python script that solves this issue and there are very few barriers now.

My target is to complete my sister’s website by Sunday 8th October to a standard she is happy with. After that I can work on developing my coursework scheduling system (intended to be my 3rd year project before my life fell apart), which I may be able to adapt to bring in income for me.

Finances

My University has a Hardship Fund to help students that are struggling with money. I will apply Tomorrow Morning.

My University frequently hosts talks from companies about what they do. It’d be useful to see these so that if I decide that I do need to work before I am able to do my own thing, I’d know something about them. As an added bonus, these events almost always come with free food, which should help to reduce my expenses.

Myself

To facilitate these changes, and to try to aim for happiness, I will be changing my routine.

Exceptions to this routine on Wednesdays and the Weekend to allow for batch-cooking meals. The goal would be ideally that I could develop my coursework scheduling tool to the point where I didn’t need to break routine to rush courseworks, but I understand that it may be necessary.

Saturday Morning will also be reserved for Parkrun - I’ve completed it once so far and would like to make it a routine.

Hopefully by having a routine I will be more productive and less sluggish. It’ll also reduce negative screen time (ie YouTube), and make me move more. It also prevents my sleep from getting messed with.

Relationships

This is the part that I’m least sure of what to do about.

I want both friends and a relationship.

I tried joining the University Kayaking Club last year and didn’t really make any new friend friends.

I briefly tried online dating and didn’t really get anywhere either.

Regarding Kayaking, it’s something I’d like to try again this year, and I think I’m more likely to make a connection if I put myself out there more.

“Hello-we’en”

In an effort to put myself out there, I’m going to be attempting Andrew Elsass’s “90 Strangers in 30 Days” experiment for October. As October has 31 days, the name wouldn’t really work for me, so I’m choosing to call my version of the experiment “Hello-we’en”, as I expect to be saying “Hello” a lot, and it ends on Hallowe’en.

I found Elsass’s experiment quickly after my experience. My experience made me realise that I wanted - needed - to improve both myself and my life. I looked up the top posts in subreddits about self-improvement, and following the links of related subreddits lead me to his post about his takeaways.

The experiment seemed fun - and I decided that it might be exactly what I needed to improve my life and have more meaningful relationships. Because of course having a lot of meaningless exchanges with many people is exactly the route to it.

Like Elsass, I’m going to have some rules:

  1. I should aim for three conversations a day, for every day of October, with complete strangers.
  2. It counts as long as I put myself out there (ie a conversation I wouldn’t have had without the experiment.) and attempt to open a proper conversation -
  3. I’m allowed to tell people about the experiment, but it can’t be the only thing I talk about.
  4. I should log my interactions.
  5. If I can’t achieve it for some reason on a day, don’t trawl around looking for it - ie no hanging out at the bus station just because people are there. It’s weird. Simply make up the missing people on subsequent days.
  6. I must finish the experiment with at least 93 strangers.
  7. None of it will be with the help of alcohol as I don’t drink.

Optimism

I’m optimistic that making these changes will help me progress to where I want to be in life.

Part of the reason that I have this blog is to journal where I am in life, so that in the future people can see where I have come from.

It’s often hard to see the series of struggles and failures that somebody went through to get to where they are today. People aren’t just born successful, they have to work for it.

I find it really inspiring to read some of levels.io’s earlier entries, where he wasn’t fully sure of himself and where things could have gone in a very different way for him.

I’m hopeful that one day, somebody with aspirations will read my older entries - this one, perhaps - and understand my struggle, and I hope it inspires them to help themselves or see what they have to do.

I went into a lot of uncomfortable detail about some of my failings in this post, I want it to serve as an accurate representation of who I am, what I am thinking about, and what I have decided to do. My success won’t happen by accident.

If you read this far, I congratulate you as I understand that it is a lot of very dense text. Hopefully future Jet comes back to this post and breaks it up with some pretty pictures and quotes, but current Jet has 3 people to go and meet.