Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Bittersweet 2011, and Prospects for 2012

Alright, finally a day off from work and time enough to write! It being near the end of 2011 I'd like to reflect on how this year went and what my plans are for 2012. Before I tackle how I did on this year's resolutions I'd like to take a brief chronological tour of the events.

All in all, this has been a bittersweet year. I got some major things done which changed my life in a major way, but I've been against myself psychologically in a way that's been holding me back hugely, so the major up points are offset by major vices. It's taken a long time, but I'm starting to make progress on bettering myself, which I realize now I need to focus on if 2012 is to be great.

I don't really remember much about January except my dedication to the Project. As some might know, quite a while ago I had a thing going vaguely called "The Project," which I had to keep secret since it was actually a plot to move away and cut my family off from my life. The first three months of the year pretty much orbited around the Project.

A little context is needed to understand the Project I suppose, but I'd like to write on it minimally since I'm still having a hard time dealing with some of its lasting mental aspects, which I think are exacerbated when I talk about my situation (and is why I tend to dislike talking about it in person). Concisely, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that my family was in no way helpful to the pursuit of my happiness, and after fighting with them for years about certain decisions which have massively enhanced my well-being I devised "The Project" as my last resort to solving our disputes. Whenever I tried initiating a dialogue to talk about our problems I would get yelled at, lied to, have the topic shifted to irrelevant fields, have the person pretend not to remember or know certain facts, and even be walked away from, so our problems continue to accumulate and make the relationship increasingly unhappy. At root the hostility began when I decided to disassociate from my mother when she kicked me out of the house in 2008, for knocking on her bedroom door too loudly. While I wasn't abused or physically neglected, I was spiritually neglected and deprived of the attention I really wanted, and other elements -- such as her unpredictable emotional explosions -- made dealing with her mentally hellish, and she contributed a lot to suicidal tendencies I nurtured for over a decade. She was well aware of how much I was suffering under her care, especially since I told her flat-out, but time and time again she chose to run away from her parenting responsibilities, thus making it a moral failure rather than innocent mistake, so when I finally intellectually recognized that I detested my mother I secretly planned to cut her off and did so accordingly when she kicked me out about three years later.

I told my family about the reasoning behind my decision and supported it with concrete incidents from my childhood, but everyone was displeased and hostile about my continual refusal to deal with my mother. What's contemptible is how almost every single person conducted himself: They'd ignore my position entirely, mouth conclusions without support or evidence, refuse to give support or evidence when asked, restate their conclusions verbatim perpetually without making changes, and then resort to mean tactics such as yelling, name calling, nasty e-mails, and public intimidation when I inevitably didn't change my position. I'm not going to overturn the conclusions I've drawn from hours of thinking and hundreds of pages of writing just because someone uttered a three-word belief; if they were to influence my actions, they had to direct themselves at my  mind, and instead they stupidly tried plucking at my heartstrings by quoting tired cliches and being savage. Rude isn't the word; they were uncivilized.

As much as I tried going about my own affairs, not forcing or putting a burden on anyone, my family continued to meddle, particularly my grandmother, whom I lived with. I wasn't engaging in any self-destructive behaviors, and yet whenever I did anything that was contrary to popular opinion or whatever their beliefs were we'd have endless disputes and pressures in our relationship. I would always give my reasoning, thinking, and research behind my actions, but they would always counter by, again, mouthing conclusions without evidence or support, refusing to give evidence or support when asked, restating their conclusions verbatim perpetually without making changes, and then resort to mean tactics such as yelling, name calling, nasty e-mails, and public intimidation when I didn't change. Worse yet, they simply could not drop the issue and allow us to part our ways in this realm and deal with whatever reality we might bring forth; every dispute would become an issue forever haunting our relationship, sometimes for years. I almost never brought the issue up in conversation; they would. Since I lived with my grandmother, I was primarily fighting with her: we fought over cruise control in cars, potatoes, rolling shirt sleeves, and, for god's sake, what the sunlight does to the carpet. Nothing was off limits, and since I was totally unable to predict how my grandmother would respond to anything I developed an immense anxiety around her, since literally anything could set off a dispute. They were other problems too, such as the fact my grandmother is neurotically obsessed with what other people believe about her and spends a significant amount of time searching for dark events to feel bad about (as some kind of moral duty to recognize the bad in life), which just made dealing with her absolutely miserable.

After such a difficult childhood I was willing to simply wipe everyone's slate clean and get on with my life and, I wished, begin to love my family, but they gave so little support to my pursuit of well-being that I've come to hate them the most out of all the people I've ever dealt with. Regarding disassociating my mother, not a single person has ever contested my points or said that my conclusions were wrong: they deceive themselves into believing what they want to believe (e.g. since I disassociated from my mother right after she kicked me off, most family members probably make themselves believe that that's the issue driving my actions, despite my saying otherwise several times and pointing to other problems), mouth conclusions in hopes that it'll somehow bypass any argument I've put forth, and then resort to intimidation (such as yelling) when it fails. I think the source of their hostility is that they recognize I speak the truth and need to evade it in order to avoid emotional discomfort and to continue conducting their lives as they have, and they needed me to play along and reconnect with my mother in order to solidify the evasions. When I didn't, I became a scapegoat for their own internal problems.

As the disputes continue I gradually developed an obsession with figuring out solutions. It didn't bother me much at first since I was oblivious to any other problems outside of my relationship with my mother, and entirely focused on healing myself and getting my life back together after spending so much time in erosion, almost committing suicide. For a while, I was uninterrupted in my dedication, but as the problems continued, built up in quantity, and intensified it got to the point where I could hardly read a book without being distracted, and got upset if my grandmother merely entered the room. My mind wheeled away as to how to rationally solve these problems so I could continue my life, but after observing how infinitely evasive my family members were I kept running into dead ends and started thinking in circles. For instance, whenever I tried thinking on how I could modify my arguments to make them at least acknowledge it I couldn't drop their evasive mentalities from my thought processes, which led to me continually dreaming of scenarios where they simply don't listen, pretend not to know things they do actually know, and yell at me. My life got incredibly better with my mother out of the picture, but I plateaued in my improvements since the new problems called for me to put my life on hold until they were solved.

After trying many methods, doing research, and seeking input from lots of other people for about two years, I finally realized there's no reasonable way to deal with these people. They simply won't acknowledge to me or themselves that it's my thinking driving me, so there's absolutely nothing I can say which will make them pay heed; they have to make the choice themselves, and they won't. Furthermore, while I cannot predict what will concretely come about I do know their characters enough to know that disputes will continue to arise endlessly in the future, as whenever I contradict popular opinion or their beliefs it leads to upsets, and since I exert no effort in knowing what popular opinions are or what their beliefs are when it comes to choosing my own actions -- I use my own, individual judgment -- that also means I'll have to deal with the anxiety of not knowing how anyone will respond to any one thing.

It took a long time to reach the decision, but I decided to move away and cut them off from contact. Deriving conclusions from the principles of their character, I knew the problems wouldn't cease if I merely moved away and kept my address and phone number apparent because then they would just bring their behaviors to my new home, probably with greater intensity. I also knew this from the fact that my grandmother once had my mother attempt to cut her off, but my grandmother continued to persist in attempting to deal with her for the three years that lasted. To make the problems end totally, I had to cut them off totally. Since they were of no spiritual value to me in my youth, often either worsening my psychologically or passively allowing me to suffer, and interfered with my long-awaited healing, I wasn't hesitant to do so either. I tried having a healthy relationship with them and tried resolving our differences, and failed at every try.

It took about a year's worth of struggling, but I've finally made it to Texas, though I'm renting a room from an old lady rather than having an apartment to myself. In 2010 I got my first restaurant job, but no matter how hard I pushed I couldn't get myself to the point where I could afford to live on my own, especially with the psychological difficulties I was dealing with, and decided to move out of state to integrate into The Project another goal, my desire to leave Michigan. I didn't actually realize my family was the source of my troubles until about 19; before then I was always dealing with horrible people outside, such as vicious bullies, passive teachers that didn't care, and more. I've dealt with so many bad people that I think it's a full-blown cultural aspect of Michigan, which has been making me yearning to get out. (And yes, I think Texas is better in that realm.)

Now that the context has been established, I don't remember much of January except that maybe, as I always was at the time, dealing with the frustrations of my family. I was a dish washer at the time just beginning to do some line work, mostly deep frying, and probably during that month decided I wanted to move out of state since I detested Michigan so much, and would probably be better off knocking off two goals at once, since moving out of state might have been harder if I were incurring living expenses beforehand. Moving to Texas immediately made me have more of my savings at my disposal to cushion me.  (Though, to be clear, I moved in March.)

It was in Febuary that the real happenings began, as my cousin managed to secure me a night at her old restaurant in Dallas. I talked to the Sous chef and we agreed on a date, and then spent the weekend driving up there to take advantage of opportunity. God I won't forget that drive: So exciting, yet so uncomfortable. Standing up at the gas station was bliss. Looking back, I'm rather impressed with my adult capabilities: The way I was able to secure the motel reservations, plan my expenses, and so on . . . it was a big undertaking and accomplishment. I was tremendously curious when I entered Texas, but I could only limit myself to touring the gigantic Whole Foods nearby and buying some chocolates I couldn't find at home, and spent most of that day anxiously awaiting my appointment at the restaurant. It was a very exciting night that increased my enthusiasm for getting into fine dining. Oh, I loved it, and am proud I went. It's probably my greatest accomplishment for the year. Afterwards the sous chef said I had some very good prospects there, and to contact him when I got home in Michigan. Another long drive home.

When I did contact him he said he would help me find a job once I did move up there, so to me that was the signal that the race was on to get the hell out. I may not have had a job yet, but there sure was opportunity . . . more than I can say of Michigan. I let my employer know how things went and got their blessing to leave. They even guaranteed my job back if things went awry. So, with an opportunity I couldn't pass up, I arranged to move to Texas in March, and arrived March 2nd.

Unfortunately, March to mid-April was a little nerve-wracking. I thought I was a shoo-in at my cousin's old restaurant, but it turned out they didn't have any positions available, so all the sous chef could do was nudge me in the direction of a few places. I immediately went to a country club he recommended that he hailed the chef there as his mentor and even supposedly got a job there, but since they continued to endlessly procrastinate on my starting date I ran dangerously close to running out of money. They were my ideal prospect since the job could have both supported me and really moved forward my culinary learning, but waiting for them turned out to be too financially risky and forced me to find another job at a pizza place, which I secured on tax day of April. I wasn't enthusiastic, but hey, as long as I'm in the restaurant industry.

Doubly unfortunate is that both the country club chef and sous chef bailed out on me. I sous chef I auditioned for moved out of state and pretty much hasn't been in contact with me since then, and the country club chef continually lied to me and led me on, forcing me to simply eliminate him as a prospect. Initially I was supposed to start at the country club just a few weeks after they "hired" me, but then they started delaying it by weeks, and then months, which forced me to find employment elsewhere. I'm still bitter about it since I trusted that guy and was looking so immensely forward to finally do some serious culinary work, so duping me like that has wasted far too great amounts of time. I then accepted my position at my current pizza place and began to enjoy it, and excelled to the point that I became the most valued dishwasher there.

Truth be told, I think April to November has been some of most difficult months emotionally for me. Even though I cut off the concrete source of my problems, my family, there was still a lasting psychological impact. Attempting to think of solutions to my problems for so many years while I was still dealing with them has wired some very bad thinking habits into my brain, and as a result I still tend to run over the same thoughts again, to the point it consumes hours, even thought it's no longer cognitively useful. I dislike talking about it with my friends since the subject tends to open this Pandora's Box of bad habits, and brings a lot of negativity back. (Furthermore, while my position isn't difficult to comprehend, it does require a lot of points to understand the full context, which makes me annoyed when people assume I'm in a typical teenager situation when I don't elaborate on everything.)

All the progress I made on healing myself emotionally was pretty much undone during the disputes with my family, and in combination with facing bleak aspects of today's world situation I've been spending much of the year battling a sense of hopelessness and depression, which has been preventing me from going hard-core at developing my talents since I have this stupid sense that it's somehow not worth it. For instance, while I've kept myself financially stable, I've been having difficulty remaining rationally frugal since the prospect of hyperinflation has been making me viewing my money as destroyed savings, tempting me to spend while it still has any value. And the prospect of an upheaval in prices (hyperinflation, again) and destruction of food production has been preventing me from seriously practicing my cooking since I view matters as lost and that I shouldn't start any skill-development routines since I'll just be promptly stopped midway and won't be able to go any further. While these are real danger, I also know better in that there are ways to protect myself against these evils (e.g. investing in precious metals to protect money; growing own food to cook with), but I've been having severe trouble in making myself emotionally believe that and act accordingly. Stranger still, I still maintain an optimism for the future, that there's a good, fighting chance for a better future in our lifetime, so the crux of my problem is in coping with what I ultimately perceive to be the wild turbulence on the way there. Intellectually, better and better ideas are coming onto the scene and seem to be making healthy progress; I think all the bad things yet to be suffered are potent only by the means of momentum. They only have power because they had a head-start. We can win, so what I think we're fighting now is just pure, bad inertia. The question, I think, is how to best deal with those bad things in the meanwhile, such as the prospect of hyperinflation. The question has been provoking the worst of emotions in me, and in the end I see now that such disturbances has really held me back from pursuing my goals full-force. Emotionally, I've believed partially that life will somehow end or be destroyed on the other side of these events, though I never even have a clear picture why, and that has been tempting me to procrastinate and be idle in my endeavors since I don't view them as something that will be allowed to amount to something worthwhile in the end. Paraphrasing Keynes: "In the long-run we're all dead."

But I know better. There's time yet to win and ways to protect oneself. I need to make myself believe that if I'm to start getting ahead once more, much like how I made rapid progress back in my teens when I first discovered Objectivism and was unimpeded by other people's objections.

So the time between April and November has pretty much been a waste, I'm ashamed to say. I've gotten ahead at work and built up my savings, but mentally I've really stagnated on doing things such as enhancing my intelligence, making material progress at other goals, and so on. Oh, the only notable thing I can recall during that period is starting and ending Capital Bean, the website I created to showcase my chocolate reviews. After a few months of that I realized I was eating more chocolate than I wanted to, both in terms of desire and health, and that it was distracting from my real culinary goal of becoming specialized in meat, fish, and poultry, as I not only value these foods the most but also find I perform best on them health-wise.

Worthy of note is that my mother died in June. I didn't talk to her after I had left for Texas, ignored her on her deathbed, and don't regret it. She was a terrible person. She let her emotions dictate her actions almost down to a T, and living a life of acting on whims has utterly destroyed and ruined her in every possible way, including health, relationships, and career. She had no friends or lovers, wasted in her time in a career she didn't like, abused the hell out of her body, wasted years being idle, and ultimately passed after having lived in a self-constructed hell on earth. My birth was certainly an accident and probably a product of her whim-driven ways, and she may have even been maliciously attempting to trap a man, as my last name is that of my married father, but I have a different biological father. Neither man has been present in my life.

Growing up with her was hellish too. While she provided for me in food, shelter, and entertainment -- though that's debatable since she depended so heavily for a long time on government and family handouts -- but emotionally I was neglected. She was just an utterly passive parent. She might as well have locked me in a room with a bunch of toys, books, and video games to deal with, as that's what her parenting style essentially amounts to. We never did any meaningful activities together -- she was always giving me something else to do alone while she watched television all night after work. I begged her continuously to play with me, but she has relented fewer than five times in my life, which pretty much left me to grow up alone, especially since my grandmother and grandfather did virtually the same thing when I went to their house (movies, T.V., and video games), though I at least remember taking walks with my grandfather. My mother has contributed nothing spiritually or intellectually to the being I possess today, and you could say she literally expected society to raise me instead of her, since she practically never offered guidance. I was never even given the birds and the bees talk; she just started talking about sex casually at one point, as if I already had been taught what I needed to know (which I had, from school instead of her).

Most significantly, she has contributed the most to the suffering I had to endure while growing up. If anything, I have two dominant images in my mind that symbolizes who she was: her walking around the room holding her temples, complaining of an imminent nervous breakdown, and her laying on the couch under a blanket with her eyes open and glassy, trying to sleep. Oh she was always trying to nap away her depression, and she never succeeded in the decades she maintained the practice. I have my own theory as to how she became like this, but I think it's sufficient to say that she let her emotions dominant her thinking and actions, and for that she paid the price of literally ruining her life. Unfortunately I got partly caught in the process of her self-destruction, and because I couldn't think I ended up adopting a lot of her behavior, thinking, and emotional patterns, which made life so miserable that to keep myself calm I had to either be daydreaming, playing a video game, or watching television at nearly all times. I have to wonder if I might of suffered some trauma at her hands as well, as my life in first grade is the only year I remember positively nothing about despite having memories before and after close to that period.

Trying to deal with my problems with her was horrible. She got so distraught that she often freaked out and often blew up. Telling her that the bullies at school made me upset, for instance, moved her to shout at me. When I came seeking help on how to deal with my emotions she yelled and encouraged me to repress them. I often upset her with my kid antics when she was in a bad mood, and developed very low self-esteem since I believed I was a bad person for making my mother act this way. She frequently threatened to abandon me, and even went forth attempting it once. And whenever I showed evidence of a worsening psychology she either became hysterical, delegated me to other people, or simply evaded me. The worst event I can remember is when she fell silent and ignored me when I told her about my suicidal thoughts -- she just quietly went in the house and pretended nothing ever happened thereafter -- as that's a parenting failure of despicable magnitude, and became the pivotal turning point in our relationship where I would from then on distrust her, detest her, and eventually plan to cut her off forever. After she kicked me out and I was actually going through with not talking to her she destroyed herself more and more, to the point she herself attempted suicide and temporarily went insane. I'm glad I wasn't dealing with it, because she treated her family viciously given her overwhelming hatred. It's blatantly wrong to consider me the focal point of her suffering, as she was obviously suffering from her other ruined aspects of life, and it's easily ascertainable that if I reentered she would have found a new focal point to rationalize her pain.

I felt very dull when I found out she passed. I tried to make myself cry, but couldn't. I don't think I've shed a tear yet. But there is sadness. Just not in missing her. I'm sad she squandered her only chance of happiness by living a life of irrationally, whim and hate-driven actions, mindless indulgence, and general destruction. It's the *potential* the hurts me -- her potential to be a good person, to pursue her dreams, to be happy . . . all wasted now that she's dead and can no longer have second chances. Most of all, she ruined any chance we could have had at having a healthy mother-son relationship, as we simply could not continue on the way they were. I tolerated enough and had to get her out to pursue my happiness, and did so, and her continuing evasions and mean treatment of others demonstrated repeatedly that I made the right decision, right up until the day she died. Without a father I have officially joined the league of those parentless. Hmph. I never felt like I had a mother. However much she "loved" me it is her actions that count in judgment, and her actions were greatly unloving. 

I don't miss her. All that matters now is recovering from the damage, making up for lost time, and loving those who deserve to be loved.

In November, if I remember correctly, I successfully became one of the two new bartenders at my workplace, which has reignited my enthusiasm for my job. While I don't drink as per my regular habits, I do love a job that demands me to use my mind to get ahead, and there's an incredible amount of ways to stimulate my intellect. I can only hope there's plenty of customers to challenge me. (Then again, that's a secondary challenge: Pulling them in.) I'm very excited to begin my bartending shifts in January, but I've certainly have got to get my ass in gear in preparing my improvement ventures for the job. I still want to cook, but all in all it's still relevant since I ultimately want to learn everything. All knowledge is good knowledge. Until then, I'm dish washing, and will probably balance my bartending shifts with dish washing anyhow.

December has been a pretty busy much professionally, but again it's been slow in terms of intellectually progress, so I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to do for 2012. I had a lot of concrete-bound goals this year that largely got neglected or semi-completed, and I think the essential problem is that I haven't focused enough on my self. My lasting psychological difficulties are what's holding me back, and I need to ultimately address those with fury if I'm to reach my ideal state of being . . . perfection, in fact. If I can address all my mental shortcomings in 2012 who knows what the hell I'll be capable of then?

But before we think about 2012 let's go ahead and look at how I did on my resolutions for 2011:

* * * * *

1.) Get Project finished: Meaning moving to Texas. Done within the first three months of the year. It was full of an incredible amount of struggles, but I got here.

2.) Read 20 books: Drat! I ended up reading about nine, particularly because I ran into some technical problems. For instance, I realized that it isn't always in my best interest to read the entirety of a non-fiction book, so the books I skimmed didn't add to the total, and things such as comic books didn't count either. I read throughout the year, but the technicalities keep me from saying I've actually achieved my goal. Overall, I don't think I read intensely enough. This year I'd like to try making reading my primary form of entertaining, as I find I get much more out of it than I do watching programs, and merely need to establish the habit.

3.) Try out at least 3 different kinds of salt: I tried two, and flubbed the third. It was just something to stimulate my culinary thinking.

4.) Start writing activism articles regularly on activist-oriented blog: Technically I didn't, but then again I did. What I really did was take it in a different direction: Instead of writing full-blown articles, I made it a regular habit to post activist-related links on my Facebook profile and explain what I got out of it and thought about it, so in the end I still engaged in activism, just not in the form I planned on.

5.) Establish an original layout for my blog: I did for both Musing Aloud and Capital Bean. That may come as a surprise to some considering how simplistic they are. My lack of technical skills and knowledge in this area made is horrendously difficult and time-consuming, so I don't want to go through that again. In fact, it was so agitating that I pretty much recycled the template for this blog and am not going to bother prettying it up anymore, even if just to center the title. My god was it irritating.

6.) Cook a pasture-raised steak at least once: I cheated. When I moved to Texas I purchased some grass-fed ground beef from Whole Foods. It had a pleasant sweetness about it. I'd definitely try it again, and hopefully in the future I can get myself able to eat it regularly.

7.) Try out sous vide cooking: Totally failed, mainly because the stove is so crappy at my current home. Optimally a fire-top would be necessary in order to be able to attempt a duplication of sous vide cooking, but here it's a glass-top, which has made this goal a no-go.

8.) Improve my writing skills for chocolate reviews: However vaguely worded, I did accomplish it. My main concern was in taking more time and effort in constructing the pieces, rather than just publishing the first-go draft. I printed out the articles and edited them by hand even. Since I don't do chocolate reviews, however, this goal loses its relevancy.

9.) Buy a camera and start practicing food photography: I did, for Capital Bean.

* * * * *

In summary I'd consider this a very bittersweet year. I managed to complete the Project and end some very serious ongoing problems in life, and get into bartending to advance my career, but my failure to get into fine dining, intellectual stagnation, and ongoing emotional difficulties are disappointments that counterbalance the good points a little too significantly.

If you already know how much I value self-improvement ventures, you already know I value new years resolutions. This year, rather than set a lot of disperse concrete goals, I'd like to emphasize more a theme which will influence the concrete goals I set around it, which is an idea I've gotten from Trey Peden.

I want 2012 to be the Year of Self-Mastery.

Stated above is that a lot of the good things I managed to merge into my character have come undone due to the frequent disputes I ran into. It's debatable whether it had to happen or not, but I think my personality changed in face of these problems because they were omnipresent, which means I might have had to adapt in order to get by in day-to-day living. Mentioned above is that my grandmother would have emotional upsets over the smallest of issues, drag them on without end, and be unpredictable in how she would response, so I went from a person who was able to freely express his opinion to someone who hid it all the time and felt anxious at questions, because back then my opinion set off a number a fights regardless of how politely and properly I expressed it. I also used to be a hardcore studier and voracious reader, but I gradually lost both attributes since I started spending more and more time thinking about all the difficulties I was facing.

I was able to pursue and integrate a lot of good attributes since I went a long time without interfere and was unaware that any interference might come my way. I was just free to make any kind of changes I wanted to myself without annoyance, and I think I got pretty far. This isn't to say that I've actually reached my ideal state before, just that I got pretty well towards it before making some serious retrogression. One thing that particularly sticks out in my mind is how rambunctiously I once acted in advertising a game during a fair at work. I loudly projected my voice and advertised vigorously, got enjoyably riled up with the people who decided to play, and overall just felt comfortable asserting myself in that way. It wouldn't be easy for me to be so bold today. Another scene that pops into mind is me engaging in intellectual arguments with my friends at the lunch table in high school, where I was able to freely express and defend my views while entertaining others, without a tinge of fear. Nowadays I'm not at all as vocal, and it's mainly because I've become afraid after dealing with so many emotional eruptions after that period. I'd like to reattain those attributes, and make other improvements to my mind that will set in place self-reinforcing habits, thus bringing me to my ideal state of being. I don't know if I can achieve the ideal within a year, but hey, a year can be a long time, and it's worth trying. At the very least I definitely need to conquer my emotional problems.

I'm still contemplating my resolutions, but here's a rough draft for now. Some are tentative, and the vaguest ones I haven't fully thought out yet or may be kept vague so they can serve as cues for concrete aims later on:

* * * * *

1.) Move into an apartment: To get to Texas I compromised on my goals and moved into an old lady's house, renting a room, instead of getting into my own apartment as I wanted. Ironically, my landlord shares many of the same tendencies possesses my grandmother and mother, which has made me take a disliking to her. Her worst attributes is that she's an alcoholic and type-1 diabetic, which has lead to some serious episodes where she was in danger of dying due to her condition. It's happened about a dozen times now -- though I didn't experience all of them -- which I find unforgivable since she's essentially forcing an obligation on me to take care of her. I detest her now. However, at my current income level I can only afford to live in some seedy places, and given the circumstance I'm willing to tolerate my landlord until I can afford better, since our relationship as tentant and landlord leaves us separate enough for me to be more at peace. I can wait until I can afford a gated complex or the likes.

The main appeal of having an apartment is being alone. I'm not a full-blown loner, but I do like having my own private space, my own private slice of the universe where I'm unrestricted by anyone's presence. I'd invite friends over and stuff, but it's so wonderful to have that place where you can arrange your cupboards and furniture as you'd like, be uninterrupted and undisturbed, conduct your lifestyle without rude commentary, and other wonderful things. I MUST make this happen this year.

2.) Begin investing my money: I don't really want to spend my attention on making money at stocks, but rather invest in something that will protect my money in the face of currency devaluation. A wise thing to do.

3.) Perform mental exercises every single day: Intelligence is one of my highest values, if not my highest value, and I want to maximize what my mind is capable of. How else am I to truly realize my potential as a human being? As such, I'd like to pick up a regular habit of mental exercises to enhance my intelligence in the areas that matter. For instance, it's going to be important for me to be versed in culinary math for my profession, so it would be practical to develop the skill of doing mental calculations in my head.

4.) Achieve mental exhaustion at least five times a week: A sub-goal to the one above. I have a layman hypothesis that the best changes occur to the brain when it's pushed to exhaustion. I've noticed, for examples, that the greatest improvement in my concentration came about when I attempted concentrating for periods of time past my limit, and that I made the fastest progress on learning how to whistle when I practiced to the point of fatigue. While the book doesn't mention it, my current material, *The Brain That Changes Itself
*, argues very well that our brains are plastic and change their biological workings when exposed to new stimulaces and practices. I think that physical tiredness is evidence of the brain trying to make a change, and while it would be difficult I think my brain power could be immensely boosted if I worked hard enough to achieve this kind of tiredness on a regular basis.

5.) Cure my bipolar tendencies: Strangely enough, I didn't realize I had bipolar tendencies until just last night. Reading the book above has introduced me to the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and I realize now that I fit perfectly in that category. While my mood swings aren't frequent or rapid, they do seem to be biochemical/neurological in nature since I've noticed that my mood will often change in spite of no concrete events or thoughts setting it off. Often at work I'll just get randomly depresses and use a music player to distract myself, and as randomly as the mood comes randomly the mood goes.

You've probably already deduced it on your own, but I suspect this is leftover from the emotional turmoil I had to deal with when still with my family. My mother herself was bipolar and prone to some incredible swings of dramatic intensities. I don't know through which process I became this way myself, but I did, to a lesser degree. This may in fact be the core of my emotional difficulties and all the problems causes there forth. If I can nip this in the bud then I will have officially emotionally healed. Nipping this also means making a huge advancement towards my ideal state of functioning, as from there I should be unimpeded by emotional barriers. There might be other emotional difficulties to address, but this one seems to be the core.

6.) Optimize diet: As part of my anxiety difficulties I've gone a little too far off the track of my Paleo diet. While I haven't gained weight or anything, I have gotten acne and irritating skin sensations again, which is enough to bite into my vanity. Mainly I want to go back to being more strict, though I do make regular allowances for things like chocolate and dairy. I'm already beginning to psychologically rewire my explanations, such as by reteaching myself to be satisfied with half a chocolate bar rather than desiring to eat the whole thing.

7.) Practice cold meat preparations: Charcuterie and the like, I mean, though I don't want to limit myself to things like pork. In the future I plan on working more hours, which may limit how much cooking and stuff I can do at home, so I figure one good way to advance my culinary education is to practice some kind of cold meat preparation, such as sausage making, in order to continue my culinary education within my time constraints.

8.) Turn reading into my primary form of entertainment: I really enjoy reading, but I have terrible habits in regards to it, so my enjoyment is harmed by my bad practices. While I do like T.V. and movies I don't value them strongly enough to regularly partake in them, so I'd like to shift my entertainment focuses away from Hulu and more towards books, so that I can perhaps exceed the 20 book goal I set for myself in 2011. However, I intend to continue enjoying shows I already like, such as *One Piece*, *Good Eats*, and *Mythbusters*, so I want to abstain from adding to my viewing time commitments.

* * * * *

This is all I can think of at the moment, but hey, there's still six days left to come up with some more, and there's no problem with making resolutions in the middle of the year.

In totality, I want to emotionally perfect myself so that I'm fully psychologically healthy and not tempted to irrational behaviors, to become more assertive as a person and unafraid of expressing my stances, to develop my mind to the point that the desire to stimulate and test it is part of my nature, and to habituate a drive that pushes me to set and attack goals at all time with fury. I'm not sure if this composes the totality of what I view as ideal, but it would be damn good work for a year.

To 2012.

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