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For the first 21 years of my life I did everything that was expected of me. I could picture each next step that I would take up until college. After that I spent even more time in college because I loved learning. I am still unmarried because twice I refused to settle.

A few years ago I had a snowflake tattooed in a place not so easy to hide. The snowflake signifies that my life is different and should be different and that it is maybe even beautiful. The location was chosen so that I cannot hide it or escape from it. I’m not sure that I can live a nonconformist life, but I’m sure I want to. I have marked my body permanently to remind myself of it.

Since then two things have happened. 1. I have found myself in a professional slump, and 2. I have chosen an extraordinary mate. The first one I increasingly feel must be remedied, I am tired of spending my day with making money for someone else as the focus. The second will be with me as I follow my life’s dreams, whatever they may be.

I read Chris Guillebeau to be inspired. I am in awe of the way that he lives his life. He has done amazing things (volunteered in Africa for 4 years) and been amazing places (81 different countries) at such a young age (30).

Chris published his eagerly anticipated (by me at least) Brief Guide to World Domination yesterday. Read it here.

One of the exercises in Chris’ manifesto is to answer two questions, the first of which is What do you really want to get out of life?

I think I can break it down into 3 basic things for me:
1. Create
2. Help
3. Learn

A little more detail:
1. I feel driven to create something. Over time I’ve struggled with what, but I’ll get there.
2. I want to help people. I love the feeling that volunteering brings. I want to lead a compassionate life.
3. I want to keep learning. This is a huge part of why librarianship draws me in.

Of course I also want things like financial security, but Chris says this can come with achieving our goals. It doesn’t need to be the goal itself. I am also fascinated by the environmental movement, and I’m not sure how this will fit in. I suppose that’s what this exercise is for.

To flesh it out with a post in the near future, I’ll define my ideal day. And read through the Ideal World exercise posted on Chris’ site.

I’ve talked lately about how I’m going through and giving up many of my things. I hope that letting go of many of my possessions will make my life simpler and easier and cheaper. While considering how having things affects my life, I thought of an intangible that I cling to: ego.

I think I’m only about as self-centered as an average person should be, it’s not that I think I’m especially great or anything. It’s more in the context of Buddhism that I refer to ego. In order to be enlightened or to eliminate suffering, according to Buddhism, you have to let go of self. To be honest, that scares the crap out of me.

This blog is one of the most obvious outward manifestations of my ego. It doesn’t have to be. If I stop looking to see how many people notice me, and concentrate instead on writing and goals, it can be a tool for personal growth rather than a competition of sorts to see how many people I can get to subscribe (an abysmal number at best). If I stop writing to an imaginary audience, I wonder what I’ll write about.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to lose my ego, but the least I can do is be more aware of when it motivates and influences me.

In just under two weeks I’ll be moving in with Jay. His place is completely furnished and decorated, and my clutter isn’t needed (nor wanted by me). I’ve been spending every waking moment at home going through my worldly belongings, some of which have been stashed away and following me around for years. Last night I threw away my postcard collection (correspondence with no real “worth”) and tonight I’ll give away my bouncy-ball collection to my niece. It’s been difficult for me to let many things go, but I know removing clutter from my life will help me with my financial goals. There are so many things that I’ve bought or been given that I haven’t used at all. It’s forced me to face those things, cut my losses, and look at how I can avoid it in the future.

The few things I’ll keep are very thought out, and we’ll find some way to incorporate them into his style so completely different from mine.

I’ve never been good at making online friends. Not that I’ve won any popularity contests on either plane of existence. It has always seemed to me that the people that are best at making friends online lack those same skills for the real world. Me, I fall somewhere in between, leaning more toward the real world, but I’m not sure why. I’ve decided that not only do my real-world personal interactions need some work, my online ones do too.

As I’ve mentioned, the attention I’m giving in the real-world is to listening. Online, I am going to shift my attention to talking. I read quite a few blogs, many of them I skim, but several I look forward to on a daily basis, and I never tell them so. I’ve started digging articles, but I want to comment more too. Chris over at the Art of Nonconformity writes some inspiring stuff. He recently asked for some feedback, and it made me realize that I am not giving back for all that I am getting from all of my sources. I commented there, but one comment isn’t enough.

The other day I linked to an article at Work Happy Now, and not only did Karl notice, he came over and commented on my post. So little things are appreciated, and I want to do more of them. Aside from composing some intelligent comments, I am going to try to compose a weekly-ish “link love” post to let them know I care. Even if I never become a great blogger, at least I can be a great blog reader!

In the past week I feel like I’ve said more stupid and inconsiderate things than ever before. The worst thing, luckily, was just something that just came out wrong. The others were just not nice and I increasingly regretted them. When I was a kid, I can remember my father instructing me to think before I speak. I still don’t, at least, I spend more time wishing I could take things back than I’d like. It is a source of anxiety for me, and I need to eliminate as many of those as I can. The anxiety is often caused by the though of someone finding out what I’d said. Whether it’s the person I said it about, or someone that would be aghast that I said something of the sort. Solution: don’t say things you wouldn’t want everyone to know. Simple.

Unfortunately, I’m not a social genius. As I am sure is true for many, I know my motivation is not a malicious one. It’s the one that struggles to be liked and takes the wrong means to get there.

I was inspired the other day by a post on Work Happy Now entitled Create the Work Atmosphere You Want. For me this post can be applied to all social situations, not just for interacting with coworkers. I want to take a more active role in conversation, rather than waiting until I can submit my experience to the story, as I so often always do. I want to be a better listener, to ask more questions to bring people out, and to remember their answers. This is how to get people to like you.

And for something specific, I want to stop labeling people and things as stupid. It’s a terrible adjective, and one that I cannot bear to have assigned to me, to even perceive that it’s been assigned to me or something I’ve done. I have a primal fear of being thought of as stupid. So why would I place this label on someone or something else? Awful.

This afternoon I had a brief conversation with a coworker that I don’t often get to talk to. I asked him what his plans were for the long weekend, made a joke (I’ll never be able to quell the urge to make people laugh), and didn’t tell him what my plans were. He didn’t ask, and that was OK. I felt really good when I walked away. I want more of that.

I think I came to a realization today. I like poetry! Well, some of the devices of poetry and applying them to my writing. I’ve found the missing link in my blog. I thought this venue too dry but not so. I can hear the metre in my head again, whether you can or not. Whether it’s ever truly been there or not. I used to write with whimsy and I’ve missed it. I can find places to infuse words that you might not expect them there. To me, those tiny trespassers adding music. This post, a little thick, I know, but somehow subtler within my goals and interests I can place them.

Self-indulgent? Perhaps. Who would you rather I indulge?

And so I’ll continue to write about something somehow more mundane, but less so now. Writing and revising long after you’ve read until I feel it’s finished. I feel much better now.

Dear 43 Things, please add ‘study poetry’ to my list. Also, mark ‘come up with a catchy name for my blog’ complete!

I spent way too much money on the cruise. I had a couple of spa treatments that were essentially a complete waste of money. Partially because it was just a means for them to try to sell me additional products. Don’t take my money and then ask for more. I expect things like that locally, but on a cruise ship I just want to relax without being hassled to buy things after an already overpriced treatment. It’ll take me a few months to climb out of that hole on my revolving credit card just to get back to where I was. When I got back I immediately purchased my sleeping back for backpacking. That was a known upcoming expense though and completely acceptable. Plus I found it for 25% off + free shipping. Now when the REI anniversary sale gets here I can use that coupon to purchase our water filter.

In positive financial news, I have started depositing $100/mo into my Vanguard IRA. Which I’m really happy about. It’s a tough time to decide to invest but waiting is an even less appealing option. I may as well be building wealth while I climb out of debt.

I am back from my almost 2 week vacation hiatus. Not that I was gone for 2 weeks, but it’s always padded by prep time and decompress time. I need, for a time, to refocus on my goal of blogging due to the lapse. Leo keeps reminding me in his Zen Habits blog that it’s important not to take on more than one goal at a time, and not to move on too soon.

I don’t think I can do the prescribed 30 days per goal, I just have too many and I’ll never get to them all. Plus, some, like getting out of debt will take much longer. I’ll play it by ear. “Getting out of debt” really is more of a goal category than a single goal. There are sub-goals beneath that take you closer. Same with fitness. I think my 3 main goal categories are: debt elimination, fitness, and enrichment. Maybe it will help to think of them this way.

I walk around all the time with this general desire of self-improvement. Ideas swim around in my head, things I’d like to change, things I’d like to add for enrichment. What I end up with is no clear path, and things get lost. Plus having my brain swim in anything gives me a certain amount of anxiety. So I’ve started collecting goals. I’ve started a list that I can locate them in. I think this will help me let go of them until the time is right to get to work. Originally I was using ilist at Twitter, but that was hugely inadequate. I’ve revived my list at 43 things. I haven’t paid any attention to it in quite some time, now it seems exactly what I need.

In other news, I am repeating week 5 of the C25K program because I only ran twice on the ship and really only have time for 2 runs this week. The JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge is May 29th. Hopefully I’ll be ready for 3.5mi! I’m not too proud to walk in that race. I’ve done it before. Hopefully it won’t be 85° like the last couple years.

So maybe I don’t have any focus.

So maybe I don’t have a specialty.

I keep reading that successful people persevere. I’ll never move forward if I stop moving or if I am too hard on myself for trying. Maybe those things will come with time, and maybe they won’t. That’s OK too. Maybe this will never be anything more than a chronicle of my goals and interests. That’s OK too.

Plus, Steve Runner says I should keep a blog, well he says everyone should, in his Run, Blog and Share podcast episode. And since I find him amusing and generally trust that his wisdom at running and blogging/podcasting is greater than mine, I’ll trust him on this one.

I think my first goal has been accomplished then. I’ve been posting more regularly, every few days to be exact. I have a lot going on for the next couple weeks. Namely getting myself together for my trip (I’m down to days in the single digits!), I’ll set a new fancy goal when I get back.

This weekend look for 2 posts: 1. on the annual Orchid show & sale and 2. on volunteering at a race on Sunday.