New Year, New Mike: The wheel of reinvention never stops.

Yes, it is January. And what does that mean? Reflection but of course. My blog is one big ode to my self improvement. Years ago, I had the brilliant idea of using my blog as a way to keep track of my New Year’s resolutions. A look at what I want to be and a way to hold myself accountable. Since then, I’ve been able to look back at years past and see if I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. I’ve had surprising success writing out my resolutions this way and I’m excited to share what I have planned for this year.

What I’ve Learned

Since I’ve started posting my habits on my blog, I’ve kept my goals as continuous goals. It’s not a one and done list! Instead, I modify and adapt. As such, my goals aren’t shear chaos as they were in years past. They are a constant and I’m glad. With each passing year, they become more focused and refined.

I have started using January as a planning month. Instead of running to the gym come January first, I take my time to carefully consider what I want to do. Since I’ve only started doing this quite recently, I have no idea what the end result will be.

Not a French Kisser

One of my goals for last year was to learn French. My German has become much improved since my youth and I found it time for a new language. I have a French friend and one of my dreams is to make my triumphant return to Europe, not as a boy but as a man. So I’ve been practicing French. The great news is that I’ve started. The bad news is I haven’t been practicing as much as I like. So this year, I’m doubling down. Lessons every day, more French shows, and listening to podcasts. As an added goal, I want to do more to measure my success with languages. My reasons, pardon my French, are rather dorky. I am learning Japanese simply for the sake that I’ve played Nintendo games my entire life. French is to impress my friend. And German was so that I wouldn’t starve to death in the airport when I did study abroad.

My goal right now is to learn French, German, Spanish, and Japanese to fluency. Outside of those languages, I may or may not pick up sign language but only time will tell. My Spanish is rusty and needs work. German I can understand but like Spanish my goal is to learn it so I can hold conversation. This is going to be a year of polish and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Coding

Coding went surprisingly well. My main focus this year is web development. I’ve been lazy the last couple of months but I found coding material that is not only practical but enjoyable. But tough. Very, very tough. If I build a game, great, but web development comes above all else. I’m putting no pressure on myself for this, I am simply treating it as another skill to learn. It could take years or weeks, but my pace is my own.

Piano Man play me a tune

One of my goals has been to hone my musical craft. In my effort to be the smartest man in the room, music is one obstacle I haven’t quite been able to tackle. Motivation is key. So I reviewed instruments and landed on piano. It’s a social instrument and meant to be shared. I can walk into a building and should I find a piano, nine times out of ten I can sit down and play. The other aspect is lessons are easily available. Piano song guides are plastered around the internet and if I want to learn a song, I can. Try doing the same for violin and you’ll find much more of a headache. I still have my Skillshare account, so I’ll be doing lessons over there. It’ll be off and on but I’m hopeful something will stick eventually. The goal is to make it fun and slowly but surely I am getting there.

Cooking

An elusive habit since I’ve moved back home. In college, I learned how to cook. I made many dishes during my studies and found that cooking was not only cost effective but also a tastier option to eating out. So this year, I’d like to ease back into cooking my own meals. The plan currently is to sign up for a New York Times Cooking subscription and to start looking through a cooking blog I only recently found out about, Food52. I am going to slowly integrate cooking as a lifestyle choice rather than simply force myself to cook for the sake of cooking. There is no set plan for my meals but I’m starting the year by simply looking at interesting recipes. Life is a little chaotic right now so I don’t know when I’ll go shopping but I have faith this year I can really get back into making delicious meals.

Big Picture Goal

Individual, SMART goals are great, but they’re not enough to move someone forward. As has become tradition, I’ve been theming my years. A year of Assertive here, a year of New there… These frameworks help set up the plan for the year and help bring together my “Why”.

So this year I want to be my year of Desire. Desire in the sense of asking myself what I want and setting out to get what I want. When I became an Eagle Scout, I picked out a silver coin of one of our laws. In that moment, I picked courteous as I thought it best represented who I was. Always thinking of others, trying to please everyone to the best of my abilities. Later in life I learned that if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. And now I’m ready for the next evolution of that concept; being courteous to myself. So this year is about my goals and getting ahead in life. It’ll be paying off my student loans, helping with as many events as I can and eventually transitioning to project management roles. It’s time I stop sidelining myself and focus on my success, whatever it takes to get there.

Other Goals for the Year

While new skills are a blessing to learn and typically what I choose to focus on, I also want to instill other habits beyond simply building my human capital. For that, I have two goals for 2022. And those two goals are more walks and riding my bike again.

Walking

In Corvallis, I opted to walk every day to class. It gave me time to think and enjoy simply being in the moment. I could walk everywhere and it was great. Now, when I try to walk, I find I have no destination. So I’ve been looking to change that. I’ve recently gotten into Pok√©mon Go this past year and downloaded Pikmin Bloom as a way to encourage walking. Now going out has a destination and I couldn’t be happier. This year, I want to ramp up my walks and make them more rewarding. Between the two apps, I think I’m on the right track.

Biking

I bought an electric bike. Right before the Pandemic… The good news, last year I finally put it together. How many times have I ridden it? Once… I went from biking every day in college to nothing. So this year, we are going to course correct. I want to ride and I’m going to use my brother to help me get back in the habit. He’s started riding a lot this last year and he clearly has found a motivation I am lacking. So the easiest way forward is to join him. Sibling outings until I’m comfortably riding on my own again. I’ve felt rather homebound for the last couple years with my anxiety, so I’m hoping bike rides will help restore some of the freedom I lost. It’ll be nice to bike to work instead of taking the bus and should I need to get somewhere, it’ll hopefully be less of an ordeal than it has been for the last two years.


Happy New Year! That’s it for the article! Overall, I’m hopeful 2022 is going to be a great year. I’ve taken a lot of time for myself during the Pandemic and have come away better for it. Cheers to 2022!

Sustainability Month 2021: My Electric Bike and Public Transit

The final article for what has been my first ever Sustainability Series. To close this month, I thought it’d be fun to talk about a questionable purchase I made and my experience taking public transit as well as what I think the future of transportation should look like.

My Electric Bike and I

In 2019, I went on a bit of a spending spree. I decided to make lots of long term investments for future Mike. The tablet computer I invested in for settling down in coffee shops and writing as an aspiring Creative did not quite pan out how I expected (curse you Pandemic). And my electric bike that I would ride miles to work every day on? Has been sitting in my garage for the last year or so with one very brief ride. But it’s assembled and ready to go. In the future, I will talk about it more but for now I have nothing to say. It’s foldable, has a basket, and my God, it weighs 60 pounds. My next E-bike will be lighter and smaller; and when you think about it, folding is not as cool as it sounds. It was an experiment and I might even try the one wheel electric skateboards or an electric longboard in the future. Is E-biking better than driving? Hard to say so instead I will talk about…

Biking

Transportation for me has always followed major life transitions. I have ridden bikes throughout my life but it wasn’t until I reached college that it became something I did on a regular basis. And I should clarify, it was once I moved out of the dorms and didn’t have easy access to the campus. My Sophomore and Junior years I rode almost everyday, from home to class to the grocery store. A good three years were spent on the bike and it was great. I had flat tires that I learned to fix, a handlebar that came off during a ride and learned all about front and back lights as well as fenders for rain. I was riding with a purpose. As college became more and more crazy, I opted for walking and chose to ride my bike more selectively. It’s hard to say if I had more peace of mind walking 20 minutes to class but it was nice to slow it down.

Europe

Throughout college, I hardly ever rode our free public transit. Everything was fairly close and most of the time walking was quicker than waiting for a bus. That changed when I did study abroad. I rode the train, took the bus, and got quite used to every mode of transit that wasn’t driving. Living in a small German village was absolute paradise. The cities are designed for bikes, trains, and buses whereas the U.S. is mostly made for cars (hence why an electric bike makes sense). While the U.S. is getting better, Corvallis and Portland were American exceptions to our public transit. And these two cities pale in comparison to even the most rural German village.

Walking

Truth be told, I love walking. As far as feasibility, it becomes dependent on city. I can only walk so far and while it offers a lot of control, it’s limited by time. It is rare to live in a city that has it all. Many cities in the U.S. have strict commercial and residential codes making overlap between the two uncommon. In suburbs, there are strips of convenience among the sea of houses. If you have a car, no big deal. But anything else? It’s much harder. Where space could be used for whatever the mind can imagine, instead space is paved over for parking lots. Cities are great for walking but chaotic; lots of stopping for cars and traffic that honestly has no business being there.

Practicality vs. Sustainability

Cars are convenient and in the U.S. they are big. Why you might ask? Because our roads and bridges are crumbling, so if it’s not built like a tank, you’re in for a bumpy ride. The amount of space cars take up is staggering. In Portland, I’ve seen some retcons where two lane roads become one as bike lanes are added. As far as emissions, it’s hard to say if cars are our most pressing concern. I like the idea of going all electric and I may be in the minority, but I think electric trucks sound awesome. I also think if we want to cool the planet, we really need to innovate our roads. The pavement retains heat and makes the hot even hotter. Carpooling also might have taken a hit during the Pandemic as Lyft and Uber prices skyrocket with their rates, which is unfortunate, as the model turned a car (arguably a huge economic waste) into a sustainable option for individuals. Cars no longer spent the majority of their time in garages, sitting for the next big trip, but rather could be used to meet demand. I imagine after the Pandemic less will opt for Lyft rides and Ubers but I hope I’m wrong.

Personal Habits

Honestly, I prefer a mixed approach. Cars I view as an economic waste, even were I to buy electric. A car would be a luxury and with an E-bike I can accomplish my city needs easily at 20mph. Longer trips would suffer but a better network of carpooling would fix that right up. In cities with large populations, the cities should limit driving. Pedestrian only city blocks are becoming more popular and it’d be nice to see that arrive in Portland. If remote work sticks, it might save the commuting world. All speculation at the moment of course but it’ll be interesting to see people redefine how they travel. If you do drive, imagine a world with less traffic and more bikes. And if cities were designed so people are closer to their work as well as grocery stores? Then you have a utopia in terms of basic transit.


And that’s it for Sustainability Month 2021! With this, my blog is fully realized. I am talking about everything I want to talk about in a way I want to talk about it. The support for this month has been amazing and I’m excited for next year! Next month, I’ll be testing out a month vacation from the blog and will rejoin the world come September. Until then, enjoy summer and remember that being sustainable doesn’t mean having to compromise!

March 2021 State of the Blog

March. Another month and with it a tiding of changes. So without further ado, let’s jump in.

The Coming Months

Last year I spent quite a bit of time working on the format of the blog and where I wanted it to go. This year, we’re in a great spot and I’m excited to use my fully implemented changes.

Series

The biggest change comes to series as I’ve now picked a few topics that will span the course of 4 months, the first being World Poetry Month for April. My Mental Health series was always meant to be a one-off but after scrambling to put it together last year for a second year in a row, I came to realize it’s important enough to make annual. The series take quite a lot of work to put together but this year I’m allowing for a little more planning as I get the articles ready months in advance.

After May I’ll have a series that I’m excited to debut focused around sustainability. It’s a topic I’ve wanted to cover in the past but never had the time or energy to talk about more outside of incorporating Dystopia Climate Change themes into my short stories. With the Oregon Wildfires last summer I realized I’d rather take the time to talk about it now than wait until I’m in some bunker waiting out the twilight of our planet. My research led to me understanding that there is no official world sustainability month and the most we’ve really ever gotten is Earth Day. One day dedicated to the planet, that’s it. As such, I decided I’ll give 4 weeks in July.

And closing out the year is October which I’m making my horror themed short story month as I want to do more experimentation with my writing. Last year saw some success and I’m hoping to expand upon what I built to make the series better and more lasting. Expect a combination of Sci-Fi and horror but we’ll talk about that more as we get closer.

Vacation Month

I’m playing around with a vacation month that I can simply take off every year. My schedule has been designed to work around my life so that I can avoid burnout and keep the blog going, indefinitely. Everything I write I enjoy writing and the blog has fallen into a nice rhythm over the last six years I’ve been writing. As such, having a month that I can simply take off without worrying about a status update would be nice. I wouldn’t mind writing every month but I think it’s important to design time around doing nothing. A month for trips, visits, and whatever comes my way. At the moment, August is looking like that month. It’ll be an experiment this year and if I feel good about it, I’ll make it routine in future years. I’ll be looking at the stats for the year and will let you know come June what the plan is.

Status Updates

So these are new. Over the last year, I’ve been playing around with the format and I think I’ve found what’ll stick. September, November, December, January, February, March, June. 7 months out of the year I will post an update, even if a lot of it might just be reiterating points I’ve made in other entries. It’s a time for me to collect my thoughts and allow me to check if the blog is in a good spot. 7 update articles strikes a nice balance between keeping the reader (you) in the loop without over saturating the year with update after update. Always optional to read, it’s designed to give structure to what would otherwise be a collection of poems, short stories, and articles. As such, I’m quite happy that I decided to start doing these.

This Month

This month is up in the air but I’m planning to write chapter 5 of New Horizon. This will be the body of the story and what will ultimately be the start of the climax before the journey winds down by chapter 10. This is my first short story series and I’ve been thrilled with the response. It’s been a blast creating my own world and seeing it come to life with each chapter. I plan to write more 10 chapter series so the fun will never end.

I have a video game article drafted and am working on making it fun, but less nerdy so that anyone can read it. If that’s not ready by the end of the month (or ever), then the second article will most likely be a poem.


And that’s that! The blog will be ramping up next month with World Poetry Month and Mental Health Awareness Month directly after that. We’ll meet back here in June. Any feedback, type below! And, if you want to donate to the blog, I’ll include the link to where you can do so:

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As always, thanks for reading!

February 2021 State of the blog

Truth be told, I am writing this in the middle of January. We have a lot to cover this year and I’m excited to tackle what will hopefully be the best year of the blog yet.

The Month of January

With January I tried something new; I took my New Year’s resolution post and tried to make it a hybrid of my goals and the status update posts I did throughout 2020. In the future, I will leave the two separate. The formats I’ve come to realize are completely different even if in theory it could “work”. It’s better to take the time to do both as January is the month I have the most to say and really sets the tone for the year. So with that said, what’s in store?

Poetry and Short Stories

Last year, I took time to evaluate stock and see what I valued as a writer. I played with business articles on Linkedin and even considered a second blog on Medium. I also, had an informational for writing roles and ultimately decided not to mess with the formula. Poetry I’ve always loved and short stories are great writing practice. I’m obsessed with dystopian fantasies and realized I could write my own stories to further my own writing abilities and entertain. In fact, October I’ve dedicated to the pursuit. A spooky month to write and this upcoming year will be combining horror with various genres rather than strictly horror.

I’ve found my strength in writing Sci-Fi stories and thus I’ll primarily be sticking to this genre until my writing improves. Poetry will cover any topic that comes to mind as I’ve been doing it the longest and there are few barriers when I sit down to write.

Articles

I’ve been meaning to write more, however, articles take a while and do not always have the intended payoff. In the past, I just wrote whatever was on my mind as I navigated the world. As I’ve become more articulate, there has been less of a need to write about such topics. As such, I’ll be reassessing how I approach articles and see if I can’t find ways to innovate my process. The month of May is dedicated to Mental Health and will essentially be my “article” month but ideally I would like to do more if I can find a nice flow.

April, May, and October

This will be the first year where certain months are focused around a theme. April will be Poetry Month with a new poem every week. May will be Mental Health Awareness Month and will be an article every week covering various Mental Health topics, and October will be Horror Month with a focus on writing Short Stories. No more guessing when I’ll be writing, I spent a year figuring that part out!

Status Updates

Overall, status updates have added a cohesiveness to the blog that has been much needed. It gives me a chance to keep everyone in the loop and helps to organize my monthly thoughts. I’ve played around with a couple ideas and have decided 9 status updates a year works for my needs. I thought about doing a seasonal update (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer) but realized 4 a year might be too little and my initial concern of my status updates getting in the way of writing other posts has all but disappeared. I also thought of a bi-annual update in an update mega post but have opted for gradual updates even if I feel I don’t have much to say in a given month. Short or long it matters not as I can shift the focus of what I cover in each update.

Marketing and other Goals

I’ve had limited success with Twitter and Facebook. Without a dedicated marketing team, that leaves success up to the fates. Last year I put a lot of pressure on myself to expand inorganic growth and learned quite a lot about social media along the way. This year, I’m taking a step back. I now have a Facebook page and Twitter is still around. Social Media I find to be exhausting and not where the majority of my readers come from. Organic growth through the WordPress reader is how most find my blog and I’m ok with that; this is a hobby blog and I’m not a company, so growth will come naturally.

Asking for Follows: The Stats

While it doesn’t hurt to ask for a follow or a like, I found that asking for support only made a real difference in the first months of 2020. After that, it was more or less the same as it has always been. For the last quarter of 2020, I stopped asking for follows at the end of each post and didn’t notice any changes. As such, I’m making the change for 2021 to make a mention on my update posts and thus free my other posts from the clutter. I also may draft a default statement rather than write out a new statement each time; this change should be cleaner and I expect to see positive results for 2021.

Patreon and Ko-Fi

The ultimate goal is to have the blog pay for itself, the dream is to make a little extra spending money on the side. To do this, I will need to invest more time and energy into both sites, which is easier said than done. 2020 was a successful year for Patreon and was happy to receive some support during the year. Unlike asking for a follow, I may simply keep adding a link to my support page after each post or I may simply ask here. While there is a tab on the website, I’ve found more engagement when I’ve taken the time to mention it should you feel inclined to help out this one man blog. All in all, 2021 is looking to be the best year of my blog and my hope is that it dwarfs 2020, which is now officially the best year the blog has had.


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As always, thanks for reading!

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