August 2022 Newsletter: Summer heat ain’t so sweet

It is now officially August. The summer is coming to a close and it has been a chaotic summer to say the least. There’s been some small victories and other more frustrating endeavors but all in all I’ve landed on my feet.

The Good

I’ve been working near 40 hours a week this summer. With this extra work has come an influx of cash that I’ve been using to refill the treasury. I’ve been running a lot this summer and adult co-ed soccer was beyond fun. I bought expansions for my board games and think the next game night will be a real banger. I’ve situated myself to be working more hours in the fall and I’ll be taking on the additional job of a rock climbing instructor. I’m prepping for my old college roommates wedding and am beginning to think of what I want to do for my birthday. At the very least, it’s set up to be a smooth year for me.

The Bad

Sustainability month was great! Except it was only one article! Last month put my blog to the test and ultimately I fell short. That said, I might extend sustainability month into August and make it a two month affair. August will calm down for me after the 18th, so I imagine I’ll have more time to finish up the articles then.

The Ugly

As my year of a desire, this year is all about getting back out there. It’s a year focused solely on my wants and needs. While I’ve seen great success in some areas, dating and relationships are just as messy as they’ve ever been for me. It’s a time of emotional volatility as I ride one high to the next and hope by the end of the year I dock in safer harbors. My one meet-cute this year has been a disaster and while it hurts less as I grow older, it still hurts nonetheless.

Where I’m at

It’s a strange time in my life. I’m doing what I want in life and life by every measure is good. I’m still aiming for great, however. The newly found stoic in me would say this is a folly; but stoicism is an ideal, not a reality. My present moment is very much present and while it feels good most of the time, there is still this undying pull that I should be doing more. My ponderings are not so much in what I’ve built this last year but more in wondering if it is but an illusion. Should that matter? Hard to say. Will opportunity find me or I it? Are these questions worth asking or a waste of energy?

In Conclusion

All is fair in love and war. To win at my year of desire I must outcompete. I thought I had accomplished this very aspect in my many years of personal growth but it appears I have more work to do to beat out ‘The Other Guy’. My final conclusion in this regard is to workout more often. I thought I could simply run and that would be enough but now I have to wonder if that is really the case. I speak Spanish, German, and Elementary French. I play Tennis, Write, and am learning piano. One must ask what more a man can do? So now I will try working my upper body in what will be a bit of a social experiment. The plan is to add swimming to my routine as a way to expedite results. With swimming in place, I will put an end to my hot boy summer. Will we see victory or defeat? Who knows at this point. Worst case, I have a wedding to attend in September and I know how to dance. Until then, cheers!

Climate anxiety through the lens of stoicism: Sustainability Month 2022

When I was a child, there was little I had to worry about. Most of my needs were met and many of the issues that would plague my adult life were simply over my head. Life was filled with hope and while I lacked the confidence I have now, terms such as climate anxiety had yet to come into existence. Had I known how much would change in a decade I would have wished I had focused on the present moment more back then.

Society as a whole is anxious and it seems there is no escape from the problems of the world. When the world shut down in 2020 the impact was quite magnificent for the environment and for a brief moment the world could take a break. During this time I picked up stoicism, which I have been practicing for the last year. Stoicism at its essence is focus on the present moment. All else matters very little to the stoics. I have struggled for the longest time to pull myself into the present moment. I have always had a focus on the future and the past keeps finding its way back into my life. This is anxiety in a nutshell. So while I’m not completely opposed to the idea behind climate anxiety, I wonder how much it helps to constantly focus on the terminology itself. Is the terminology itself doing more harm than good? Are there better ways to approach the modern problems of the world?

Where I first saw the term

How many years ago, I do not know. But it must have been when I was still in college and it was most definitely a New York Times article. In fact, the NY Times throws the terminology around quite liberally. I’m not saying the idea itself is wrong but the term is designed to create a sense of urgency that more often than not is less helpful than it initially seems. It paints a picture of climate drama when really we should be having climate hope (these terms are just as bad, I know). If we were to approach this issue from the lens of a philosopher, the conversation might look something like this, ‘The climate is in bad shape, but it could be worse, so what can we do today to make it better?’ This conversation acknowledges the problem but instead of an over emphasis on the future, it looks at taking it one day at a time. College Mike would have said no, that we need to focus on the big picture, which is true to a certain extent. However, the Mike of today sees the wisdom in just simply living life.

Years of Sustainability under my belt

A focus on sustainability has been one of those few things that has been a constant throughout my life. When I was younger, I would take trash and make art. When I was in high school, I sowed a community garden and recycled cans. In college I gardened, composted, and used energy efficient bulbs. I’ve cared about sustainability so much that I took sustainability as an elective course. When I was the service chair, I had our entire fraternity plant a pollinator garden for Earth Day. While it hasn’t always been a perfect journey, I can hold my head high knowing that I’ve made an effort to be more sustainable in every aspect of my life and know that I am all the better for it.

What the Future Holds

So the question is really whether or not we want to add to overall societal anxiety, which is another issue altogether. I’m grateful we live in a society where there are pressing headlines regarding the environment and ecofriendly options available. But it is not enough. In the 70s corporate America made a push to make environmental focus on the consumer to take attention away from what they themselves were doing to the environment. Instead of changing their behavior in a meaningful way, they chose to shift responsibility (and in turn, blame) to the consumer. The idea of a consumer focused environmental stewardship is not in itself a bad idea. I feel great when I compost, I feel great when I ride my bike, and I feel great when I walk. The anxiety comes with knowing no matter what I do, if corporations are left unchecked, very little can be done. And then you add that on a global scale. Even if the United States does its part, you still have industrial polluters such as China and India that have their own laws and regulations.

New Technologies Emerge

To counter this a few ideas have been thrown around. One is to go full nuclear which has seen much pushback throughout the years. Nuclear energy is a very safe form of energy and highly efficient. Nuclear waste can pose a problem but there are emerging technologies that can recycle the fuel rods and eliminate waste altogether. Wind and solar are good but can be dependent on the weather itself. The other exciting technology is carbon recapture technology which can one day hopefully be used as a source of energy and could even make diamonds. So there is hope for the future and it is not as bleak as it may seem. And the beauty of technology is that there will be future technology that we cannot even begin to comprehend.

Stoicism

Stoicism has been near and dear to my heart for the last year as I’ve read through ‘The Daily Stoic’. It turns out the ancient Greeks had much of the same problems we do in our modern society. There is a certain comfort in this. To know that centuries later, human beings as a whole have not much changed. We spend so much time obsessing about the future and dwelling on the past that it becomes all consuming. So for the last year I’ve done away with it all. I didn’t think much of the book when I first got it. A friend got it for me as a gift and it looked interesting enough so I did as the book said and have been reading a stoic quote each day. It’s been close to six months now and I can say with confidence my mindset has fundamentally changed. The journey has been up and down but overall the impact has been profound. My mindset has changed looking back and I’m excited to see where the next six months lead. And I think we can all take a page or two from the stoics. The present is what we say we all want to live in but how many people truly live in it? Anxiety forms when we think about what could be and what never was so stoicism as a practice is a noble pursuit.

Applying this to Climate Anxiety

I think to reduce climate anxiety, we really must truly understand what it is. The only time I truly felt it was with the Oregon Wildfires a year or two ago. It seemed like the world was going to end and there was a sense of helplessness that went along with it. I couldn’t go outside and the fires kept burning. I lost sleep with worry and where as a child the environment felt like an unmovable mountain that sense of stability was lost as I wondered if the next year would be worse. Looking outside and seeing clear blue skies puts a smile on my face this year as I can’t remember a summer ever being as nice as it is right now. I’m walking and biking almost everyday and it’s been a joy. The spring had a lot of rain and I thought it would never end, which I was more than happy to have as it meant wildfire season would be much less extreme. And with a summer this nice, I can only imagine a Fall that will follow suit.

Devil’s advocate would argue that this approach is too relaxed but the way I figure is the environment is always on my mind and I can make a difference each and every day. My long term goals are to buy a portable composter and use the compost to take up gardening. Our garden has been long neglected and it would be extremely gratifying to revive it.

Some other Cool Causes to Mitigate Climate Anxiety

Another thing I can feel good about is I can support causes through lifestyle choices. Many years ago, I took up meditation. And then I bought ‘Playne’, a meditation video game. Upon completion, the developer has a tree planted in honor of the milestone. It may seem insignificant but if enough people are focused on causes such as this, eventually you’ll have entire forests planted. The other app is ‘forest’ which is a productivity app where you plant a virtual forest. If you so choose, however, you can use the in game currency to plant a real tree. While these are small differences, they can help reduce the feeling of helplessness when it comes to being a good steward of the environment.

In Conclusion

Being anxious does not solve problems. We are constantly pulling ourselves out of what is and for no reason. The world is not all doom and gloom. New technologies are emerging that can mitigate the damage that’s been done to the planet and even reverse it. A life lived as a stoic can reduce some of the anxiety felt by a planet that arguably could have been better taken care of. However, there is a lot we can do ourselves to regain control. Ride your bike, walk more, even proper dieting can go a long way. It turns out a healthier life might just lead to a healthier planet.

Mental Health Awareness Month 2022: An End to Social Media Version 2.0

It is that time of year again. This month is all about mental health. This year, if I’m not mistaken, will be my forth year talking about all things mental health. Last year I covered social media in the most rudimentary form. Broken and withered from the Pandemic, I wrote an article in the heat of the moment and since then was wondering how I could improve the topic. When I wrote what was essentially a rough draft for how I wanted to live my life in the modern age, I had no answers for questions I found myself facing. Last year I ended the article with “I have no solution”, which in hindsight, doesn’t make for a great read. There was no call to action, only despair. As promised from last year, I’m trying a new approach with my mental health articles. I’m approaching them from a more upbeat perspective and am focused more on practical articles.

A life without social media

Part of the goal with this article is to start discussing the implications of social media in modern society. When I wrote “Goodbye Social Media” I worked on it at different stages; a few weeks and then a couple months of a complete disconnect. Since then, it’s been a lot of trial and error as I’ve begun to navigate life without Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (not to mention Snapchat and TikTok). Overall, not much seems amiss. A year in and I can safely say I’m OK. The first few months were a lot of uninstalling and reinstalling but past that point I accomplished my goal. If people want to reach me, they can have my phone number. If they want to make sure I’m not dead? They can read my blog.

The health implications

I read a lot. So it’s to my surprise there is so little literature on the impact of social media and there is little debate on the consequences of letting technology dictate our lives. Recently, I have noticed mild interest beyond the occasional sensation piece and that was sparked most recently by Facebook. Yet if I were to do a search, I would still find very little. I am against a Mark Zuckerberg Metaverse and in all reality, Metaverses in general. Technology is a tool, not a way of life.

Am I the only one?

The experiment has ultimately been a musing in isolation. How much agency do we have if we venture past social norms? Am I the weird one for having people contact me via text? I had someone ask me for my Instagram recently and I told them I did a full social media disconnect. All-in-all when I mention this to people the response has been positive and I have yet to have someone respond in the negative.

The Dating Apps

The dating apps are where I struggle the most. These are the apps that get reinstalled and uninstalled on a regular cycle. Over the last year, it has become less frequent as I’ve started to approach dating differently. I don’t care much for dating other than the fact that ultimately I do not want to die alone. I miss early childhood and romance that lasted well into college. When one could simply chat with someone and let a relationship develop organically. Now, I am Nickle and dimed for the opportunity of love. I have tried every dating app from Earth to Alpha Centauri and they have only led to a handful of dates; many conversations that ultimately go nowhere.

My Social Media Indulgence

Over the course of my experiment I briefly discovered reddit. After a couple months, I’ve uninstalled it and hope it stays that way. Reddit isn’t bad compared to some of the other social media out there but it offers no real benefit and has made sleep difficult the last couple of months.

What does it all mean?

Is there any true benefit to a full social media disconnect? As far as tangible data on myself, I have none. Do I overall feel better? Yes. But what does that mean? Is it truly better to not be constantly scrolling through social media and seeing an ad every other post on Facebook? In theory, yes. But does it lead to a more fulfilling life, more productivity, etc.? That is tougher to say. When I removed the need to post, has that somehow damaged my social standing? That should I not post through a tinted lens I simply disappear from this universe? Most likely not, but you have to wonder.

How has it been?

Overall, great! LinkedIn is the most I use and outside of that I’m just living inside my small bubble. I hang out with friends and every aspect of my life has been localized. The next step I suppose is to talk more openly about moving away from social media. I’m beyond curious to know what others are doing. Social Media used to rule over my life but now it simply is. A minimal digital footprint, much like I had when I was growing up. When I was growing up, computer labs were just being introduced to classrooms and the internet rocked. Now it’s a minefield to navigate and I just can’t convince myself society is benefitting from it as a whole. I’d like to talk more about it in the future but for now I’m ok with the conversations I have had. If you are curious about my original journey, I’ll include the link below. It’s a fascinating piece to reread now that I’ve been off social media for quite a while now.


And as typical, this month will ramp up as I explore every aspect of mental health. The two articles planned for the next couple weeks are an exploration into my name and it’s link to my identity and then a delve into my fathers death and it’s impact on me. The articles are helpful to write so that I don’t become closed off and so that I can express myself in healthy manners.

Last years social media article: Goodbye Social Media

Thanks for reading!

Dad: A poem by Mike Cole

I hope you’re proud of all that I’ve done

It hasn’t been easy, this road that I’m on

And I keep walking, hoping the snow will clear

A ship without a sail, no rudder to steer

It’s been two years since you’ve been gone and that’s not a lot of time

Yet I persevere in the new winds and know you guide me to calmer shores.


To wrap up National Poetry Month, I wanted to close with a poem about my dad. I did this last year and it only seems fitting that I do it again this year. For those that don’t know, he passed away in October 2019. I haven’t talked about it much since his death and poetry to me has always been a form of expression, a way to put to words topics that have been too difficult to talk about. As we head into Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to open up more and talk about his death as I think it’ll help heal the soul.

My father was a sailor for my entire life so with poems about him I want to capture that essence. There’s a lot I could have learned about sailing from him but it’s only been since his passing that I’ve found interest in it. Writing about it is a way to feel close to what has been lost.


That’s it! National Poetry Month is officially over (on this blog). We covered Nature, Love, and Lost this month. The Month of May is dedicated to Mental Health. The articles have been drafted and I’m adding the finishing touches. It’ll be a range of topics and I think I’ve struck a good balance for next month. See you then!

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