The Plan So I Don't Waste the Last Year of My 20s


On Tuesday I turned 29. Apparently this is one of those “milestone” birthdays meant to suggest that now I’m really growing old and should start worrying or feeling worse about myself in some abstract way. Apparently when you’re 30 it means that the party decade is over and you should scrape the cheeto dust out of your navel, put some pants on, and finally grow up.

So be it. Growing old has never really bothered me. (Though I wish the hair wasn’t going so fast…) I’ve felt like a cranky old man trapped in a young person’s body since at least junior high. So how about this for an old-fashioned way to really put the last 362 days of the third decade of my life to use: actually writing out a plan for the year. Here’s what I’m going to try to do so that when the 30th birthday hits in 2014 I can look back and not feel too much embarrassment at another wasted year.

In December I declared my “7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal” and then began the process of integrating these general self-improvement goals into both my daily routine and the weekly schedule of my PJ Lifestyle blogging. I left them somewhat vague so over the course of the month more concrete goals could materialize. And here they are, revised from my original list but generalized so perhaps others might still find them useful to consider as potential additions to their own Lifestyle self-programming.

1. Family Life on Monday: Rediscover and Celebrate Your Family’s Origins.

On Monday this week I blogged an open letter to my wife informing her that the time had come to change directions with our Netflix diet. The number of Dexter/Battlestar Galactica-level cable shows on DVD had dried up and new releases offered little hope of consistent entertainment satisfaction. We had to start mining older regions of film and TV history — but could we agree on a path forward?

Turns out we still can. April selected the first option:

1. Watch the entire Criterion Collection. Maybe in order?

You’re always complaining (rightfully) that the past few years I’ve spent too much time on politics and don’t show you weird, artsy movies anymore. Well here’s the mother lode and now we should start exploring it.

April suggested we call it “The Criterion Challenge.” We’re going to attempt to watch as many as we can this year — and yes, as close to in the order of their release as we can. We started last night with my copy of The Seven Samurai (spine #2) and watched the first hour. I’d forgotten how entertaining a film it was — and was delighted when April got into it too.

In charting this new entertainment course for us, we’re really going back to the origins of our relationship. I never realized what a role my oddball movie tastes had for April. When we began dating seriously for a second time in the fall of 2006 (a few months after I’d graduated and she was starting her sophomore undergraduate year), I would drive up to Muncie from Indianapolis on weekends with different art movie DVDs to share with her.

But in the years since our marriage I’ve neglected this original film guide role. My movie obsession fell by the wayside to make way for political warfare and new media trouble-making. Now’s a good time to correct course as I seek to re-balance my life between the legs of culture, religion, and politics. (Instead of the ideological focus that it’s largely been for the last three years…)

And we’re both on the same page in why we’re watching this series of classic films — to further develop our own understanding of the visual arts. What makes a beautiful, powerful image? How does film tell stories and evoke feelings? April and I are going to explore these questions together and I’ll try and blog a few thoughts on each film. Also, keeping with the return to film, for our year off from Disney Land I’m going to make a point to explore the ideas that brought it into existence.

Monday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: Research the life, work, and ideas of Walt Disney to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Certainly I’ll come up with more practical uses of the iPad than for quirky photos….

2. Practical Life on Tuesday: Learn to Set a 4-Part Daily/Annual Schedule With Specific Goals and Then Utilize Technology to Achieve Them.

Since last week I’ve begun consciously trying to figure out how best to use the combination of iPad, new iPhone, Macbook Pro, and extra large moleskine journal to better organize my days and pursue concrete goals. If I set multiple devices to remind me of the same schedule  — three devices pestering me to stay on track and a hardback record to look back on later — then could I better navigate the multiple streams of infinite information coming at me on a daily basis?

We’ll find out. So far it looks like it could work. But one needs more than tools to build something. The gadgets are just the means by which to implement The Big Plan, which I first hinted at in the conclusion of my “10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film” article from earlier this month in this collage which I knew some would find confusing and a few even blasphemous:

Something that Charlie Martin pointed out a few weeks back at PJ Lifestyle: 13 weeks (the name of his blogging-fitness-self-improvement regiment) is a quarter of a year. That means each 13 week period — each season if you time it properly — can be utilized as a set period to pursue specific goals. At the end of the 13 week period one can then assess progress, change goals, or continue further development. That’s what I’m going to explore here on a daily basis with these 7 focuses.

My friend Bookworm rightfully argues that federal laws should have expiration dates. The imaginary personal laws we live by should too. So four times a year I’m going to make a point to either shift course with, reaffirm, or reevaluate my goals and routines. Since I want to align this habit with the seasons I’ll just pretend that Spring is starting early this year. March 20 is the official first day of spring in North America, but I figure I’ll need a few extra practice weeks first to get situated and make adjustments. (So expect a version 3.0 in 6 weeks or so.) From then on the first day of summer is June 21 — so that’ll be my deadline for concrete progress toward these goals.

I’ll replicate this four-part structure not just during the year but as individual days too. A habit I’ve begun and will try and keep up this year: every morning surveying the day’s workload and personal obligations and then writing down some organization of how and when I’d ideally like to accomplish it during the four sections of the day (morning, afternoon, evening, night). If I visualize the ideal day in the morning, can I figure out how to use technology to program it into becoming reality? Only through increasing my understanding of how these tools work.

Tuesday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: New Media, the Internet, and the practical use of technology, with Glenn Reynolds’ An Army of Davids first in line.

The Golden Apple of Discord, instigator of chaos, and a favorite mythological reference for Robert Anton Wilson, the countercultural satirist-intellectual.

3. Laughing at Life on Wednesday: Take Yourself Less Seriously.

Wednesday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: Researching the life, work, and ideas of Robert Anton Wilson separating the wheat from the chaff.

To borrow a phrase from the author of Cosmic Trigger, I’ve taken myself too damn seriously these past few years. Focusing full-time on trying to understand the political ideology of Barack Obama and his Chicago gang has led me down some dark intellectual corners and granted a generally pessimistic political disposition. And so it shall remain for Obama’s second term — and it will get much, much worse when the impeachment comes in a few years. So to lighten up a bit, I’ve decided to finally read the novels of one of my favorite countercultural thinkers, Robert Anton Wilson.

I’m hoping that looking at him with older, less naive eyes I’ll understand the positive and negative qualities of his work better than during my undergraduate days. And it’ll get me thinking more about what’s funny and why laughter is an important part of our lives we need to fight to maintain and nurture. Is life looking a bit too bleak and dark? We can choose to change ourselves at a chemical, physical level by laughing more.

I like her hat in this picture. I like hats in general. Always have. Even before I started growing old and losing my hair.

4. Cultural Life on Thursday: Get Back to Reading More Novels So Maybe Some Day You Can Actually Write One.

Thursday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: Researching the life, work, and ideas of Ayn Rand to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The juxtaposition of Walt Disney on Monday, Robert Anton Wilson on Wednesday, and now Ayn Rand was not intentional. They just sort of stumbled together. But I think considering the three alongside one another will allow for a bigger exploration of how we as individuals can use films and novels to project our ideal visions of the world and bring them into objective reality.

How did Disney, Wilson, and Rand use the cultural work they created to shape themselves and America? Why did their ideas influence followers in such diverse ways? What can we learn from them and which of their mistakes should we avoid?

5. Intellectual Life on Friday: Take the Study of Political Ideology to a Deeper Level By Reading Big Books.

Friday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: Researching the life, work, and ideas of Whittaker Chambers, Leszek Kolakowski, Paul Johnson, and Ion Mihai Pacepa.

I’m not sure yet which order I’ll read the four remaining “Big Books of Anti-Marxism”:

* Main Currents of Marxism by Leszek Kolakowski

* Red Horizons by PJ Media’s great columnist Lt. Gen Ion Mihai Pacepa

* Witness by Whittaker Chambers

* Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand [She gets Thursday all to herself.]

* A History of the American People by Paul Johnson

Perhaps I should make a point to read some of each every Friday and see how far I can get by June? Or we’ll see if one of them draws me in more than another? Perhaps Chambers in Spring, Pacepa in Summer, Kolakowski in Fall and then Johnson during Winter? Or maybe Chambers with breakfast, Pacepa with lunch, Kolakowski as an afternoon break, and Johnson while reading in bed? I can’t decide yet. But trying to juggle the ideas of all four seems an engaging course of study to pursue.

6. Physical Life on Saturday: Stop Eating Like a Kid, Start Eating Like a Grown-Up. Shift to a Plant-Based Diet Instead of the Sugar, Fat, Processed Junk, Caffeine-Based Diet of the last 15 years.

We Can Reprogram Our Immature Eating Habits So We Live Long Enough To Transfer Our Brains and Consciousness Into Cyborg Bodies.

The image above is one of the typical photos I’ve started taking of my breakfasts and lunches. Now during the work day I just go out to the kitchen and load up primarily on fruits, vegetables, and nuts. I don’t regard myself as vegetarian or vegan or on any particular diet. If pressed for a label I throw out “pescatarian” (vegetarian + fish) mostly because it sounds cool and to differentiate from PETA-style, nature-worshiping obsessives who choose to make their diet a defining aspect of their identity.

I used to tease my old co-worker Jeff about his weird diet. But now April and I have finally surrendered to the ideas he promotes at his Plant Eater blog and the rising trend of plant-based, nutrient-rich food. It’s time to stop eating for calories and quick energy and instead for nutrients and long-term health. I’m treating food more like medicine instead of recreation.

Yes, it’s true: you really can get more energy from drinking all-natural, homemade fruit and vegetable juice instead of coffee each morning…

Really I just want to eat food that will make me feel better. I’ve grown sympathetic to those who argue that radical changes in diet can heal the kind of medical conditions that we now treat with expensive, damaging prescription drugs.

Saturday Book Shelf and Blogging Focus: Sort through the competing claims to find the world’s healthiest diet, feature the best photographs from the week’s eating experiments.

7. Spiritual Life on Sunday: Continue on the Journey to Reconcile Conflicting Religious and Philosophical Traditions To Create Something New.

Sunday Book Shelf and Blogging Focus: Most of the books I’m going to start checking out from the library will focus on religion.

Last Sunday I published an article titled “The Source of Both Infinite Happiness and Meaning” which laid out a broad approach to Interfaith dialogue. The common understanding of the term is that a Jew, a Christian, a Buddhist, a secularist and a Hindu get together and talk about how they believe different theologies.

Less easily perceived but more important to understand is that often disagreements go deeper than what we believe to be true, but actually to how to figure out what’s true. The pre-Biblical, mother-goddess-focused, nature-worshiping polytheist; the Judeo-Christian, father-god-worshiping, ethical monotheist; the Enlightenment-minded, science-and-self-worshiping rationalist; and the Interfaith, spirit-worshiping mystic-occultist seeking direct experience of God — those speaking across these traditions differ not just in what they believe about God, but in what the word “God” even means.

I’ve lived and believed in all four traditions over the years. The tentative conclusion I’ve come to is that none of them are wholly correct and that it’s in the balancing and integration of all four that we find God.

Over the course of the year as I explore the full scope of religious and philosophical ideas I’m also going to look at the role technology has played in fueling the evolution of humanity’s understanding of God.

Have any book suggestions or tips on how I should revise my first season goals for 2013? Have feedback on who and what you want to see at PJ Lifestyle this year? Please send me an email.


Image courtesy shutterstock / Richard M Lee

Related at PJ Lifestyle:

10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film

The 15 Best Books for Understanding Barack Obama’s Mysterious Political Theology

Join the conversation as a VIP Member