Monthly Archives: February 2013

Tasty Success

Last year, my wife and I found out we were pregnant after struggling with infertility for roughly three years. In my experience, that kind of news tends to bring the best out in people.

One of my first accomplishments since learning I would be a father was to quit smoking. That had become such an ingrained part of my life, I wasn’t sure I would be able to quit. I never wanted to be a smoker. There are people in my life that may not know I ever was a smoker. I certainly never wanted to be a father who was a smoker. I’m happy to announce that I was able to quit cold turkey, and haven’t had a cigarette since Halloween.

surgeon_general_warning_b

Whether quitting smoking seems like a small thing or a big thing to you, I believe it’s meant all the difference to the direction my life has taken since then. It was, has been, and sometimes continues to be a practice of self-discipline. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. A sense that I can do things that are hard. A sense that I have control of myself.

I had intended to go back to school for the Fall 2012 semester. I didn’t get things taken care of in time to ensure financial aid, and once again, my academic career was put on hold. I decided that wouldn’t happen again. I got readmitted for the Spring 2013 semester, completed all the necessary paperwork for aid, met with an advisor, got a schedule put together, and am currently enjoying full-time student status. Since school started, the lowest grade I’ve received has been an 85. This is another goal I never would have believed I would achieve even two years ago.

This is all while continuing full-time employment at the same job I’ve had for almost five years. That’s cost me in the sleep department, but I look at it as practice for when the kid arrives.

cryingbaby

My health has improved since I’ve been taking medication for high blood pressure. I’ve been drinking primarily water (and lots of it), and since my university is situated with a giant hill in the middle of it, I’ve been getting lots of built-in exercise just by going to my first class at the top of the hill, my second class at the bottom of the hill and on the side of campus, and back up to my third class at the top of the hill (and on the third floor).

How I feel walking into class.

How I feel walking into class.

I haven’t missed a single class, though. And I’ve known when all my assignments were due, and when tests were coming up. I’m not ducking my teachers like a guy who owes his bookie. These may seems like no-brainers to you, but to me, this is like deciphering the hieroglyphs of How to Not Suck at College.

I’ve also kept up with my writing on here (except for last week, but we don’t talk about that). So far, I’ve done very well with my goals this year. I think part of that was actually making goals this year. I’m in school doing something I love, I’m providing for my family, and I’m the healthiest I’ve been in a decade.

This 2013 model Colin really is the must-own version.

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Writers Reading Readers’ Writing

Writing is gonna come up a lot. After all, the reason I started this blog was to get myself writing regularly. This is the first stretch of time since <saves draft, checks posting history> May of last year that I’ve posted with any semblance of regularity, and I’m giving myself credit for that. Allowing yourself to be proud of your accomplishments is just as integral to personal growth as realizing what your weaknesses are.

Nailed it.

Nailed it.

Lately, I’ve felt like one of my opportunities for growth lies in reading more. I’m a writer, and I want people to read and like the things I’ve written. I’m a terrible reader. I know in our day and age, the reader has largely been replaced by the viewer, and if that’s the case, I’m an excellent modern-day reader.

If I haven't seen it, it's new to me.

If I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me.

I’ve been frequenting our local library, and I find I’m too ambitious when picking out books. There are books I know I should read (or should have read by this point in my life), so I get about five or six of them, start reading two and finish none. If I wrote out a list of books I’ve never read, I’m sure some of you would shake your head at me. So I’m going to do just that. Because I hate myself. (Keep in mind these are books I haven’t read)

  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Call of the Wild
  • Brave New World
  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • 1984
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • War and Peace
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Don Quixote
  • The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Animal Farm
  • Moby Dick
  • Watership Down
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • Paradise Lost
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • The Red Badge of Courage

I’m surprised I made it through LOST.

That list is only 25 (more, considering the Tolkien) of the books I haven’t read. I’m sure there are literal volumes of books, stories, essays, and documents one might consider essential reading on which I have never laid eyes. I’m sure if I wrote out a list of must-see movies or must-hear albums I’ve never consumed, the reaction would be much the same. But as Mark Twain said, “A classic is something everybody wants to have read, but no one wants to read.”

MarkTwain

“Yes sir, I have read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”

There’s a shelf at my workplace full of what management decided would be helpful reference/resource books. I work in IT, so they’re mostly to do with networking, programming, or software. They’re books that employees may have gotten from college courses, acquired for themselves, or have left over from software purchases. Among them is a Literature for Composition book. The first chapter is entitled “The Writer as Reader.” It begins with an excerpt of an interview with author Toni Morrison.

Interviewer: Did you know as a child you wanted to be a writer?

Toni Morrison: No. I wanted to be a reader.

The chapter continues by stating that “learning to write is in large measure learning to read.” The heading on the book’s back cover reads, “Inspiring great writing through studying great writers.”

There’s a whole book saying that to be a writer, you have to be a reader first.

FreewaySign

– The Universe

I used to watch movies with the attitude (probably more like the excuse) that I was studying for my future career. I should be reading like that now. I may not want to write novels or poetry, but just like it takes seeing many good movies to know the good from the bad, it takes reading many books to know the difference between good and bad writing. Subsequently, understanding what makes writing good will help you write well.

Fortunately, I’m taking a Literature course this semester as part of the prereqs for my film degree. That will help me read in an analytical way. It will help introduce me to new material, authors, and writing styles. I also have 100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library and 100 Books to Read Before You Die (not counting overlapping entries, this list cuts off at 85) that will give me a list of books to read from to expand my literary horizons.

"Here you'll see the required reading for Wednesday."

“Here you’ll see the required reading for Wednesday.”

There are plenty of lists to tell me what to read. Knowing what to read is not the problem. Knowing I ought to read is not the problem. Just like I know I should exercise every day. Or I ought to take the garbage out when it’s full. The point is, there is a massive difference between knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it. Actually doing it requires effort. A failure won through fervent effort is easily vanquished; a failure won through laziness or apathy is neither forgotten nor overcome.

"Listen to us on this, Lydia. This is something we know a lot about."

“Listen to us on this, Lydia. This is something we know a lot about.”

It’s not enough to know. I have to do. Read. Write. Put in the work.

I think I’m ready to do that for the first time in my life.

Just look at me, posting a blog for <saves draft, checks posting history> three weeks in a row.