It’s kind of weird how we use the dawn of a new year as one of the main markers of progress in our lives. We look back, probably in a mainly dishonest fashion, only remembering those things that fit with our current mood and outlook, and make promises to ourselves about the future that are almost guaranteed to fail, because in many cases we don’t actually mean them.
Despite how odd I may find it, I also buy into the tradition. At this point in my life I feel I need this concrete point to give myself hope for the future. If you talk to me often, or follow me on social media, you may have noticed I’ve been struggling lately; personally, creatively, mentally, whatever. I’ve been failing myself by being lost in thought, mostly negative, instead of focusing on the present and working toward the future. But the problem with overthinking life is that the prospect of change seems so difficult it’s almost impossible.
A year ago today I was in an apartment on the outskirts of Cairo, on the doorstep of the Great Pyramid. I was taking a break from backpacking, and would wake up every morning to gaze upon an ancient wonder of human achievement. I was happy, engaging my curiosity, writing daily, and gaining new experiences. Life was good.
To use the metaphor of climbing a mountain, I began the year a little below the summit, and over the next few months as I continued my travels through Europe, meeting people new and old, enriching my mind with all manner of sights and knowledge, I continued my climb, peaking in London.
It was there I met many new friends with similar creative interests and outlooks on life. I met people who inspired me to want to achieve more, to continue writing, and to hone my craft. And I met an old friend for the first time.
However, after leaving London I started to descend the mountain. The fall happens so much more quickly and easily than the climb. I still had a week in Iceland before returning home to Newfoundland, and it was a great week of creativity and discovery, but things really started to slide when I returned home.
I kept up my writing for a while after returning, and my hopes were high that I’d be on my way again swiftly enough, but as I returned to the monotony of the working life, had to get used to life in a place I found uninspiring, and saw my goals fail one after the other, I fell fast. I felt the worst of despair and hopelessness. I felt trapped.
It was like I wasn’t living any longer, simply going through the motions, trying to plan travel that never worked out, considering writing but with a constant feeling that nothing was ever good enough. There were bright spots though.
The two things that could always revive my hope, at least to some degree, were travel and music. I would push myself to write about my travels to try to bring myself up, and to keep writing against all personal resistance, as recalling those experiences and looking at my photos made me happy, though it was a relative happiness. And it made me feel I was still accomplishing something.
If I felt really down, I’d take off for a drive, sometimes for several hours, to listen to deafening music while screaming away my anger and fear.
I also rediscovered my love of YouTube, something which I’d forgotten for many years, and after much apprehension, began making occasional videos. I’d always wanted to make videos, but didn’t have the confidence when I was younger. Pushing myself onto YouTube was another light in 2014’s darkness, and I believe it’s one of the reasons I was finally able to pull myself away from despair.
Where I stand
A few weeks ago I finally started to see true hope again. My confidence began to return, along with my ambition.
2014 was supposed to be largely about authenticity and moving forward on the writer’s path, which I defined as (self-)publishing a work of fiction. Focusing too much on authenticity, and overthinking the minute details of my identity, led me not to achieve that second part, as instead of focusing on the writing, I was too caught up in whether or not the writing accurately reflected the message I wanted to send. While the message is important, it shouldn’t have been so crucial as to stop me from writing.
Travel, or the lack thereof in the latter part of the year, also dragged me down. I focused too much on planning trip after trip that I knew I wouldn’t be able to take, and each one I didn’t take took a negative hit on my happiness. A few weeks ago I finally decided to put aside the travel planning until June. I may take a short trip before then for a concert or event, but thinking about any big travel plans will have to wait until June. Part of the reason for selecting that date is that I have a ticket for VidCon in late July, and it will give me ample time to work on creative pursuits and save the funds I need for my next adventure.
I realized that I’d hit a fork in the road of my life. I don’t have the time, energy, or finances to fully to commit to creativity and travel at once, and while that may change in the future, I had to choose which to focus on. This realization lifted a great mental weight from my mind, and returned me to a state of mental clarity I hadn’t felt for months. That’s not to say there isn’t still a fog on my mind, but it’s slowly lifting, and I’m feeling very positive.
Which path did I choose? Creativity.
2015 conveniently worked as a goal post, as my big realization happened so close to it. It works well as a marker to indicate where I made an important decision, and a personal commitment.
I will be focusing on creativity over travel, though travel will still remain an important part of my life. Over the past few weeks I’ve been considering what exactly that means, and I’ve asked myself a few very important questions.
What are my creative focuses?
Obviously, writing is one. YouTube is another. I’ve also considered trying painting or returning to drawing, which I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I want to start with writing and YouTube so as not to weigh myself down with too many commitments. I’ve also been wanting to start a podcast for a long time, which may finally happen in the first quarter of this year.
When it comes to writing, I have finished a couple short stories, though I hesitate to make them the first things I share as they are quite dark. I’ve returned to a story I was working on last year, but abandoned out of despair, and after some reworking I’ll begin writing within the week. I also have another project I’m doing preliminary research on which will follow it.
I’ve only committed to publishing any stories I write to Wattpad, and possibly my website, thus far, as they have the lowest barriers to entry and I don’t currently have the funds to use for the professional editing and design I’d like the have before charging for them.
I’ve also recently placed an order for some lights and a microphone to improve the quality of my YouTube videos, and I’ll be deciding on a release schedule and name for my channel before they arrive.
Where do I belong?
This is a hard question, because I’m not sure I belong in any physical place. I feel I belong with certain communities, but those communities are dispersed across the globe, only conveniently accessible through the web, not a particular city or country.
However, there are some places where it’s easier to interact with those communities, and I’m not in one of them. While I’m not making any concrete travel plans until June (possibly even early July), the question of where I might end up does still float through my mind, and freeing myself from finding an answer has been a great relief, as the answer eludes me.
While I love backpacking, I believe I may move to a big city in the future, in order to benefit my creative pursuits and be around more people with similar paths, while also making it easier to take short trips, as longer trips will be harder with my new focus. When the time comes to choose, it will be a difficult one, as there are so many to choose from. There are obvious benefits to staying within Canada, moving to Toronto or Vancouver, but other benefits to going international, to Sydney or London or who knows where else.
This will be a question I return to (and have an internal fight with myself about) in June.
What stays and what goes?
Minimalism is a concept I greatly value, and I’m constantly looking at my life, both physical and digital, to see what I can do without.
I continue to live with few physical possessions, having not bought much but some clothes and some video equipment since returning from my travels.
I let a number of old domain names expire, and stopped using a few social networks. I’m now trying to decide whether or not I want to continue having a dedicated travel blog, if I should contribute more frequently on Medium, or if I should bring all of my blogging to this website.
I must admit I’m leaning toward the simple, bringing it all here, but we’ll see. There may still be a use for a separate travel blog, and I do really like Medium.
2014 definitely didn’t turn out to be the year I hoped it to be. I didn’t meet my creative or travel goals, as I lacked the mental clarity and willpower for one, and the finances for the other. I’m definitely not out of the woods yet, but I have made an important step forward, and I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about 2015.
Hopefully by the end of January I’ll have a much clearer path forward, as the few decisions I have left to make about my creative path will be made and in the process of being implemented.
I wish all my comrades a happy new year and only the best in 2015. I sincerely hope you’re able to take control of your life or continue on your path, depending on your position. I’m rooting for you, as I hope you are for me.