2024: Here goes something

2023… oh 2023.

I started out with what I thought would be the lowest of goals and somehow still flopped at those. What happened last year, anyway?

  • I got sterile, bitches!!!
  • I went on an actual vacation and didn’t get COVID!
  • I played a lot of Breath of the Wild…. and a lot of Pokemon Violet.
  • I actually won two Pokemon tournaments! The Play! Pokemon circuit added championship points for Pokemon Go this season, so I started attending local tournaments this fall and won one of them. My only Pokemon-related goal for 2023 was to not go 0-2 at a Play! regional, and I succeeded at three of the four tournaments on this front. (The fourth was Pittsburgh, but at least I won a side event giving out championship points.)
  • I got promoted at the day job! It’s the senior version of what I was already doing so I don’t have much more responsibility. This is the ideal scenario.
  • I read 45 books, short of my goal of 50 books. This is the first year since 2013 that I haven’t reached my reading goal (and that’s because I didn’t read a single book or set a goal).
  • I wrote 50k for NaNoWriMo, far short of my goal of roughly 120k to reach 3 million lifetime words, and my first 5-digit year since 2008. That last part is a big deal.
  • I started a beat sheet for my novel. Kind of.
  • I went to Orlando, Knoxville, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, and New York City.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: I have a complicated relationship with goal-setting. I need goals to keep me driven and do not like when I can’t achieve them. It’s definitely a personality flaw and would be my answer to the so-hated “What’s your biggest weakness?” job interview question if people were interested in hearing about actual flaws that come from strengths. This flaw affects every area of my life, even when people don’t notice. It makes progress feel invisible even when present. It makes relaxing difficult to impossible, and makes me constantly weigh things like having a social life or clean home against achieving goals with a greater purpose. It means when my brain is off, it’s not truly off, and I’m clicking around online without any real purpose, which is the opposite of relaxing.

So let’s talk about 2024.

Read 50 books, including at least 25 fiction books. I went through my reading challenges yesterday and noticed a trend: I’m reading less and less fiction. Here are my numbers over the past five years. Note I’ve counted poetry collections, short story collections, and fictional graphic novels as fiction (although they didn’t skew the count much).

  • 2019: 31/62 50%
  • 2020: 30/58 51.7%
  • 2021: 22/56 39.3%
  • 2022: 17/50 34%
  • 2023: 19/45 42%

Interestingly I read more fiction in 2023 than in 2022, but not by much. 2020 turned out not to be an outlier; I read even more in 2019 despite having a full-time job, a walking commute, and a significant other toward the end of the year. All this means I find my reading trend disturbing.

On paper, this looks like an easy goal. I’m in a book club, so that’s one book a month plus a little over a book a month for fun, right? That’s what I thought. The big issue is, once again, goofing around online and getting very little out of it too often. Reading more is a way to stop doing that, so I’d be achieving two goals at once here.

Honestly, I don’t have much else right now, and that worries me. You might notice there’s nothing about NaNoWriMo or writing here. And there’s a reason for that…

Re-evaluate my relationship with NaNoWriMo and writing. After all the NaNo fires of the past year and my own complicated relationship with writing fiction, I need to take a step back and examine why I’m doing all this to start with. It’s clear that I don’t hate writing. It’s my day job and often the only way to organize my thoughts. But when I started doing NaNoWriMo, I thought finishing a novel would make me a real writer, whatever that means.

Another thing I’ve noticed in the past few years is that I’ve been feeling less creative. Yes, a lot has changed in my life in the last five or so years, but I’m afraid some of those changes in my habits have been detrimental to creativity.

Yes, listening to audiobooks all the time has been great for learning about new topics and experiences, as well as filling the silent air wherever I go. But when I’m concentrating (or half-concentrating, as the case may be sometimes) on an audiobook, my mind still wanders, but it doesn’t wander as freely as it used to while I’m listening to books. It doesn’t wander toward story ideas or fantastical what-ifs. It wanders toward the pile of dishes in my sink or how I still haven’t cleaned out the grout in my shower or the purse I need to buy before my old one literally falls apart but when am I going to get to the store and look at purses.

The other big change is one that has otherwise improved my life, which is why I’m so hesitant to call it out: Pokemon Go. While the game has brought me multiple friend groups and communities and the chance to see new places when traveling to the regional competitions, it also means looking down at my phone a lot and keeping up with events and meta developments and move counts while being less aware of the world. I love the world of autocatching; I can toss my Plus+ in my bag and let it autocatch Pokemon while I explore the world. This is how the game was meant to be played, not knees deep in your phone while the world passes you by. Because when I’m focused on the game, the world does indeed pass me by. I remember the joy of being in a new city and letting the world take me in at the same time. That doesn’t happen when you’re trying to min-max a mobile game.

I’ve built a life that doesn’t provide much time for my brain to wander. Maybe that’s true in general as we get older. We have to focus on the business of living our lives and leave frivolity behind in the process. The chores and obligations of adulthood can become our central obsession if we let them, and in the last couple of years taking care of myself and my home has become more and more of a chore, in part because I don’t have a partner to lean on. I find myself wanting to doomscroll or check the same few Discord servers over and over instead of actually taking care of myself or indulging in hobbies like reading or writing or playing video games or watching the zillion TV shows that sound interesting.

Now what?

I could add more arbitrary goals; there’s no shortage of them. Learn or re-learn a language. Get to legend in Go Battle League, which I still haven’t done. Rewrite a novel (again). Learn to edit (again). Get (back) in shape. Try to date again.

But none of them truly resonate right now, and that troubles me. Everything else just feels like a to-do list item, or just something to do for the sake of having a goal. Sure, it would be cool, but what’s my endgame? What do I even want now? Part of this comes from re-evalutating the one thing I thought I loved for my entire life. When all my goals were around writing and NaNo and then that thing started to fall apart, well… it’s hard not to question things. And this is where my obsession with achieving goals comes to bite me in the butt. Not everything has to be a year-long goal. Not everything has to be a smaller goal toward a greater purpose.

So I guess a goal could be…

Re-evaluate what I actually value as opposed to what I should be valuing.

Somehow that’s easier and harder than it sounds. I’ve been sitting on this post for a month and a half, hoping to add something, anything, to this post to make it sound like I’ve got my shit together. Here goes something, 2024.


What I’m reading: 2023 edition

As of today I’ve read 43 books out of my original goal of 50 books and should finish at least one more before the end of the year. At the beginning of the month I thought I’d be lucky to reach 40 books, but a lot of errands and chores on foot during the last week helped me to blow through several audiobooks.

This is the first year I’ve fallen short of my book goal since 2012-2013, when I read two (yes, two) books in 2012 and zero books in 2013. I blame Game of Thrones. Yes, the book.

Since I haven’t written one of these posts in awhile, this review covers only the highlights. I’ve also excluded December’s books because even though there were some gems, this post has been a work in progress for months and I didn’t want to delay posting it for even longer.


My letter to the NaNoWriMo board

I sent this letter to the NaNoWriMo board on 6 December 2023.

If you have no idea what’s going on, I recommend reading this Google doc that has been floating around, which will give you a high level summary of the past year’s events in the NaNoWriMo organization.

Now, on to the letter.


NaNo, I love(d) you, but it’s not you, it’s (mostly) me

October 12, 2002. Dialup internet was the norm where I lived, and I shared that precious internet time with my brother. One of us regularly stayed at our grandparents’ house down the street so we could both be on the internet at the same time. What a world that was.

This particular day was a Saturday. I had spent the rest of the day at the library and hanging out with my church youth group, playing HORSE and Duck Hunt. I was tired of the person I was, or rather, I was still in that long and arduous process of discovering myself.

I got home from church, hopped online, and started reading some Diaryland blogs. And there it was: someone mentioned writing a novel in a month. Next month, in fact. I could do that! Right?

I clicked that link and signed up immediately, sealing my fate as the name you’re reading now. If I could finish writing a book, I reasoned, I could call myself a real writer.


Life as a Pokemon Go PVP casual

The Silph Road, the original home of digging into game mechanics and grassroots Pokemon Go PVP tournaments, announced back in May that they were shutting down operations entirely in August. Some parts of the Silph network were already down when it was announced. I’ve made so many friends through Silph tournaments, both online and in person, that it’s hard to dismiss Silph and PVP as a small part of my life.

I’ve competed in every single Silph meta. When the pandemic started, Pokemon Go lifted the requirement to be ultra friends in order to battle remotely, so I started doing more remote tournaments.

Something weird happened. I started getting better.