All right, so, I didn’t know what to expect from 2018. It was my first full year as a parent, and with parenthood came lots of changes, lots of challenges, and a lot of stress. It wasn’t a bad year, but it was a struggle to stay rested and focused on anything for more than 15 minutes at a time. It was a year in which it was especially important to remember that creativity, goals, and life, in general, are all marathons, not sprints. One of my coworkers suggested that a child’s first birthday party should be less of a birthday party for them, and more of a party celebrating the survival of everybody involved. As a dad who did not adjust well to becoming a parent, I must say that it’s hard to disagree with that sentiment. Then again, I don’t know that any new parent just falls into the role with perfect grace and poise, so I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad about having a hard time figuring it all out.
Anyway, you can probably tell what we’re going to be talking about a lot in this entry. How did the baby affect me creatively, personally, and so on? As I’ve been looking back, thinking about what to say, I find that I am judging myself harshly, so I am challenging myself to make sure this is a constructive entry and not just a means of bashing myself, which I am wont to do. Give me a break, self! It was a tough year!
Parenthood – If there was one thing I did right this year, it was parenthood. I don’t know that I was actually that good at it, but the baby survived and we survived, so that seems like a pretty good start! It was a huge adjustment to make, and while that came at the cost of a great many things in our lives, we don’t regret it. Amanda and I watched this baby develop from small, squishy bundle to the smiling, laughing, grabbing, crawling, almost-walking tiny person she is today. It was hard, but amazing, and unlike anything else I have ever done. There is a hint of sadness in watching her grow up, leaving behind that tiny innocence and bewilderment as she enters the next phase of her life, but I’m really happy she’s with us.
The blog – I believe 2018 was actually the most active year yet for your favorite No Good Blog. I found that I was more motivated to blog when I narrowed my focus to work habits and the creative process, so I kept talking about that. I still intend to blog about video games and other nonsense, occasionally, but I found that having an outlet to talk myself through my creative endeavors got me back into blogging on a (slightly) more regular basis. I also have to thank my friend Lucas Walker for talking me into participating in his 6-week content marketing challenge in the fall, which also got me back into the right mindset for blogging. Now, I just have not let him (or myself) down and keep doing it!
Commissioned work – I had quite a few commissions this year, ranging from logos to fan art to a map of a local Oktoberfest. I like doing commissions, but I also struggle with them because I have a limited amount of time to work on this sort of thing. I would prefer to focus that time on my own projects, but at the same time, the pay is nice, and I think it’s good to stay flexible and reliable.
De-cluttering – In our attempt to sell our house and move (see “What Didn’t Work?” below), we have purged a ton of unneeded clutter from our home, and it has been more liberating than I could have expected. It’s hard for me to get rid of things—classic video games; books that I have always intended to read again, but never have; sentimental items—when it comes down to it, they’re all just stuff, and when the time comes that I am not enjoying the stuff anymore, it’s okay to part with it. If it’s just in a box in the basement and hasn’t seen the light of day for years, it’s okay to part with it. If it has outlived its usefulness, but I am keeping it “just in case” in might become useful again, it’s okay to part with it. The stuff doesn’t matter; my memories and experiences do. We’re not going full minimalist or anything, but we have shifted to a much more spartan lifestyle, relatively speaking, including far fewer knick-knacks and tchotchkes, only the kitchen gadgets that get used often, and wardrobe for all three of us that fits in half a closet and a few small sets of shelves. It was scary to get to this point, but now that I’m here, I rather like it. As a part of this paradigm shift, I also discovered that I like digital comics, and as a result, I can read what I want without having to track down back issues and fill my basement with them.
The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl – It was their first Super Bowl win ever, my brother and I waited a long time for it, and we got the added bonus of them beating perennial NFL supervillains, the New England Patriots, while they were at it. It was so amazing that I didn’t even get excited when it happened. It was a moment of complete disbelief that I will never forget.
What Didn’t Work (And How to do Better)?
Things in addition to parenthood – They just didn’t. We didn’t have time, or were too tired to make the time. And that’s really okay. She’ll only be small once, and we’ve been enjoying it. There are times when it is really hard. I get stressed because I’ll feel like I haven’t been drawing or writing enough and that I’ll never accomplish anything. Fortunately, these moments are fleeting, and the responsibility of parenthood has made me realize that I am much too hard on myself in almost all aspects of my life. I’m attempting to keep myself better organized and better scheduled to make and maintain time for all of my hobbies.
Avoidance behavior – When I did have time to pursue my creative hobbies, I often defaulted to video games, TV, or reading, instead. While it’s true that I didn’t have a lot of energy, writing or drawing doesn’t take that much, and it’s not that stressful, especially not as much as I make it out to be. I’m perpetually at odds with my own unrealistic expectations of the quality and quantity of work I put out. That’s what stresses me out. I can never just relax and enjoy what I do—everything always has to be perfect and done right now, in which case it’s a lot easier to just avoid it and do something else, instead. I am attempting to loosen up by following Jake Parker’s “finished, not perfect” mantra, and focusing more on quantity than quality. That’s not to say I plan to intentionally do bad work; I just want to work more. It’s no wonder I stress out every time I draw something—I draw so infrequently that I practically have to reteach myself how to do it every time I get a commission (and then it also has to be perfect). It would be nice to reach the point where I am in a groove, where I can pick up a pencil and dive in without having to stress out or re-familiarize myself with the basics.
Further introversion/withdrawal from others – Again, parenthood played a big part in this. It’s hard to go out on the town when the baby’s bedtime is before the dinner reservation. That’s not all, though. I avoided a lot of opportunities to see others this year, more than I ever have. Too often, I feel like I have nothing to say or contribute. Or, when I actually do have something to say or contribute, I feel like my input isn’t valuable enough to actually share. It’s nobody’s fault—I’ve let my self-worth plunge to remarkably low levels. I’ll look for any reason to feel worse about myself, including apologizing for things I can’t control, immediately launching into all the flaws of something I’ve created, mirroring the bad moods of others around me rather than trying to lift them up, etc. It has to stop. I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself, but I’ve gotta make some changes pretty soon. I’m driving my very adoring and supportive wife nuts with my negativity, and I’m tired of feeling bad about myself.
Selling our house and moving – We tried to sell our house. In an aggressive move, we moved out and stayed with some friends to try to make it as showable and move-inable as possible. It didn’t work. Nobody wanted it, even after fresh paint and a price reduction. I even cleaned all the cat poop out of the basement. Was that not enough?!
So, we pulled it off the market and moved back in. We also planned to do a work-for-rent exchange with one of my bosses and live in his new rental property after the house sold. However, Amanda’s post-pregnancy health has not been the best, and we realized she wouldn’t be able to do much of the work she intended to do without a lot of extra strain, so we pulled out of that arrangement, as well. That created a new problem: we already moved our nice appliances into the rental house in anticipation of our house selling and us living there, switching them with the appliances that were already in the rental—those went to our house to be included in the sale. So, when the house didn’t sell and we decided not to live in the rental, all the appliances then had to be switched back! It was a real mess, and even included me backing a Uhaul truck into our back porch steps and shattering a glass shelf from our fridge. It was a tremendous amount of time, headache, and manpower for nothing.
I don’t regret trying to be so aggressive in selling the house, but I do feel bad about all the work our friends did to help us move, only for us to end up back in our house again not even two months later. My wife is a pro at moving and has lived in like 30 different residences in her life, so none of this was that big of a big deal for her, but for me, it was a total nightmare, and I let the stress of it ruin my life for the last two months of the year. On the plus side, the ordeal gave us the opportunity to really pare down our possessions and get rid of a lot of crap we don’t need. I always think I need all of my stuff, but then I see it in a big pile that I have to move somewhere else, and all of a sudden, it doesn’t seem all that important, anymore.
Health and exercise – I started really strong, but by April, exercise was sporadic for the rest of the year. I gained a little bit of weight, but nothing too serious, so it was really just another year of holding steady. More and more gluten and dairy (which I try to avoid for healthy gut purposes) snuck its way back into my diet over time, as well. I’m usually willing to give the holiday season a pass when it comes to this, but the moving process jump-started our reliance on pizza and Jimmy John’s, and I just can’t seem to give a lettuce wrap the time of day when choosing between that or my overwhelming desire to consume bread at all times.
What to Expect in 2019?
Despite the challenges of 2018, I feel pretty good going into 2019. With a year of parenting behind us, I think we have a much better grasp on our situation and can continue to adapt and adjust as necessary to live a fulfilling, balanced, and joy-filled life. My fatherly responsibilities have forced me to make a lot of organizational changes in my life. I feel more prepared and goal-oriented entering 2019 than I have in most previous years. The real challenge will be maintaining this mindset and willpower beyond the first three months, which is typically when I cool off and tend to fall back into old habits. Let’s see what happens! Thanks for reading in 2018, and I hope you’ll stick with me in 2019!