2019 Contractually Obliged to be Great, Court Rules


This post begins on the morning commute. My sardine-can train is slightly less packed than usual, and I’m slightly disappointed because I’m cold and exhausted. If it were more crowded, at least I’d be warmer and it would be easier to remain upright as the train rounds curves and occasionally changes tracks.

My lower right eyelid is twitching at random intervals. An outwardly visible sign of something I already know: I need to sleep. In my bag, I’ve got both my laptop and my Japanese study materials, and their presence feels a bit like a joke I’ve played on myself. I have a three hour break in the afternoon, but my guess is that I will spend most of it on the floor of a darkened classroom, trying to nap my way to within reach of being reasonably alert.

Today is December twentieth, two thousand eighteen. It is my father’s birthday, five days before Christmas, ten days before my niece’s birthday, eleven days left in the year, and thirteen days from my own birthday. Every year at this time, my base levels of stress and anxiety ramp up. I consider the year that is nearly over, I consider the year that is about to begin. I give myself something of a report card in my mind and consider how I’m going to bring those grades up.

There are a handful of key plans in the works for 2019, nearly all of which are already underway, as I don’t see any reason not to start working now. I have my targets for the new year. Not the usual sorts of resolutions one sets on January first, but carefully-considered aims that will pay dividends throughout the various areas of my life, even before I reach the goals themselves.

The five aims for 2019 are:

  1. Get married.
  2. Hit a profit of a million yen in a 30-day period in my business.
  3. Get back down to 68kg and be in generally good shape.
  4. Begin practicing kyudo (traditional Japanese archery).
  5. Pass the JLPT N3 Japanese language exam.

Adjacent to all of these and so universal that I’m not even going to give it a spot on the list is simply leaning more into the habit of writing again. It’s a tool that I will continue to use to further my career, but it’s also something I just plain enjoy. That’s the primary reason I’ve put a blog back up here.

For a while earlier this year, I had a blog at this URL devoted to the process of getting out of English teaching and establishing my own business in Japan. I had a plan for how to monetize it, and a vision of growing a following that I could leverage into other opportunities. I almost never wrote for it, though. It sat sad and neglected and not even entirely built. Its function ended up being primarily a means of generating stress and distraction. I started it, I felt obliged to work on it, but I didn’t like working on it. It might have been a sound idea for someone else to run a site like that, but I discovered that it wasn’t for me.

So why put a personal blog back up in its place? Because I like to write and I want a place to give things an audience. Even if it barely gets any traffic, the fact is that I can muse on one thing or another, publish it, and have the satisfaction of having finished it. Once I hit publish, it’s out in the world for anyone to see and I can move on to the next thing.

Over the last few years, I’ve let a sense of obligation strip a lot of the pleasure out of writing. I used to write almost compulsively, but then somehow I got it in my head that if I was going to spend time writing something, it needed to be something with a clear payoff attached to it. It should be sales copy or an article to submit for publication or something that would somehow put money in my pocket. Those things are all fine fine, but I can’t survive as someone who writes if that’s all I write.

Blogging like this is something that I started doing about fifteen years ago. It was largely inane crap and that was OK. Some friends followed it, commented now and then, and that was enough. I still wrote other stuff, and the blogging helped me keep the channels open.

I return to personal blogging now because I need to open those channels again and keep them open. There is no agenda here, no requirement to post a certain amount or adhere to a certain schedule, to limit the topic to a specific niche, to monetize the blog, or to develop my brand. This is a place for me to write what I feel like writing and make it public. That’s all it is. It’s something I should have done a long time ago, and so I finally have, just before the year runs out.

I suppose that part of my motivation here is to refocus my mind. The more I write, the more focus I tend to maintain. The more I write, the more good ideas for writing I have. It’s exercise for the brain. That kind of exercise is of the utmost importance at a time when social media and the endless distraction of smartphones continually fragments and scatters our attention. I’m sick of it.

I’m sick enough of it that I went back and manually deleted more than a decade’s worth of Facebook posts in batches of fifty (that’s the limit they put on it), hid what I couldn’t delete, and announced my departure from the site. I’m actively monitoring the ways in which I use my laptop and phone and am consciously distancing myself from pointless time-wasters when I identify them.

If I’m going to hit all five of those goals in 2019, I can’t afford to play it fast and loose with managing my time and taking care of myself any more. If I’m going to be happy and have the sort of life I want to have, it’s not something I’m going to achieve while engaging in patterns of behavior I know to be detrimental.

Writing works for me, though, and I do better in all areas of my life when I’m writing daily at least a couple thousand words a day. So even if nobody reads this, this outlet is a good thing for me. If it’s something you happen to enjoy reading, then all the better. And if not, I’m not too worried.

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