My father once told me the following joke. A man is at the doctor’s office and asks his physician, “Doc, if I never drink, never smoke, and never chase women, will I live forever?”
“No,” the doctor replies, “but it will sure feel that way.”
Other than my two most obvious skills — breaking promises about this website and annoying my wife — the thing in life I think I’m best at is setting goals.
Reaching them, well, that’s another story. I would like to think I have accomplished many of my goals in life — I graduated from high school and college, made good grades, did some internships, landed a great job. But if you measure by percentage, considering the scores of goals I am constantly setting, I’m not doing too great. For every objective I’ve completed, there are several more I’ve fallen far short of.
Yes, I hold a bachelor’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism, but a business degree from Harvard, a journalism degree from Columbia, and a creative writing degree from Iowa are all still on my endless “to-do” list, where they will likely stay for a long time.
Lately (meaning over the past couple of years), I have found myself making as many goals about things I would like to stop doing as things I would like to start doing. I want to cut unnecessary things out of my life, not because I want to live forever — like the man from the joke — but because I know I will not. I only have so much time, and I do not want to waste it eating at McDonald’s, watching Vanilla Ice remodel homes on the DIY Network, or reading crummy blog posts when I could be writing ones of my own.
I wish to live as a postmodern quasi-ascetic, abstaining from instant consumerist pleasures in order to find deeper satisfaction, and maybe a little meaning.
My sophomore year of college, I decided I would no longer drink soda, but I have broken the ban at least a dozen times. A year later, I decided to give up French fries, but I have since eaten them a few times, twice in the past month (not counting the one or two fries I habitually steal from my wife’s plate at restaurants).
And about a month ago, after my wife and I spent nearly $500 eating out in November, mostly at places I don’t even like, I decided to stop visiting large chain restaurants. It only took three weeks before a Subway gift card arrived in the mail and proved just how pathetic I am at self-discipline. In some ways, it feels like an achievement that I have only screwed up once.
But I know I can do better. On the brink of a new year, I am redoubling my efforts and adding a new one. In 2011, I will not ingest a single drop of soda nor even one measly fry. I will make a total of zero visits to chain restaurants, which I will arbitrarily define as those with at least 50 locations nationwide.
And the new one: I will not watch any reality television shows, especially those involving former members of Poison, former members of Public Enemy, anyone named Kardashian, pregnant children, groups of spoiled kids from California, actors attempting to do anything but act (e.g. dance or skate), people who fill their homes with trash, or the previously mentioned one-hit wonder white rap artist. I may still watch Pawn Stars because that show is awesome.
In place of these things, I hope to sample local eateries and to read. I would like to increase the population of the “Magazine Stories” section of the site to at least 100 of my favorites by the end of the year.
As always, good luck to me. I’ll let you know how I do.