You might say that I’m 6 weeks late in setting goals for the entire year. I am going to spin that and say that I just have gotten past the typical New Year’s resolution failure point and am going with something sustainable.
Play “Happy Birthday” on Ukulele every day
Band was probably the most important activity I did in high school. I learned so much from the entire experience, and I loved having music in my life, but it did set me up for failure in one particular way.
Playing the tuba is a terrible party trick.
Do you know how many times I have shown up to a party, seen a tuba in the corner of the room, picked it up, jammed out, and impressed a crowd? Never.
If I sang or played guitar or played piano, maybe it might come up once in awhile, but unless I actively seek out opportunities, I am unlikely to ever have a reason to play tuba again in my life.
It’s too bad that because I picked such an unusual instrument, I haven’t been able to share music with others–especially my daughter.
However, it’s never too late, so sometime before Christmas last year, I bought a cheap ukulele and have tried to play everyday. I’m not practicing nearly as diligently as I did on tuba, but I think the bar is relatively low for musical ability in social settings. As long as I can figure out the chords for a few kids songs, I’m set.
I set the specific goal of playing “Happy Birthday” every day because it’s really easy. Rather than thinking of playing as a set time to practice, I just want to get in the habit of grabbing my ukulele casually and hope the repetition will get me there.
Find balance in my media consumption
As part of my last goal of “Do one thing at a time,” I steadily whittled down my time across a variety of media. I stopped checking reddit and Twitter in downtime. I stopped watching TV while washing dishes. I stopped listening to podcasts on my commute.
This is on top of efforts in years past to pay less attention to news, unsubscribe from mailing lists, and otherwise reduce noise in my life.
On the one hand, it has been quite refreshing. Life gets quieter. I don’t feel like I need to get caught up to zero unplayed podcast episodes. In general, the FOMO went away. However, I think another problem has snuck up.
I have become a really boring person.
As I have cut off media in my life, I’m missing out on any external stimuli. I can’t follow lunchtime conversations because I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t bring up interesting topics because I just don’t have good grist for conversation.
However, reintroducing social media isn’t the solution, either. I’m not exactly sure what is the right medium is, but I’ll be exploring and trying to find something that I enjoy and fits well into my life.
See friends in real life regularly
Although less time on social media may be the immediate cause for my dull conversation, I think the root cause of feeling detached is the delayed impact of the pandemic and parenthood on my social life.
When we began sheltering-in-place with everyone else in March 2020, I overcompensated by spending more time socializing virtually. That kept me going long enough to become a parent, which then became my dominant activity.
Since then, our schedule and routine have become much more consistent, and as regular chunks of free time reappear, I find myself wanting to spend time with friends and family again.
But it’s still difficult. My daughter still isn’t vaccinated, and the Omicron variant has been serious enough to make us cautious again. Also, many of my friends have moved away from the Bay Area.
Obviously social media isn’t a substitute for actual social interactions, but for me, it was enough to make me feel like there was a community with people around. Without even that, I have felt somewhat isolated.
The good news is that now I have figured this out, I think this is easily solved. Hopefully, the Omicron variant abates soon, and the vaccine for children is approved, so the external factors clear up. Then it’s back to me, and I’m not that shy, so I just need to reach out to people again.
I have before set goals related to previous goals. However, this is the first time where my new goals have been a compensating reaction to my previous goals.
I don’t regret the progress I made on my goals last year, but it’s interesting how finishing those goals has revealed other issues or unintended side effects. Perhaps in another year, I will have a very different idea of what I want to achieve in my life.