Itenary

A couple of other things that have crossed my mind is this weird headspace I’m in about being alone. For most of my life, I’ve always thought I had to live for others. Like my time was never mine. Like that was supposed to be a good thing. In one of my best relationships there was even that thought of having to consider others. I know that sounds bad, but hear me out.

We had planned a trip to the UK in May 2020. As everyone knows, those plans got derailed. But in the planning, pre-pandemic, I found myself planning the trip around her. What things I could show her. Distances we could go from train stations to our rental. All that kind of thing. I have to admit, it was kinda a drag having so much planning on my shoulders. Not just with romantic relationships, but I’ve thought about traveling with a bunch of friends too, and really the amount of cat-herding involved with that would irritate the hell out of me.

The last time I went someplace with family, I found myself a few days in just wanting no responsibilities. If even just for a couple of hours. It was exhausting entertaining pre-teens and being the mediator with grandparents. Here I was alone in the middle while everyone else was on vacation. Mr. Responsible. I had to make sure the dog was going out enough, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Other than texting someone who was a thousand miles away.

One night I excused myself and walked the boardwalk into Seaside. It was March, so the place was nearly abandoned. I found myself at a sportsbar watching basketball–which I am not really into–drinking a beer by myself. As the servers started stacking chairs up for the night, I was alone, but I felt lighter. Everything I was doing at that moment was just for me, even though my capacity was limited.

I think that is how I could get hooked on solo travel. Sure, it’s a little overwhelming, but it can be really nice to just have a moment to yourself. Sitting alone at a restaurant can be freeing. You can have conversations with strangers. You can take your time. You don’t have to worry about a significant other getting jealous, or a kid getting bored, or little missions like finding the perfect sourvenir, or t-shirts to bring back home. I really hate souvenirs. Things I bring home need to have some sort of meaning other than just being stuff on a shelf you dust occasionally. It’s even worse when the stuff you buy was made in China and you weren’t in China to get it.

I like being able to do what I want, and if I don’t want to do it anymore, I can just leave and do something else. I don’t have to wear that mask.

You know the one. The “We are having just the greatest time! HAHAHA!” mask. You don’t have to put on a show for anyone. You can have resting bitch face if you want. You can be pensive. You can feel lonely if you want. Or you can feel lighter than the breath from a dove. Or you can smile for just you.

When our plans to go to the UK dissolved (and before our relationship followed) she suggested we could go to Disney World instead. Maybe that was a red flag. I know a lot of people love Disney, but if it’s standing in line for Pirates of the Carribean vs. taking a train across Europe and eating all the cheese and drinking all the wine…yeah.

It probably wasn’t going to work out, was it?

I guess if you are going to travel with other people, make sure your vibe matches theirs. I’ve yet to experience that. But the people who have gotten to know me already know that if I want to do something else, I’ll just leave. Since my earlier years of going places with other people, I have had the nasty habit of just being along for the ride. I didn’t have to challenge my sense of direction. I just watched everything go past and got a lot less out of it than I probably would have if I had to pay attention. Later, my decisions were always second-guessed anyway. Whatever I wanted to do was stupid or “we’ll do that next time.” Which we never did, or if we did, it was often considered a waste of time.

My favorite itenary is to have no plan other than a start time and a time to get back. Though I do have a list of things to see that I check off, I try not to let the schedule be dictated by it. Usually when you deal with timetables, you have to at least have that. I like being spontaneous, but I also like having a nice hot bath or shower to get back to at the end of the day. I’ve often heard that women think that a man who can plan something out is attractive. I’m no longer interested in impressing someone based on my ability to plan shit for them. Here’s my itenary: Keep up.

There will also be naps.

And food.

And trying new shit. Doing something every day that scares you.

But there is a drawback to that. Sometimes planning helps you connect the dots for some really cool stuff. Like I missed a Shakespearean play at the Globe when I was in London because I happened to be there the day nothing was playing. Also, traveling alone means you are paying the full bill. So, maybe a little bit of research is okay so you don’t miss out on cool stuff as it happens. Just don’t let it rule you. Or maybe I’m just full of shit.

Goals in Writing

I came across a quote today in a book I was reading for research. Travel writer Gabi Logan writes:

“If you set the wrong goals, you’ll end up with a “successful” life that you never really wanted in the first place.”

That really hit hard after this weekend. Recently, I’ve written that I have felt like creatively, my work process had ground to a halt. On the forum of the agency I write for, many of us support each other by speaking our minds and comisserating. Another writer had posted that she was experiencing much the same thing. The both of us were fighting hard just to complete the assignments we had accepted. With almost no motivation to push forward, we wondered what was wrong with us.

Last night, I hit my deadline by just minutes, having spent the Fourth of July Weekend catching up with those assignments that were like pulling teeth to complete. Five 2000 word pieces for law firms about personal injury suits. I wrote all five in three days. Procrastinating all the way to the last hours before they were due. If I really get moving, I can write one of those in about an hour and a half, but at that point, I just feel like my hands are lead and just pounding down on the keyboard to make my word counts. It’s all the same stuff I have written a dozen times or more.

The company just needs the words to trigger Google’s algorithm with keywords and SEO phrases to game the system. The bottom line is always “Contact us if you would like to learn more.” The worst part is they will just run what I have written through an SEO checker to see if it gets a high enough score to accept. Eliminate all passive verbs. Sprinkle in those key words. Add enough links to make Google track it all back to similar content. They don’t even really care what I wrote or how I turned a phrase, so long as it checks out with the robot.

When I read Gabi Logan’s quote, I thought about my weekend, and how I have been paying the bills with writing copy like this. I’m just a funnel for words that works marginally better than an AI content generator. Who knows, I might even be cheaper. I have gotten very good at what I do in writing content. I can do it quickly and other than a few typos, I generally nail the requirements in the first pass. I have about an 80% first draft success rate. But that resistance comes knocking.

It isn’t the same Resistance Steven Pressfield writes about in The War of Art, but something else. Something like what I felt when I was sitting in front of a clock at my desk at the University, literally watching the minutes of my life pass me by without feeling a sense of fulfillment. I know in the past, I have written that a bad day of writing still beats a good day of working. I have always been afraid that writing would turn into a “job” and I might start resenting it the way I did scheduling classes or answering phone calls.

The reason my University job sucked was I started with a skillset and I left with pretty much the same skillset. In twenty years, I learned almost nothing. Unlike people who enter a trade and become better welders or carpenters until they reach the point of being Masters of their trade, or someone who starts a business and comes out with enough expertise to become a mentor or a consultant for others, hardly anything changed as far as my abilities, other than I got quick enough and efficient enough to allow myself to have massive downtown and nearly terminal boredom.

When I write SEO, it feels a lot like that. When I write creatively, every time I learn how to tell a story better. I’m finding insight and showing it to others in a unique voice. I have meaning. My purpose is to connect with others. In the necessity of writing content for companies to conform to their algorithmic standards, I am just fueling a template. My fulfillment is getting enough money to put food in the fridge or gas in the tank.

The crazy thing is most of us are taught to believe it’s one or the other. We can work and pay the bills, or we can dream and starve. Many, many people actually get to do what they love and thrive financially. It is possible! Unfortunately for me, I’m seeing the fruits of my labor of setting the wrong goals and being “successful” at something I never really wanted.

I think that Resistance is telling me that it is time to take another step. I still need to push out of my comfort zone of surviving and continue to reach for thriving. That is my goal. I might be good enough to quickly write content for webpages and trick the AI, but I don’t like doing it. I get no meaning out of it. The reason is survival, but what is the intention? To continue to keep my head down and do the safe thing, I suppose.

It’s time to get some better intention. To thrive, doing what I have been working hard to do in order to hone my skills. A writer is like a tradesperson, only instead of wood or pipe or masonry, we work in words to construct thoughts to share with others.

I’ve had people tell me I am a great writer. There are days I lose that veneer of false modesty and push past the crippling doubt and ask myself if they are right. Maybe I could be but my reach hasn’t been exceeding my grasp. I’ve been going after low-hanging fruit when it comes to creativity. I’ve considered giving up.

I think now I need to set goals because I have a feeling the safe bet is reaching its conclusion. I think content writing will soon be replaced by AI entirely and I will find myself once again polishing brass on the Titanic, just as I did with higher ed. I wasn’t happy then. The only difference now is I’m using my skills, like a watchmaker using the tools of his trade to assemble IKEA furniture.

Time to set better goals.

Thank you for reading.