Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

Here are my New Year's resolutions:

1. Floss every day. I make this resolution every year and never keep it. I am disgusting.

2. Take public transportation every day. Lots of talk, little action so far. Be the change you wish to see, Octopussy.

3. Take more photographs. I wish I had time to learn how to develop photos, but that's never going to happen.

4. Write every day. Try to finish and polish collection of short stories. I am going to take yet another writing workshop, this time at UCLA extension starting later this month. This will help to motivate me. I'll start sending out more stuff to journals and then -- and then . . . go back to work as a lawyer the next day.

5. Practice Japanese, study kanji twice a week. I still am not clear on why I continue to study Japanese. I never really have any occasion to use it. At this point, I'm studying it because I've already studied it and I feel it would be a waste to lose it. Good money after bad?

6. Learn Vietnamese, practice with Mrs. Octopus twice a week. Vietnamese makes Japanese look like a cakewalk. For months now I've been struggling just to get a tenuous grip on the various intonations. One of the basic intonations involves making your voice break in the middle of the vowel and then regaining your voice. Others involve making individual syllables sound like questions, sliding up and down in register, etc. It's not so much like talking, Vietnamese, as it is like singing or performing.

7. Practice Bengali, refresh reading and writing. This was my first language and I really should get it together and be able to speak it well. After I took a class during law school a few years ago, my reading and writing was decent, but now I've slipped back into virtual illiteracy. This is embarrassing. Happily, Bengali is related -- but distantly -- to our own language (going back to the original relationship between Sanskrit and Greek), and is based on an alphabet, unlike Japanese.

8. Practice Spanish, refresh grammar. Back in Connecticut, the forward-thinking public school board started us on Spanish in second grade. Here in L.A., I am hearing and reading Spanish all the time and sometimes getting to use it. The other night at the Vons, right before Christmas, some older guy came up to me the wine aisle and asked for a recommendation for a red wine that was sweet but not too sweet, and tasty. I tried to help, although I lacked expertise in either Spanish or wine selection.

9. Work out four times a week. I haven't played soccer since I've been in L.A., which seems sort of sad. I have been playing a lot of basketball at the Y downtown, and my mid-range jumper is improving. My ball-handling ability has returned to some degree after an embarrassing period of lacking proper handle. Sometimes I’m on fire and I’ll be hitting threes from anywhere, but I never know why or how.

10. Figure out what to do work-wise. I am just plugging along at work, but sometimes I get the feeling I really should be doing something else. Now that I am in my early thirties, I am starting to get that chest-constricting panicky feeling of the walls closing in on me.

11. Read at least one book a week.

12. Cook more often. Learn how to make Chinese food. If I could make good Chinese food I don't think I would ever leave the house again.

13. Join a soccer league. I really miss playing soccer. I often have very vivid dreams where I am playing soccer. I love soccer, but I am not that great. There is a theme of ambitious, enthusiastic mediocrity that runs through my life and is often most clearly expressed in sports. I am sort of good at a number of sports, but do not excel at any one sport. See also, this blog.

14. Write more letters to friends. This used to be one of my most frequent activities. Sadly, I don't write letters to people nearly as often as I used to. I always get great satisfaction from finishing, sealing, and addressing a letter.

15. Remember birthdays. I'm always very touched when people remember my birthday. I wish I were the type of person who always remembered other peoples' birthdays. Because I want other people to feel loved, and, to be honest about it, I guess I want everyone to like me. Sadly, even when you want everyone to like you, it's hard to get everyone to like you. Weird, dark needs and urges poke and jab their way out of us, roughening up our encounters. We snap, we retort, we take little digs at each other, take each other down a peg: we want to put other people in their place. We want other people to know that we don't think they're such hot shit. It's surprisingly difficult for people to really get along, especially when they're similar. There's so much jockeying for position, so much establishing the pecking order. And there's so much of that talking we do to others that we are doing for ourselves, to make ourselves feel better about ourselves in some way, to convince ourselves that we are still special and promising and exceptional. A plague of formerly gifted children. This has nothing to do with remembering birthdays. I find, the older I get, that this kind of mild antagonism becomes more and more pervasive. It seems that people often get a little more bitter as they adjust to fewer options, dimmer horizons, realizing that they have settled into the vast grid of anonymous normality.

16. Be less self-absorbed. I think I overvalue my free time. I spend so much of it on myself, wallowing in my hang-ups, etc. I should do something useful with my free time. Say, volunteer for a good cause.


Anonymous said...

All admirable goals, Octopus. Couple of suggestions...

-I expect a letter from you soon, even though I never write letters to you and am shamed by a collection of lovely postcards you have randomly but thoughtfully sent to me over the years. If you write me pursuant to your resolution, however, I promise to write you back.

-I totally agree with your birthday thing. I only have the vaguest idea of when your birthday is and am not going to post my guess here in case I'm wrong. One thought: although I am so over Friendster, it's actually pretty helpful with birthday reminders over email.

-Cooking is divine. How about Korean food?? I've been watching my mom like a hawk lately and taking notes, so I have a small collection of recipes that I could send your way if you're interested. You're in LA, so I'm thinking that ingredients are easily obtained (though in my experience the primary ingredients for Korean cookery are lots of garlic and green onion).

Happy New Year!!!


cshinpark@hotmail.com said...

Hi Mr. Octopus,
You've said it all! Reading your resolutions, I'm feeling validated, encouraged and inspired. Really, we share many resolutions----I swear, the flossing thing was a secret resolve of mine but I'm coming out with it since you have! How did you know??? From the reading more, taking more photos, learning and brushing up of the languages (mine are different ones of course), cooking more, etc...and its yoga instead of soccer and its learning to drive standard instead of public transp (since we live in ny).

I think your Say on birthdays, letters, and volunteering is most touching. Wholeheartedly agree. I used to be a big letter writer and hallmark-shoebox birthday card sender(even as recent or should I say as far back as college-pre email crap).

Hmmmm...just a thought....Do you think its all about Time Management (argh)?

Anyway, thanks for giving me a place to babble a bit while at work doing the job i love (yea right).

Octopus Grigori said...

LC: Letter coming. What about that Xmas card? Pretty sweet, eh? I love Korean food. Happily, Koreatown is actually bigger than Los Angeles, so there is much to explore. The problem is that I usually gorge myself on bubble tea whenever I get anywhere near Koreatown, dampening my enthusiasm for dinner.

CSHIN: I am happy to report that I have flossed for two day straight.
And you're right: is there anything sadder than an "e-card"?

Anonymous said...

You have too many resolutions. In fact they are not resolutions; they're just general self improvement.

I make just one resolution every year. I tell everyone about it and then everyone holds me to it. The most effective so far has been the water resolution of 2002:

1. Drink more water
1a.Never say no to water
1b.Always finish your water.

See, now that's something you can sink your teeth into, sorta. With just one mega resolution, I can make it happen.

This year my resolution is to

1. Finish everything you start.

EVERYTHING. Little things, big things. Books, relationships, letters. Everything. If it's going badly, make an official end to it.

Also, E-cards are great for apologizing for social snafus. "I'm sorry I said you'd grow to be as fat as your mother." Enter dancing fat people.

- mezda (that means #2 bro, you know)