The Troubles with Self-Improvement

Every December and January, the world turns introspective and looks for ways to improve. I follow Chris Guillebeau’s suggestion of an annual review, assessing all aspects of my life for ways I can improve. Self-improvement can feel banal, this time of year, because so many of us want the same things – to exercise, to eat healthily, to complete creative projects, to travel. I have to believe that working to improve myself is valuable, because it’s such an important part of who I am. Yet the act of self-improvement needs some consideration. It takes care to craft a truly meaningful annual review or new years resolutions that will positively impact our lives.

Continue reading

Why I don’t carry the Ten Essentials on day hikes

I don’t carry the Ten Essentials with me on day hikes. I worry that having the right gear is over-emphasized, when your brain is the most important tool to bring with you on the trail. People want the comfort blanket of a list of gear – “if I carry these ten things, I’ll survive.” Yes, being prepared is important. I always carry a pack with survival gear…but my list is different than the Mountaineers’ systems. There is essential gear, but the requirements vary depending on the location, the weather (and forecast), and time of year. And two other resources – knowledge and other people – are probably even more important than gear.

Continue reading

(Can’t Live) With or Without… Inspiration?

It’s easy to get sucked down the ‘rabbit hole of inspiration’, as Bri and Katie of Designlovefest note, gathering more and more inspiring examples and never making anything of our own.

I have mixed feelings about seeking inspiration.

On one hand, I worry that I’m taking in too much content, losing my originality in the onslaught of media I digest every day. Last month, I put myself on a mild media diet, slimming down my RSS feed to a few essentials. I find myself missing that easy dose of inspiration, and desperately looking for something to read or look at I’m addicted to junk food for the brain.

On the other hand, how can we create without responding to something? Creations are our interpretations and commentary on the world. No one works in absolute isolation. There is no escaping the influence, positive, negative, or neutral, of your environment and your community. Our thoughts are guided and shaped by what we experience and what we need to respond to.

And yet, we need not respond to another person’s creation. There are different types of inspiration.

Just like there are primary and secondary historical sources, there are primary and secondary sources of inspiration.

Continue reading

Is location a self-fulfilling destiny?

I’m in the process of buying a house – something I’ve been putting off for quite a while, now, as my partner and I debate where to live.

Sure, we know we want to live in Washington State. But where in Washington?

There are so many possible ecosystems in which to make our home. Do we belong to the sea or the mountains? Given we can only travel so far in a day, we must choose our daily habitat.

Where we live is a framework for the structure of our lives. What is nearby? How long does it take to get to the places I go frequently? Where do I want to spend most of my time?

Is location destiny?

Continue reading

Environmental Lessons, Past and Future

Passenger Pigeon in captivity

Passenger Pigeons were driven extinct by hunting and habitat destruction over the 19th century, plummeting from a population of 3 to 5 million pigeons in the United States when Europeans arrived.

As the Earth’s population and our consumption of material goods have skyrocketed since the Industrial Revolution and before, man’s impact on the environment has kept pace. Each century, we seem to follow a pattern of environmental mistakes until finally we learn a new lesson about how our individual actions can cumulatively have major environmental impacts.

As we realize our mistake, we generally take responsibility and take steps to prevent or minimize that problem. Through restorations and cleanups, we’re atoning for the environmental sins that our ancestors made unwittingly. But some mistakes are not undoable; some are permanent.

Continue reading