My New Three Years Resolution

I’m taking a break for three years. I’m in debt. I don’t mean financially, but I mean a debt in terms of time. 

What does this mean to borrow time? I mean it in the way that Canadian parents start their kids skating before they can walk. Kids are making apps and money before they hit puberty, and the Fifth Hokage shortens her lifespan by using her chakra to appear youthful. We use stress to prevent further stress, but at a certain point, you stress yourself more than you’re saving.

I’ve borrowed from Future Jon’s time and energy, and now that I am Future Jon, I’m feeling a little broke. Here’s the story all about how.

I went to Old Scona Academic High School. It’s more commonly known as OSA, as in “Oh, you went to OSA. No wonder you’re so weird.” School was pretty hard during this time, where essentially double the amount of schooling is placed on a person in order to adequately prepare them for life. We do the Full International Baccalaureate program in grade 11, and then you have a choice in grade 12 whether to do partial IB, full, or none. This is a great way to prepare for post-secondary, but most people don’t realize how slippery the slope of borrowing time is. I certainly didn’t.

Then university. Engineering is one of those notoriously difficult programs. It’s not the hardest, but it’s definitely up there for undergrad programs in Canada. By itself, I actually don’t think it would have been so bad, but I was also involved at church two to three nights a week, designing audio circuits on the side, and carrying on a long distance relationship. Five and a half years of six courses per semester with extracurriculars. Rewarding, but costly in time.

After graduating school, I thought it would be over. Then I organized a wedding. Before the actual wedding date, I tried to start an iPhone repair business with iCracked. Then I created a startup: my marriage.

Working at AltaLink for two years was healthy. I had a good 9-to-5, but then I wanted more of a challenge. I applied for TELUS in September 2013, and I didn’t get my offer until four months later. Taking a pay cut and keeping the process quiet for that long was a grueling experience. Changing jobs is one kind of stress, maintaining secrecy for four months is another, but it’s some kind of something when you have a dependent.

I thought having a hobby would cure a lot of these problems. I’d have a low intensity, high satisfaction activity that drifted alongside my path in life, and I could just mosey along in this world. I had some old audio circuits that I wanted to whip into shape after collecting some dust over some years of inactivity, so it would be fun optimizing every aspect of the design to something I liked. A lot of daydreaming goes into audio for me, and an excitement would build after only a few minutes into my dazes. I’d furiously capture notes and ideas down before they evaporated into the fog of my poor memory, and I couldn’t wait to get to my computer to make them a reality.  Watching this Steve Wozniak interview recently was the first time I really heard anyone speaking with the same kind of love I have for fidgeting with schematics and circuit board layouts.

Unfortunately, my perfectionism turned on me and changed my fun project into a stressful chore. Sometimes it was paralyzing.

The turning point was when I re-read my Myers-Briggs personality profile. It came up when I was snooping around in Andy’s computer when he graciously let us stay at his place and left for the evening, and I found his profile on his desktop. I recalled being an ENTJ, which places me in the Rationals temperament with Field Marshal emphasis, and some aspects of my life simply clicked as I read through the profile. Now, I’m usually skeptical of these personality horoscopes because I think people can get unnecessarily pigeon-holed into profiles when really their personalities exist on a spectrum.  I went through some other profiles, but found that I didn’t really resonate with much compared to the Rationals profile. There’s also a lengthy disclaimer section that helped me limit or avoid some of the inevitable interpretations. Here are some key passages that shook me:

  • Rationals (NTs) are the problem solving temperament, particularly if the problem has to do with the many complex systems that make up the world around us. Rationals might tackle problems in organic systems such as plants and animals, or in mechanical systems such as railroads and computers, or in social systems such as families and companies and governments. But whatever systems fire their curiosity, Rationals will analyze them to understand how they work, so they can figure out how to make them work better. 
  • Rationals don’t care about being politically correct. They are interested in the most efficient solutions possible, and will listen to anyone who has something useful to teach them, while disregarding any authority or customary procedure that wastes time and resources. (Friends will recall my life motto of “doing whatever you want.”)
  • Rationals tend to be pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, and focused on problem- solving and systems analysis.
  • They are constantly scanning their environment for potential problems which they can turn into solutions. They generally see things from a long-range perspective, and are usually successful at identifying plans to turn problems around 
  • Hardly more than 2% of the total population, Field marshals are bound to lead others, and from an early age they can be observed taking command of groups. In some cases, they simply find themselves in charge of groups, and are mystified as to how this happened. 

The point is that after every section of my life has completed, I not only neglected to rest up before starting again, but I took on a challenge harder than the last. I was borrowing too much time. I think part of life is like playing Mad Libs. You switch out different answers in the blank spaces for salary, friends, favourite TV shows, etc. What I’d been doing was cramming too many answers into the line for “I use my free time to _____.”

What’s gonna change moving forward? I’m pretty much going to stop and drop (and roll?) any side projects. One job is plenty, Carrie is in grad school, and I am tired. I’ll still blog because it’s a low stress activity that I still enjoy, but for the next three years, I won’t set any goals for accomplishing a number of things before a deadline. I’m just going to be happy for three years. I'm just going to be. That feels like the right amount of time.

And watch TV. That’s why my parents came to this country.