This post (like most of what appears on this blog) is a bit belated. As you may recall, at the beginning of November I laid out for myself a month-long challenge to accomplish things physically, intellectually, creatively, and socially. If you missed the original post, you can find it here, along with DJ and Bo’s posts that inspired the project to begin with. There were deliverables and penalties laid out for meeting those targets; let’s run through how the month went.
Goal: Exercise at least 5 days a week for at least 45 minutes
Days missed: 2 * $5 = $10
This was probably the easiest goal for me to stay consistent about. While staying active during college posed a difficulty, I’ve found it relatively easy to fit in regular amounts of exercise in Laos. I got a gym membership a few weeks ago and occasionally attend Muay Lao classes nearby (though scheduling and cost made that a bit prohibitive for the month of November). This month I was introduced to what I can see becoming a new hobby – rock climbing. There’s a great climbing lodge 2 hours driving from Savannakhet and it’s a fantastic way to sneak in exercise in a way that doesn’t bore me after half an hour or so.
The purpose of this goal was two-fold:
- I wanted to be more fit and lose the physical reminder of senior year late-night snacking.
- I wanted to make exercise more of a habit and less of a chore.
Despite missing 2 days (largely due to traveling, which makes exercising difficult to fit in), I achieved both of these aims. The sinhs (Lao skirts) I had tailored at the beginning of the year are noticably looser and I’m feeling healthier thanks to being more active. I’ve also been feeling antsy on days I don’t exercise – there’s now a mental push beyond just obligation for me to work out. Though there’s still more I hope to accomplish on both of these fronts, I’m pretty satisfied with this month’s results.
Goal: Finish 4(ish) books
Books incomplete: 0 * $20 = $0
I cheated a little bit here and decided retroactively that the half of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please I finished at the very start of the month counts into my total of 4 books. I don’t feel terribly guilty about it since the page counts of most everything I read were high enough that the underlying purpose of reading more and more consistently was met. I’ve been really good about reading when I travel, but less so about when I’m staying put in Savannakhet. This month encouraged me to choose my Kindle over my computer right before bed. Moving forward, I’d like to make this more of a consistent habit, as most of my reading happened in chunks rather than a little bit every day, but not a bad start. Here’s what I ended up reading:
- Yes Please by Amy Poehler*
- I was really excited to read Amy Poehler’s book, given my affinity for her as an actor and how much I enjoyed Tina Fey’s Bossypants. But surprisingly, I didn’t really enjoy this. It seemed extremely self indulgent (even for an autobiography) and relied on the same jokes (like how hard it is to write a book). Frankly, it got kind of boring and I couldn’t wait for it to end.
- Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- I didn’t actually read this, but I listened to the 32 1/2 hour audiobook. Or rather, I devoured it. This was a great read about (amongst other things) art theft and loss and finding meaning and all of that good stuff. Definitely would recommmend as a surprisingly quick read for its length (which translates to ~800 pages).
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
- Style-wise this is a little dense and has more of a technical feeling than what I usually go for in non-fiction, but it was a good overview of a lot of persuasive techniques used in the real world. The main purpose is so the reader can recognize the use of such techniques in the wild and make informed decisions instead of those spurred by impulse or psychological manipulation. It was a nice warm-up to one of the books I’m currently reading, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kanneman.
- Welcome to Nightvale by Joseph Fink
- I’m a huge fan of the podcast, so reading this was an easy choice for me. Beyond the whimsical and often nonsensical world in which it takes place, the story is surprisingly human. It was a little strange reading something that I’d usually listen to as a podcast, but it’s beautifully written and definitely holds its own outside the audio world.
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay*
- A collection of essays about everything from gender to politics to academica to race. I liked the essay format because it was easy for me to pick up and read a little bit every day. A lot of what Gay writes is awfully compelling and she puts into words many sentiments I have but couldn’t quite express. Some of the gripes she has with media and society I can’t fully understand, but they are well-explained and she makes good arguments about her beliefs.
* I read half of each of these, and as math teaches us, 1/2 + 1/2 = 1, so hah.
Goal: Publish a post bi-weekly
Days missed: 3 * $5 = $15
Goal: Participate in NaKniSweMo
Sweater incomplete: 25% * $20 = $5
Of all my goals, this is where I fell short the most, missing nearly half of my intended posts. (So it should be of no surprise that this post is late. :P) There’s still plenty of posts that exist half-written in either my head or in Evernote that will hopefully make it up here eventually (New Year’s resolution, anyone?). Still, I did post more regularly than I had before, so, hey, that’s some progress.
I had a secondary goal to finish the Hitofude sweater for NaKniSweMo (National Knit a Sweater Month). I didn’t finish that either, but made a lot of progress and it’s almost off the needles. I’m not too bummed about that, because I’m more of a process knitter than a product knitter; that is, I knit for the enjoyment of knitting moreso than to create a specific piece. Still, like my Intellectual goal, this did encourage me to knit more and Reddit less.
Study Lao 2 times a week for at least 30 minutes
Days missed: 1 * $5 = $5
Since coming to Savannakhet, my Lao studies had come to a bit of a standstill as it was difficult to find a teacher and I didn’t have much motivation to self-study when I could already express most basic information I needed to on a daily basis. Still, I wanted to keep learning and did manage to find a student that I take classes with a few times a week. This month was definitely an improvement on that front and my Lao is improving (albeit slowly).
Money owed to Bike 4 Kids: $10 + $0 + $20 + $5 = $35
Like I mentioned in my original PIE post, there were penalties in place to incentivize meeting all of my goals. My total owed is $35, which I have donated to Bike 4 Kids. Last week, I participated in this event, biking around Angkor Wat in Cambodia and raising money for Village Focus International, an NGO that works to empower and protect people within Laos. I’ll post more about how the actual race went, but in case you’re interested, it’s still not too late to donate to the event. Since you’re saving all that money from boycotting Starbucks and its blasphemous red cups, you can surely chip in – even $5 is much appreciated.
Thanks for reading about this PIE challenge! I’d encourage anyone interested to give it a try; if anything, it makes you think more about specific improvements or changes you’d like to make. And, you can always reward yourself at the end, as I did, with plenty of pie.