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Monday, May 27, 2024

Optimizing for joy

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Hello, friends. It has been a l-o-n-g time since I’ve written online. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been writing a ton at Facebook. In fact, it’s as if Facebook has become my personal blog. But that’s about to change. Everything is about to change. Let’s talk about it.

As you’re well aware, 2022 was one hell of a year for me. It was a year of death and destruction. That sounds like hyperbole, I know, but it’s not. It felt as if my world were crumbling around me.

After my mom died in October, I made a vow. I was going to do whatever it took to get myself back to the same mental and physical spaces I inhabited a decade ago. That span of time between 2012 and 2016 was Peak J.D., and I wanted more of it. Maybe I couldn’t achieve exactly the same state of mind, but surely I could get closer than I’ve been the past few years.

Optimizing for Joy

To that end, I asked myself: What was I doing differently then than I’m doing now? I made a list. I dubbed 2023 the year of me. As corny as it sounds, I began to “optimize for joy”. I began to take action. The action was effective.

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Here are some of the things I’ve been doing:

  • I’ve been traveling. I spent some time in Colorado in February, a week in Mexico in March, and I just returned from a month-long solo trip through the Scottish isles, up the coast of Norway, reaching briefly to Svalbard, then ending with a week in Iceland. I did a whole lotta nothing.
  • I’ve been reading. Earlier in the year, I spent a lot of time reading books on mental health and self-improvement. Then I discovered the Nero Wolfe novels of Rex Stout. Wolfe and Stout have helped me rekindle my love of books. This year, I’ve been reading more books than I have since…maybe 2006? It’s great fun.
  • I’ve been exercising. I’ve been hitting the gym religiously three days per week. Sometimes more. Things were frustrating at first, but now I’ve developed some strength and have lost some weight. I haven’t returned to the peak fitness I enjoyed 2012-2014, but I’m getting there. I’m about to shift my focus from strength training to aerobics and flexibility for a few months, but I’ll return to weightlifting by the end of the year.
  • I’ve been hanging out with friends. For a variety of reasons — travel, COVID, moving, etc. — my social life has been lousy for a long time. This year, I’m deliberately making time for friends, both old and new.
  • I’ve been medicating. For years, I’ve resisted using drugs to address my mental-health problems. I’ve always believed that I should be able to dig myself out of the dark, dark holes I get into. Sometimes that works. Often it doesn’t. In April, I asked my doctor for help. She prescribed Wellbutrin. After a rocky start with the stuff, I find that it’s helping me keep my demons at bay. It feels great to feel human once more.

These are the things I’ve been adding to my life during the Year of J.D. There are also things I’ve given up. Those include:

  • Hearthstone. For nine years, I’ve been addicted to Hearthstone, a digital card game. I choose the word “addicted” purposefully. I’ve tracked my play before, and I tend to average two hours of Hearthstone per day. That’s insane. Still, I couldn’t stop. But you know what? The day I started taking Wellbutrin, my urge to play the game vanished. I’ve played a total of two hours of Hearthstone in the past three months, which is a far cry from two hours per day. (I haven’t given up gaming entirely, though. Currently playing Zelda on the Switch and loving it. But it’s not an addictive behavior. Haven’t played at all for a week.)
  • Reddit. I know a lot of people get sucked into Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. None of those have a compulsive draw for me. (I’ve always hated Twitter. I use Facebook sparingly, and really only to share stuff with my friends.) But Reddit? Man oh man, Reddit has sucked a ton of time from my life. I’ll scroll mindlessly for hours looking at dumb stuff. My urge to do so has declined since I started taking Wellbutrin, and the recent actions of the site’s leadership have served as the final straw. I’ve given it up.
  • Get Rich Slowly. That’s right: This time off has helped me to see that I need to give up GRS. Again. I never should have repurchased the site. I can’t explain why — and I don’t need to, honestly — but GRS acts as a weight around my neck. It’s a psychological burden. My life is better when I’m not writing about money.

I thought for a time that I wanted to give up online life entirely. I have some strong opinions about the modern internet and its negative effects on society. I don’t want to be a part of something that I believe is destroying our world. But I’ve realized that I need to practice what I preach.

Practicing What I Preach

You see, I often urge my friends who are angry about the state of the world to do something instead of complaining. If you don’t like how Mississippi, say, does things, then move to Mississippi and contribute to the change. Don’t try to dictate what Mississippi does from the comfort of your home in Oregon. That’s bullshit on so many levels.

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If I were to abandon the internet completely, I’d be surrendering. I’d be saying, “Okay, I give in. The SEO spammers and AI websites and social-media stooges win.” I don’t want to do that. I don’t necessarily want to wage war on these things, but I do want to provide — in some very small way — an alternative to all of the bullshit that’s out there.

Besides, I like to write. I’ve been writing online for 26 years. This is a part of who I am. During my extended hiatus, I’ve felt like a part of me is missing. While traveling recently, I published photos and stories to Facebook every single day. It was fun! It made me realize how much I miss writing for the web.

So, I’m going to return to writing for the web. But I’m not going to write on just one topic. I’m not going to publish at a niche site…like Get Rich Slowly. I’m going to write at my personal blog in a personal style. If there are people who want to read what I write (and even join the conversation), great. If not, also great. I’m going to write for myself — because it’s what I need to do to process my thoughts and feelings, because writing has been a part of who I am for nearly fifty years.

The Bottom Line

I’ve reached an agreement with my business partner, Tom Drake, that gives him control of Get Rich Slowly while allowing me to use my money writing in whatever way I choose. Basically, he’ll take over GRS and do with it what he thinks is best, and I’ll move my online world — my entire online world — to jdroth.com while still being able to use the articles I’ve written in the past.

For those unfamiliar with Tom, in some ways he’s the Canadian me. I’ve been called “the Godfather of money blogging” (and, more recently, “the grandfather of money blogging”). Well, Tom is the Godfather of Canadian money blogging. He’s been writing about personal finance since 2009. Tom runs many sites, but is best known for Maple Money.

Maybe I’ll write something for GRS now and then. But maybe not. When I do, those articles will be published simultaneously at both Get Rich Slowly and at Folded Space. (Folded Space is the name of the personal blog I publish at jdroth.com.) This article, for instance, is appearing at the same time in both places.

So, that’s where I am. I’ve had a happy and productive first six months of 2023. Making this the “year of me” was super smart. I’m in great shape physically and mentally, and things continue to improve. I’m eager to see what the rest of the year has in store…



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