Today was a day. Literally my first step out the door I slipped on black ice and gave myself a possible slight concussion. So knowing I’m gonna be woken up throughout the night (because comas) while I plan for precalculus and wonder just how long I can put off grading those related rates calculus quizzes, I figured I might as well write a bit.
Because I had an amazing idea in the elevator this morning!
Some things we can’t choose–our skin color, our parents, our aptitude for eyesight and how soon we need glasses, or perhaps how soon we lose our hair, or perhaps how long it takes us to remember what we were doing before we completely forget it. But some things we can choose–what we consume, how we spend our time, what we study.
This isn’t a list about choices. This is a list about all those things chosen for me–things that maybe I would’ve done differently had I the foresight to know better, the insight into my own destiny as the world shaped it for me.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written about my goals this year, and probably for good reason: Since I wrote about them last, they’ve mostly all crumbled away. But with every defeat comes a new perspective which is, after all, akin to victory in its own right, and I think one last look back at my goals this year will help me prepare for next year.
It’ll be a painful trip for me–in more than half my goals, I’ve had complete failure and that’s hard to face–but only through hardships can we truly force ourselves to grow.
I was once told all of calculus, and by extension all of mathematics, was built upon an assumption, and that should this assumption prove false, everything we know about mathematics, physics, the world as a whole would just crumble into nothingness and we would be left to flounder in a world of unknown possibilities and frightening realizations.
The truth is that was all before I became a math major and learned this is just a staple fact of axiomatic math: We make initial assumptions, build systems upon them, but acknowledge that they only hold when those foundational axioms are true. (That’s why there’s multiple geometries–such as Euclidean and hyperbolic, etc.) So the world won’t come crashing down in fire and brimstone. We just know the rules won’t always apply.
The point of any of this is not at all mathematical–but factual. Like Tolkien posited, a reader will only believe so long as the writer has sufficiently sowed a willing suspension of disbelief in the reader–the notion that, for a moment, we will ignore the rules we know in favor of the rules we wish to believe. For a brief few moments, dashing from word to word across the page, we forget that reality has bounds and for a moment become limitless.
I’ve lived my own life as both reader and writer: I’ve laid a foundation of beliefs upon basic axiomatic assumptions, and as I write these words, I fear I’m losing hold of my own willing suspension of disbelief.
Last night Rosh HaShanah began, the start of the Jewish year 5774. For most this meant traveling to services, eating apples and honey (for a sweet and prosperous new year), and hearing the shofar–a ram’s horn–blown. For me it meant none of the above.
I could easily steer this conversation in about five directions, depending on how I choose my next few words, and since each road isn’t incredibly long and all equally relevant, my task now is to touch each of them in turn.
It’s hard to admit it was last year when I last mentioned my trip to Belize in the spring (and I had to say it–the joke’s too good not to). On the bright side, with many thanks to my contributors, I’ve reached twelve percent of my fundraising goal! If you’re able to help, you can make a donation here. If you’re still not convinced, keep reading and hopefully I’ll change your mind.
Should the world end tomorrow, today will have been my last day to live. But what should my thoughts matter against the multitude? There were millennia before I existed, there shall be millennia after I exist, and what bit of information I contribute to the whole shall only be conserved according to the laws that govern it.
Against the multitude, I am nothing.
Yet in this instant I am something–and so I have been for eternity.
I figured I’d update you all on my progress sooner than this–but I’m not surprised why I’m only here now. I haven’t written anything today. (Please ignore for the moment I’m an afternoon-evening-night kind of writer, so it’s not late enough in the day for this to be atypical yet.) And yesterday? My smallest wordcount all month. Yes, I was riding a night of no sleep, I had work and a workshop and they both overlapped, and I was preoccupied by math and hexaflexagons all day, but I wrote fewer pages than I had on any other day all month.
I’d finally come upon my story: I saw a name and I saw a scene. Snow. Nighttime. The auroras. And then–quite literally–the sky was falling and things were falling into place.
Today began NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month–and so far I’ve won each of the six years I’ve participated since 2006. It’s become something I look forward to every year, the only time I truly give myself permission to do something I love just for the sake of loving it without allowing anything–or anyone–to get in my way. It’s selfish, but cathartic: In years past, I’ve discovered the story I write becomes a time capsule capturing my life at its moment of conception.
But I’m not here to preach about why I NaNo. I’m here to start an adventure–and to bring you along for the ride.
In two days the month will change from October to November when the clock strikes midnight and National Novel Writing Month will begin–and it’ll also be time for me to re-evaluate my goals for another month. November is oft a time of intense chaos, and not just because of NaNoWriMo, so I figured I’d cheat fate and make this early as opposed to late.
I’ll begin at square one: My goals for this month.