Friday, October 23, 2015

On finishing

I am a man of "to-do" lists, and I have been since I was young; I still remember specifically asking for a notebook when I was eleven or twelve so I could contain my lists, most of which started off with "shower". I always have lists of things that need to be done, whether it's games to play, errands to run, posts to write, movies to watch, bands to investigate, people to see, or projects to finish, and it seems unfortunately that my ambition often far outscales my actual abilities. I'm usually really strong at finishing things when I start them - sometimes doggedly so and occasionally to my detriment - but there are a few things that I have started over the years that I just did not finish. Some things are relatively meaningless or insignificant - video games or TV shows I stopped partway through - but some represent tasks of deeper significance and meaning.

There are many reasons for not completing these different tasks and projects. It's certainly not a matter of not having time; I actually have hated using that phrase to describe not having finished work since I was in Grade 11. It's not a matter of desire, as I have had significant interest in completing many of these projects over the years. It's mostly a matter of circumstance, which manifests itself in many ways; on the one hand, there has been the need to focus on things of more immediate importance, such as church leadership, running summer camps, and managing my teaching career. But perhaps more importantly, the general level of transition and difficulty therein over the past five years has made it much more difficult for me to focus on some of these projects.

On the surface, nothing may seem to have changed - I still don't have a permanent job, for example - but I feel nevertheless that this is a new season for me and that part of what I have the privilege of doing in this season is working on finishing some of these projects. This post, then, is a declaration about what I see as part of the purpose of this season of my life in which I am working as a substitute teacher and not currently in any kind of leadership position in any capacity: to finish some of the things that I have started over the years, whether they are easy and relatively meaningless (as the first several entries on the list are) or they go much deeper and would be far more meaningful for me to finish (as are the later entries).

My hope in writing this post and making these things public is not to shame myself into finishing them or to feel guilty about not having them done. My hope is that sharing them may serve as a kickstart for myself, as well as a way for others in my community to connect with the goals themselves, or at the very least with the idea of having these kinds of goals. I have realized that one of the failings that I have had over the years is in not sharing these things as openly with the people around me, and that community, whether immediate or online, is crucial in creating space in which I (and we) push through adversity toward success. This, therefore, is my attempt to create some space for connection, encouragement, and intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to move toward finishing (at least some of) these projects.

Superficial media


This first group of projects are the lowest priority, mostly involving watching media or playing games. They mostly will not make a big difference to my life, which is probably why I have left many of these unfinished for so long. They are (mostly) the kinds of projects that can be accomplished simultaneously with other, more focus-intensive projects, since they (mostly) do not require exclusive attention to be paid in order to be accomplished. Well, the video games might, but the amount of emotional effort they require is minimal, so let's start there...

Video games: With so many games to play, it can be easy to get distracted and not finish a game, an occurrence which has happened to me too many times over the years. Although there are some platform games that I started and just forgot about (Donkey Kong Country Returns and DKC: Tropical Freeze; Mega Man 9 and 10), most of the games I have left unfinished are narrative games of some sort that require some level of attention to be paid to surroundings and some level of memory of the game in order to succeed. These are the kinds of games that it can be really challenging to pick up and play months later, so they just end up waiting for when I can start them again and then rarely do. Some are games that I just did not play past a certain point (The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks; Metroid Prime 3: Corruption); but there are a few that I legitimately could not finish because I could not pass a certain challenge or boss (Metroid Prime; Metroid Prime 2: Echoes; Star Fox Adventures). Then there's my white whale, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, that I will finally defeat after 15 years using the alterations made to the 3DS version.

Television shows: Aside from shows that I deliberately stopped watching for various reasons (Heroes, Glee, The Office), I have a number of TV shows that I would like to finish at some point. For some reason, I did not watch Friday Night Lights after Season 2; at least I can watch the whole series on Netflix. I have yet to finish the final three seasons of Parks and Recreation for some unfathomable reason, and I've only just started the second season of the Star Trek: The Original Series. I did, however, finish The Newsroom a few weeks ago, so I'm making some progress, and I do not have any intensive dramas that I am currently following, so this seems like as good a time as any to catch up on these shows.

AFI Top 100: Seven years ago, shortly after the American Film Institute released their revised Top 100 list of movies, I wrote that I wanted to watch all 121 movies that appeared either on the original or on the revised list. I have revisited the idea, or at least mentioned it, several times over the past few years as an intention of mine, but I stalled out at fifty, leaving 71 to go - and some of them are still quite embarrassing to have not yet seen. It's not that I haven't had the opportunity to do so; I just haven't prioritized the project while simultaneously significantly lowering the number of movies I actually watch, leaving less room for an exploratory project like this one. This is easily the lowest priority of any entry on this list, but it's still bubbling in the background; maybe I can even get it done before the AFI revises their list again in 2017.

The lost seasons of Survivor: I have two posts that have been in draft status for two years that I think about four times a year, whenever a new season of Survivor premieres or concludes. These posts are about how I would rank the seasons and/or the winners and some of my thoughts on the series; the reason I have not yet posted them is because I have a bit of a hang-up about not having watched several of the early seasons. I have been a dedicated Survivor fan for most of the show's run, but I only started watching every episode consistently starting with the series' eighth season, All-Stars (which was won by Amber Brkich). I had watched most of the first three seasons, and then the next four coincided with the period of my life in which I did not watch any television at all, so I have never seen Marquesas, Thailand, Amazon, or Pearl Islands aside from a few episodes. I know, of course, much of the events of each series even without having seen them, but I still feel like I would need to watch them to really complete those posts properly. I think it would be interesting to go back and watch these so-called "old school" seasons in light of how the game has changed, particularly with some of the contestants playing right now in Cambodia in Survivor: Second Chance, the show's 31st season, so I might embark on this project in the background of some of the other projects that come later on this list.

Community Bead Sprites: I have not done much bead spriting over the past year - I think I have only pulled them out once or twice since moving back to Saskatchewan - but I do have several ideas for projects that have remained unstarted, in part because I wanted to finish the set that I was already working on. That set is the cast of Community as portrayed as 16-bit characters in the Season 3 episode "Digital Estate Planning". I have Pierce and Annie finished, so I only have Jeff, Britta, Abed, Troy, Shirley to go, along with Gilbert, Hilda, and maybe Cornelius if I'm really feeling ambitious. I think finishing this one might help inspire some of the other projects I want to do with Perler beads, so I'm excited to get back into it after a couple of years of relative absence.

Collating, collecting, and organizing


The second group, which are slightly closer to my core than the aforementioned media projects, are mostly focused on sorting and reassembling things that are disorganized at the moment. The effort in this level of projects is far more administrative than it is emotional, and these are easily the easiest to quantify in terms of time required. For the most part, these are the kinds of projects that I could just get done, as long as I take the time to do them, and many of these projects are in some state of completion already. They will not take much to finish, but they will feel really good to have done, so these mark the best places to begin.

Online registrations: I opened up this can of worms about a month ago, and I still have a few hours to go in creating a master list of all of the sites and apps for which I have registered, as well as my usernames, passwords, and other pertinent information for each site (including updating my address from my move over a year ago in some cases). I was astonished at just how many different categories of organizations are represented in this list, much less the number of organizations and businesses themselves, but I made a good start and this is probably the easiest project to accomplish in the whole list, so it's probably where I will start.

Contact Lists: The last time I had updated contact lists with addresses, emails, phone numbers, and other useful information was when I got married over seven years ago, so it's about time that I work on updating all of that information. It should be a little easier now that a lot of my people are buying houses and settling down, but it's still going to take some work to make a list of all of those kids' birthdays. Don't be surprised if you receive a Facebook message in the near future requesting some of those details (and maybe more) so that I can knock this project off the list.

Sorting my digital music: I spent time this summer going through my music collection and clearing out something like one hundred albums to which I no longer listened, so my collection is much more refined and accurate to my current tastes, but there is one area that remains disheveled - my music files on the computer. I have a lot of music in a lot of different places, and I have files that need to be deleted and reorganized and otherwise dealt with at some point. This is definitely an easier one to do, but it takes a level of concentration that does not allow for multitasking, thereby making it harder to accomplish in some sense.

Games Magazines: Since I was twelve years old, I have had a subscription to Games Magazine, a publication that includes word puzzles, visual logic, trivia quizzes, crosswords, and many kinds of other puzzles, as well as commentary on board games, video games, and other general nerdiness. In my first year of teaching, I started copying and collecting puzzles that would have some kind of educational appeal or application. I kept the binder organized for a couple of years, but I let it get out of order and I would like to take a few hours to get it back in order for future use whenever I have my own classroom again.

School Files: I have taught a lot of different subjects over the years at different grade levels in different provinces with different curricula, so I have a lot of files that I have created and accumulated during my years of teaching. I was able to make significant progress at the end of the last school year with my physical papers, but my digital files are still in severe need of some TLC. I also have a lot of files, both physical and digital, that I have procured from other teachers throughout my travels, that are in dire need of sorting. It might only be fifteen or twenty hours of total work, but it will take a lot of mental effort to do it well; still, it will make whatever teaching job I get next that much easier, so I should get cracking on this one soon.

The significant projects


These five final projects are the big ones, the ones that will take not-insignificant amounts of emotional effort, time, and wherewithal to do. They are hard to quantify, as several of them will require far more intangible work of thinking, reflecting, and feeling, which is also perhaps why some of them have remained incomplete for as long as they have. But these are also the projects that will provide me with the greatest sense of accomplishment and that seem to be the most necessary in order to move forward with whatever things I could do afterward.

Prophetic Identity: This is in some ways both the easiest and the most difficult project of this level, but it is arguably the most important, as well as one of the most challenging to qualify and quantify. In 2010, my wife and I had the opportunity to spend a week at Bethel Church in Redding, California at a conference called the School of the Prophets; I know it sounds a little wacky, but bear with me. We had spent some time listening to sermons from Bethel, reading some books, and generally being exposed to the world of the Pentecostal and prophetic churches. We learned a lot that week about the Holy Spirit and working with prophetic people in community, but there were two things that stuck out to me that I still have not yet done.

One was the final word I received from one of the leaders when she looked at my nametag and said that I needed to do some research into my family history and last name. The other was one speaker who talked about making a statement of your prophetic identity - kind of an equivalent to a vision statement for who God has called you to be and what He has called you to do. I have had some semblance of that kind of statement over the years, but I feel that I really need to take some time in prayer reading through words people have given me prophetically over the past six years to see what emerges as significant. I think this process will be important for me to unlock parts of my identity and destiny in the future - maybe even a linchpin for the rest of my life, so it might be significant. (And if this section made no sense, I would love to dialogue about it with you - seriously.)

Scrapbooking my articles from the student press: This project has been around the longest of any on this list - anywhere between eight and fifteen years, depending on when my work was originally published. I wrote for the student press for seven years, and I kept every article that was published during that time with the intent of one day putting them all together in a scrapbook. I have wanted to scan in my early articles and to scrapbook them for future posterity, but for some reason, I have never brought myself around to doing it. This is probably my only really significant project with a lower time requirement and energy required, so it might be a good place to start for this level; plus, it might dovetail well with other projects listed here. I also think it will be encouraging and valuable for me to see just how far I have come as a writer over the past fifteen years, so I have a feeling this will spur me on as I pursue other projects.

Rebranding Life of Turner: My blog is in sore need of a reboot, and it has been for five years (at least). I have barely felt able to keep up content over much of that time, much less re-evaluating the whole site, but I have known for a long time that I need to take some time and rework this entire template from the ground up. I have also known that this project is more about the mental work, since it is now far beyond my ability and desire to actually design the site, unlike my days of mucking about in html code in the early days of my blog. I have realized over the past few weeks in which I have been writing more consistently how much this actually means to me and that I really do want this, so I'm actually putting a timeline on this project, as my hope is to have the new Life of Turner ready and launched by the end of January.

Pot O' Gold: The card game I have designed has mostly been sitting for a year after initial beta testing, and I did state that I wanted to have the revised version available for download as a print-and-play version by the end of this year. I'm not sure if that will happen, but I'm working on getting the site up so that I can get the files prepped so that Pot O' Gold can move past initial testing to the next stage of testing. I still think it's possible to have it ready for some kind of distribution by next summer, and I just want to get it out there so that people can play it; also so that I can start working on the other four designs I have in mind, which include: a very light (and likely heretically tongue-in-cheek) ecumenical card game; a family-style worker placement game with a summer camp theme; a strategic area control game with a theme of Canadian politics; and carrying on the work of finishing a strategic science fiction space mining game that a friend started to design before he passed away.

My (first) book: I have had the concept for five years and the title for almost four, and I even started writing a few chapters back in 2010. My (first, I'm hoping) book will focus on my upbringing in the church and my journeys therein, particularly some of my experiences being in leadership as a millennial in missional communities. No one has used my title yet, and although there are other writers who are disseminating their admittedly somewhat similar journies (Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner come to mind), I have not yet seen anyone do what I want to do with my book, nor have I seen many people from my context (Evangelical millennial in Western Canada) do what I'm doing with this, so I think there will be space for me to move within this sphere. This is one of the hardest ones for me to not have yet finished, but I also realize that this book would have looked very different five years ago than it will whenever I finally finish it, and that having these extra few years of experience will be very beneficial for whatever it is by the time it's done.

It sure seems like a lot when I list it all here, but I feel strangely peaceful despite the apparent amount and level of effort and time that will go into the items on this list. Having them out there makes a difference for some reason, and I'm looking forward to posting updates on how some of these projects go as I now intentionally attempt to complete them. And now that I have written this out, I have given you the privilege and responsibility of being part of this journey, so feel free to check in with me about how any of these projects are going over the next few months, as well as to share the things that you are finishing.

1 comment:

  1. I can help with some of the history of your name and meaning, especially how we came to choose your first and second name. The last name of Turner is easy - it's meaning is a person who repaired the wheels of carts (originally Irish, adopted into English). You've probably heard the story of the family tradition of Frederick, and how your father and I scooted around that. You escaped being a Frederick by that much! And also, I can definitely help with finishing your Pot 'o'Gold game.

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