akratic wrote:...I haven't been able to recreate my favorite parts about being in school on my own:
1) being surrounded by smart people who had lots of free time
2) having this simplified set of tasks -- do problem sets, write papers, ace tests, get internships -- and an objective and simple scoring mechanism for them regulated by someone else: A, B, C, D, F. I loved optimizing this game, writing the best paper in the shortest amount of time or learning the material extremely well but extremely quickly and thus freeing up the rest of my time for whatever I wanted.
3) believing that what I was doing was working towards a better future for myself. That if I just succeeded in jumping through these hoops my life would get better.
4) living in the same shitty dorm rooms as everyone else. After graduating when some of my friends started trading most of their time away to live in fancypants mansions, it became harder to see them because they spent so much time working and even moved cities to get higher salaries, and it became harder to pretend we had a lot in common as they made choices so alien to me.
Now as for another part of your question, the bit about will, let me try an analogy with food...
My will is fine for a lot of things, but totally inept in some strange domains like video games and internet use. I could never choose to play or browse for 3 hours and then stop. I just keep going.
... But to answer your actual question without books, without internet, with nothing: I can't do it. You'd have to reach into the deepest parts of my programming and find some fundamental parts of me, like the part that is always striving, always reaching for more, always trying to figure out the next goal, and you'd need to gut these parts...Honestly it just feels like an empty suggestion, like telling someone who is struggling with money issues: "Have you tried just getting infinity dollars? Then you could buy anything you wanted."
...For example, I love playing weekly board games / card games with the right group of people....unfortunately I'm picky about who I play games with: I want fun nerds that are strong, competitive players but at the same time charismatic and entertaining to play with.
...Here is the core sleep problem: if my brain gets going in the middle of the night it cannot be stopped...
tried and failed: meditation...
... but the ability to turn off my brain. As things currently are I can fall into the following nasty cycle:
- stressed about something, so I don't sleep and become tired
- tired from not sleeping so can't solve the original problem, so stressed
The more you post, the more you sound like me.
Down to the uncontrollable monkey brain, the sleeplessness if someting catches on in the middle of the night(#), the exact boardgame group needs, the unproductive habits and the constant need to do something productive instead.
I've cited several of your posts because they highlight some of the similarities between us that caught my attention and because I want to address them specifically.
>>> Going back to school:
Going back to school to do a PhD is NOT going to reproduce that feeling of college IMO. The PhD is vastly different from any former encounters with university. There is much more of a workplace atmosphere and you're surrounded by all the science-weirdos who are not only singularly focused on their topic, stressed out about articles and obscure science, but they're nothing at all like the kind of board gamers you're looking for, say. You have your expertise withint the PhD topic in common, but other than that it's a crap shoot whether you'll find people to bond with. I advice that you try to recreate the 'feeling of school' in a more fragmented manner. For one thing, you're much older than your fellow students (I'm 34 and doing a PhD, the age difference is telling) and given that you react to stress in unproductive ways, you should remove as much crap from your existence as possible while recreating the school feeling. Honestly, the PhD-lifestyle-without-university is EXACTLY the kind of existence I'm trying to manufacture for myself given FI/ERE/freedom to do so.
1) Have you ever visited the stackexchange websites? PLENTY of incredibly talented people with plenty of free time to talk about physics, finance, math, statistics, world building, religion, cooking, programming... you name it. Spend some time answering questions on the SE site that best corresponds to whatever topic you're learning at the moment and you should be able to get your 'gaming fix' on as you get badges, ranks, and reputation on an actual useful site.
2) Makes no sense to you anymore, does it? Why would you impose tasks upon yourself, tasks you can optimize, to free up more free time, when your entire existence is made up of free time? You seem to need some structure in your life, not tasks to optimize. In other words: You're really bad at being bored, a very useful skill to have
3) Odd again. You seem to want to be 'lied to'. You already did something that gave you a better future didn't you? Maybe you're still coming down from worklife expectations and you're temporarily replacing it with something distracting rather than face head on why you need distracting in the first place. Here's a topic for you to work on to give yourself a better future: Learn to relax. It's an acquired skill; I know because I f***** suck at it, but I'm slowly getting there. Being in shape is a better life for yourself. Being an independent individual leads to a better life for yourself. Being an attentive SO leads to a better life for yourself (too). There is no shame in needing structure in your existence after achieving FI. There is only shame in lying to yourself about your true needs throughout your life.
4) You need a social circle and you probably need to realize that, now, you won't find very many completely kindred spirits, but almost every kind person you meet along the way will fill some of your social needs. If there is an ERE community around you might bond with some, but there is no guarantee you'll appreciate the hypothetical ERE people more than the board gamers you might meet.(*) University/college is probably a very convenient structure in the same way the military is. You have to get up, jump though hoops, do ridiculous things and to a large extent you're all equal while you're there. Your yearning for school sounds to me (maybe because I'm projecting so strongly right now) like my own situation when I found out that I was in fact very extroverted, but I'd been surrounded by assholes my entire life. All of a sudden there were all these people with whom I had a lot in common and it was great to hang out with them all the time! Now, I miss them all dearly, 'cause they've gone off to become over-worked consultants or what have you and that social gap in my existence is grating.
(#) If I, for any reason at all, think about playing roller hockey or weightlifting; I'm fucked! My body reacts tangibly to those two topics.
(*) In fact I don't think I'd like a lot of the people on these forums in person(**), in spite of enjoying the online conversation very much!
The medium through which we communicate is very important in the same way that someone might be an amazing colleague but not a good friend. If you can apply that 'filter' to your social circles and realize that you're getting different needs covered different places you should be good.
(**) And I wholeheartedly expect the possible disconnect to be mutual.
>>> Food analogies
There are several stages of understanding:
1) Intellectual understanding; I know I shouldn't smoke. I'm smoking anyway.
2) Emotional understanding; I feel like every smoke is money out the window, hurting my health. I feel like shit after I've smoked.
3) Personality; I'm not a smoker. Why would I be? It would take work to start smoking.
You're at the intellectual understanding of your optimization/gaming 'addiction'. If you don't feel that you should do something about it, it will not, and cannot happen. The emotional stage might be very short in some instances and you go very quickly to someone who: reads, exercises, flosses etc.
The trick, it seems, to get through the emotional stage to the personality is to set up a SYSTEM, not GOALS, that get you where you want to. The intention to work out will not get you there, but as soon as the develop a real, tangible habit of always getting water, kettlebells and magnesium ready in the morning so that you can work out in the afternoon, you're much closer to being a 'person that works out' rather than someone with a goal of getting fit.
The system does the work for you, not your intentions of getting there. Now THERE is something for you to tweak and have a go at. Invent systems for yourself. That should cover the gaming, the structure and your life goals all in one.
Maybe you should also just learn to chill in the same way that you probably learned to do complex analysis at some point?
Saying you can't relax because you'd have to break something fundamental inside you feels to me like hearing some grade school mouthbreather claim that he\she can't do math because he\she isn't wired for it. If you're a driven person, you can drive yourself to learn to chill. If anything it seems like one of the most life-changing things you could teach yourself. But if you are in fact anything like me, you'd probably lie there on the couch and wonder to yourself what you are then, if you're not someone who 'get motherfucking shit done!'. The catharsis is worth it. If nothing else, then to learn how to make a conscious decision to become a different person, and then actually become that person. If you monitor your work efficiency like I do, you'll notice that doing nothing is one the best ways to increase productivity! Then you'll overdo it like I did and burn out, but we'll address that in another journal entry
>>> Meditation and sleeplessness
Meditation is frequently misunderstood 'not thinking about anything', when in fact is a mental tool that sharpens your own reactions to stress, sleeplessness, and frustration. Learning to meditate is incredibly difficult for me, but I can tell when I'm giving it my best because it bleeds over to my entire existence. Meditation is for the mind what proper weight lifting is for the body; you might find excuses, but they're not doing anything for you but keeping you back. Meditation WILL teach you how to properly react and file away stress and focus on what you should be doing, that is what meditation IS!
I have here the best way to make sure you sleep well at night:
Make sure you meditate regularly, have plenty of sex, get plenty of exercise. No TV/ipad/computer one hour before bed time.
By all means shirk/delegate responsibilities to make sure those three areas are sufficienty covered.
Waking up in the middle of the night and speculating about things is PRECISELY the kind of 'suffering' that Mindfulness meditation addresses. Millions of people around the world have that same vicious cycle of thoughts as you do, it seems to be endemic to humans. There are people who know how to teach you how to break out of that loop. Don't be alarmed that all the weak armed hippies are doing it, you should too. Everyone should IMO...