Will J. J.

Day-to-day musings and occasional short stories for your delight.


Leave a comment

The End Of The Ten Year Bet

Day 3652

photo (1)

What is ten years? Ten years is two presidential elections, two leap years, two summer Olympics, and two winter Olympics. Ten years is ten Thanksgivings, ten Halloweens, and ten New Year’s celebrations. Ten years is 3652 days. Ten years ago today, when I was in eighth grade and thirteen years old, I made a bet with my cousin David.

For context, here is what the world was like ten years ago: George W. Bush was president. The first iPhone was still two years away. MySpace was the dominant social networking site. You could rent a DVD at Blockbuster. AIM was a part of life. Hurricane Katrina hit. YouTube was founded. Lance Armstrong won his seventh Tour de France. “Hollaback Girl” was the most downloaded song of the year. The sixth Harry Potter book was released, while the fourth Harry Potter movie came out. Among all of this, I made a simple bet.

IMG_3618

At the time, I loved Mountain Dew, so much that I had upwards of four cans a day. David challenged me to go ten years without drinking a single soda, because he didn’t think I could do it. The wager? $5. Why stop at carbonated drinks, I asked, and soon caffeinated beverages were thrown in as well.

The bet began as a stubborn crusade. David had challenged me, and I wanted to beat him. I was thirteen, and ten years was a laughably absurd time span for a bet. I still remember those first days so clearly, when I craved a Mountain Dew more than anything in the world. It didn’t seem possible that I could make it ten years, so early on, I wasn’t aiming for ten years, merely the day I was living. At first, it was all about beating David. He and I were three years apart, but fiercely competitive, and as much as I wanted a soda, I hated losing to David more. In truth, that’s as simple as it was at the start.

Slowly, imperceptibly slowly, the bet became something more. As days turned into months, and months turned to years, it stopped being about David, and it was all about proving to myself that I could. One day at a time, I kept myself in check, and no matter how much I wanted a soda, I refrained. The longer I went, the more I had invested. Soon, I was drinking only water, milk, and juice. What began as a stubborn challenge became a quest of willpower that changed me.

Over the past ten years, I went from being a kid in middle school to an adult in the working world. The bet was by no means my driving force, but it has been perhaps the only constant in my life between then and now. Frankly, I’m a bit sad the bet is coming to an end. In some ways, it has been a shield, and in others, an identity. I’ve been telling people about this bet for ten years, and thousands of people have heard about it. It’s the kind of story that makes for easy conversation at parties and social gatherings. Still, despite the longevity of this bet, it remains a story of individual days, one by one.

photo

Shortly after the first year, I bought a Dilbert, page-a-day calendar, the kind where you rip off each day individually. Seems silly, but with a bet over ten years, you need some way to congratulate yourself for the little victories. I started writing the number of days it had been since I drank a soda on each page of the calendar, and when I’d tear off every page, it served as a reminder of how far I’d come. Nine years later, I’m tearing the final page. I have always been a deeply sentimental guy, and writing this to you now, it all feels very surreal. In some ways, I still feel like I’m that 13 year old kid, but in other ways, it feels like that life couldn’t be further from mine today.

You can never know the full effect of any action, that’s something this bet has taught me. When this all started, I just wanted to beat David, but making that choice to give up soda, something everyone around me drank without question, it sparked something bigger. I began to question things that other people took for granted, and that inquisitive essence has never faded in me. This bet, and the choice to restrain myself, has impacted so many of my choices since then. Alcohol, in particular, was a huge turning point for me. I chose not to drink, knowing that it might mean becoming a social outcast, because I wasn’t ready. Despite the urging of so many friends over the years to share a drink, I have never had even a sip of alcohol.

You might expect that after years spent sober, I might despise drinkers or hold drinking with some negative connotation, but that’s not true. My views toward drinking have morphed considerably over the years, and while I have seen alcohol used in negative ways, I’ve also come to associate it with celebration and joviality. I never grew to hate or judge drinkers; I sought only to understand before making my own choice. In many ways, I feel like abstaining has helped develop me in other ways I might never have explored, because socializing sober for someone as shy as I used to be is a tough task. I’ve never felt that I needed alcohol to be happy, and that’s something I’m very proud of. I didn’t want to drink for the sake of drinking. I wanted to drink on my own terms if I ever did choose to drink, and that’s what this bet has afforded me.

100 days

And now, the question so many have asked me over the past ten years: when the bet is over, what will I drink, or will I ever drink? People have been giving me recommendations and advice for this day for the past ten years. So many have said they thought I was crazy or tried to get me to quit, and lots more have given me drink suggestions. A vocal minority has suggested that I keep on the teetotaler path. So. What am I going to do? The answer will probably surprise many of you.

I have no desire to have soda by itself anymore, but as far as caffeinated and alcoholic drinks go, I’m going to try them. I am going to try things I have never tried. I’ve thought quite a bit over the last couple of years about what I would do when this day came, and in the end, the decision came down to a single question: why wouldn’t I drink? I’ve always found that, if you’re honest with yourself, it’s much easier to be honest with others, and this is something that took me years to be honest with myself about.

Yes, I have never needed alcohol to be happy, but the truest reason why I haven’t ever drank is because I have been afraid of who I might become if I do drink. I have feared losing control. In my estimation, the reason behind a choice is just as important as the choice itself, and fear alone is never a good reason. As of today, I have gone ten years without drinking a single carbonated, caffeinated, or alcoholic beverage, and I am closing the door on a journey that saw me grow in ways I could never have imagined. I owe a great deal to this bet, but it is time for me to say goodbye and welcome something different and exciting. I am going to try some new things, because I want to. After ten years, I believe I’ve earned that right 🙂

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Year End 2014!

Day 3315

photo (11)

Emily and Me 🙂

Hello my friends 🙂 2014 is almost over! Just a few hours more and this year that seemingly just began will be coming to an end. Today I just want to share with you all a few updates on what’s going on in my world and talk a bit about what 2014 meant for me, because it sure was a time of change.

The Missing Chapter One

First off, I have to let you guys know about something new with my book. Any of you who purchased Darkness Reflected when it was first published back in March will notice that it had 27 chapters, but if you bought the book today, it has only 26. This is because I released a second, revised edition with some vital changes that I felt needed to be made after receiving a great deal of feedback from readers. Most of the updates I made were very slight and insignificant, however, I did make one massive alteration: the first chapter from the original release has been completely excised. After listening to the thoughts of many others and approaching the story with fresh eyes, I realized that the first chapter was so abstract and lacking context that it turned people away rather than whetting the appetite, as it was intended to do.

After much deliberation, and in spite of my own personal attachment, I removed that initial chapter. Chapter two realistically served as the better introduction, and I feel that the book is much stronger for this change. If you read the first edition, please do not feel that you have missed out. On the contrary, you are one of the only people who will ever know what that mysterious and forgotten first chapter contained! Consider yourself lucky 🙂 I had intended on posting about the change when I first released the second edition a couple of months ago, but time got away from me. As always, you can purchase Darkness Reflected here to immerse yourself in a science fiction/suspense tale about a troubled man who stumbles into an impossible reality and is forced to confront his own inner demons. Available on all ebook platforms here.

2014!

On the one hand, it’s difficult to believe that this year is already ending, because it all flew by in a flash. On the other hand, it seems unbelievable that so many different major events could have possibly fit into a single year. 2014, perhaps more than any other year yet, was a time of intense growth and adventure for me.
I’m not sure that I could mention all of the noteworthy happenings that came my way this year, but here are some of the most memorable moments from this year that I will take away:

 

Living Solo
After a year in a dorm, two years in an apartment shared with three of the most wonderful people in the world, and six months renting a room out of a stranger’s house, I finally found a place completely on my own. The transition hasn’t always been easy, especially the mind-numbing quietness at times, but overall, it has been an amazingly fulfilling change.

Started this blog in February!

Published Darkness Reflected
After years of writing and planning, I finally accomplished one of my life’s dreams by publishing Darkness Reflected as an ebook. Believe me, the amount of work that goes into publishing a novel, even self-publishing, is just as much if not more than the actual writing. My second time around I will be far better prepared. A fun little tidbit for you readers: I am currently outlining my second novel. Stay tuned!

Went to Yosemite
My sixth trip to the preeminent national park this summer was a great one, taking several new trails and getting some much needed rest after a busy few months.

Published Article on Student Debt
This is an issue that has always been passionate to me, from the moment I first realized that I would need to take out loans for college. When I was given the opportunity to write an article for The Daily Texan on Obama’s Pay As You Earn loan forgiveness program, I jumped at the chance. You can check the article out here.

Old Friends and New
After slowly going their separate ways, the last of my close college group of friends moved away at the end of the summer. It was an emotional time for me, but it also challenged me to spread my wings. I joined several active social groups and met a ton of delightful people, some of whom have since become some of my closest friends. Heather, one of the best new friends I made this year, actually went to the same high school as me, but I never really knew her until recently. I found in her someone much like myself, but who has chosen to chase her dreams at full speed, without worry for caution. I’ve learned a great deal from her. The thing about a full-time life is that such a regimented, regular schedule can slowly drown one’s dreams in the everyday. Heather provided a jump start for me, reminding me why I headed down this path in the first place.

Victory
After 8 years of competitive, long distance running, I finally won my first race. It was a 5k with my office, and my time was not my best, but it was something special to cross the finish line first after so many attempts and close losses in years past. Later in the year, I was able to defend my title with another victory, this one over a minute and a half faster.

A Wedding To Remember
In October, I was delighted to attend the wedding of one of my oldest friends. Katie has been one of the few friends to keep in touch with me over so many years, even when our lives have taken different directions, and I was so happy that I could be there for her special moment to tie the knot with Josh.

To Japan!
In early November, my best friend Fezz headed to Japan for a year long contract as an English instructor. He had been dreaming and fighting for this opportunity for so long, and I am incredibly proud of him for seizing the day and taking advantage. Fezz is, without a doubt, the best friend I have ever had, the kind of person who is always there for you and who forever puts others first. It’s already New Years in Japan now, so Happy New Years Fezz! Hope you’re having a fantastic day 🙂 Anyone who wants to check out Fezz’s own intriguing blog can check it out right here.

Debt Free!
Exactly ten months after graduating with The University of Texas at Austin, I paid off my final student loan. I worked six months at a second job deliverying items around town and paid as much as I could possibly afford per month to get that gargantuan monkey off of my back. Working since I was 15 and managing my finances as carefully as possible for so many years, I was ecstatic to finally reach that mountaintop. This also led to me achieving another life goal of mine just yesterday, setting up my own retirement plan 🙂

9 Years
Earlier this month, on December 3rd, I hit the ninth anniversary of my ten year bet. In case you are unfamiliar with my bet, I wagered $5 with my cousin on December 3rd, 2005 that I could go ten years without drinking any carbonated, caffeinated, or alcoholic beverages. Over nine years later, I’m still going, and in less than a year this epic journey will come to an end. If you have wondered why I include a day counter at the top of every post in this blog, it is because those days correspond with the number of days I have been going on this bet 🙂

Emily!

One of the first group meetups I went to in the summer was a book swap at a local ice cream shop. Everyone brought their own book, placed it in the pile, and took a new one. I walked in and started chatting with a few folks about the books they brought. Only two seats away sat a spellbinding, articulate woman with curly, brown hair and a passion for science fiction and fantasy. You guys may have figured this out about me, but I’m quite a nerd, and I knew immediately that I had to know more about this woman. As I soon found out, her name is Emily, she had recently moved to Austin, and she is one of the most social and welcoming people I have ever met. We became fast friends, with me showing her around the sights of Austin and her expanding my horizons one new experience at a time. I was attracted to her energy and intelligence from the outset, and with every day around her, I was more and more intrigued by this dazzling person.

It was a couple of months before I asked her out. I was so nervous. I’m far too genuine to be smooth. Truth be told, I called her on a Monday night after I had decided that I just needed to do it already, but when I called, we ended up talking for a full hour and a half about everything from action movies to coworkers without me ever bringing it up. Finally, I just jumped in and asked, flat out. I’m quite certain that I caught her off guard, and it took a moment for her to collect herself. Never has my heart raced as in that moment, and when the moment passed, she said yes! Huzzah! Thus began an epic relationship through time and space, and in mid-October I asked her to be my girlfriend.

Between roller derbies, hiking through extravagant wildernesses, dining at some of the quirkiest eateries in Austin, dressing up like Robin Hood and Indiana Jones, nerding out about any number of topics, and countless, shared moments of infinite treasure, these last three months with Emily have been filled with happiness. I am very fortunate to have Emily in my life, and I very much look forward to what this next year has in store 🙂

I hope all of you guys have a fantastic New Years, and I’ll be back soon!


4 Comments

The Ten Year Bet

Image

 

Day 3000. Day THREE THOUSAND!!

 

Feels like a long time when you say it like that. I guess that’s just how life goes. You spend your time looking forward and don’t realize how far you’ve gone until you look back. Anyone who follows this blog will notice that I have a day count at the beginning of each post. While I only recently started this blog, this count is nothing new. In fact, it has been one of the only sources of permanency in my life. Allow me to explain.

 

Image

Me, David, and Bryan in 2005

 

When I was 13, I bet my younger cousin David $5 that I could go ten years without drinking any carbonated beverages. At the time, I was neck deep in mountain dew all the time, and I’m sure David must have thought I would lapse back into my old ways after a few days. But I didn’t. I even upped the ante for myself, adding caffeinated drinks to the challenge.

Over the past 8+ years, people have asked me countless times why I didn’t bet more, but it wasn’t about the money. It was about proving to myself that I could. What began as a test of will power has grown into something much more. I can honestly say that the choice to take on that challenge was one of the most influential decisions I have ever made. It forever altered my perception, in ways I would never have imagined at the time.

When you willingly choose to step away from something everyone else buys into, even if that something is tiny, it plants a seed. You start to question things that other people don’t think about. You realize that there are other ways to live, and you are empowered to choose a life for yourself. What you do consistently becomes you, whether you make that decision consciously or not. I broke one of my biggest habits at the time, and that opened the door for me to be more conscious of my actions moving forward. I started thinking about my impact on the world, and I became a stark advocate of recycling and other technologies to reduce environmental destruction. I went exploring, scouring my world for the treasures others didn’t see. I started informing myself of current events and researching alternative ways of thinking because I wanted to understand both sides of contemporary conflicts. Essentially, I changed myself into something different than anything I had ever known, because I saw that I had a choice.

Don’t misunderstand me; fighting the flow is not easy. It can be a lonely path, and anyone who chooses to blaze their own trail must be willing to take that risk. I chose to cut soda out of my life, and that seemingly minor decision laid a foundation for me to stay away from alcohol when I reached high school and college, a choice I likely would not have made otherwise. I knew that not drinking might make me a social pariah, but I was willing to take that chance. It was more important to me to keep alcohol out of my body than it was to go clubbing or hit up the craziest parties, and I remain a teetotaler to this day. I chose a different path, one I have never regretted.

 

Image

Bryan, me, and David last August

 

I am not trying to say that what is popular is wrong or that you should give up drinking. What I am saying is that mindlessness adherence to anything is almost never good. Recognizing and acknowledging our choices and the effects they have on us and the people around us is an integral part of being a responsible human being, and it can start with something as little as soda. Three thousand days ago, I made a choice, and that choice has meant everything for me.