A couple months ago I started playing poker tournaments again (a cash game here or there, but mostly tournaments), not on the regular but once every few weeks or so. I even took a few road trips in part to play poker in different Midwestern locales. I’m still a pretty good tournament poker player, and on the whole (I track my wins and losses) I’m in the black by a couple hundred dollars.
Obviously, walking away after winning feels good and walking away after busting doesn’t feel good. But much like what happened the last couple times I gave up poker… I walked away from the last two or three poker tournaments I played feeling dirty, like I hated some part of myself after doing it.
I don’t have any moral opposition to playing poker, obviously. I don’t feel I’m committing any mortal sin in playing poker. The issue goes back to a point I made in Drawn Dead: It’s a game played mostly by shitty people or at least by people who behave badly when around poker tables. And it’s not just the nature of the game requiring you be cold and calculating. The people in general are people you would not want to be around in general. People get surly and even occasionally fight. Other than playing the game and sometimes making money, poker is not a particularly enjoyable life experience. In getting back into poker I’ve learned that I’m good enough to make money, and that I’d usually rather spend my time doing something else around other (more friendly and trustworthy) people.
After entertaining the possibility of playing regularly again, I decided that poker’s best left as something I do now and then, whenever I’m in the mood for it. It’s an expensive hobby, even if you’re good enough at it to consistently make money (since you need a bankroll for it), and it takes hours away from your day every time you play. If I don’t enjoy it, why do it?
Right now overall in my life I’m at another crossroads. I basically took a break from performing after finishing my training at iO Chicago and Annoyance. I do still play and practice weekly with Sosa Mimosa, but otherwise don’t work on anything else. Many of my colleagues have moved on and work on other things.
I’m not being pulled in any particular direction, especially given all the possibilities require a substantial personal investment of time, money and effort. Shows require an audience that isn’t necessarily there. Projects require willing participants who aren’t necessarily interested in what I want to do. If your successes are met with the same silences as your failures, then what aside from personal satisfaction was the point? I can get mere personal satisfaction from a myriad of other activities that don’t require nearly as much investment.
I long since reached a point in my life where any effort I put towards theatrical practice needs to lead to meaningful results. Morally, financially and otherwise personally, I can’t pump money into classes and attending or producing shows that aren’t going to allow me to do anything substantial. My plan all along from the moment I arrived in Chicago was to train for a year and then work on my own to develop further. I’ve long since passed the peak of the bell curve on the useful volume of training. The only way I can effectively develop now is active and productive practice. I have more than enough information on what I do well and what I need to work on.
What I lack right now is a drive towards something that 1) I want and 2) that I have the ability and opportunity to do. I have vague interests in multiple possibilities that would require substantial effort and practice, but right now I don’t have the ambition to pursue them. There’s little to no foreseen reward on top of doing them for their own sake, and at this stage of my life doing it for its own sake is nowhere near enough reward for me.
I don’t need personal reward from a creative project or performing so much as I need to know my input and work is rewarding and fruitful for others beyond its own sake. And I don’t think any of my peers are in a place where the work I’d want to do is aligned with or rewarding for them… never minding their own current schedules and needs. I’ve worked too much on furthering other people’s ambitions, projects and messages to keep doing that at my own expense. I feel like there’s no give and take, that to keep going was to keep giving and for everyone to keep taking without anything in return.
I admittedly don’t want to continue performing unless I can do the stuff I want to do. I’d rather do nothing than expend time, money and effort on someone else’s ambitions with no personal return.
This is not to say I’ve done nothing with my life. I started running on a not-quite-weekly basis and can consistently run 3.5 miles… not bad for someone who couldn’t fathom running a 5K three years ago.
I did put aside my intermittent fasting (though I still have 16 hour fasts a couple times a week) to implement two new dietary concepts: Bulletproof eating and a ketogenic diet. A bulletproof diet is a strictly clean diet focused around organic meat and vegetables as well as eschewing carbs for healthy organic fats. It is what inspired Bulletproof Coffee, coffee combined with clean butters and fats (I drink coffee and tea with coconut oil). Ketogenic dieting of course is cutting virtually all carbs from your diet and setting a max on protein intake, filling the rest of your diet with healthy fats. This induces ketosis, where your body’s digestion and energy use switches from carbs to burning fats, as well as eliminating body-bloating inflammation that results from consuming carbs and other processed garbage.
When I started 2016 at 185 lb, I set a goal to drop to 160 lb by year’s end. I had done well with intermittent fasting, quickly dropping to 170-175 lb, but I stalled at around 171-174 lbs and couldn’t get below 170 for more than a day. But, after a week of keto, I quickly dropped to 166 lb and even after reintroducing carbs and other occasional garbage, I managed a cruising weight of 167-168. I also find myself sleeping better… not even more hours sleep, but the sleep is deeper and more restful. I also feel less on edge in day to day working life.
Because of cravings and available foods, it’s pretty hard to stick to straight keto for extended periods. With a ‘ride the wave’ approach I’m hoping to extend the periods where I can suitably manage it. I now think I can hit 160 lb easily before the fall.
I am also moving to a new studio apartment near my current Wrigleyville place, which will not only be a life upgrade, but puts me closer to the lake shore, which will better allow me to go for runs and perhaps practice some sports, the latter which I haven’t had the chance to do much of since moving here.
If I’m not going to produce any artistic results, I might as well produce some personal results from improving myself.
I’ve been asked time and again if I have any projects on the horizon and for the last few months I’ve told people a highly condensed version of what you read above, that I’m taking time off for now and at a crossroads as to what I want to do next. I have alluded to resuming active work in the fall, and that is my intention, though I don’t know exactly what will come next. I am glad I’m no longer training and can make time for whatever will come next.
I have some vague artistic ideas, with things I’ve worked on as well as new ideas, but am not interested in sharing them unless I’ve actively decided to work on them and have something to share with people.