How Do You Measure, A Year In The Life?

In the past couple of years I have shied away from personal things on this blog. And I don’t believe I have ever gone that deep outside of my experiences that I deemed relevant to being Gay and Mormon. But over the years this blog has evolved from a personal journal, to a blog about living Mormon as a celibate Gay man, to embracing my sexuality, to a rant-blog about politics, sexuality & spirituality, to this new iteration. Namely a blog on “The thoughts of someone who is always looking for more data.” Let me take a moment to tell you why I picked that tagline.

Over the past 9 months I have moved 3 times, From DC to San Francisco to Ann Arbor and now back to DC. In each of those moves I have completely uprooted myself from my surroundings, my friends, my job, and pretty much everything I knew, starting out witha  fresh clean slate. Sure that might sound nice, but it also is terrifying sometimes. It was in this fear that a couple of months ago I realized that all of this moving, all this shifting around had left me pretty much focused on the short-term. Not even the short-term of a year, but more like the next month … maybe two.

During this realization I recalled an article I had read by Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired magazine, called “The Quantifiable Self.” In it he discusses a group of people dedicated to “self knowledge through numbers,” people who collect data on every aspect of their lives (when they go to bed, when they get up, what they eat, when they eat, how they feel, what the weather was like, where they went, etc.) and then cross-tab it so that you can learn that when you eat avocados you feel depressed and when you eat oranges you are happy. The do this on a massive scale so that as you collect more and more data using automated tools your database grows to the point of identifying quantifiable aspects of your life. The concept is to run countless experiments with yourself and use the data you collect to improve your life just a little bit each day.

Also during this realization I was reading the Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert in which there is a class of people known as “mentats” who are human computers. Think of Rain Man mixed with a photographic memory and IBM’s Watson with the personality of Sherlock Holmes. Basically the type of character that already draws me in based on their thoughts and not on their physical talents mixed with the long-term generation planning that comes with that rational thought.

Together these two aspects helped me to decide that I was going to start collecting data on myself and start becoming more quantified. To an extent I have already started doing this, for instance I know that avocados give me gas to rival Skelator after a breakfast burrito, while guacamole seems to have no effect. I just ordered a “FitBit” device that should help me keep track of some of this data, and until I get into a habit of it by doing a little bit each day, I have the community at The Quantified Self to help me get going.

Hopefully this will provide stability, consistency, and at the very least, more insight into my entire being so that, just like this week, I am not blindsided by traumatic memories like my parents divorce 10 years ago today, but instead can prepare for them and learn techniques, food, activities, and data-driven facts to combat the feelings of depression that bring me down.

And so it is with that concept, and that mentality, that I have redesigned my blog yet again to a place where I focus on data to try and influence both my life and the world at large by substantiating my claims to views with facts, not speculation.