Each Morning

I used to turn off my alarm on “days off” and sleep in, but at some point, I stopped doing that. Now, my alarm goes off at 6:15 am Sunday-Saturday. Sometimes I hit the snooze button a couple of times, particularly if the night before was a long one, but generally I pull myself away from my partner’s warm body and get the day started early.

In the last couple years, there has been a slow shift in how I view the world and my time. This shift was almost certainly started by (or at least accelerated by) the two-year bicycle ride I was on but it has continued into my more traditional life here in Wilmington. When I was on the bike ride there were no days off because my job was to live life to the fullest. My schedule was not determined by a paid job, it was determined by the sun and weather and geography. It would have been easy to slip back into the

After we stopped in Wilmington tt would have been easy to slip back into the compartmentalized world that I left in Los Angeles. My schedule could have been defined by my job, but I think that would have been a mistake. As a human, I get no days off because my true job is to live a good life to the fullest. How I make money is certainly part of that, but it isn’t the most important part, it is simply something that must be accomplished like gardening, writing, socializing with friends, travel, and pleasure.

We each get 24 hours during the day to live life and it seems a waste to spend it sleeping. Sleeping is enjoyable, but its primary function is to restore our bodies so that we can accomplish other things. It is much like food in that way, a necessity that can become unhealthy when overused. I don’t remember what night last week was the most enjoyable, but I remember a great cup of coffee watching the sun rise over the woods in my backyard or having time to play with my dog or sitting on the porch reading a book or writing a blog post.

Life is rarely lived between the sheets (with a couple of notable and highly enjoyable exceptions). I am not a morning person, it takes effort to rise each day, but I am always grateful for it. When I look at the clock and it is 8am and I have already accomplished things it feels good, and it feels even better to know that I have an entire day ahead of me to take advantage of. Our lives are more than how we measure the day or week or month. Each day is a holiday if we let it be, an opportunity for celebration and joy, and an opportunity to get going with our most important work: living life to the fullest. And that means waking up.

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Habit Building

According to the research cited in “The One Thing”, it takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit. I realize that there is some variance (the complete range was 18 to 254 days depending on the person and difficulty of the new habit), but that 66 days seems like a good goal to shoot for. Using that benchmark I decided to try and form new habits by doing them every day for 66 days. So far, I’m pleasantly surprised.

I’ve gone for a run every morning for the last 34 days and it is starting to feel like a habit. Most days I don’t even register that I put on my running shoes. There are certainly tough days, particularly the two days I was hungover and the couple of days it was raining, but I’ve found Instagram and Snapchat help with that. I little bit of bragging on social media helps get me moving. The runs weren’t always record setting, sometimes it was only 1-2 miles, but most days I was in the 3-4 mile range and even hit six miles a couple times. So far, this is my biggest success with habit forming.

My morning run leads naturally into my next habit, taking cold baths or showers. For the last 20 days, I have had either a bath or a shower with only the cold water turned on. It is still kind of miserable in the beginning, but my body is getting acclimated to it and I find myself getting bored before getting too uncomfortable.

I have also blogged every day for the last 19 days. This certainly doesn’t feel like a habit yet, but my mornings have a feeling of incompleteness when I don’t write. Writing is also getting easier as well, the floodgates of my mind are opening up and I’m coming up with ideas as I consume more.

Which brings me to the next habit I’m working on: reading. I’ve read every morning for the last two weeks or so. I shoot for a simple 10-20 pages while enjoying my morning coffee, but sometimes I get a lot more than that in and sometimes it is less. The important thing seems to be that I sit down and open a book.

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but there are two planning issues that help me complete my habits. The first is preparation ahead of time. Before going to bed I set my running shoes and books next to my reading chair, make the coffee and put it in the refrigerator, put a fresh towel in the bathroom with my work clothes, set out my running clothes next to the bed, and prep my desk area by closing all documents on my computer except for WordPress and clearing my desk completely off to eliminate distractions or busywork. Taking care of the prep ahead of time allows me to mindlessly go about my routine in the morning.

The second planning issue is to have all my habits fit together like puzzle pieces that form the routine. I wake in the morning and pour a cup of coffee. I sit in my reading chair where my books are waiting for me and drink the coffee. After I finish drinking coffee I put on my running shoes (which are conveniently next to my chair) and go for a run. After the, run I am in desparate need of a shower so I take my cold bath or shower. Then I get dressed in my work clothes and sit down at my desk to write.

There are a couple of other things I’m working on as well, including my meditation practice and learning Spanish, but I am not holding those to the “66 Day Standard” yet. I don’t want to overload myself and it is nice to have a few things that I can miss over a rough weekend or a busy day and not feel too guilty about it. I also have a shit-ton of other things that I want to build into habits but haven’t really started yet, but those will come later when these habits are securely in place or need to be replaced.

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Be a Ripple in My Pond

There was a time in my life when I hated how interconnected humans had to be. For me, true strength came from a sort of perverse rugged individuality where emotions were banished and isolation was the ideal. I heard phrases like “no man is an island” and my response was “no, but it would be better if we were”. If each human interaction is a ripple on the pond of life I preferred a still pond or, at the most, one with tiny ripples caused by interactions the size of sand. But, as my life progressed I began to realize that a still pond is a stagnant pond, and stagnation is death. A stagnant pond is one where foul smells emanate off of toxic growth. Isolation is where the worst ideas take root and breed with other bad ideas.

Now, I enjoy the vibrancy of humans (even if my introvert batteries wear out quickly and I’m often exhausted) and I find it beautiful how our different interactions can spread and collide. Instead of seeking sand or stillness in my pond, I seek boulders that cause deep experiences and many rocks scattered around. I want quality and quantity ripples in my life, and seeing those ripples take new forms is a wonder.

Take, for example, my friend Jules (name changed). I met Jules on the two-year bike trip I took when she volunteered to host us via Couchsurfing.com. In the beginning, she was just another random host, we’d stayed with dozens at that point and it was impossible to tell which would be lasting friends and which would be an encounter that faded into the past with little memory of the experience. Sure, we had a good time drinking at a local pub and chatting about life, but my partner had done that with lots of folks over the thousands of miles we cycled. When we left her home I had very little reason to believe that all of our lives would be meaningfully altered by the experience.

Well, Jules kept in touch with us via Facebook and Snapchat sexting, and over the following years, our friendship grew deeper. Then, when she had the time, she went on her own little adventure that had a stop with us in Wilmington. While she stayed with us she found a job with a traveling circus that happened to be in town and she decided to travel with them for a while. That adventure took her across the country and introduced her to new people, one of whom she is now dating and cycling across the country with.

So, simply by opening her door to two random people (and a dog) her life was forever changed, and so was ours. I’m sure we can all look back at minor decisions or lucky chance that shaped our lives and made it more vibrant and beautiful. The random dorm roommate assignment who later introduces you to your spouse. The random military post assignment that brings you to a new state where you find the perfect college. Each experience we share with others vibrates through existence and that vibration stirs the pond to allow for healthy life. We all have a story and those stories are made better (and we are made better people) when our stories interact with each other.

This all reminds me of the words “sonder” from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

sonder

n. the reaization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own – populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness – an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling dep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

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What Needs to be Done

It still amazes me how easily and consistently I ignore advice even when it is repeated from multiple sources over and over again. For example, as I struggle to grow and reach my potential there are two pieces of advice that have come up time and time again in books and conversations: block off time for only your craft and find a mentor.

Yet, I continue to ignore that or procrastinate it or justify not doing it or fill my time with filler work that isn’t truly important. I’ve never been good at taking other people’s advice or learning from their mistakes, I always seem to learn the hard way (cue: dcTalk). Instead of blocking off significant time to write daily I just pump out a blog post and call myself a “writer”. I know I should be spending 4 hours a day staring at a screen, showing up consistently so that the mighty Muses will know where to find me, I know what I should do, I know I have the ability to do it, but yet I neglect it. Part of me is scared… scared the inspiration will never come, scared that art is beyond me, scared that the time will be wasted… so instead I guarantee that inspiration won’t come on my own terms, I stay firmly planted away from frontiers of my own mind and potential, I waste the time myself.

Similarly, I avoid looking for a mentor. Part of it is a genuine ignorance to where to look. How do I find someone to keep me accountable? I’ve never really had mentors in my life. I love my father, he is a great man, but our lives are so different that he can’t really provide guidance. The relationships I’ve had with religious leaders have been primarily harmful to my development and I’ve never been involved in sports. I had an Army sergeant that was a bit of a mentor, as well as a college professor but it would feel so strange to reach out to them and I don’t think they have the skills to help. I guess I could pay for a life coach… but that feels weird in a way, I’m not sure why. Maybe that old adage “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” is true and I’m not ready (but how do I get ready), or maybe that statement is spiritual nonsense.

I wish I could say this blog post is a recommitment to fixing my problems, but it really isn’t. It is simply me doing some introspection and voicing my frustrations. Maybe someone out there has advice? It is rare that I open myself up for advice* in a broad way like this, but feel free to email me (pjneiger@gmail.com) or send a message to my SurveyMonkey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH). Blargh.

*I actually loathe people who offer unsolicited advice. It is one of my only pet peeves.

Alcohol – Revisited

Last week I decided to take a week off of drinking. I wasn’t perfect at abstaining for seven days, but I think it was an overall success. I didn’t drink any alcohol Monday-Thursday, shared one beer with my partner on Friday, drank 5 beers during my calorie splurge day on Saturday, and split two beers with my partner on Sunday. Overall, I drank six beers, which is a significant reduction from 21 beers I had the week before. To put that in calorie and financial terms, I spent $30 less on beer and consumed 2,325 calories less. Over a month that would amount to $120 and 9,300 calories, or 1/3 of my rent and 3 lbs. Or, to extrapolate it out even further, if I take that $120 each month and put it into my Wealthfront investment account I’ll have about $1,650, which would basically pay for a big chunk of our honeymoon to Iceland. And, I’ll be about 36lbs lighter… which is actually kind of ridiculous because then I would way 115lbs, which is unhealthy, but you get the point. (Or if I put that money into Ethereum I would be a bazillionaire by August)

Now, I have no intention of abstaining completely from alcohol. I don’t think that is necessary or practical for me, but I do want to continue to trim out “unnecessary” beers.

So, what is “unnecessary”? Basically, the beer that I drink because I’m bored, stressed out, feeling slothful, mindless drinking, or when I’m feeling uncomfortable in a public setting. If I can work towards eliminating that type of drinking then I think it will further my other goals, whether they be my financial, work, physical fitness, mental health, or social goals.

Another way to look at it is to list out the situations where I think having a beer is more appropriate for me. I don’t think it needs to be a special occasion, but I think there should be a reason and I want to consciously ask myself before cracking one open “why am I going to drink this?”

Here is my incomplete list of reasons when I can justify drinking, but I still want to stick to 1-2 total in a day:

  • Splitting a high-quality drink with my partner while watching a movie
  • Out socializing with friends (in moderation)
  • While doing yard work in the hot sun
  • Special occasions like parties or events at the local bottle shop
  • My calorie “cheat day” (I’m on the fence on this one… it may not justify drinking but I am also not going to berate myself if I drink)

Hmm, that’s all I can come up with. That’s a much smaller list than I expected. Oh well, the better I get at drinking in moderation at appropriate times (and maybe getting wasted during super special occasions), the healthier my waistline and my pocketbook will be.

Wanna hear my thoughts on some random controversial subject like abortion? Got a question for me that is too personal to ask directly? Do you just want to tell me that I’m not living life correctly? Send me an anonymous message and I’ll respond on my blog! Just fill out this simple form on SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) and if you need inspiration check out the previous questions that I’ve answered here and you’ll see that no subject is off limits.

Our Energy Should Be Spent on That Which We Can Change

I had a Facebook friend respond to a post I made about circumcision in a way that I felt warranted a blog post response. This is kind of rare for me because usually Facebook comments are only slightly a step above the comment thread on media websites and very little value comes from engaging people in a public argument.

**Side Note: The person who made the comment is someone that I’ve never met in person. I met them through my brother and playing D&D online. One of the amazing things about D&D, particularly a group that is kind of randomly assembled, is it brings together people from a wide variety of backgrounds. My current group is made up of people that range in age by probably 30 years, are different races, genders, birthplaces, and economic backgrounds. It is a melting pot. Anyway, on to the meat of the blog post**

The post that my friend commented on was about circumcision. This isn’t my first time posting about this topic, but it is still one of the topics that seems to bring a lot of disagreement, much to my surprise. I am against circumcision for a variety of reasons, but I realize many people disagree. My friend posted this in response to the topic:

It’s so weird I’ve never heard you once post about how women’s clitorises are being removed completely by a huge portion of the world population primarily in the middle east, yet you won’t stop posting about a little bit of foreskin. Your views seem so intolerant of western culture. I’m not pro-foreskin removal per say but it’s absolutely nothing compared to clitoris removal. I’m not saying you are pro-clitoris removal either, I’m just saying one issue is obviously more pressing.

Okay, whew, there is a lot to unpack here so let’s get started. First, a quick correction: transgender men often have clitorises too, it isn’t just a female body part.

Alright, it shouldn’t be weird that you haven’t seen me post much about female genital mutilation if you understand my personal life philosophy. I have posted about FGM before, but it is true it isn’t as often, that’s because I believe that energy should be used on the things in life that we can actually change. Awareness without action is worthless.

I can’t stop FGM throughout the world because, like the commenter said, it is happening primarily on the other side of the globe. I don’t have many, if any, Facebook friends there and I don’t have the resources to travel there. Basically, to post something about FGM would be nothing but signaling to like-minded people that I agree with them. That has some value in some cases, but not in this case because, again as the commenter said, I am against FGM, for many of the same ethical reasons that I’m against circumcision. We should not prioritize our energy into things based on how evil they are, we should prioritize our energy into things based on how much we can actually affect change. This is the same reason that I would take care of my wife when she has the flu over trying to find someone in Cameroon that has cancer and help treat them. The latter task is nearly impossible and would cost a considerable amount of resources and time, even if I recognize having cancer is worse than having the flu.

I think the world would be a better place if less focus was on “awareness” and more focus was on action. It might feel good to share articles proclaiming your disgust for the treatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt or the LGBT community in Chechnya, but that does little more than provide signaling to your group that you share their values. That might make for good conversation around the pre-church service coffee table or over avocado toast and mimosas at lunch but it doesn’t help save the lives of those in need.

So yes, I choose to focus on the things that I think can have an impact on the world. I share articles that are applicable to people in my life and I try to present my point of view in a challenging, but loving way. Now, that brings us to the second main point, that I am somehow “intolerant of western culture”. First, a quick correction, circumcision is not part of “western culture”. It might be part of the American and Canadian culture, but the vast majority of “western culture” (however you define that) has low rates of circumcision. In fact, circumcision is primarily done in Africa and the Middle East, so if we are looking at numbers it is primarily part of the Arab culture.

But, that doesn’t address the complaint that intolerant to western culture. The answer to that, like all things, is kind of nuanced. Basically, yes and no. I don’t think I’m intolerant to western culture but I don’t think we shouldn’t criticize the parts of it that are wrong. Society is ever-changing, there is no end to western culture, and the most appropriate people to institute criticisms and change are those within the system.

Americans should be the primary ones to criticize and fight for change within the US.
Christians should be the primary ones to criticize and fight for change within the Church.
Students and teachers should the primary ones to criticize fight for change within the schools.
Police officers should be the primary ones to criticize and fight for change within law enforcement.

Fighting for improvement within your group doesn’t make you a traitor to the group, it makes you a hero. When someone from the outside tells us how to live our lives then we bunker down and fight harder, even if they are right. But if someone within our life tells us ways to improve then we are more willing to listen. Change in society, much like the individual, comes from the inside. It is like Christ said in Matthew 7:5 “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”. We should constantly aim to improve the world in which we live, starting with the spheres of influence in which we are closest to so that we can be an example to other places and provide shelter and strength to those in need.

Wanna hear my thoughts on some random controversial subject like abortion? Got a question for me that is too personal to ask directly? Do you just want to tell me that I’m not living life correctly? Send me an anonymous message and I’ll respond on my blog! Just fill out this simple form on SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) and if you need inspiration check out the previous questions that I’ve answered here and you’ll see that no subject is off limits.

Divorce Selfies

Yesterday I shared on Facebook an amazing Buzzfeed “article” about Divorce Selfies (also, Bill Murray). Basically, people are getting divorced and taking (mostly) happy pictures of themselves with their ex. There were a few awkward ones where it appears that one party either wasn’t ready for the picture or didn’t really want a divorce. You can’t really tell what’s going on in all of them, a picture may be work a thousand words but those words may not be accurate, but I really love the happy ones.

I think the legal institution of marriage is going to continue to weaken and become more temporary in our world, and that isn’t a bad thing. As a society, we need to recognize that people change and the person we were when we sign a marriage contract (often at a super young age before our brains are fully formed) may not be the same as the person we are 10, 20, or 50 years later. Loyalty to a relationship in which you are no longer happy or no longer helps you grow as a person is not a noble trait. And, as people start to live longer and longer as we inch towards immortality the idea of a committing to an infinite unknown will see ludicrous (check out “The Postmortal” by Drew Magary for a cool dystopian novel that touches on this issue). Additionally, friendship should survive a breakup (as long as nobody was abusive). It is better to end a marriage and remain friends than remain married and end up loathing each other.

I know some people will object to divorce because to them it is a spiritual institution. That is great for those people and a choice they made, but when marriage became a legal institution with benefits that are provided by a secular government the “spiritual” part of it became irrelevant to divorce. I’m not sure how marriage became a legal institution in the United States. I’ve heard all kinds of theories from conservatives wanting to prevent black and white people from marrying each other to the government wanting to discriminate against Mormons to men wanting to be able to legally own women to Christians wanting special treatment under the law, but why it came to be is irrelevant. If something is a legal institution in the United States it is going to expand to include everybody equally (ie Marriage Equality) and people are going to develop a way to alter or leave the contract.

Maybe this should be a lesson to people who want their particular beliefs or institutions to be protected by law. When you get the government involved the incentives may not be what you expect. I think a lot of religious institutions are starting to recognize that, particularly Christianity which has been given special treatment for 200 years. Fox News may claim that there is a “War on Christians” in the United States but that simply isn’t true, the power that Christians hold in this country should never have been concentrated in their hands. They are losing power, yes, but they are losing power they should never have had.

So yes, people are going to get happily divorced and members of the LGBT community will get happily married. Satanists are going to be able to start clubs at high schools and put up monuments on state property as long as Christians can. And as long as city council meetings begin with a prayer then pagans are going to be able to participate. Of course, the simplest solution is to get all religious practices and symbolism completely out of government, but I somehow doubt that will happen any time soon.

Wanna hear my thoughts on some random controversial subject like abortion? Got a question for me that is too personal to ask directly? Do you just want to tell me that I’m not living life correctly? Send me an anonymous message and I’ll respond on my blog! Just fill out this simple form on SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) and if you need inspiration check out the previous questions that I’ve answered here and you’ll see that no subject is off limits.

Alcohol

I’ve decided to take a week off of drinking.

Drinking hasn’t particularly harmed my life recently or anything, though I could certainly go without the extra calories and drain on my finances. I haven’t made poor decisions while drinking, it isn’t hurting my job or my relationships, I haven’t been drinking in excess. But, I’ve noticed something more subtle going on.

I find myself craving it, which is a new experience for me. I’ve never had much of an addictive personality and I’ve been able to stop everything from meat to tobacco to alcohol to video games to masturbation without really much of a struggle. So, this change in my relationship with alcohol kind of terrifies me, and it has been going on for a while.

I’ve spent the last few months trying to justify it away and pretend it “isn’t that bad” (and, on many level, it isn’t that bad). I compared myself to others and said: “See, they have a problem… they are losing relationships and jobs and have liver failure, who am I to complain about a few unexpected cravings?” But that was just an excuse to put off doing what I knew I needed to do. I realize that we should never compare our own mental health to others as a way to put off taking care of ourselves. My PTSD, trichotillomania, stress, financial difficulties, etc. are always “less bad” than someone else’s, but that doesn’t mean I am unworthy of care or should just shut up about it. Self care is the most important thing.

To be honest, I didn’t really realize how bad things were until I started tracking how many drinks I have each day. It is rarely more than 3-4, but when that happens day after day after day I realized something wasn’t really working. I was drinking to relax, drinking to be productive, drinking to deal with stress, drinking mindlessly while watching a movie or playing video games or reading a book. It was almost never just one beer (which is what I would tell myself in the beginning), but one justified two (because 1-2 is a moderate amount, right?) and two justified three.

So, I’m taking a break. I’m not abstaining forever because I don’t think abstinence is the best path to psychological health. I need a healthy relationship with alcohol, not one that demands perfection. Alcohol is a part of our culture and it can be an incredibly beneficial and healthy part of life, but there is danger there (just like there is danger in all things). I need to build up the strength to drink at more appropriate times (and there are MANY appropriate times) and I need to make sure I am the one in control. Cravings will happen, but I want to prove to myself that I am stronger than the cravings.

I guess we will see how it goes, today is the third day of my 7-day (or maybe longer?) break. So far, it hasn’t been too bad, but I almost slipped yesterday and there is always temptation. Maybe I should actually write down what I think are appropriate times and amounts to drink as a thought experiment and then when my break is over I can work on only drinking during those times. Hmm, yeah, I think that is a good next step.

Different Pursuits

It is so easy to judge people and minimize their accomplishments when those accomplishments are different than the ones we pursue. I have looked upon people who are incredibly fit and had a knee-jerk, judgment that they must be dumb or they are wasting their time at the gym. But why do I feel this way? I looked down upon “jocks” when I was in high school because I thought my intellect made me their superior, but classes came easily to me and my spare time was spent playing Star Trek: The Customizable Card Game and eating pizza, while they were putting in hours at the gym, eating healthy food, and likely studying more for class than I ever did. I was an asshole in high school (and, unfortunately, I still am a subconscious asshole from time to time). Getting up every day for years and working out is incredibly mentally tough. Training the body, whether it is for sport or maximizing human potential is an intellectual pursuit that most people can’t handle, I know I sure can’t.

And then, when people show off the abs that they have worked for and sacrificed for they have done there is a twinge of both jealousy and disgust. But would I feel this way if an artist friend showed off their latest painting or if an author advertised a newly completed book that spent years of daily work to accomplish? No, I probably wouldn’t. But for some reason, certain categories of hard work are judged harshly. When I really break it down, every person on this planet is working to do the best they can with the genetics and social status that they were given.

Should my college degree be praised, even though it came easy? Is it hard work and perseverance that we celebrate and, inversely, laziness and sloth that we shun? Or do we simply celebrate those that choose a path that we can relate to instead of putting ourselves in the shoes of others and recognizing when someone has the dedication to a pursuit that they love, that waking up at 6:00am and doing the work that needs to be done (whether that is going for a run, yoga, writing a novel, building a business, studying philosophy, or raising children) is mentally hard.

We all face struggles and we could all use a little more support, and I think it would benefit us all to realize that each person is human and many of the rewards being reaped came from hard work. Whether it is rock hard abs, mastery over a musical instrument, or the creation of a million dollar app. Yes, privilege and genetics and social norms play a part, but so does bunkering down and just doing what needs to be done, and instead of glaring at people who direct their energy in ways we don’t understand we should be rejoicing in the diversity of minds out there. You never know when a bodybuilder or an artist or an entrepreneur is going to inspire a revolution in some other field. Life and knowledge is intertwined, and the best thing we can do is take the gifts we have and pursue what we love.

Wanna hear my thoughts on some random controversial subject like abortion, circumcision, or whether IPAs are good? Got a question for me that is too personal to ask directly? Do you just want to tell me I’m a douchebag? Send me an anonymous message and I’ll respond on my blog! Just fill out this simple form on SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) and if you need inspiration check out the previous questions that I’ve answered  here  and you’ll see that no subject is off limits.

Thordak

One of my favorite things about Dungeons and Dragons is character creation and seeing how the character develops throughout that adventure. I’m not really into making the most powerful fighter or a wizard that is perfectly true to the archetype. I also don’t like planning out beyond the first level, I’d rather create an interesting character and just see how things go.

In some ways, I think this makes me a valuable member of a team. I don’t really care if I’m a rogue or fighter or magic user, which means I can fill the needed niche in my team. For example, my group is starting to discuss what they want to do be during the next campaign and it became clear that we are missing a strong fighter character that can take a lot of damage. Basically, we need a tank because the others are “squishy”. So I am filling that role.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I want to play a barbarian type character. Usually, barbarians are big, dumb brutes, but that feels pretty shallow to me so I am going to take a different route. This is my working story for my dwarf barbarian.

Thordak (working name) was born to a noble family of mountain dwarves that specialized in maintaining the written history of their people. They are competent fighters, but their specialization is really in the more intellectual pursuits. Thordak’s family is highly respected among the nobles of their people, but there is a tension between them and the more traditional dwarven craftsmen and fighters.

When Thordak was an adolescent he was deeply in love with a Dwarven princess named Krystara. His position as an apprentice historian allowed him regular access to the noble’s homes and as time went on his infatuation with Krystara grew. Then, one day, he got up the courage to write a love poem to her and he secretly slid it under the door to her room. Unfortunately, the poem was discovered not by Krystara, but by her twin brother Kildrik.

Kildrik, finding the poem humorous, gathered his friends together to confront Thordak. After a short search, they found Thordak in his room writing more poetry and they began to mock him. The sound of the laughter and teasing pushed Thordak over the edge and flew into a blind rage and attacked Kildrik. Despite being smaller and less well trained, Thordak beat Kildrik to the point of near death and it took four other Dwarves to pull him off.

Thordak was put on trial for assaulting a prince, a crime punishable by death. The Dwarven king showed some mercy (in part because of how important Thordak’s family is to the kingdom) and banished him instead of killing him. Thordak was stripped of his family name and told never to return to the kingdom.

Kildrik perceived this a too light of a punishment and followed Thordak as he left the kingdom. One evening, while Thordak was sleeping, Kildrik and his friends attacked him in the middle of the night. They pinned him down and used knives that had been enchanted with cold magic to cut off his beard and burn him with the freezing cold. They left Thordak, assuming he would die from his wounds, his face now covered in magical scars that would never heal and a beard that would never grow.

Thordak survived and continued to wander the land, an outcast among dwarves. Seeing the damage to his face, Thordak crafted a stone mask that he never takes off due to the hideousness of his face. He blames himself for all the harm that came that day and does all he can to keep his rage inside, but it is difficult to control. His dreams are haunted by evil creatures and the only way that he gets a good nights sleep is if he enters a rage and spills blood from time to time.

He has been wandering for over 100 years now. He has primarily been alone, but from time to time teams up with travelers or caravans and acts as a guard when they travel across the desert (his chosen home). He also occasionally goes into small communities to trade for food, water, writing materials, books, and other goods necessary for survival. He doesn’t have a permanent home, but throughout the desert he has many caves that are stocked with supplies and his writing. To date, he has written thousands of pages that are primarily poetry, journal entries about things he has done and seen, and detailed notes about the people he was met. His primary life purpose is to find a way to contain his rage and has spent much time studying religion, magic, meditation, medicine, and anything else that may bring him peace.

Character Sheet Details:
Name: Thordak
Class: Barbarian
Path: TBD (It depends on the story, but Path of Totem Warrior and Path of the Storm Herald are the most interesting to me right now)
Background: Hermit
Alignment: Neutral Good
Race: Dwarf (Mountain)
Sex: Male
Age: 165 years old
Height: 4’3″
Weight: 151 lbs

Strength: 14
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 16
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 12
Charisma: 9

Proficient Skills
Intimidation
Medicine
Nature
Religion

Languages
Common, Dwarvish, Goblin

Tool Proficiencies
Herbalism Kit, Smith’s Tools

Weapons
Longsword
Handaxe (x2)

Other Items
Explorer’s Pack
Scroll case filled with paper
Herbalism Kit
5 gp