Bettering myself. Hobbies are my life

Backstory

Well, you’ve heard my learning journey. I think it’s time we ventured into the depths of how I stepped out of my hermitage from being a boring bastard to a person that literally has his head in everything. Seriously. I always remember the time I dated this lady a few months after I had taken the steps to quit alcohol. She was very wary that I had recently stopped drinking so she was nice and refrained from the alcohol too. She used to call me a boring fart because I knew nothing else to do. Like on that episode of friends when Monica starts dating the alcoholic that had given up and she found out he was seriously boring.

If I’m totally honest with myself this was exactly me.

When I finally gave up drinking for the first few months it felt that the life had been literally sucked out of me. My usual haunts were pubs, clubs, bars and alcohol aisles in the local supermarkets. My idea of having a de-stresser was relaxing with a good beer or two with my feet up and a good episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or something equally as mind numbing. But I couldn’t do this now. I think it’s where a lot of people fall off the wagon because they find themselves with nothing to do. It’s really hard when all your friends are down at the pub but you’re stuck in the house and can’t put your TV on or play your console because all it does is make you want to drink more. It’s the same for all addictions. But I’m here to help. The world is SO wide and pleasurable and fantastic you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I am often referred to as a “square” from the local boozer-attending community. Yet little do they know.

It’s all about switching that mindset really. I feel when under the nasty grip of an addiction we become closed off to the world and people around us. We fail to realise the bigger picture. In part because all we can think about is our next fix, and the other part being that we don’t want to. We want to expend all our time and energy around our addictions. The more we engage in addictive behaviour the worse our addictions become.

I was in turmoil at the very start of my journey. I was often sat up late at night sweating, wanting to join my friends in the pub but I managed to resist. I started off with long walks. Whenever I was free and wanting to drink I would just remove myself from the house and take a long walk in the clean, fresh air. I lived in the countryside at the time so lovely woodland walks were a necessity for me. Rekindling myself with nature was an eye opener for me. I had always been taken to woods, and parks and open greenery areas to run around as a small child.

That was all nice and well but I felt I needed a little more. Walks were nice but I had a side to me that needed to feel I was achieving something, or at least at one with something. My friend Andrew had a hard passion for photography. I loved looking at his pictures and his sets and the way they worked. They were just awesome. When I thought deeply about it, it was always something I had wanted to do. Create really stunning shots. So I asked Andrew what I could do.

Photography

I started off with a basic camera. One that I could just snap and feel good about it. I didn’t want to spend tons of money because I was only beginning my journey. Today’s equivalent would have probably been a Nikon Coolpix A10 Camera. It wasn’t the best, but then again I had never held a camera for purposes other than snapping shots of my family.

It was actually quite nice to have a purpose. To go out and do things other than the usual. I would often venture out into places that I had never been before to snap new and quaint little shots. As the years passed I became better and better at it and there sprouted a lovely little hobby.

It was becoming apparent to me that as time went by I was needing more oomph with my picture. Needed more options and needed more technical specifications because I was fast outgrowing my point and click camera. So I eventually went out and bought myself another one. I think I spent around £120 at the time, which was quite a discount for the camera I was buying. They retailed at least £200 and above. I purchased a second hand one. But it served me well. The Panasonic DMC-TZ60EB-K would probably be today’s equivalent, albeit much better!

It also became quickly noticeable that as I became better at photography I needed to start editing my photos. Photo editing is a must because touching up those images makes it ALL so much better. Adobe elements was far too expensive for me at the time so I looked into a cheaper option. And I found gimp (the graphic image manipulator) which was completely free. Absolutely awesome! Want to see some of the images I did with Gimp and my camera? I bet you do. Here we go:

So these were some awesome photos that I’m highly proud of. I did these five years ago. I was getting really into my camera hobby and was feeling a bit of an amateur photographer. It really did take my mind off life struggles by going out and seeking pictures to take. Such a distraction from the toils of life.

By late 2013 I was starting to further my expertise at photography and outshine the work that I was previously doing. So I finally upgraded to a Canon EOS 1200D. My first digital SLR. However if I had waited around for enough time I probably would have went for this: Sony ILCE5000L, we make do with the tools that we have though. And here is some of the work I have produced on my EOS 1100D:

Needless to say that I’ve enjoyed my journey with Photography and I plan to get better and better at it as time progresses. Watch out newspapers, here I come with my stock photo!

A great resource on Photography would be joining the Talk Photography Forums. Forums are a great way to enable picture taking to increase skills. I’ve joined a ton in the past

Having one hobby can become slightly tedious. It’s nice to exert all your time on one thing but it’s also nice to spread yourself thinly. Get an idea for what is out there and what you can do about it. I’m a person that needs to be doing a million things at once. It’s why I could never last long in the jobs that required me to do the same thing over and over and over agai…Yawwwn. I have a sporadic mind. I need to be challenged in two or even three places at once. I need to be thinking about three different things at once or I won’t be happy. So I recognised the need for more hobbies late 2009.

Debating! I’m a Master Debater!

The Internet is a wealth of information. It’s wide, and it’s far reaching and it’s diverse. I wanted to learn to speak and write better. Whilst this may seem funny to some I kid you not I struggled with my words. So I had the thought that debating groups were the answer. If there’s one thing that I liked to do is debate a theory or philosophy or a religion. There was nothing local to me sadly. I live in the midst of nowhere. However this may be a good guide if you are lucky and have somewhere local.

I started to browse debating groups on Facebook, and that was an eye opener for sure. There are literally basic restrictions on how people treat you on those groups if you are of gentle nature I advise you not to use them. You’ll only get offended. I remember the first time I joined these places of chat I ended up getting my arse handed to me on a platter. However I’ve become quite the hardcore debater through these groups. Digitally anyway. I can often be seen on these groups debating my point away, discussing and listening. I find it a good grounding point for what people are thinking in our country. Because there are no rules, and people are more true to themselves when there are none of their friends in the groups.

So I love to debate. I just wish there were some groups nearby where I could do it in person. That would be interesting!

Some interesting Facebook debate groups. Be warned! Big thick spine needed!

Blogging and Writing!

As I began to get better and better at debating and expressing myself in words I managed to find the blogosphere. Which of course I am talking to you here from. I love blogging. I absolutely LOVE writing. I’m connecting with so many people on a personal level and realising I’m not alone in this life-plight.

First of all I found WordPress. I found WordPress easy to manage because it’s integrated systems helped me connect with many many people with the same interests as myself. When I blogged with WordPress I wasn’t left to fend for myself amongst the jungle. Having to learn the best SEO practices or choosing a new juicy theme to attract visitors. It has it’s very own community that connects with me in their very own way. I loved it. People enjoyed my writing and it gave me the courage to start giving the internet more of myself.

So from debating and writing and connecting with a like-minded community I began to realise that my writing was becoming more and more well received. It was a nice feeling. So after a while I decided that perhaps it was time to venture out solo. I already had the writing skills. Now it’s time to find out how to make a proper blog.

After a good bit of researching my first port of call was Site 5. I went these people because of two things. Their HUGE bandwidth allowances and their awesome customer services. AND they let me trial their service for 30 days before I made my choice. I can say that I’m more impressed with these guys than I have ever been with anyone else.

I bought my domain through Domainmonster. I know there are more popular domain registrars but Domainmonster allows me to quickly align my hosting service with it’s service so I can start working straight away.

Now with both domain and hosting package at the ready I decided it was time to set up WordPress. The actual benefit of using Site 5 is that it has one-click installs. So you can install WordPress on your blog quickly, and simply and with literally no hassle whatsoever. No technical skills needed.

The version of WordPress I was using is the .org version. It’s for self-hosted blogs yet has more functionality and access to it than the .com has. Some of the plugins that are available are literally mind blowing. I have a few installed. Obviously.

The setback with having a self hosted blog is that I started with literally no community. I found that out the hard way. Leaving the security of my previous blog with all my helpful helpers were hard because I had to reach out and contact them again. Tell them that I had moved and write posts telling people that I had went to hosting my own blog. No longer could I just write a post and my entire community would see it. It sucked in a sense.

I came across an absolute HUGE collection of free themes with self-hosting. It’s very rewarding because some of them are absolutely beautiful. And by doing a Google search on “free themes for wordpress” many, many times I would often come up with a new and fashionable, lovely theme. This blog has literally been through the mill of change since I started it!

This theme here. The one I finally rested on is Newspaper by TagDiv. There are so many customisations with this theme it makes my head spin sometimes. And it came with a drag and drop page editor included in the bundle (one of the best!). I’m no professional designer and I think that the layout to this blog has worked quite well for me.

When the time finally comes I recommend buying a theme. Go to Themeforest and search the many many lovely themes out there because you’ll be quite surprised at how inexpensive they are! And you get to keep them for a lifetime. I’m more than happy with this purchase. And, a word of caution. Don’t go looking for a “nulled” version of a theme. That’s a version that has had it’s security removed and features are free for anyone to use. I say this because there are SO many websites out there prying on people that want something for free it’s not worth thinking about. I searched and searched for a lot of themes I particularly wanted. And all I ended up with was viruses, half complete scripts and websites that wanted me to give them more information than I was happy to. I am glad that I purchased everything. And I’m not just saying that. You’re welcome to try though! But make sure you know what you’re doing first!

So now I blog. And I have met so many lovely people out there. Connected with so many hobbyists and bloggers and people that share similar stories to me it’s literally been awesome.

If you’re already a blogger here’s a few great support groups:

  • #LinkyourLifeConnection – these are a lovely collection of enabling and empowering bloggers. My writing has changed SO much by listening to them and reading their writing
  • Once Upon a Blog – Another great group for hints, tips and sharing your stuff
  • Blog, Share, Learn – Another lovely and supportive group

More Hobbies

If you’ve read this and you’re struggling with an addiction I recommend you search for a hobby. Think about what you want to do and go for it. The world is your oyster. Literally! You won’t know until you try. And if it doesn’t suit you then move onto the next thing you fancy trying your hand at!!

Some awesome hobby suggestions:

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I'm a man that's been through the pitfalls and elations of relationships in my ever growing quest to better my knowledge in the human condition. I've been in the game and around the Internet since 1996 and surprisingly I'm still using it today. I've definitely found myself in some weird and wonderful places and I hope to share all of this with you lucky people.

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