I’m building a time machine. It’s not an actual machine. It’s not some device that will bend space and time or carry me to another period in history. No the machine I’m building is mostly in my mind. And when I come right out and think about it, it’s not a machine at all. It’s a mission — an assignment I’ve given myself to re-energize interests and activities from earlier in my life. I got to thinking about all the things that my friends were doing for themselves in the spirit of a principle AK first mentioned to me a couple years ago when we were working together: “personal enrichment”. He told me about how he liked to take on particular projects for himself not to necessarily do something for any particular overt benefit. He took up craft brewing. He learned how to ride a motorcycle. No fame, no fortune, no name in lights. Nothing like that. But just to do something that would expand his life. Give him a new skill, a new experience. Personal enrichment.

I thought it was a great principle. I like the sense of initiative. I like how it serves to break routines and avoid getting stuck in ruts — bad habits.

And more recently I’ve noticed a number of things that my friends have been doing that I might also categorize as “personal enrichment”. They’re hobbies, really, but they’re hobbies followed up with passion and importance that provide a sense of well-being. T. told me this week that she is setting a goal for herself to read every Hugo Award winning novel. Hurricane, Steamboat, niqui, Farmboy and Princess are all going (or going back) to school to pursue a college degree. Bitsy is starting to aggressively train for RAGBRAI this summer. niqui is training for a triathlon this spring. Princess wants to learn how to knit.

So I decided to pursue my own little “personal enrichment” activities. And what I’ve chosen to do is to return to activities I used to enjoy twenty years ago or so. In the interim, for one reason or another I had abandoned them. My return to photography was the first of these activities. It’s a sentimental return to a version of myself from twenty years ago, but seen through the eyes of someone twice that age. Time travel in my head.

In November, 2007 I started working out regularly and dropped a significant amount of weight. Last month I returned to the swimming pool for regular exercise. I added swimming as part of my “eat less, move more” diet plan. I like this plan for its simplicity. I eat what I want; I just eat less. And I make sure and move a little bit each day. I walk to and from work. I was going to the gym three times a week– now five. Today marks six weeks of adding swimming to the mix of workouts. Swimming again feels very good but I have to say this was way easier when I was 18. Last week I hit the one mile milestone I’d been working towards. I’m feeling comfortable in the water again. Now I’m trying to see what I can do to start building up a bit of speed. I was surprised how quickly it came back to me. I’m not looking to be competitive. I’m not doing this to be part of a race. I’m just doing it to feel better about myself, to provide a bit of relaxation and tranquility. I mentioned to Whirl that I was particularly appreciating the sense of isolation that the pool provided. Since returning to the gym I’ve been doing most of my workouts during my lunch. It provides a good break from sitting at my desk, gets me out of the office and reinvigorates me for the afternoons. I use the time to listen to music or podcasts and just take myself out of whatever stressors are surrounding me in the workplace.

Swimming removes even those potential distractions. It’s just me and the water. I think about breathing. I count laps. The rest is empty.