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It's the New Year and certainly my life has changed in the last 365 days or so. Perhaps New Year's resolutions are in order, so I can correct my flawed ways or at least attempt to do so. Most everyone looks at the new year in that way. I'm not sure I do. I am not completely concerned with what I'm doing wrong -- I am concerned with what I'm doing wrong, what I'm doing right, and most importantly, what I could be doing more efficiently or better.

I set 1997 as the year of utilization for the Soapbox. It would be the year where I'd apply what I'd learned up to that point and get some experience working in the real world. It would be when I would start to become more independent and more like the person I will eventually become. 1997 was the year for work. It was the year, in one sentence, that I would apply what I did best in order to advance my career, my knowledge, and my resume.

And that I did. I firmly believe that it was because I was ready for a relationship that it came to me in the form of the beautiful woman, Anna. I finally hit it big in love. I also took care of getting myself settled for the school year and handled a trip abroad. I scavenged for a perfect part-time contractual remote job, and got one. Two, actually. Maybe. Still up in the air. I improved my skills with design and HTML and got attention from doing so. I greatly deepened my pool of knowledge with two semesters' worth of classes. It's a start, at least, on the long road to independence I'm avidly seeking.

But, as I said, it's very important to me that I make key adjustments to my life in order to improve it. I've revised many of my ideas about the world, particularly those relating to love, since I now have experience to blend in with my clashing idealistic and cynical views. I feel I take more initiative now, and I'm more likely to be responsible and make fewer mistakes. I still mess up a lot though. In everything. But that will be corrected with time -- the important thing is that I've admitted that I don't know everything and I've backed off to learn from those who know more than I do about something. I realize and have identified many of my problems, and that right there will help exterminate them.

I'm no longer so quick to jump into a verbal fight. No longer quite so outspoken when the opportunity presents itself. One of my few loves in this world is arguing with people in a sporting sort of way, in a competitive sort of way. It tests you and it humbles you -- you never really win against someone who knows what they're doing, so it keeps you on your toes. Constant excitement. But it takes its toll as you end up being right on some counts and wrong on others. In the end, both parties have some valid arguments and some bad ones. This game is played by the people who have the energy to do it. Well, I don't have time for it anymore, and methinks I'll leave it to others and pick my fights more carefully.

I guess I've been humbled too many times in arguments by being systematically debunked, calmed down by Anna's tender affections, and shown how meaningless most things people say are. Seriously. We all know it. Do words really do anything? People talk and talk and talk but nothing usually comes of it. Just bad blood. I know how it is. Some people you just don't want to argue with -- they don't play by the rules and they start to fight dirty. You lose whether you won the argument or not. Now, I'm not saying Ben Turner has gone peace-loving bleeding-red pacifist. You can be sure if you slip up, I'm going to be there to rub it in your face so you learn not to do it again, but I'm not going to be sticking my neck out for you when you leave the bait. Forget it. Those days are over for me.

At the same time as exterminating flaws, I've pushed towards the things I do well. Working with the Web in particular. Sheesh, I've marketed myself so much in the past year I'm tired of it. More on that later. I've pushed for my relationship with Anna to be furthered, as it deserves to be. The result of the efforts made by both Anna and me is that we finished off the year together, physically together I mean, in Anna's homeland of Sweden.

My site... Well, while I've been with Anna in Stockholm, I've been somewhat clueless as to how to approach my site anymore. I've pushed it and pushed it since I originally put it up a few years ago. By 1998, I've watched it turn from a rinky-dink 1 hit a day (by me) to the huge bandwidth-sucking 10 hit a day behemoth it is now. Okay, so I exaggerate. But in the higher ranks of sites I seek to get benturner.com included in, results are judged by the thousands, not by the dozens or hundreds. If this site were to hit it big, it would've happened by now. I'm quite tired of marketing it. I've said this in the past, I know. But there was still a part of me that was hanging on to the web designer's dream.

I just don't give a shit anymore about the Web. It's a waste. I never look at personal sites anymore unless it's by someone else's recommendation. The people who knew what they're doing are past their prime or they've quit. We're left with the people who can't write a single HTML document without mentioning how cooking relates to their cat Fluffy or the people who have as many dozens of web sites and domains as they've had boyfriends/girlfriends/both.

(As a side note, I don't think it's any coincidence the people who shut down a site of theirs every month are the same people who have extensive dating histories and who will probably never be completely happy in life.)

You want to know what I use the Web for these days? I use it for work. I use it to download the version of the day of RealPlayer and the latest upgrades of the software I use. I use it to read about each day's ten most popular celebrity deaths. I use it to fulfill my technophile desires. I use it to schedule matches with my Quake clan against five college kids who name themselves after the various states of the male penis, and then assume the likely personalities of those states. Fun. This is what I do.

The personal side of the Web is, in my opinion, dead, or at least hibernating. I swear I must be looking in the wrong places because I keep seeing the same people over and over. Isn't there anyone new? Have we already exhausted the pool of writers/designers? I can't find a personal opinion about a worldly issue besides Diana and Mother-Teresa-not-Diana-dammit if my life depended on it. Doesn't anyone think anymore?

The volume of e-mail I receive has gone down, once I trash the unsolicited spam. Who I'm left with are usually the people I correspond with -- thankfully they are not thrown off by my late responses and seemingly uninterested lack of initiative in writing to them first. I guess I just don't need new buddies or friends or acquaintances. As far as people go, I've got everyone I want to deal with now. If I were to be just a hint more picky about who I talked to, I'd be left with just Anna. She is the one I talk to. I mean, really talk to.

If it weren't for the fact that I conduct business through my site, I'd probably do something drastic to the front page to ward off those who get off on a cute Photoshopped button. The older this site gets, the less I want to do with everyone else.

I'm just tired of it. Tired of the tedium produced by a stagnant Web being constantly rehashed by the leeches we call reviewers. I'm tired of feeling like I have to please my reader instantly just to get him to go further into the site and maybe spark whatever shred of creativity and inspiration is left. I'm tired of wondering why the most inane things work and the most carefully crafted, genuine articles fail.

I'm tired of writing and feeling like I don't have to please a soul in the world, but having to do the exact opposite to make the site attractive.

The little things I have to sacrifice in order to make something better in the eyes of the reader...forget it. It doesn't make any difference. I will admit to attempting to draw people in, but it's understandable I do so. I'm not going to explain what things mean and what you should do and all that anymore. I'm streamlining. I'm cutting away the tasty fat. Gone are my discussions of the common perception of myself and all the extra fluff that I've always felt like I disgusted.

I feel confident in the fact that the people who are going to stay at my site will do so regardless. They love it or they don't care for it. I feel the people who are reading this anyway, know what they're doing when they come here.

The materialization I speak of for 1998's Soapboxes...well, that means my interests are moving elsewhere. I don't have to try to work so hard to please people anymore. Now it's time for me to cash in. I'm cashing in on love, as my relationship with Anna passes into a new stage, a stage of deeper understanding and love. I'm cashing in on my design skills, making money while still in school, which continues to provide my mind with nourishment.

I predict big things from this year. I predict that I'll start, basically, truly kicking ass in this world. This is when I begin taking my share. I will continue to become further independent.

Things are going to happen, and I sure as Hell am not going to miss it by worrying about marketing myself. This is my world, folks, and you're merely an outsider. If you don't understand what's going on, you're just going to have to figure it out on your own.

To all the people who never say a thing unless spoken to first, all the people who venture for what is safe instead of taking a frigging chance, and all the people who have no clue what's going on, yet either claim to or don't try to figure it out, I never want to hear from you. May you burn out like a dying star and be burdened with the continuing regrets of chances missed.

I'm not going to baby you anymore. It's time you grew up and did things for yourself. The only hand I'm going to hold along the whole way is Anna's, and that's in love, respect, and devotion, not out of sympathy.

1998 will be a year when I'll really sit down and realize what fun life can be. The sphere of influence no longer envelopes the faces of strangers but the warm, familiar faces of people who know what I'm up to.

From ideas, feelings, and relationships, all abstract contracts, will things more physical and more tangible come to me.


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