dal niente

Tag: way of life

Gratitude

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Blue thing on the top left: Elastic ankle brace. Not really useful, but I use it as a liner for the 3-strap plus laced ankle brace at centre top.

Middle top: The 3-strap plus lace ankle brace. It doesn’t completely immobilise my ankle, but it helps.  Laces tighten the brace. Two of the straps crisscross over my instep, and then under the sole of my foot, attaching by velcro vertically along my leg, while the third strap wraps around my ankle.

Middle: a Shock Doctor knee brace with hinged side supports.  It’s not as serious as some badminton players I knew who had orthotic knee braces, but in Judo, you can’t have any hard surfaces on your gear (you might hurt your opponent).  As it stands, because this knee brace has metal hinges and support beams along the side, it’s theoretically illegal for competition.  I use it while trianing though because it’s sufficiently covered with material that it shouldn’t hurt anyone.

Bottom, in red: an older wraparound knee brace with hinged side supports.  I don’t use this one as much anymore, because the metal hinges could potentially hurt my partner (they’re not as well padded as with the Shock Doctor knee brace).  However, if it happens that both of my knees feel twitchy on a given tradining day, I will wear this as my second knee brace (one brace per knee).

On a typical judo day, I usually end up wearing some combination of the above.  Lately, I’ve been wearing none of it, because I’d like to work on strengthening my ankle (injured last October) and my knees (chronic pains which have been ongoing for years now).  However, there are some nights where I will be wearning all of the above, or substituting one of the knee braces for a knee pad.

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A bicycle tire, split halfway down it’s length, and tied to an old obi (belt).  I use this for rehabilitation of my right shoulder, and to strengthen my left to make sure that it doesn’t suffer the same fate as my right.  When my knees get better, I plan to use this to practice seoi nage uchikomi (shoulder throw drills).
 
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A foldaable walking stick.  If ever my knees or my ankle starts acting up, this helps me keep it from getting worse.  I got a foldable one because it’s easier to carry by bike.  Thankfully I haven’t had to use this one in several months now.
 
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I can’t remember exactly when I started doing martial arts.  I think I was perhaps 16 or 17 at the time. It has been a long journey– I started off in Jeet Kune Do.  I moved on to kickboxing.  I did some MMA.  I did taekwondo.  I logged some boxing.  Now, I do judo.
 
I have entered into tournaments, and I’ve never gotten gold at anything.  I’ve been motivated and I’ve been depressed– I’ve gone through ups and downs as my training happened at the same time as the rest of lifes’ events.
 
What have I learned along the way?  What is it that keeps me going?
 
As someone who has never been the best fighter, I have nonetheless worked hard and made it to silvers or quarter finals on more than a few occasions, including in open-weight events.  I’ve paid the price though, as you can see from the above pictures.
 
What have I learned from being a second rate martial artist?  What have I learned from working hard and never quite being the best?
 
I’m sure everyone has a way out there for them to figure out who they are, and who they want to be.  For me, martial arts have been one of those ways.  While other passions, such as badminton and music have ebbed and flowed, I keep coming back to martial arts.  I don’t know why.
 
Maybe it’s because when I was younger, I never thought I’d live to see 30.  I remember violence in elementary school that made me wonder what would be the point?  I remember racism and hate.  In high school, I remember thoughts of rebellion from my family constraints.  I made some of the greatest friends I ever had in high school, who I kept through college.  I remember getting confused and lost in college, having no clue what I wanted to do in my life.
 
These sorts of situations make you wonder, really, why bother with a future?  Is it just going to be the same shit, a different day?
 
Martial arts was an intersting scenario– because I never really could pin down just what I loved about it.  Perhaps for a while, it was some sort of sadism– a sense of empowerment.  It might even have been the masochism– there was never any logical reason to keep on fighting, it was always easier to just roll over and give up.
 
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In the past, the take away message for me from years of training has been one of anger and rage.  Martial arts to me was a way of channeling frustration– of burning negative energies.  Frustration at my lot in life.  Frustration at not being better at this or that, both in martial arts and life outside.  The rage was a fuel that pushed me forward– it helped me get better at things.  It allowed me to endure harsh training.
 
Lately?  I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with martial arts, and what I’ve learned from it.  Am I still angry?  Do I still fight for the same reasons?
 
The answer is no.  And that was to be expected, perhaps– peoples’ motivations change all the time I think.
 
But I think that this thing that I fixate on now is probably the last thing I’ll learn of martial arts.  It is the thing that I will spend the rest of my life cultivating, because it is what I think is a sustainable mantra to keep me going for the years to come.  It is the thing that, should we have children one day, I would like to pass on to them as well.
 
I’ve learned a lot of things, but one thing stands above all others:
 
Gratitude.
 
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Gratitude that I wasn’t born into a dangerous country in a dangerous time, where I would have to fight every day.  Training in martial arts teaches you all about weakness.  You realise every time you get injured how much worse it could be.  You learn to cherish health and being alive, and to make it count.
 
You can develop a grattitude for weakness. In knowing weakness, in getting hurt, in shedding tears, in being frustrated at your own inadequacy, you alternate between bouts of anger at being powerless and bouts of humility.
 
Sometimes anger can bring you closer to people, because there may be people who share in your anger.  Anger is like fear or being wiped out because you’ve reached an evolutionary dead end– anger spurs you on to change yourself, because you’re not satisfied with who you are. For a long time, I cultivated strength in myself through anger at myself and others.  It was always adversity that fueled my momentum, whether it was actual or imagined.
But what I’ve come to understand, increasingly, is that a better source than anger is humility. Without gratitude for basic survival, for being the privilege of being weak over being dead, there is no humility.  Humility is what allows you to love and be loved.  You realise you can’t do it all alone, and that you’re interconnected with those around you.  Without humility, we never learn a lot of things about how to interact with those around us. 
 
Grattitude for life arises out of humility.  For all the aches and pains that I constantly report on, the fact of the matter is that I know now how lucky I am to have survived the kind of training that I’ve done.  And not just raining– there are all these unforseen events that just popped up in life that could have, on numerous occasions, just ended me.  To be a “has been” or to be a “never was” is the privilige of living to see another day– and we can never be too grateful for that.
 
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The thing about being grateful is that it’s an admission.  People who aren’t grateful and say they owe nobody anything?  People who are super proud of themselves at the expense of others? These people are full of shit, and if they don’t figure it out sooner, they’ll figure it out later: it’s a lonely state of affairs where you owe nobody anything.  It means either that you’re the type of person who could never love others, or were never loved by others.  There are people who take and take to where they want to be, and they call themselves “self made men.”  But no man is truly self-made.
 
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Gratitude does not necessarily mean enslaving yourself to others who you owe.  It means taking the gifts which they have given you, and paying it forward.  Just as you should be gratful for your opportunities to pay things forward, those who did nice things for you should be gratfeul for the things you do with the opportunities they gave you.
 
 

Being grateful does not mean settling for what you have– it’s recognising that where you are now is a result not just of your own efforts, but of things beyond your control.  It is an understanding of interconnection between you and your environment at its most providencial and at it’s most unforgiving.

 
Gratitude is a realisation that good things have happened in the past, and that you have survived bad things.  In that way, being able to feel gratitude is a source of fighting spirit in face of future adversity– because if you can man up to feel gratitude at something, then you have enough understanding of the past to have some sense of your actual capabilities, and you can take on great things in the future.
 
Gratitude is not just words of praise for yourself, for fate, or for others.  It is the actions you use to take responsibility for what you owe.  What you owe isn’t just in terms of material things– it is in terms of the society that gave you a chance.  Gratitude is paying it forward so that maybe some day, someone else will be grateful as well.
 
And if they are grateful, then they have also learned things about anger, humility, and love as well.
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The Dodgeball Theory

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Lance Armstrong: Could I get a bottle of water. – – Hey, aren’t you Peter La Fleur?

Peter La Fleur: Lance Armstrong!

Lance Armstrong: Yeah, that’s me. But I’m a big fan of yours.

Peter La Fleur: Really?

Lance Armstrong: Yeah, I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho. ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it. But, good luck in the tournament. I’m really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you’re gonna be late.

Peter La Fleur: Uh, actually I decided to quit… Lance.

Lance Armstrong: Quit? You know, once I was thinking about quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer, all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying from that’s keeping you from the finals?

Peter La Fleur: Right now it feels a little bit like… shame.

Lance Armstrong: Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn’t have anything to regret for the rest of their life. But good luck to you Peter. I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever.

(quote of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is from IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0364725/quotes )
In the movie, Peter LaFleur (played by Vince Vaughn) is the owner of Average Joe’s Gym.  We don’t know much about his life leading up to that point, except that he seems to be genuinely emphatic person with a lot of sympathy for the marginalised fringes of society.  When his gym is about to be shut down due to defaulting on tax payments, the members of his gym who decide to raise money to save it are telling, through their personalities, of just what is and isn’t what we expect in a gym, because of the modern gym culture’s unsaid rules.

The gymgoers at Average Joe’s are those who either perceive themselves as, or actually are, the rejects of society.  They have self-esteem issues, mental disorders, and financial problems.

They are not the poster boys of the typical gym advertissement– square jaws for the guys, sports bras for the girls, spartan haircuts or a more granola looking pony tail, and perfect teeth, and sports apparel.  Note that none of these things are things that you actually need to go to a gym to buy– nor are you actually likely to develop a broader chin by going to the gym.

The movie, being a comedy, largely revolves around making fun of the neuroses that are actually very real mental health issues in  contemporary society.

It’s easy to forget that in the pursuit of building ourselves up to who we want to be, there is a lot of mental foundational insecurity that neoliberal society encourages us to cover up, rather than address directly.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The reality is that for all the “hobbies” we want to get good at, it is seldom that we run into something that we’re really wiling to pay the price to study.  I mean, really, really get good at.  I make a distinction between loss and sacrifice.  Loss is where things are taken from you and you don’t even know where it went… sacrifice is a situation where you willingly give something up.

A person who studies all their life but knows nothing of the outside world suffers loss– but a person who knows of the outside world and does the same by choice suffers even more, because his sacrifice gives up the alternative world of possibilities in exchange for the path chosen.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I don’t have a gym (weight training) membership– I don’t think I’ve really stepped on the grounds of a gym except for a small hotel fitness room the last time [CM] and I were in Gold Coast a couple of years back, and before that, I went to the gym a couple of times upon my return from Korea.

It’s not my cup of tea– for many of the themes that come up in Dodgeball.  It’s not so much the fitness that I take issue with– it’s the image of fitness.  I’m sure a lot of people go to the gym for great reasons, but lets just say it’s not my cup of tea.  The example I always use is that I cannot say that learning martial arts is better than ballet– both are highly evoloved disciplines that have history, standards, benefits and disadvantages.  But despite that I probably wouldn’t be caught dead doing ballet, I cannot say simply that martial arts are better than ballet.  I’ve just come to recognise that it’s apples and oranges: it’s a question of tastes.

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That being said, there’s a famous Bruce Lee quote that says something along the lines of “nobody really develops a taste for diluted wine.”

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The reason why I mention Dodgeball is that there is a quote from Peter LaFleur which explains everything about his philosophy in life. It has to do with how, if you never develop expectations, you never feel disappointed.

On that note– I have expectations.  High expectations of myself and those around me.

A great deal of my ability to get through life has been to quantify these great expectations into little pieces so that I can feel progress– but it doesn’t change the fact that there are broader goals that I am aiming for, and I pursue them feverently.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Lately, I’ve been increasing my training in judo.  I’ve at least doubled the amount that I did per week compared to 2013, which comes out to about 8 hours of training per week.  The training there is pretty good– compared to other dojos, dojangs and fighting gyms that I’ve trained at in the past, University of Sydney Judo consistently taxes physical endurance (stamina), power (force output over time) and flexibility.  How much it challenges your technical and mental capacity is up to you, it depends on how much of a challenge you try to make for yourself.  But the fitness training alone is already a very solid common denominator.

Like any other training hall, it doesn’t necessarily correct a lazy attitude (which is more likely to be left unaddressed than a bad attitude), but the nature of combat sports that put you against an opponent is that you will inevitably be punished for not adhering to the expectations of the club.  If you don’t do your homework, you will take more of a beating.  If you don’t have the right attitude, people will be less inclined to share and learn with you.

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For the last half year, I’ve been having mixed feelings about my relationship with martial arts, due to number of related circumstances.

One of the major reasons is that my outlook in life has changed dramatically from the time when I first started doing martial arts.  There was a period in my early twenties where I had rebellion issues– I was lashing out against my upbringing and martial arts were one of the few activities that I could turn to that gave me a sense of control over my life.

When I say that my outlook was different back then, it isn’t that I never expected to live to see the age of 30– but I certainly didn’t think very far ahead.  I was quite fearless. And fearlessness got me quite far.  You read all the time in Japanese and Chinese literature of this concept of an “indominable spirit”–  The main thing that allowed me to progress quickly was that I had little regard for injuries.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid of getting hurt; more accurately, even if I was afraid of getting hurt, I was able to tap into a rage at my social condition that told me “this is worth it” and fight in spite of (as opposed to in opposition to) those limitations.  Essentially: I had the mentality of a shonen manga hero, which probably explains my ongoing critique of the more celebrated shonen protagonists.

The issue that has been developing over the past half year is that my body can no longer keep up with my willpower, and I can feel it.  I know for a fact that there are a lot of really old practitioners of martial arts out there who are in their 60s and still kicking ass.  Indeed, Randy Couture was a hero of mine for a really long time for the simple reason that he was beating the clock.

But for me… the situation is a bit different.  Most of these old masters are, well, really good at what they do.  By the time they slow down, they have already achieved a level of technical proficiency sufficient to bridge a large amount of physical limitation– they’ll still be able to kick around all but the most talented of a new generation with technique alone.

I am relatively new to judo, with an orange belt and zero competition points so far.  I’m on average about 10 years older than everyone of the same belt grade as I am in this gym.

I think that I’m learning at the same rate as everyone else who started at the same time as me– indeed, for people who started at the same time as me, I think I can say that despite knowing very little about grappling prior that I am one of the better players out of the group that started at the same time as me.

But I’m not satisfied.  Martial Arts to me has never been just a sport of forms or kata– it has been one of technique applied under pressure.  Yes, we do randori (sparring)– but what is missing from my training right now is the “killing intent” that you only get from competing with rival schools.

And therein lies the contradiction– I no longer have the je ne sais quoi to work in spite of the fear of injury now.

When I was younger, I trained like there was no tomorrow.  Indeed, there was a level of trust among my training partners and I that we would do anything to further our proficiency in this or that technique even by just minute quantities. ALthough I never spelt it out, whenever I fought with someone from a rival school, my life was on the line– and all I would have to rely on was the training that I had undergone with my nakama.

Indeed, although tournaments were rough, I’ve only ever seriously injured my eye, elbow, shin and ankle in tournaments.  In training, the list was much longer.

However, I think that’s the correct way for things to go though– ideally, competition should be easier than your training, if you’re doing your training right.

I am training hard in judo.  I’m not as capable of as high of an objective physical output as I was at my peak around 2008, but I am arguably working my body a lot harder overal than I’ve ever worked it in my life.  (What I mean is that objectively overal, I may not be as fast or powerful as I was in the past, but I am able to soak up more training than I used to)

But for what?  What am I training towards?  What is my goal?

And that’s what’s difficult about this situation now.

I am at a point in my life where I have the mental fortitude to train harder than I’ve ever trained in my life.  I am more creative and analytical than I have ever been.  But my body is slowing down as a result of old injuries and mental brakes accumulated, and as a result I am no longer willing to put my life on the line.  Indeed, if I went into a competition with my current state of mind, I’d be easy prey due to my lack of commitment.

That means, essentially, that I’m extremely reluctant to take on competitions, even though [Sensei] last week was telling me that the club could have taken a gold instead of a bronze at the most recent New South Wales tournament if only I had signed up for it.

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I have two conflicting wants out of martial arts right now.

I want to practice martial arts for many, many years to come. I want to be able to teach martial arts to our (CM and my) children, if we one day decide to have children.  I want to see generations of youths come to change their lives and their perspective on the world, and citizenship in community, through martial arts.  The possibility and conceptualisation of this goal that has come to develop slowly over the past couple of years.

On the other hand, I want to continue to grow.  It’s simply an extension of what I’ve done until now, almost like a Peter Pan-like syndrome– I want to continue to fight.  I want to feel bones straining against bones, the grind of teeth into mouthguards.  The heaviness of gravity when attempting to stand up.  Dizziness in the head?  Vision going dim?  That might be happening to me– but you can be sure that I’m not taking this without making the other guy work hard for it.  I long, not for the war stories, but the war.

But these two wants are incompatible.  I became acutely aware of this when I briefly took up boxing (as opposed to kickboxing) in about 2012 for about half a year– I realised that I was at a point of my life where I didn’t want to eat any head injuries, because what’s in my brain is of paramount importance to me nowadays.  It’s who I am.

I quit boxing because it was a ruleset where winning the game very acutely accentuated the fact that this is what martial arts is about– it’s about risks and rewards.  And I was no longer willing to take certain risks in that context.  Since then, it has been a bit of a slippery slope.

Judo is a bit different– there’s relatively little risk of me getting brain damage in judo, for instance.   But the risk of more injuries to my joints is significant, especially at the competition level.

I guess the basic problem is that I’m not sure if I’m willing to risk injuries anymore.  I’m not sure what participating (win or lose) in competition exactly does for me– I don’t know how to put it into words.

I just know that there’s a part of me that wants to just go in there and do it.  However, the fact that my body is as bad as it is is a testament to what previous years allowing this kind of fighting spirit to go unchecked can actually do for me.  I just know that it’s something I want– although I don’t know if it’s something I need.

Perhaps what I need is to figure out how to age properly.

Short term or long term…?

It frustrates me.

The reason why I refer it to Dodgeball is because I wonder if I’m just giving up before starting because it’s easier that way.  Was LaFleur right or wrong?

Unlike LaFleur– I want to be strong.  I’m not there yet.

Am I to admit that some people just never get there?

Mondays

Monday was the  first day of summer school.  So far the class, dealing with consumer law, seems quite interesting– the lecturer knows her stuff and likes to link the class topics to everyday consumer life, which is always a plus in an area of study often prone to very dogmatic discussions.

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Keeping my motivation up has been a bit difficult lately.  Since roughly New Year’s eve, [CM] has been in Canada doing a couple of electives.  She’ll be there until March.

It’s been a long time since I’ve lived alone, so the sudden switch in lifestyle has been a bit confusing for me on many levels.  Simple things, really.  For example– I realized shortly after beginning to cook dinner that I instinctively had cooked way too much– as in, about two peoples’ worth of food.  So one of the things that I’ve had to adapt to is figuring out how to eat couples’ sized food packages of meat to the dietary needs of a single person without a microwave.

Sure, it is nice to walk around the apartment all day in my underwear whenver I want.

But I’ve come to the realisation that so much of my life is interwtined with CM that it’s hard to live without her around.  I’m less inclined to be in a good mood.  Less outgoing.  Less likely to cook myself three proper meals per day.  Less likely to sleep on time (or properly) or be anything but a sloth in general.

Yeah, things are changing a bit because now that I’m back to school.  School has the nice way of imposing a regimen on my life that I need to answer to.  But otherwise?

Thankfully, we’re not going to be apart for too long.  However, everything so far has reminded me of something I’d forgotten about with working with the elderly– that having a significant other suddenly removed from your life can be a hugely traumatic event.

Especially in the case, like mine, where most of my human interaction in a day was with CM.  I never did spend much time socialising with people at school or work, which due to the   shortage of free time in general.  Once I was back in our apartment, without her there, I just found it strange that I could go days without ever saying anything.

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For all the adventures that we embark on in life, the fact of the matter is that we still rely on the comforts of familiarity and routine.  There need to be anchoring points or something.

For the first week, I didn’t even have any judo going on.  All I had going for me was jetlag and video games– which was probably a good combination, since the Sydney heat waves made it prohibitive to fire up the PS3 during daylight.

It’s only the second week of January but I can’t wait for CM to come back.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I talked to CM about it.  Things haven’t exactly been a cakewalk for her in Canada either.  She’s doing a psychology elective for a juvenile detention facility.  Sometimes, the stories or people she meet keep her up at night.  They are the stories of minors who have been found guilty of theft, property damage (including making a car explode), assault, and rape.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Given that we’re so both to relying on eachother for mutual emotional support, the distance is sure making that a bit tough.  But I think that in the end this might be something good for us– it’ll make us a stronger couple in the end because we’ll be more able to survive independently, and find that better balance between trust and neediness.

Sans Frontières‎

I remember that when I was in CEGEP (“college,” which is your schooling in Quebec for what would be equivalent to year 12 to 13, 14, depending on what your degree was, pre-university) there was a friend I had made.  Lets call him [Spike], after the character from Cowboy Beebop.

Back in those days, I spent equal thirds of my time in the anime/manga club; the arcades; and the martial arts club.  Spike was someone who was a diehard for the anime/mange club and the martial arts.  We credit him as one of the three founding members of the original Martial Arts Club (MAC), the other two being [StrangerInBlack] and myself.

Spike loved japanese manga, anime and videogame culture.  I think that’s why we got on so well, because he always had this modern day samurai spirit to him.  In fact, we bought him a white pine shinai as a birthday gift one year.   That’s a rather rare gift, since I think most shinai have a dark brown colour to them.

He always admired the same types of characters in video games– Spike Speigel from Cowboy Bebop; Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid (the first PSX one, since that was all that was around at the time); Heero Yuuy from Gundam.


It’s natural that when you hang around people with the same interests, your passions resonate. I don’t know whatever happened to Spike, to be honest.  He dissapeared from College suddenly.  I  heard that he had gone to a different CEGEP for some reason or another. I crossed paths with him briefly when I was doing my undergrad at Concordia… he’d taken to wearing cardigans all the time, and he’d put on a lot of weight around the waist.  I remember that meeting him was shocking.

I remember that we, his friends in CEGEP, always had this sense that Spike was somewhat disconnected from reality.  Maybe that he was in denial.  I always got this sense that hew as unhappy with life– and that’s why many of us turned to fantasy worlds and martial arts.  Here were worlds that were glamorous, cool, exciting, and awesome– the real world demanded so much!  But with enough friends? With enough friends it was possible to maintain a constant illusion that we’d never be responsible for anyone or anything.  We could go on living as if all would continue forever.

There are a few ways that this scenario could have played out for us.  For all of us who floated between the anime/manga club, the arcades, and MAC I mean.  [Zanshin] is one of the few of us who “got out” quick and on time, but the vast majority of us had a lot of growing pains when it came to becoming responsible people out of that and didn’t graduate on time.

-=-=-=-=-=-

When I ran into Spike again some years after CEGEP, it was a random encounter during my undergrad degree.  It was strange– he always had a certain energy to him, but suddenly, it was gone.  He had put on a lot of weight, and seemed really out of shape.  Instead of his bombastic big smile, it was a tired, almost guilty one.

I couldn’t believe it.  MAC was one of the prides of my youth– although that original MAC had probably by that time closed, I was still always doing some martial arts in some form or another. But he had gotten… fat.  And more severely, the fire in his eyes had died.

It wasn’t something I had noticed because we were specifically talking about martial arts– it was just that he seemed tired.

Now, I realise that there are a lot of things in his life that I likely didn’t know about.  But that’s one of those things that I never thought would have died out from anyone’s eyes– that struggle, that fire, that want of being the protagonists.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

It goes without saying that life s a very difficult thing, for a number of reasons.  It’s difficult, first of all, to figure out what we want.  But once we know it?  Then it becomes apparent that it’s difficult to get what we want.  To make matters worse, if getting what we want is difficult, then we start reevaluating what we want– we start wondering if it’s not something we really wanted anyways.  So we make compromises

If we’re lucky enough to figure out what we need, then we can go after that whole heartedly– but it takes a lot of courage to do that.

My life has been a contradiction of two opposing forces– at one hand, this philosophy of being the hero of my own story.  Forward, towards the goal!  Take no prisoners, make no comrpomises.

But at the same time, experience has been showing me that I actually need very little in life.  Pursing things without any respect whatsoever for reality can be very self-destructive.  In fact, it is one of the components of psychopathy.

-=-=-=-=-

Despite everything, I wonder– have I really figured out what it means to be happy?  Is happiness a state, or a process?  Is it counting your blessings and being able to say “wow, that was a good run,” or is it to say “I know, finally, where I want to be”?

I do know that without things that we’re passionate about, life is pretty boring.  But with passions, at the same time is the possibility that in wanting something, or deciding that we need something, we’re doomed to not be able to get it.  So do we content ourselves with the struggle?  Is it just to go down gloriously?

Who decides by what criteria a high score is determined? And if it is us– how would we score it?

Maybe this empericism is my problem.  Maybe I should just ask intuitively how I feel, and if it’s good, then things are good, and that’s that.

 

Maybe it’s not just about what we want or need, nor if we’re there yet– maybe it’s whether it’s enough to be facing the right way, even if we don’t have it.  I don’t always know.  So many questions.

Reconstruction

After a couple of days of mindless video gaming, sleeping, and judo, I think I’ve successfully reset my brain and am ready to take on school again. Just in time, I suppose– week 7 is coming up, which means midterm assessments.

To be honest, I kind of feel a bit disgusted with myself that I spent so much time gaming lately. It’s dirty work, but I think that that sort of thing is what i need to get my head back on straight.

[CM] was recently doing her rotation in the psychiatry department, so I got to overhear a fair amount of the video lectures that she’s been listening to. Apparently, when it comes to bad memories, there are two big coping mechanisms when it comes pushing that memory down: suppression and repression.

Repression is the unhealthy mechanism. That involves taking the event and just burying it so deep that you forget about it completely– at least on a conscious level. However, it continues to affect you at a subconscious level. That’s where you get all these typical television psychiatry stereotypes about people saying that the problem is a deeply repressed traumatic event that has never been dealt with. It leads to a psyiatric gangrene, in a sense.

Suppression, on the other hand, is healthy. Best example of this is Lily and Marshal from <i>How I Met Your Mother</i>, who, if they see they’re getting nowhere with a huge argument, just decide to call a time out, and resume every other aspect of their life as if the argument isn’t happening. Basically, they put it on a shelf in suspended animation, to deal with it later. In the meantime, it allows them to take care of other business.

I think for me, it depends on how low I’ve gone because of something. I might not be able to completely compartmentalise a negative feeling or event, because I live a very integrated life– I draw connections between every event in my day and the next, so it’s hard not to have things leak out.

I think that’s probably why video gaming is probably a good suppression. For me, it involves getting unplugged from reality, and plugging into something completely different. Spending time in that other world takes some of the CPU processing away from that traumatic event– allows the microprocessor to cool down, if you will, so that when I come back, things are less gunked up and a bit easier to deal with.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Do be honest, I feel much better right now. Best I’ve felt in a while, actually– for the past two or three months, I’ve been sleeping incredibly poorly. Maybe 6-7 hours per night, sometimes in chunks. Now that I’ve failed at clerkships, it feels as if an enormous burden has been lifted from my shoulders.

I sleep better now, I eat better now, and all that background noise has mostly cleared up.

That’s not to say that I don’t care about getting a job– but I do have some breathing time to focus on other things in my life right now.

I called home and spoke to my parents last week. This was before I had my last clerkship rejection. But it made me feel better because my parents were pretty supportive of my studies, and all my effort to build a life for myself with CM.

To be honest, I’m still not very used to my parents being so supportive. But I guess it makes sense, because when I was in my teens and early twenties, I did quite a bit that would make any parent cringe. Our relationship has improved a lot over the years– I can talk to them like friends now, which I never could do when I was younger. Who would have known that all I had to do was to sort my life out and have some ambition?

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I remember from when I was studying philosophy during my undergrad an anecdote from Nietzsche. I tried to find it again but couldn’t, which makes me wonder if it was Nietzsche at all. In any case– it’s the story of friendship, and the footbridge. When Nietzsche’s friend came to visit him, he had to come up on a footbridge leading to his house.

Upon his arrival Nietzsche basically tells the friend to stop, and turn around. You’re not welcome here. ANd that’s it– he shuts his door in the guy’s face. There’s no where to go except back across the footbridge where he came from.

That makes Nietzsche sound like quite the bastard, and it’s a wonder that he had any friends at all. As I understand it, he died quite miserably. But in his head, he was being the best friend ever. The reasoning is that, by rejecting his friend, his friend would be cast into self-doubt and introspection. By having his confidence in their friendship completely shaken, he would be broken and forced to reevaluate everything about himself. This is the beginning of the <i>ubermensch</i>, the superior man– because if the foundation is broken, then nothing can be taken as granted. It becomes thus necessary to rebuild from nothing, and to scrutinise every stone before it is set in place.

In his view, this was the best experience a friend could give you.

In reality, if I had a friend who slammed a door in my face, my first reaction might not be to wonder too much what I’d done wrong. I’d probably kick down his door and ask him what the fuck his problem was.

But employers are more like this, and the way I’ve decided to fit in employers who reject me into my life experience is in this way. It’s the only way that I get anything useful out of this.

-=-=-=-=-=-

My parents are keeping busy with a lot of renovation projects. My dad hates working on the apartments (a couple of investement properties that we rent out) because the idea of losing money to those things totally stresses him out.

But they recently helped one of my uncles build a deck. I saw the pictures they sent me, from the foundations to the finished product– and I must say, it looks very professional. At the moment, they’re now working on completely redoing our kitchen.

I have a lot to appreciate about the childhood I had. Even at a young age, we were a very “Do It Yourself” family, and I mean with actual carpentry skills, not just 3d printing or basic crafty abilities with scissors and duct tape.

I am often shocked at how the average person I know doesn’t know how to use a hammer or a screwdriver, much less change the brakes on a bicycle, or even dismantle a piece of IKEA furniture without the instructions.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-==-=-=-=-

It, as in, <i>life</i>, is a lot like playing with building blocks, or lumber and nails. Yeah, there area lot of easy ways to do things nowadays– you can build a deck nowadays with artificial PVC planks that all but snap together, for instance.

But at the end of the day, I think you have a much broader sense of imagination and a greater ability for adaptation to bad circumstances if you know the basics– how to hit a nail in straight so it doesn’t crook, for instance.

Human psychology is a lot the same– it’s a building space. Yes there are many space age materials out there that make things so much easier. However, I pride myself on being hard on myself and really being able to give into a full range of emotions, from happiness to despair. A respect for my own feelings, motivations, and fears gives me small lowest common denominators that I can work with.

Throw in a tornado, and I don’t need the space age materials to rebuild my life– I can make do with the timber and nails I’ve got.

I just need time to remember that setbacks are nothing new, and neither is getting beyond them.

At the edge of the pool

I think it was [Zanshin] who told me a parable which I often refer to: there is a big difference from being in a pool, and peeing, and standing outside of the pool, and peeing into it.

The question is– how does this difference define our sense of what is lawful, and what isn’t?

I’m working on an paper for an intellectual property class.  It will deal specifically with the usefulness of the law in an age of digital media.  The paradox of it all is that I’m a law student– I would like to work in an area where I can help to reform laws to help the underprivileged and the marginalised; yet what I do in practice is break the law in many small little ways on a daily basis.  I won’t admit what laws I actually break– lets just say that hypothetically, I do.

 

Why do people break the law? Because doing something by the law is often tedious, and it costs more.  It’s so much easier for us to offset our costs onto someone else than to do the legwork ourselves.  That’s the whole point of stealing: it’s to save the amount of work hours taken in producing a unit of something, by skipping the production phase and just having a product instantly.  Don’t have a job? Don’t have money?  That’s all units of work hours– but if you just steal the apple, you can bypass all of that.  Of course, the fundamental problem with stealing is that if it goes unchecked, then the people who actually do put in the units of work hours will just die because they can’t cover their costs.  They’ll have no apples for themselves.  And they’ll have no incentive to be involved in producing apples, if they can just steal them from someone else too.  This all results in a race to the bottom, where eventually, all the apple trees are bare, every last apple gets eaten, and not a single apple tree ever gets planted again.

 

So where does the line get drawn?

Stealing a grape at the grocery store (like every good asian kid learns from their parents and grandparents, to check if it’s tasty before buying)?  An apple?

Perhaps our sense of moral relativism connects guilt with public shame only– that’s why there’s a much higher chance that we’ll download a music album by torrent, but we’ll be super scared to walk into a music store and put a CD in our jacket when we think nobody is looking.

 

I guess the questions I’m getting at are these– do we actually feel any genuine guilt about anything, or are we just scared of being punished when we are caught?  Do we really have a sense of morals, or is that gut feeling just a conditioned aversion to public shame?

 

I often joke that I’m a sociopath, but sometimes, it’s only half a joke.  That’s because I’ve really spent a lot of time defining, for myself, what I consider right and wrong.  And the conclusion I’ve reached?

Like I said, I won’t admit to actually doing anything wrong– but, hypothetically speaking: If I wanted to, I would feel no more– or less– guilty downloading a movie than I would walking into a shop an just stealing a DVD. The only considerations that would cross my mind are if I could be caught.

 

The important thing is that guilt doesn’t play a part in my life– but that doesn’t mean I know right from wrong.

The difference between what I’m saying is that I make my decisions in life, both right and wrong, based on a consideration of my relationship to my environment and the people around me.  My actions are justified by the relative importance of these connections, weighed against others.

I am not driven by guilt, or remorse– although I might learn from regret.

 

It could be phrased within a religious context.  Since I come from a Catholic background, I can distinguish between two basic types of followers.

Group 1:Do you do this thing, X, or not do this thing, Y, because God said you shouldn’t?  This is the guilt approach– you don’t care what’s right or wrong, you just are following your conditioned reflexes to prefer or avoid certain behaviors.  It’s a passive role in life– because if you go this route, you are basically taking a back seat and trusting the reasoning of someone else.

 

Group 2: Or do you X or Y because you agree with God’s reasonings to encouarge X and ban Y?  Do you understand that the reason why God made these rules is because these things have implications on the systems that you must cohabit with others in?

 

Nevermind that Group 2 doesn’t really need God to begin with, since they’ve arrived at the same conclusions.  My main point is that Group 1 makes choices based on guilt– which, the example of media piracy in an internet age points out, is actually dependent on the fear of public shame, not on an actual relationship with morality.

 

 

 

Continue?

[CM]’s grandmother passed away last week, and it’s placed her under greater strain than she already has been with med school.  It brought up a lot of memories of my own grandmother’s passing, which was just a few months ago.  There’s not much you can say when something like that happens– there’s no advice you can give that is anything more than generalisation that could just as easily not have been said.

 

I wonder sometimes if we’ll ever catch a lucky break where things will just suddenly become “easy,” but realistically, it’s doubtful.  Orientation Week is this coming week at my university, so that means that I’ll be getting busy as well due to commitments to the Baduk Club and LawSoc.  It’ll be good for me to get busy.

CM and I got into an argument the other day about my neediness as a person.  I guess what it amounts to is that I feel that I, as a boyfriend, am entitled to a certain amount of attention.  Certain things count more than others for this.  I guess the big thing is that CM is so pre-occupied with how complicated her school and other life is that she just takes it for granted that I’m there in the background, still going about things.  I try really hard to make her life easier and simpler, because I think that’s what a partner should do.  But on the other hand, maybe I’m over reaching.  She tells me that nothing can change the situation she’s in– does that mean I’m supposed to stop trying to help?  Because in my helping, I expect some appreciation.

 

Fundamentally, I don’t think a relationship is just a work relationship.  It’s not just a question of dividing and conquering the upkeep of daily life or the tasks that we need to achieve what we want.  There’s something to be said about needing the presence of someone uniquely because they are who they are.  I am quite convinced that that person, for me, is CM.  And I’m mostly certain that she feels the same way about me.  The problem is, she doesn’t take the time to show it– and I’m not a machine. I need some encouragement.  We’ve talked about it, and we get nowhere on the subject.  Fundamentally, she’s just too short on time.  Perhaps too short on time to really maintain our relationship.

 

I think back to generations of Chinese families, where one partner goes off to work and barely ever comes home.  I’m still on vacation– today is my last day– and for the past few weeks, I feel like that has been me.  It has a lot to do with the relative ratio of stress that we have in our days.  Her day consists of running around hospitals, following doctors around, where I’m largely left to my own devices.  I have most of the days to spend on video games, judo, and my part time job.  Where I can, I do as much as I can to get the load off CM’s back– laundries, cleaning, groceries.  I’m like a home-maker.  And the tacit assumption is that what my partner is doing is what’s best for her, and for us, and it’s what we need.

I know that relationships can survive like this– thousands of generations of migrants workers, not just Chinese, have families built on exactly this model of love and devotion.  Perhaps my standards are too high– maybe the reality of the real world is that the best we can hope for is a comrade in arms who we can have an occasional heart to heart with over a campfire.  Did I get the false impression from movies and television– that a relationship should be more fun and more involved with one another?  I remember a quote from Dr. Cox from Scrubs.  It went something along the lines of how relationships don’t fall apart because two people keep fighting– they fall apart when nobody wants to fight anymore. 

 

We made decisions to come to Australia and take on some of the most difficult grad school programs there are.  Whether or not I regret it is inconsequential.  The question is, do we continue to find reasons to find it all worth the prices we continue to pay?

I’m a very stubborn, proud person. I believe in following through with things, and though I am adaptable there are certain things that I am very difficult to compromise on. One of these things is that I will be there for CM through thick and thin.  If I was younger, I might ask myself “wouldn’t it be easier to find someone simpler?”  But that kind of “younger” thought is also a trap– because relationships aren’t just about the good times, they’re also about how you get through the really tough times together.   I often get the feeling that she’s gotten tired of fighting– but I remember that the exhaustion mainly from her fighting me (though, I am guilty of some of it), it’s from her struggling with med school and her family. 

 

I’m not sure what I’m getting at– but I guess it’s to say that, though the process is difficult, I’m still convinced that she’s worth the trouble.  I’m only human, so I can’t say that any more categorically.  It won’t be easy, but we’ll get through this.

 

It’s been raining all weekend, but the sun is finally coming out.

Like a Stuck Pig

Monday being the beginners’ judo, and there not being another beginners’ class until Thursday, I scheduled my third blood donation for Tuesday (today).

I’m not particularly squeamish about needles, but all I can say is that the needles they use to take blood are fucking huge.  I don’t think it’d be exaggerating if I compared it to the guage of a wire coat hanger.  Now just imagine sticking that coat hanger up one of your veins.

 

It does “pinch” a bit, but what the hell, why not.  When I was younger, I used not donate blood.  Partly, when I was in early college, I probably wasn’t physically fit to give blood.  When I was in late college and early undergrad, I was so obssessed with training that my mentality was “I had to work to make this blood, I don’t think I need to share it.  It’s too much of a setback for me.”  Whether or not there’s any medical justification to that mentality, go figure.

By the time I’d been working years in healthcare after finishing my undergrad degree, I attempted to donate blood a couple of times in Montreal.  The problem was that I could never quite get it scheduled properly– the closest blood donor clinic was a temporary one in Alexis Nihon (accross the street from the Montreal Children’s Hospital, where I worked) and no matter how many times I went during lunch breaks, the whole process of paperwork and waiting time never got a needle in me before my hour (and sometimes even hour and a half) lunch break was over. I know a lot of people have given blood downtown and haven’t had that problem, but man– it was enough of a hassle that after the second or third failed attempt, I just got fed up and regressed to not bothering.  I tried.

 

When I came to Australia, it was CM’s idea once that we should.  Well actually, she went, I went with her, and just decided to do it since I was in the clinic anyhow.  To my surprise? WIth nothing but my passport, I was in and out in less than an hour, even having done all my paperwork from scratch.  How’s that for a streamlined process?  Today, the whole process took a bit less than an hour, and it would’ve been even faster if it weren’t for me recently being in Canada for [Zanshin]’s wedding (apparently, Canada is on the watch list for West Nile virus), my distant history in Korea (considered a maleria alert country) and my recent visit to a general practitioner to get a new eczema cream.  I mean, considering how ‘complicated’ I am, under one hour is pretty damn good, I think.  I guess it helps that I have easy veins, and that when punctured, I bleed like a stuck pig– I don’t know how big those bags are, but from start to finish today took me around 5 minutes only, which I’m told is pretty damned fast.  I don’t know if that’s awesome or inconvenient– I guess it depends on the scenario.  If life were a first person or third person shooter, it’d be like playing on insane where I’d bleed out almost immediately on a down!

 

CM’s opinion is that she feels she has some sort of a responsibility as a doctor-to-be to give blood, otherwise it would make her hippocritical.  I don’t necessarily agree– healthcare people give shitloads of years off their life, and by that I don’t mean the time in hopsitals, I mean the time lost in stress and caring– but CM, on the whole, is a lot more generous a person than I am.  If I was a doctor, I don’t know if I would give blood.

 

Be that as it may, and it has nothing to do with me having worked in healthcare, I was an educator for a brief stint, and I did work with children.  I also consider myself a martial artist.  And I have people I care about.  And life experience has taught me that things are fragile, and shit happens.  After judo yesterday, I hurt one heel, one knee, and my neck– what if one day, I’m unlucky enough to need a blood transfusion?  I figure that, even benevolence aside, I should buy some karmic insurance by investing some blood now.  It’s not benevolence– it’s pure selfishness, to have some feeling that I paid for whatever blood I need, and whatever those I care about need.

 

On the whole, it feels like a more productive morning than just lying in bed or watching television.

Shonen Tales, Redux

I’m trying to figure out a formula.

Results – Effort = Fun ?

It’s 11:30 AM when I begin writing this– I went to bed at about midnight.  Though I spent about two hours reading online before actually falling asleep, so I probably went to bed at around 2AM.  That means I took a total of about 9.5 hours of sleep.

Which is abnormal for me– normally I do about 7 or so, and then I”m good to go.  The factor that accounts for it: judo.

 

I went to my third judo lesson yesterday night.

 

I’ve managed to isolate in my own brain that I enjoy judo.  But that requires clarification.  I enjoy the idea of being able to send people sailing through the air, and slamming to the ground.  I enjoy the idea of games of footwork and balance.  I enjoy the technical details that determine the difference between a sloppy, power intensive technique, versus one with good mechanical leverage, efficient torque, and a high input:output ratio.

 

But this is all in theory.  The truth is, I’m not good at it.  And how could I be– this is only my third lesson.

 

This morning, I had trouble getting out of bed because frankly, my body is completely exhausted. I don’t even have enough core strength left to sit up in bed, so I had to roll out.  Yesterday, the events of the evening turned eventually to randori.  I’m still very lost with most of the japanese terms, but I think it probably means something like sparring.

I’ve barely learned the basics of breakfalls and rolls, and I only know one throw (o soto gari) to a very low level.  Going against brown belts and black belts?  A bit daunting.  The first partner I was paried with grabbed me by the right collar with his left hand.  From there… I couldn’t do anything with him.  I was unable to establish a grip with my left hand because he always managed to keep me away somehow.  I don’t really know any throws that I can do with only one collar hold of my own.  Meanwhile, he was twirling me around, and sweeping me whenever I was even slightly off balanced.

 

This process more or less repeated itself for the second half of the class with me being passed from partner to partner.  I mostly spent that time catching air time, before landing on my back wondering, often, “how in the HELL did that just happen?”

 

Of course, I’ve been keeping my eyes open so by the end of the class, I was putting up a bit more resistence, but my body was definately starting to acumulate damage.  The amount of time it took me to get up after each successive projection was starting to get longer and longer.  MY breathing was becoming more and more laboured.  I was strating to get those twitches in my calf and foot that tell you a cramp is coming on, and that you need to slow down.

Thanks to my MMA history, I did much better on the groundwork, and was not tapped out by anyone who I partnered with, but even so, I wasn’t able to tap anyone out.  And I could feel that people were going easy.

 

 

I guess this is all to say that I like the idea of being good at judo– however, I don’t know if I like the effort involved in getting good judo results. 

 

To put it simply, I enjoy being good at things.  THe things I am good at, they are my comfort zone.  They are the things where, frankly, I can feel good about myself because I understand and appreciate the medium.  I will also admit– I enjoy the benefit of being better than others in some cases.  To be absolutely cynical of myself, teaching others, and in some cases, toying with others, brings me pleasure on some levels because I’m a narcissist in that way.  There are more noble side effects to the passions which I share with others, but they’re just that: side effects.  The benefits that others and the world get from me pursuing my passions is because I’ve chosen specific paths where we can all mutually benefit from my passions.  But, I can’t say that I naturally extend good-will to others just for the sake of it if there’s nothing in it for me.

To put it bluntly, in my view of the world, I’m actuallly quite selfish.  It’s just that the world happens to be lucky enough that I’m selfish in such a way that side effects of my selfish pusuits tend to benefit others with a pretty good ratio.

I guess that’s the way that I’ve managed to craft myself  a morally sustainable philosophy of life.  I’ve taken care to get good at things where, knowing myself, I believe it would be good for others to get good at as well.  I’ve been selective of my hobbies.  So, for example, you might notice I’m not into driving (in fact, I don’t have a license) and that goes along with everything I believe about single-occupant cars being one of the banes of urban development.  INstead, I’m in to bicycles.  But it’s not that I like bicycles for bicycles.  If you’ve read all my road-rage stories of drag racing with other random cyclists since I arrived at Sydney, you’ll see I’m not a nice guy.  However, I think the more people who get passionate and personal about cycling, the better– projecting my passion for cycling outwards, even for my own selfish reasons, is likely to be of more benefit for the world at large than other things.

While the moral, social, and cultural implications of my choices have more depth than that, and I’m oversimplifying a bit to villify myself to make a point, the basic idea is that I look at activity, and I ask myself– what if everyone did that?  It doesn’t matter how obscure or popular the thing is.  That’s my way of changing the world, I think.  The payoff in the long term is this great world where everyone can share in some activity that is great because of this factor, X, which I thought was so attractive and essential to life.

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

However, short term payoffs in unfamiliar territory are total shit.

 

I’m not like Makunouchi Ippo, or Uzumaki Naruto, or Kurosaki Ichigo.  At my stage in life, I have no reason to fight.

 

Judo.  Back to that.  I’m terrible at judo, and that’s to be expected after just 3 lessons.  I’m not saying anything along the lines of surprise, in the sense that, man, that shit is so simple, I don’t see why I can’t get it.  Not at all– I’m very recognisant of the basic equations between dues versus results.  I know i haven’t yet paid my dues to feel that I ought to be better at this.

 

It’s just that it’s been a long time since I tried something that is totally out of my experiences.  When I took up taekwondo, for example, there was a marked similarlity to all my previous experiences in kickboxing and Jeet Kune Do.  SO there was always some way to feel good about myself for improving in ways that I could measure, and for adding extra depth to an understanding of the human body that I had already begun to develop.

 

Judo? I’m not certain how to even evaluate my progress just yet. Everything is unfamiliar to me, and I”m at the bottom of the food chain.  There are no short term benefits. I think in the long term, I will enjoy being able to get through these workouts, and I will enjoy helping other people cultivate a further appreciation for it.  But in the short term? I gain nothing.  I just hurt.  All over.

 


So how, really, does one define what’s fun?  Why does anyone stick to something?  Do we stick to things because we think they’re fun?  And if that’s the case… doesn’t the amount of effort I’m putting in right now, versus the amount of results I feel are showing, tell me that this clearly is not fun?  I reiterate: I spent the second half of yesterday’s class being treated like a crash test dummy.

[Zanshin]’s analysis is that it was probably a hazing.

 


Now, if I were any other shonen protagonist, there’d be some reason why I was doing this.  The typical story of activity mastery in a shonen manga is that the guy wants to be recognised, he wants revenge, he wants the girl, or he just wants to stop being bullied.  That might have been me ten years ago, but I don’t need that anymore.  Like I said, right now, I don’t have a reason to fight.  I’ve come to terms with my inner demons.  I’ve got [CM], who completes my life.  I’m no longer bullied the way I was decades ago.  And I am a respected person by friends and family.

 

So why then?  Why do this?


I have decided that I am going to continue.  Judo, that is.  I don’t enjoy it right now on any basic level.  Like– it’s not fun.  There’s so much uncertainty about what’s going to happen.  Nobody is spoon feeding me and making it easy.  If I don’t ask questions, I don’t learn– and I don’t like asking people questions.  I guess the way I’m justifying to myself is that this is what I’m getting out of it.  THe way this class is taught is forcing me to be someone different.  It’s forcing me not only to submit myself to absolute uncertainty, outside of my comfort zones, but it also forcing me to learn things that I don’t know how to learn yet.  I keep watching from the sidelines.  In sports that I enjoy, like badminton, and MMA, I have a sharingan eye for things– I can analyse and predict situations based on body movements.  At the moment, the judo techniques are things that I simply can’t copy, and can’t understand.

 

The real question I asked myself was, should I continue getting better at things I know?

 

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

I’ve been having conversations with people about relationships lately.  Yes, this ties in.  It has to do with how some people have basically given up on certain types of relationships, or relationships altogether.  There’s a parallel here– it has to do with that outside of comfort zone feeling.  People panic and they want to grab for their lifelines.

 

We’ve had two guests at my apartment from Canada over the last year.  One of them was [Mayida], and the other was a second cousin of mine.  Both of them came to Sydney for adventure, they wanted to see what life could be like away from home– but for both of them, the shock of being suddenly away from their home situations was too much, I think.  They both, very quickly, reverted to attempting to recreate their homes here in Sydney, rather than trying to live in the ways over here.  It’s a comfort zone thing. 

 

As I get older, the bulky number of experiences I’ve had makes it very easy to never leave my comfort zone, because frankly, it’s quite large.  I have lots of experiences across a number of life’s aspects, so I almost always have an entry point.  This is good.

50

It’s also bad, because when I’m faced with something like judo, which comes out of my blind spot, the jarring realisation that I am lost is absolutely fightening.  I’m not just technically lost, but it shakes my philosophies of passion down to their very core.  It’s almost like a challenge to my very way of life.  Basically, I don’t like not being able to do something. I don’t like quitting something when I’ll feel that I quit because I couldn’t put up with it.  It’s one thing to quit because you think the activity is stupid or fruitless– it’s another when you’re quit because you don’t have it in you.  The latter type, I can’t abide by. 

 

I don’t expect that I’ll become a judo champion in my lifetime– but I need to earn my own respect by seeing if, truly, I can commit myself to something that scares me.  I want to see if I can do something where I do not have the luxury of being the teacher, or the bully.  I want to see if I still have the youth in me to remember what it was like to be the me before I am who I am now: the underdog.  I could just walk away from it, and nobody would ever know– because nobody except myself ever put an expectation to go through with it.  But I wouldn’t be satisfied– my own egomania would not abide it.

I’m 30 years old this year.  It’s just a number, sure.  I have a lot in my life to be proud of.   But I have always based my sense of achivement on passion, not on results.  In that sense, what’s more important is not a history of things I’ve done, but the story of how it was done.

 

Doing this is a return to a nature of myself that, until now, I’d almost forgotten: that of the underdog.  When I was young, starting kickboxing at age 18, I was an underdog.  Same goes for badminton.  WHen I was in band?  By the time I was invited into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Wing 306 Concert Band, I was 16– where the median age of the other musicians was about 50. 

 

The problem is, those and other aceivements are all in the past.  The question is: is who I am a resume of acheivements, or a side effect of my character?  I’d like to think it’s the latter.  But in order to verify that, I need to keep striving for more, and not surf simply on the past.

 

My life has always been most interesting when I have been the underdog.  So, this is me, living out my shonen tale.

Free Ride

This weekend, [CM] and I went to check out the Katoomba area around the Blue Mountains. It’s quite the view, and the bushwalking there is extraordinary. There were a few setbacks at first: the trains stopped, and as a result, we got there a couple of hours late. But once we were there, we were there, and it was a good time.

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

CM and [Mayida] left on road trip to Melbourne today. The idea of “travel” is recently on my mind a lot because of Mayida. Maybe a bit of background information would help make things clearer.

Rewind to a couple of months ago.

Mayida, a friend of CM’s, plans to come to Sydney after finishing her teaching degree in British Columbia (Canada). Her plan: to find her own feet, and all that. She manages to secure a working holiday visa.

About a month and a half ago, she’s got the working holiday visa and a potential job in Melbourne.

However, she comes to Sydney because CM and I are here, and puts Melbourne as a backup plan. In an ideal scenario, she finds a good job in Sydney and stays around here.

So she comes to Sydney and moves in temporarily with CM and I (and our other 2 flatmates).

And then the problems start. I mentioned this in a previous post. Basically, while she’s staying at my apartment, she supposed to be looking for an apartment and a job.

 

However, for the majority of the time, she’s on her laptop watching television, or on skype calling family and friends back home.

 

What’s wrong with this picture?

 

The thing is, when you leave home, you also need to leave home behind. Not only that, but you need to be willing to work to build a new home.

And even if you don’t want to talk in terms of home, you need to think pragmatically in terms of where you are, what you have, and what needs to be done. Most likely, you are not in the middle of your support networks, you have nothing, and you have lots to do– because nobody can do it for you.

For some, it’s easier than for others. CM and I are global citizens– and perhaps that’s to the detriment of an opinion of Mayida, but we have high standards of what needs to be done when you land somewhere.

From the very outset, CM and I have endevaoured to assist, but not to spoonfeed.

 

Basically, if you’re going to travel, and by travel, I mean, go somewhere far away with the intention of being more than a tourist, you need to get your shit together.

CM in many ways feels more betrayed than I do that we spent so much time and effort on Mayida to get her set in Sydney. I’ve only known Mayida for a bit over a month– CM has a long history with her. It’s not so much that she chose Melbourne over Sydney that bothers us– it’s more simply that, for the time that we put into her to help her get started in Sydney, she took no advantage of it. We saw nothing but laziness and apathy from her.

 

She didn’t put any serious effort into working in Sydney at all. She barely even made efforts to look for her own apartment. Mayida comes from a generation of people that thinks that the convenience of the internet is a substitute for hard work and serious face time. She didn’t go places in person to hand out her resumes. I ended up going with her to check out apartments during my days off, and I even got her a really good job at the company I worked with. THe job she got wasn’t in education, but it’s still a pretty awesome job. The schedule was highly flexible, and it paid extremely well (much higher than north american standards).

After living with us for about a week, we eventually found an apartment that she liked. CM also went back with her the second time to give a second opinion and to pay the deposit. More or less handed an apartment and a job, it was not just up to Mayida to work on making her life better.

But instead of putting in efforts into findng a Sydney job, she spent her non-working time either calling home, watching television, or going clubbing.

Eventually, time came and went, and the window of opportunity for engaging the backup plan came up. So that’s what she did. Deciding that she didn’t like Sydney all that much, she went with the backup plan.

 

This was about a week ago. She left her luggage (something like 4 huge pieces of luggage, plus a few random bags of other things) at my apartment and took a plane to Melbourne, where she would check up on her backup plan job and try and find an apartment. She had a week of hosteling planned, and then she would come back to Sydney, pick up her luggage, and go on a road trip with CM and another friend to bring it all to Melbourne. (CM has two weeks off of med school for the midsemester break).

 

First few days in Melbourne? We got messages from Mayida, reporting from the beaches, catching some sun. She hadn’t yet started working on finding an apartment. Throughout the week, she’d spend time basically going through the same routine, with a bit more clubbing and beaching and shopping.

 

 

 

Now, I realize, it’s a new country– there are things to see. But you’re not in a set position, living out of hostels. CM was getting more and more stressed because Mayida would constnatly message us that she hadn’t yet found a place to stay.

 

Which compounds the amount of aggravation that CM feels towards Mayida. And, might I add, my own. Suppose Mayida doesn’t find an apartment by the time of the road trip– Mayida was scheduled to take a plane back to sydney to meet with CM and the friend. And CM is supposed to help drive everyone over.

 

Now, what’s in it for CM? She has 2 weeks off during the entire semester. 2 weeks where she has to balance out a bit of fun with a whole lot of reading to catch up for class. And she’s going to spend 1 of these weeks on a road trip to Melbourne? Where there might not even be an apartment to stay at on the other end, which would result in additional costs of hotels per night?

 

Somehow, by luck, Mayida manages to secure an apartment the day before her flight back to Sydney. Which sounds good, but there seem to be some issues with the size of the place… the way I look at this problem is that it’s what you get if you wait until the last minute. There are probably better places out there, but how would you know with such short time?

Anyways, on the whole, I guess I’m just annoyed that she ought to have been working harder.

CM actually exploded the other day on Mayida. I don’t know the details of exactly what was said, but in the end, they still headed out on the road trip today. CM and I toyed with the idea of her not going at all, but in the end– Mayida wouldn’t really be able to drive all the way to Melbourne safely on her own. A significant hole in the plan is that CM is the only of the two drivers that has experience with left-side driving (opposite to North America).

On the whole? I guess I’m a bit cross because. Partly because Mayida hasn’t learned anything while here, but mostly because she hasn’t just gotten her shit together. Over one month after first landing in Australia, she’s still trying to figure out the very very basics. Do I expect too much?

 

Despite it all, I hope that she some day proves that my judgement is too harsh. I do hope that some day, she’ll be an independant person.