The Return

I went back to training tonight after a few weeks off. The longer I stay away, the harder it is to work back to where I was. I stayed out because I was sick with a cold, and I know that was the right thing to do, for me and my teammates. I needed the rest. I’d hate to be that guy who shows up sick and spreads germs all over the place. Especially when you’re in close quarters combat with people. Training in the martial arts is about spending a very long time doing something to get better at it, and as a result, become a better version of yourself. So a few weeks out of at an absolute minimum of a decade of training? It’s nothing. It just feels like a long time while I’m off the mats.

I also came back to work after calling out sick on Friday, and the long weekend. On Saturday Kt and I went to our annual Sounders game (Seattle vs Portland Timbers). It was a beautifully warm and clear day to march through the streets to the stadium. We had great seats, purchased from a season ticket holder who put them up for resale. The Sounders won 1-0, scoring in the fourth minute of the game. The stadium erupted with cheering. The rest of the weekend was spent at home relaxing.

At work I felt much better and more productive. I think I needed to get things off my chest, and writing that last blog post helped a lot. I also had the chance to fix something today, so that’s a great form of micro-reward. It’s the same thing with work as it is at jiu jitsu. I need to remember that it’s a long haul effort, and I’ll have good and bad days. Over the many years I’ll spend working, as long as I stay true to myself and my passion, I’ll never stop improving.

‘STICK TO THE PLAN’
– Big Sean, Voices in My Head/Stick to the Plan

The Search

As you may already be aware I’ve taken up surfing. Usually down on the Oregon coast (Seaside, Cannon Beach) or out at Westport, WA. I’ll either borrow Kt’s sister’s surfboard or rent one from a local surf shop. I have my own full length wetsuit with a hood, gloves and boots. I’ve had a few surf lessons: my first two were in Costa Rica, and another with Kt in Australia. Other than that, I’ve just figured it out as I go. I just know how fun it is to catch a wave.

I’ve been fighting off a cold for the last two weeks or so. It’s prevented me from being able to train. I think without training I tend to lose my focus and drive. When I take time off work it makes me wonder what else I could be doing in my life (rather than a desk job). That inevitably leads to me feeling pretty unsettled, and sometimes frustrated that I can’t make immediate changes to the situation. There’s bills to pay: I can’t just surf and train every day. Not yet, anyway.

These last few days, I’ve been wondering what my passion really is. I’ve come around to the idea that it’s not what I’m doing right now. Working in an office isn’t my dream. I can’t waste years working on something that isn’t bringing happiness to my life. There are two financial roadblocks: paying off my car, and the credit card. Those two things need to be cleared before I can really seek out my dream: whatever it may be, and wherever it may take me. I have to be okay with my dream changing over time, but I won’t let go of it, and I have to chase it as if my life depended on it.

I’m thinking about film school. I’m thinking about Canada. I’m thinking about Hawaii. I’m thinking about Boston. I’m thinking about the kind of work I want to do, but more importantly the kind of life I want to live. All of this thinking is being blurred by the cold I’m fighting and the medicine that’s controlling symptoms.

This blog has always been about me, and a way for me to motivate myself. Now there’s another person in my life, and we have shared responsibilities and shared dreams together. She’s always encouraging me to ‘quit my job and do what I really love’. I’ve been stuck in a mindset, and this blog is evidence of it, that I have to figure out my life on my own. Kt is by my side, and she can get me out of my own way. She pointed out that I’ve been avoiding the obvious: I need to write. So here’s to the endless search for the perfect wave, and the relentless chase after the kind of life I want to live.

Drive

Last year I made a decision to pursue a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). I applied to an online MBA program. I had to get my Australian bachelor’s degree evaluated for United States equivalency. It turns out that because an Australian bachelor’s degree is a three year program, the US only recognizes it as 3 years of undergraduate study, and not equivalent to a US bachelor’s. So I won’t be able to start my MBA right away. It’s a setback, but it has inspired me. Somewhere along the line I figured out how to handle setbacks like this one.

I felt wounded and cheated at first, like my degree was meaningless. It didn’t help that a course advisor tried to question the value of my degree: ‘how is creative writing going to help you in business?’ I gave her a quick retort that it’s an essential skill. Storytelling is invaluable to managers and leaders to communicate their vision and engage their team. The course advisor also said, incorrectly, that ‘a liberal arts degree is more like a community college associates’.

Out of frustration I started to plot a new course to the MBA. I could go to a liberal arts college, and complete the fourth year to earn a US bachelor’s. I could put off further study for now, and concentrate on professional certificates. I could even start a whole new bachelor’s degree. Having to plot this new course made me reconsider my goal: how badly do I want an MBA? I know I want to study something, but not precisely what, or how the MBA translates to my future happiness. Another big question came up, of where I should pursue my studies: here in the US or abroad?

I found myself once again realizing that I can do anything I want, I just have to do it. I’m finding my drive again, to set things in motion to make serious advances in my life. A big part of that is surfing, and another is studying and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The third thing I’m going to do is write.

Inveniam viam aut faciam.

I will find a way or make one.

Lift

There are four forces that affect an airplane in flight: drag, thrust, weight and lift. Drag pulls the airplane backwards, thrust propels it forward. Weight pulls the airplane down towards the ground, lift carries it upwards into the sky. Today I felt myself weighed down.

First of all, I found out late last night that the CEO of the bank I work for passed away. That put the entire building I work at in a state of shock. It felt different walking down the same hallway I’ve walked down for the last three years. I felt a little bit numb, but I stuck to my game plan. I’ve been working on a new game plan in my head since Friday.

Yesterday, we spent all day on a road trip to the western coast of Washington state. We went to a few different beaches, walked around and took photos. I climbed on rocks and trees and driftwood. We also started a vegan diet, for dietary reasons, which so far has been working out great for all of us. I felt great after Jiu Jitsu training today, which is normally when any dietary issues like heartburn are at their worst. So as we’re driving out to the coast, I’m watching the scenery go by, and I can’t stop thinking that I’ve lost my fight.

A person has fight in them: a kind of tenacity, a fierceness, a willpower that drives them to make decisions and take action. Lately I’ve felt disconnected from mine. It really hit home on the road trip. I need to find my fight again. Somewhere out there on the beach, I reconnected with it. Today I tapped into it and started to take action. I got gloves to start kickboxing training. I started to implement a new game plan at work, and a big part of it is stress reduction.

They provided a counselor at work, and I had a quick chat with him, mainly to get ahead of the grieving process. I’ve learned from recent experience that it’s far better to just confront things right away, than to let them grow in the shadows.

Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.

– Yogi Bhajan

So I’m now that I’m reconnected with my own internal engine, I’m being thrust forward. I’m keeping my chin up and that’s lifting me up. I’m being dragged down, and pulled backwards, but those forces just can’t hold back the incredible potential I’m tapping into.

Move In

This is the feeling of being where you’re meant to be.

On Wednesday we did the walk through, received the keys, and started to move in. This weekend we finished moving and cleaned up the Federal Way apartment. I felt like I wasn’t as involved in the process as I could have been because I was at work while Kt and Chad did most of the moving. I helped as much as I could. Being in Tacoma feels right. It’s where I work, where Kt and Chad are both studying, and where I train jiu jitsu. We actually met our neighbors next door and below. We’re on the top floor, which is the 3rd story and only one flight of stairs up. We have a great view north overlooking Tacoma. You can see 16 (an east-west freeway that runs through Tacoma), the mall to the east, and the Olympic mountain range to the west. Watching the traffic and lights in houses is mesmerizing. We have a big covered patio with storage to fit a family of three. The move felt great as we’d already minimized our possessions and the two bedroom is a big space.

The first book of the year was Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. Then I finished The Last Policeman by Ben Winters in two days. I keep trying to get through The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn by it is very academic in a field I field I didn’t specifically study, so I have to translate its contents into ‘my world’. That’s how to really learn about philosophy, to be forced to apply it in order to understand it. It’s a book laced with dissent towards institutions, and I love it. It is an academic lecture to the author’s peers, and as such requires concentration. It helps to live with a chapter in my head for a week or two before continuing.

We’re all feeling much more settled, even though it’s only been a few days. Yesterday Chad’s friends came up from Longview to hang out. Morgan and Brittney joined us later and we watched The Conjuring 2. We saw it in cinemas last year and it was just as scary at home. I remembered some but not all of the jump scares. Even though I knew what happened in the end, it was still a fun ride. It felt good having other people over to break in the new living space.

Today Kt showed me her Phi Theta Kappa certificate. The honors society accepted her based on academic performance last year. It was one of her goals, and it made me feel proud for her. I nearly cried. It sounds like something that shouldn’t be so moving, but for me it is. I’m so happy that she’s found her passion and is pursuing it intently.

Rules

So this weekend Kt, Chad, Max and I went hiking to Wallace falls (see instagram). It’s a state park and as it was MLK day, the park had no entry fees. There was a fold out sign placed in the middle of the path, right at the trailhead, as well as a notice board with park rules and a large map. The fold out sign on the trail itself highlighted one rule in particular: ‘Pets must be leashed’ and that the consequences were a $99 fine per WA state law. (Other posters throughout the park stated an $87 fine, so I’m assuming it was recently increased). One poster even explained ‘Six reasons why you must keep your dog on a leash’. It featured a picture of an injured dog receiving treatment on a stretcher. We kept Max on leash all day long.

We met a couple with two dogs who were well behaved and even played with Max for a minute. Both were off leash. The best one, though, was a lady running down the trail in jeans with a full grown Rottweiler galloping behind her. The trail isn’t wide or paved: it’s a narrow and rocky dirt path cut into the side of a hill, with switchbacks most of the way up. At the moment this lady decided to come hurtling down the trail, yelling ‘I’m coming up behind you!’ like a semi truck blasting it’s horn, two other groups were passing each other, using up the limited space on either side. We politely stepped out of her way, and so did the group coming up the trail, and she just barreled past us all, big dog in tow. Off leash.

I was a bit irritated by that behavior. She was obliviously inconsiderate. If anyone deserved a $100 fine, it was her. We ranted about it half way down the trail, about following the rules. Even if a particular institution isn’t perfect in its application of rules or enforcement, the fact is they are not optional. If you consent to being a part of the community (state park users), even just by showing up and being at the park, then you have a responsibility to behave in accordance with the rules established for that space. There are consequences if you don’t. The least of which is being written about on this blog.

Despite the minor inconvenience of someone being rude, we had a great hike. It was beautiful, clear weather, challenging enough, let us talk, and reconnect with nature. All the reasons why we go hiking in the first place. I’m only concentrating on the negative observations to process them for myself, and consider thoughts about how people behave in certain contexts. A simple example is how someone talks on the phone versus how they talk in person. There’s a big confluence of factors that can explain someone’s behavior, and whether it’s caused by internal or external forces. An internal force might be your personality, an external force might be a sign on the wall that says ‘no cell phones’. It all comes back to our incredible capacity and potential. If I can do anything I want at any moment in any location, what combination of mysterious forces enable and restrict my actions? What causes me to decide to follow the rules, while other people feel entitled to ignore them?

Declutter

Kt and I are moving! The one bedroom we live in today switched to month-to-month while we were on vacation, and with the additional cost we have to move. So we’ve applied for 2br 2ba places and invited Kt’s brother Chad to join us. I’m really excited. I think we’re going to have a blast living together. Adventures all year long!

We had to do some housecleaning on our credit reports. It was a little stressful at times to fix those things (some items we paid, but were sent to collections without informing us?!). It ended up being a really a good story. We’re making solid financial decisions and taking ownership over that part of our lives. Decluttering isn’t just about clothes and stuff, it can be applied to other parts of life as well. I’ve always appreciated minimalist style (see future blog post) and Kt found it’s exactly what she needed to bring things in order. So we decluttered our finances a little, and are healthier for it.

I also had a long conversation with my parents the other day. It was important because there were things I was holding on to from moving to the US, and that have happened while I was here. It was cathartic and long over due. I’m feeling empowered to clean out the suitcase of emotional clutter I’ve been dragging behind me for three years.

The hardest part is dealing with people. There’s a kind of toxicity in people, even if their intentions are great, and they aren’t bad people. They just aren’t right for you to be around at the time. When you are feeling passionate and fired up, it sucks being around someone who is, at that moment, acting like a wet blanket (for their own legitimate reasons). People who are consistently off balancing you, pulling you off course, or getting in your way are ‘toxic’. It’s made difficult because of the relationship you have with that person, and it’s often not their intention to be an antagonist. I don’t quite know how to approach this one, and luckily there’s no one in my life at this time who fits the bill. Occasionally I’ll find myself at odds with someone at work, especially in terms of mood, but that dissipates and reforms over the week. That’s not a toxic person, that’s life. You don’t have to let those people get out of your life and on with theirs. It’s the persistently toxic ones you have to confront.

P.S. Please don’t let the above paragraph let you think that I’ve lost faith in humanity, or that I’m in any way less affirming of the human spirit. I still firmly believe in people’s capacity and potential. I might wrestle with the concept of free will every now and then, or have something to say about the dark side like above. Kt once reminded me that like turning on the light in a dark room, the light casts out the dark. The good overwhelms the bad. It’s not light that creates shadows, it’s the things between the light source and subject. Whether it’s a physical, emotional or human obstacle, sometimes you have to declutter everything to find the source of light in your life.