So the other night I found a dice on the table. I picked it up, shook it, and asked: ‘What are the chances of me finding a job from 1 to 6 (where 1 is certain and 6 is impossible)?’ I rolled two 6s and a 4. I thought to myself: ‘That’s just stupid. Never tell me the odds. I’ll show you, dice.’ No matter what happened rolling the dice, I would have found motivation in the result.
I was never a very good runner. I could only sprint for short distances. 100m, maybe 200m. I always had trouble running, either because my technique was sloppy, or because I just didn’t feel motivated to run around. It seemed a little bit pointless. Running from A to B just for the sake of running? Boy, was I wrong.
Moving here to America is about change. I want to change some things about myself, and I didn’t feel like I could do that in Australia. I needed to strike out on my own in order to accomplish those goals. At least one of them is about my fitness.
I remember back in grade five of primary school, I played Australian Rules football. The teacher/coach saw me doing extra sit ups one day, and nicknamed me ‘Mister Fitness’. I want to try and live up to that name. I know I have at various times, and sometimes let myself down on that score. That’s one of the challenges I have set myself in moving here. I want to become Mister Fitness again.
In high school I played sport year round – cricket, tennis, badminton, and my favourite sport of soccer. I was always in a lower ranked soccer team. In year 7, our team went undefeated due to the excellence of our encouraging, supportive and strategically minded coach. The year after that, our super-coach was moved up to the higher ranked teams, and we barely won a game. For the rest of my time at high school, soccer was about having fun playing with mates. We rarely, if ever, one a match over the following five years. No coach after Michael showed nearly as much enthusiasm for our team. None of them had his passion for strategy and teamwork, and love of the game. I think my love of soccer was directly inspired by him, the first coach I ever had.
After high school I stopped playing soccer, but longed to be back on the field again. Five years later I had a chance to play indoor soccer, and took to the court again. It was exciting and I loved it. With any luck I’ll find a team to play either field or indoor with.
In addition to soccer and school sport, I studied a martial art. It gave me physical strength for my slight build. In the lead up to my adult first degree black belt grading, I worked harder than I ever have in my life. I know what that peak fitness feels like. I felt truly strong at that point. I’ve been trying to get back to that level again ever since.
I hurt my progress on a holiday to the United States, in August 2012. I was lazy, ate candy cereal, and put on weight. I still sometimes feel like I have some of it on me. Call it ghost weight. It’s not a problem or anything, I just treat it as motivation to stay in shape.
It wasn’t until a trip to Japan in June 2013 that I actually lost the three kilograms that I had gained the year before. I ate small meals while I was there and loved it. The amount of walking I did each day helped too. I came home closer to my proper weight, and spent the next few months bulking up in martial arts training, and running during indoor soccer. A few friends and I routinely hit the 1000 steps (they ran, I power walked). All of that effort culminated in my second degree black belt grading in November 2013.
I was already set on coming here to the US. I knew I had to avoid those candy cereals and huge hamburgers. After a month in Canada on holiday, I felt unfit. I’m now taking command of my health and fitness, because no one else will. I’m eating healthy food and drinking lots of water (even though it’s winter).
Today, for the first time in my life, I started running. On my own. Just for the sake of running. I mapped out a course of two miles and timed myself. Made it back in 23:00 minutes. Not bad, but I have work to do. I don’t honestly know what inspired me to start running. It might have been the HBO film about Ali that was playing in the barbershop the other week. He worked hard to prepare for fights. I’m modeling my own running on the road work boxers do. You alternate between long, light paced jogging and interval running (reps of fast sprinting and walking). I shadow box while I run. Probably looks stupid, but it helps. I’ve also started doing push-ups and sit-ups here at home. It’s something I never felt comfortable doing back in Australia (working out at home, and going running on my own).
I honestly don’t know why I felt embarrassed to run for the sake of running. Moving here to the US has forced me to confront that fear of judgement. I realised it’s entirely in my head. I hope you are starting to understand a little better why I left Australia: I had no motivation to change my life. I had no carrot to run for, no stick to run from. Now I have the freedom, and a damn good reason, to go running.
I’ve made big progress in the last few days. On Thursday I started martial arts training. New habits are forming, like drinking more water. It sounds like a simple thing but the truth is, training in the martial arts is incredibly important to my personal wellbeing. It gives me a sense of purpose and confidence. I need to remember that I’m strong, and that I’m here in America to become stronger.
On Friday I purchased a car! It’s straight, but needs some attention. With the invaluable help of my uncle we changed the oil and oil filter. It’s running better now. I like figuring things out for myself – on my own – the way I did in Japan. That said, sometimes jobs are better done with company, and working on cars in an example.
In those twenty-four hours, two huge things were ticked off the list. I’ve started to establish my lifestyle and independence here. Now, the pressure is on to find a job and earn income.
I can’t write this post without mentioning the fact that the Seattle Seahawks are going to play the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl in two weeks time. People were letting off fireworks in the neighbourhood, celebrating. I guess I’ve come at a time when this part of the country is caught up in the hype.
I’ve been here for a week now. It’s been incredibly exciting and stressful. I was concerned that I wasn’t doing enough each day. Now that I think about it I’ve actually achieved a lot. I’ve sent out numerous job applications and even had an interview. I’ve been searching for cars to buy, and been driving around town. I’ve been socializing and hanging out with my cousins. I did some exercise, and found a sweet walking trail to run on. So taking stock of it all, I can say I’ve been productive.
I have a list of things I look at everyday. It’s keeping my life in order at the moment. Otherwise I can see how easily I would slip into routines and habits which don’t suit me. This is a time when everything is changing and nothing changes all at once. I’m living in a different country, but I’m still me. I’m working on becoming an American, and I can decide what that means for me.
When people are in foreign cultures they can act differently. They sometimes go along with things they aren’t normally comfortable with. The saying ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ is an example. It’s about fitting in, rather than doing what suits you. So when visiting another country, we sometimes choose to act like locals. It mainly applies to visible, public customs. Which side of the road to drive on, which side of the escalator to walk or stand on, and so on. Those are harmless and practical examples. So what happens when it concerns something you care deeply about? What if driving on the left was a critical part of your identity?
Right now, I’m still shaking hands with America. We’re exchanging pleasantries. I’ve already noticed some things are culturally prominent here that I’m not going to participate in. I’m referring to the consumption of marijuana, which is semi-legal in this part of the US. I live a clean lifestyle, and that’s not going to change. What’s great about America is that not one of the people I’ve met has encouraged me to try it. They are all incredibly welcoming. So this important part of my identity doesn’t have to change to fit in. I have the ability to decide what being American means for me, and that decision is socially respected.
I realised all this when I was watching my cousin and his friends playing poker one night. A player walked in, wearing San Francisco 49ers gear. His hat, jersey, undershirt, pants, shoes (and probably socks) were exactly the same shade of bright red and gold. Everything matched, and most items had the 49er’s logo on them. He stood out, and for a team that is deeply unfavorable in the greater Seattle area right now. The Seattle Seahawks are set to play the 49ers this weekend for a shot at the Super Bowl. So for this guy to be wearing the outfit of the opposition in a city which has the loudest fan base in the NFL? It’s bold, daring, courageous, hilarious, and it’s what makes America a great country. It’s divisions and differences lend it strength. It might be unpopular, but he’s welcome to wear it.
Yesterday was my first full day here. I caught a cab up town to the apple store, and bought myself an iPhone 5c. I met up with Danny and Kelly (my awesome cousins!) and we went for lunch at Sport bar. Had a delicious wagyu burger with fries. We went up the Seattle Space Needle and I had the chance to see the whole city sprawled out below. There was a layer of fog just outside the city and mountain ranges – including Mt Rainier – on the horizon. It made for an epic start to my time here.
Arrived here in Puyallup in the afternoon, and saw uncle Al and Auntie Jill. I got settled in, and then we went to a t mobile store to get my phone set up. Long story short: it’s working now. The person who helped me even recommended I should apply to work at the store! So in less than 24 hours, I had stumbled on to a potential job opportunity! I think that’s a pretty good sign! I’m the process of fixing up my resume and getting properly settled in.
Today I unpacked my suitcase and set up wifi in the house. I think the reality started to sink in as I was unpacking my suitcase. I bought it especially for this trip, I’d packed my life into it, and lived out of it for the entire 3 weeks in Canada. I’m here, and I’m staying here. I’m a bit nervous and very excited to get my new life started!
Today was my last day in Canada. I woke up with a feeling of uncertainty and anticipation. I killed time with anime and manga, and cleaned up the room I was staying in. By the time three pm rolled around, I barely had any nerves. Everything I’ve been working towards over the past six months was about to become reality.
I made it to the Victoria Clipper before the crowds, and chilled out in the waiting room. After clearing customs and immigration (for the first time as a US Citizen!), there was another wait before boarding. There were TVs showing NFL, Green Bay Packers against the San Francisco 49ers. I remember when I was a kid, I was gifted a 49ers jersey. I think because most of our family lived in California, it was assumed that they would be my team. So I have some sense of loyalty to the 49ers. Then again, I remember being curiously drawn to the Packers as well. The crowd in the waiting lounge made noises every time the packers made a play.
We boarded and got underway fairly quickly. I stood outside watching the sun set and the lights of Victoria go by. At one point, I could see a bit of the mainland in the distance, with the sun disappearing behind the mountains. The journey was smooth and fast, we made good time in good weather. Pick up my checked luggage, through the immigration check and out onto the street. A quick ride in a cab and I was safe and sound at the hostel. I checked in, carried my bags upstairs. Surprise, surprise, I met two other Australians staying in the same room. So I’m now I’m finally here in Seattle, Washington, in the United States of America.
I believe life is about creating opportunities to gather experience. I’ve spent the last six months creating this opportunity. I organised:
- my U.S. citizenship and passport;
- a one way plane ticket;
- my social security number;
- a place to live (with relatives);
- a Christmas and New Year holiday in Canada; and
- conditions which will force me to make it work.
My decision to move the United States was driven by:
- the accessibility of citizenship;
- the imperative need to cultivate that citizenship;
- having relatives who could accommodate me; and
- a romanticised view of the United States.
Things that I will keep as a part of my identity:
- martial arts training;
- my love affair with Japan;
- a clean lifestyle;
- intellectual study; and
- my commitment to the pursuit of happiness.
What I’m concerned about:
- finding employment;
- cultural and social alienation;
- getting fat from all the candy;
- getting caught up in things which don’t really suit me; and
- being too Australian.
In less than forty-eight hours I’ll be Stateside.