Thursday, April 30, 2009

Retracing Steps

A few years back I was a different person.  I saw the world differently- I was easily contented.  I had everything I needed and, for the most part, that was all I wanted. In a way, I was an optimist. I always expected the best of the world and the people around me. I lived my life under the assumption that as long as you keep your head up and don’t do anything too stupid, everything will find a way to work itself out. Those were good times, but somewhere along the way I adopted a new philosophy.  I got tired of having what I had and decided to want what I wanted instead.  In retrospect, that wasn’t the best philosophical decision I ever made, but on the bright side, I did get to experience regret for the first time… that was snazzy.


Over the last few years I’ve been trying to find a way to retrace my steps and  be the person who I want to be again.  Not that I haven’t learned and grown a lot over that time, or even that I’m not happy with who I am now, but I feel like I’ve been so cynical and defeatist recently and that’s a part of me that I hate.  I need to figure out how to strike a balance between contentment and ambition.  My mind is so bipolar sometimes that it’s hard for me to create a place where those two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive.  For all those years I was content and was completely without ambition. When ambition sprung up, it did so at the cost of contentment.  I became bitter and hateful and I wanted to change everything around me no matter the cost.  That got pretty ugly pretty fast.


Recently, I’ve been able to settle into a place somewhere between extreme ambition and extreme contentment, but it still feels to me like they’re opposite ends of the same scale.  I feel like the happier I am, the less likely I am to push myself to do more and the more I decide I want something I don’t have, the more displeased I become with the things that I have accomplished.  I’m not sure if that’s normal or not.  I’m not sure if those two things are actually supposed to be related. Hmm…


Yesterday was a bit of a tedious day.  At no fault of my own, a lot of the things that I planned on doing fell through. I had a bunch of errands I needed to run and spent most of the day waiting around for phone calls that never came. Then I went to baseball practice and there were 3 guys there.  Then I lost my sweater.  As recently as a week ago I would’ve gone to bed upset because my day had gone so poorly, but last night, as I trekked back to the field where we failed to have baseball practice with 20 pounds of gear I didn’t get to use strapped to my back, I chuckled and thought “I wanted to get rid of some of my clothes anyway.” It’s been a while since I’ve had a thought like that. For years I’ve been trying to find the bright side again and haven’t been able to see past the so-called disasters right in front of me, but last night was different.  So different that I came home and blogged for the first time in 8 months.


Mentally and emotionally I feel like I’m better off than I’ve been in a long time. I’m happy.  I’m not that do-nothing form of content that I was as a kid, but I’m happy.  I have plans that I’m excited about and I’m staying busy working towards them.  I feel like even on my bad days, I’m accomplishing a lot, putting things in place and making the most of what I have to work with. It’s a long cry from the contentment I had grown used to, but, at least until I can truly reconcile my contentment with my ambition, I think I’m ok with that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ante Meridiem

I'm a much more effective human being before noon. I accomplished more in the 30 minutes before 7 this morning than I did in the 5 hours after 7 last night... and the night before that... and the night before that... and I don't know for sure, but probably the night before that too. Oddly enough, I wouldn't really call myself a morning person. I'm just too easily distracted. It's too easy for me to come home after work, sign on to aim, check my e-mail, do a little reading and then look up to see that it's pushing midnight and I need to hit the sack. There are much fewer distractions at the times that most of my friends would consider "ungodly". My house is quieter, my neighborhood is quieter, my instant messenger is quieter and even independent of all that- my mind is more focused. I'm fresher as a whole and I don't have all that mud from a long day clinging to my mind or my muscles. Everything just seems easier. Well... except for that whole getting out of bed thing.

For the last week or so I've been trying to get out of bed earlier and despite the fact that my conscious mind knows full well that this is exactly what I want to do, my subconscious (which, unfortunately is the part that has authority when I'm asleep) frequently refuses to cooperate. Yesterday I slept through three blaring alarm clocks and yesterday wasn't anywhere near the first time. I've tried going to bed earlier, I've tried scheduling things that I really want to do (like blogging, or working out) for early in the morning, I've tried setting several alarm clocks and scattering them around the room, but nothing seems to be working with any consistency. If somewhere in the back of my mind I know I don't have work within an hour (and sometimes even then) it takes an insane amount of effort to get me out of bed. That coupled with the fact that I eat too slowly to properly enjoy a bowl of cereal makes it significantly more difficult for me to accomplish things in the morning. But, I'm trying, and it's still working better than trying to get things done at night, so I guess I can't complain.

Consciously I hate being asleep. I always feel like I have so many things that I should, could or want to be doing in a day that throwing away 1/3 of those 24 hours seems completely ridiculous. I usually end my day by reluctantly passing out in front of my computer and begrudgingly rolling into my bed, just so 8 hours later I can reverse the process and just as begrudgingly roll out of it... or, as is frequently the case: not.

I just really need to get my life in order. I'm coming off a really long summer and I'm super excited to be back at work, but I've got a lot that I want to do and I haven't been doing it. I feel like I'm falling behind on a lot of my 6-12 month plans because I'm simply too disorganized and undisciplined. I know what I have to do, and, in my mind at least, I want to do them, I just can't stop myself from wasting my time doing other things that I don't really care about. It's a very frustrating feeling, but... updating my blog for the first time in months (and before 9am too!) is definitely a step in the right direction. Next step: laundry.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thin Ice

I just had a long conversation with [someone who I can only assume is a] former friend about what it means to be a friend, about what it means to forgive someone and about what it means to maintain a friendship with someone who has hurt you. Needless to say this (potentially) former friend and I didn't see eye-to-eye on these issues, but more worrisome than that is considering how my other friends may feel about them.

Each and every one of my closest friends has not only hurt me, as I believe that's inevitable in any relationship that lasts, but also maliciously and deeply betrayed me. How have I responded? I've always forgiven them. Always. And I'm not talking about this, “well, I'll be your friend, but I'm still mad at you” bullshit type forgiveness (is that even really forgiveness?), but real, full-on, you're still my best friend, I still love you, I still trust you, I still have your back, it's as if it never happened because I really truly forgive you forgiveness. I just assumed that I could expect the same from them.

As fate would have it, I've done some really dumb things over the last year. I've betrayed a lot of the people closest to me and, understandably, scared away a handful of my friends. But, as I expected, most of the people that I've been close to for a long time, including many of the people who I hurt the worst, have stuck around, have had my back, have been my friend, have forgiven me... or maybe they've just been acting like it.

7 days ago I slept through my own birthday party and woke up without a friend within 50 miles. I was baffled by the fact that the people at the party that I missed were not disappointed, not worried, but angry. Really? Angry? For 6 days I couldn't put two and two together. I couldn't help but think that if one of my friends worked all day and slept through their birthday party, I'd feel sorry for them... worried about them... maybe a little disappointed... but angry? Definitely not angry. It wasn't until it was suggested to me that I've been on “thin ice” that it started to make sense why everyone was so upset. I told the person that I was arguing with today that if he can't forgive me for the mistakes that I've made, then it doesn't make sense for us to call ourselves friends.

“Sticking around” to see if I can “make up” for my mistakes is not what a friend would do. Either you forgive me or you don't and that's your choice. Everyone in my life knows who I am, knows what I'm about and knows if I'm the kind of person who they want in their lives. I'm entitled to mistakes just like everyone else and if you don't think I am: that's your problem, not mine. I would never ask my friends to live a life on thin ice, and I won't have them asking that of me. If we have a problem, and you can't get over the things that I've done: that's on you and I'm not going to be bothered with it.

It's worth mentioning that this isn't the first social event I've skipped out on this summer. I'm not trying to portray myself as a victim and I do understand that people have legitimate reasons for being upset. I think it goes without saying that I'm sorry that I missed my party and that it obviously wasn't a malicious act. For me, knowing that would be all it would take to forgive someone, if only the people closest to me felt the same way...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thanks mom.

As I approach the oven from my sanctuary atop a step stool, reluctant to reach out and actually grab the tempura shrimp from the stove top, my nemesis sprints out from beneath the greasy black appliance, runs head first into the "wood" paneling on the far side of the kitchen and slithers his (or her) way into the cabinet under the sink. I take a deep breath and look around to see my mom's cooking supplies, her snacks and leftovers and various coffee cups (i don't drink coffee) spread out along the kitchen counters. Of course in my mother's mind it's my fault we have mice.

I've finally figured out exactly what it was that has bothered me so much about my mom these last 10 years. It's not the blatant hypocracy (although that doesn't help), it's the fact that she can't go 10 minutes without giving unsolicited advice. Uninformed, inaccurate, unhelpful, hypocritical, bad advice. Every tidbit of anything that she overhears or snoops out turns into ammo for her half informed AK47 of emotional destruction. For years she's been asking me why I never want to talk to her, why I never tell her what's going on in my life, and until now, I never really knew. But tonight, when she came to tell me about the ways I can be more careful as to "not attract rodents" it became painfully obvious why I moved out when I was 18, why I've talked to her as little as possible over the last 6 years and why it's so depressing being back here now. She's nosy and pushy and, an overwhelming percentage of the time, just plain old wrong. I'm getting a headache just thinking about it.

It's been a long week. I've spent a lot of time just thinking about how and how soon I'll be able to get out of here. More than once I've left the house and wandered aimlessly, just to get away from my mom's badgeresque behavior. On the bright side, I'm getting a lot of exercise and doing a lot of reading. On the not so bright side, I think I'm losing my mind.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Real Subtle Lady...

Tan walking shoes.
Saggy black jeans.
Green turtleneck.
Gray zip-up jacket (hood down).

Sometimes living here in the Bay Area gives you a false sense of confidence. You start to believe that being in America's most liberal city means you don't have to deal with ignorant people. You forget that, no matter how hard we believe in equality and open mindedness, we still live in a racist nation. And even here, where our prejudices tend to be a little more subtle and often times choked back altogether, you will still occasionally catch a middle-aged white woman making a minor, but painfully obvious, detour to avoid crossing paths with a young black man.

"Look around! You couldn't find a whiter, safer or better lit part of this city. But this white woman sees two black guys, who look like UCLA students, strolling down the sidewalk and her reaction is blind fear. I mean, look at us! Are we dressed like gang-bangers? Huh? No. Do we look threatening? No. Fact, if anybody should be scared around here, it's us: We're the only two black faces surrounded by a sea of over-caffeinated white people, patrolled by the triggerhappy LAPD. So you tell me, why aren't we scared?"

It was about 2:30pm, a beautiful day, and I had hardly noticed her walking ahead of me under the BART tracks. That is, until she glanced back. Nervously, half heartedly, at me- over her shoulder. I couldn't help but smirk as I looked down the block behind me. "Yup," I thought, giggling a little bit "just you and me". A few seconds later, when she veered suddenly to her right, over the grass divider between the "bike path" (that we had both been walking on) and the "ped path", I couldn't help but chuckle and shake my head. "You should be ashamed of yourself," I thought. I smiled wide, looked her in her eyes and waved cheerily as she stood still off on the side and I walked merrily past her. Shockingly, she didn't reciprocate. "I really hope she's ashamed of herself," I thought as I giggled my way down the rest of the block. When I got to the corner and looked back to see her standing half a block behind me, I laughed loudly. I wanted to yell "you're a disappointment to everything that Berkeley represents!" but I decided against it. Instead I just waved a friendly goodbye, laughed again and went back to my day dreaming.

That had happened to me once before, in the same part of town actually, but when I was in high school (I was A LOT smaller when I was in high school). I was walking to my girlfriend's house, day dreaming, as usual, when the woman walking in front of me suddenly pulled a 180. "Are you following me?!" The 140 pound (about the same as me) Asian woman screamed.
Startled, I reeled back, sure that I hadn't heard her correctly. "Wha... What?"
"Are you following me?! Where are you going?!"
I rolled my eyes and shook my head as I walked past her. "Get over yourself," I thought.

Racism and prejudice are bad. I know that and I don't want to encourage that type of behavior- but I don't live in a part of the world where I have to worry about being dragged around off the back of someone's truck, so there's a little wiggle room for the part of me that gets a kick out of knowing that a complete stranger is afraid of me. It makes me want to mess around with them. It makes me want to run up behind them and go "oogi-boogey-boo!", just to see how high they jump, and then apologize profusely, patting them on the back, smiling wide (probably giggling) and telling them that I just couldn't help myself. At the same time though, there's a part of me that is deeply saddened to know that after all these years, in a community as diverse as this one, some people can't help but be afraid of a black face. A friend of mine always says "it's the kind of thing that you have to laugh at to stop yourself from crying," and I don't feel that way about many things, but racism, and the irrational fear of a 24-year-old black man day dreaming about his D&D character is one of them.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Two Face

I have a love/hate relationship with the concept of a schedule. There's a big part of me that desires order, appreciates predictability and values routine, but at the same time there's a part of me that loves spontaneity, freedom and just a little bit of chaos. Over the years I've had a really hard time balancing my need to know what I'll be doing with my desire to be able to do whatever comes up and I'm not sure I've got it quite figured out yet.

Today was the first day in two weeks that I didn't have any obligations, so I took some time to clean my room, do some laundry and generally get my life organized. Several hours later, when my living space was vaguely, well, livable- I sat down in front of my computer and tried to organize my time. As always, my attempt to plot out a schedule started out smoothly with my plunking down my work obligations and various routine tasks (baseball on Sundays, basketball on Mondays, showers every third Tuesday, etc.). And, as always, this is where I ran into a problem. When I have something that I want to do, but not a set time that it needs to be done in, then I have a real hard time plugging it into my schedule. Even worse, when I do plug such a thing into my schedule, I have a very hard time actually following through with that time commitment. Even with things that are important to me and that I enjoy, I have a hard time completing because of this awkward and somewhat arbitrary desire to do something, anything different. Anything random. Anything unplanned. Anything... else. I know you won't believe this, but I sometimes even have trouble updating my blog on time!

I feel like I have a tormented soul. Like I'll always be torn between two extremes. Like I'm a real life Harvey Dent. Half neurotic neat freak, half bucking bronco. There a big part of me that enjoys and even cherishes my spontaneous side, a very big part. A part big enough that I worry that th orderly angel on my shoulder (with the day planner in his pocket) is be drowned out more often than he should be.

I appreciate having fun, I enjoy having fun and, in fact, I even believe that having fun is the most important thing in life. I don't have a problem with that. I don't have a problem with going out every night, I don't have a problem switching things up at the last minute and I don't have a problem ditching my blog to go shoot pool every now and then. The only problem I have is finding the right balance between the many many things that I want to do and the many many things that I want to get done.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I Can't Believe It's Not Confidence!

A slump is a funny little thing. It's sneaky. It pokes it's head out when you're not looking, when everything is going great and you'd never expect it. Then, out of nowhere, wham! You're stuck tighter than two pages in Playboy. Which, at first ain't so bad. You know that's the way it goes sometimes, that everybody goes through it and that, eventually, you'll pull out of it. And then a couple of days go by. And a couple of weeks. And a couple of months. And that's when you start to wonder. And right then, at that moment, mid-thought, before you even realize that you're wondering if you'll ever pull out of it- that's when the slump wins. That's when it grabs you by the neck and gives it to you hard- right in the junk. That's when it gets really bad. That's when the slump kicks it into high gear. That's when your 1 for 4s with a strike out and an error turn into 0-5s with 3 strike outs and 2 errors. Once you lose your confidence- you lose everything.

Over the last few weeks I've encountered a fair number of minor frustrations and disappointments and I feel like I'm in a bit of a funk. Things haven't been awful, in fact, I've had some great times recently, but amidst the many ups and downs I've noticed an overall trend that's having a negative effect on my energy, confidence and performance.

It's a weird little slump I'm in. My performance hasn't dropped off noticeably, but just this week I noticed that my confidence was shot. I've been doubting myself at baseball, I've been second guessing myself at work. I've caught myself silently shaking my head at myself more times than I'd like and generally thinking too much in the past tense.

At baseball on Sunday (after another untimely strike out), I made an unusual decision: I decided to be confident. Despite my performance and despite my complete and utter lack of confidence, I decided to do something I've never done before: fake it. That's when something really interesting happened: my game turned around.

Confidence is a funny little thing. It's sneaky. It pokes it's head out when things are going terrible and you'd never expect it, when you think you're just faking it and telling yourself that you believe when really you don't. The great thing about wannabe confidence is that, in my experience, it works just as well as the real thing.