0557 – heal yourself by helping others

So I wrote that last post in under an hour early this afternoon, and posted it on /r/singapore in the hope that it would be helpful to younger folks like me. The first guy who responded to it was pretty mean, which upset me, but he’s since been drowned out by an overwhelmingly positive response.

Which has got me thinking… so what now? What am I going to do next? Where am I now? What have I solved, what do I have to solve next? And I know, as I write that I find myself thinking “life is not a problem to be solved but an experience to be… experienced”. But these aren’t “problems” so much as they are “challenges” or “puzzles”. I think I’ve made substantial progress emotionally and psychologically in dealing with my childhood school related issues.

One way to evaluate my progress on this is to pay attention to my emotions and the physiological reactions I have. A bunch of people replied and PM’d me with their stories– one girl in particular wrote about how a teacher would shame and humiliate her to make an example of her to the other students. That got a bit of a rise out of me. But notably, not as big a rise as I would’ve gotten a couple of years ago. I find myself more at peace with what had happened to me, with the experience I had. I’ve been talking to another friend lately and we talked about something along the lines of– you can’t change the past, you can’t fix those mistakes, you can only navigate around them more artfully. I think I’m doing that.

My emotional high water mark, I think, was when I thought about how many teachers got angry at me, yelled at me, and so on. And as an adult now, I realize that they wouldn’t have wanted to. They weren’t evil or cruel or malicious (and I knew that then, but I recognize it with even more nuance now). They were just imperfect people struggling to manage classrooms of students and being forced to deal with a student’s seeming impudence, refusal to comply… it must’ve seemed like I was trying to make their lives more difficult. I really can’t fault them or blame them for how they treated me. They were doing what they could with what they had.

So. What next? What now? Can we mark that task as done? I may circle it a few more times in the future, but those will probably be casual, comfortable victory laps. What is now is for me to awaken to the now. To fly back from my past and zoom into my present. To awaken to the reality that I inhibit right now, to bring with me the joy and calm and peace and clarity that I have from resolving that bit in my past. My pain and frustration and incompetence has been useful to other people. It has helped other people. I have been of service to them. Now I can be of service to me. Now I can take that next step.

I’m going to get my IPPT done soon and then get back to lifting weights. I look forward to feeling the deep burn of squatting with heavy weights on my back. I look forward to becoming stronger and more explosive. I look forward to taking bigger, deeper breaths than I already am taking. I’m looking forward to graduating from an L to XL in t-shirt size. I think I’m already there.

It’s 1230pm now. I want to finish this vomit and go to bed and wake up bright and early tomorrow and just blaze through the backlog of work that I have accumulated. I want to just sweep through 50 things like they’re nothing. I feel like I have that in me and I hope that it comes out of me tomorrow. And I know of course that this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, I have to pace myself and I have to take breaks and so on. It’s barely been two months since I was in India with my parents. I would like to go somewhere else by myself sometime this year– maybe Vietnam or Thailand– and I’d like to go to New York next year with my wife. That’s the goal. And everything else has to be arranged around that goal. Getting people to take care of the cats, for one. Fleshing out a roster and stuff.

Anyway. I have some words to go, so I might as well psyche myself up a little, that’s what I feel like doing right now. I’m on the right track for me. I’m addressing things that I wanted to address. I’m getting better at writing. It doesn’t always look like it, but it’s happening. It doesn’t always look like I’m making progress, but I am. The thing is to keep going, to keep getting back up, to keep moving forward. And that has been happening over the past few years. I’d like to accelerate it, but I’ve learned that you have to be quite nuanced and smooth about it. You can’t just get super excited and throw yourself at it blindly– you’ll more often than not fall on your ass or graze your knees.

So you have to be calmly persistent about it in a smooth way. That’s what Stephen Pressfield was talking about in the War of Art. The professional doesn’t fall into the amateur trap of taking it too seriously. He doesn’t rush into it blindly, obsessively. He does the work, creates the context for the muse to come, and welcomes her into his domain, and then he just works. That’s what I have to do, and I hope that’s what I have been doing. I think that’s what I’ve been doing.

I suppose the last words should attempt to summarize what this post was about. What’s the directive? Help others? I suppose that could work. Let’s go.

 

0554 + 0555 + 0556 – ‘My Education Journey’

An older friend told me that a parent wanted to talk to ‘learn about my educational journey’ and ‘understand better what I do now’.  It occurred to me that that’s something that might be worth writing down for others as well. Here goes.

I was born in 1990.

Books:

I grew up reading a lot of books of all kinds. My mom would take me to the library every week or so. I would read books about dinosaurs, natural disasters, space, ancient Greeks and Romans and Egyptians and so on. My “I know it’s impossible” dream was to be an astronaut, I think, and I sort of assumed that I would be maybe a scientist of some kind, with the lab coat and cool tools solving puzzles. I loved puzzles. I had a book series called Charlie Brown’s ‘Cyclopedia that I would read over and over again, particularly the Space book. (I think that was Book 8.)

Chores:

I never had to do any. My parents were moderately well off and could afford a domestic helper. My parent’s logic was this: if I didn’t have to do any chores, I could spend more time studying. I think this was a well-intentioned bad idea. Kids should do chores and develop a sense of responsibility and ownership.

Video games:

My first introduction to video games I think was on the SEGA console. My brothers were playing racing games and fighting games. I played Street Fighter and a bunch of other games like that whenever I had the chance.

Computers:

At some point I fell in love with computers. I loved the Internet. Around this time I began to develop the vague idea of becoming a computer game developer or a web designer. I persuaded my parents to buy me books about HTML and Javascript. I learned a lot of HTML and a bit of CSS, but I never quite got through Javascript and C++ – it was too complicated for me at the time and I didn’t really see the point. I made some websites on free web hosting services, about my favorite games and jokes and so on.

Primary School:

I went to Opera Estate Primary School, which was where my older brother had gone to. I got into Digimon (but Pokemon not so much). I was into more computer games at this point– Red Alert, Metal Slug. I was still reading books. I would get very good results at school (high 90s, sometimes 100). I would read all of the textbooks entirely before school began, and everything was simple and familiar to me.

I think I was in P3 when I first learned from some classmates about pornography. It seemed really weird and I don’t know what I thought about it.

GEP:

In 1999 I took a test and did well enough on it to qualify for the Gifted Education Program. To me it didn’t really seem like a big deal, I did well on tests all the time and thought it was just normal for me. I think I assumed everyone else must’ve been the same as me, and if they weren’t doing well maybe they just didn’t feel like it…? I don’t know. Anyway, I think this was a big deal to my parents, particularly my dad, who was very proud and would tell anybody who’d listen about how smart his son was. (I don’t recommend doing this if you’re a parent.)

I enjoyed the GEP. I enjoyed how they challenged us and took us very seriously and treated us intellectually like adults. They’d also tell us things like “you’re the cream of the crop” and “you’re the future leaders of the country”, and it didn’t really occur to me to question that. I developed an unnatural, clueless, naive sort of  self-confidence or arrogance that would take me many years to unlearn. I don’t think I’ve completely unlearned it.

Homework:

I hated homework. I had never developed any sort of discipline or work ethic. I just wanted to play all the time and I didn’t understand why homework was necessary. It was just about decoding textbooks, which were very boring puzzles as far as I was concerned. In fact it wasn’t puzzling at all– it was just grunt work. I didn’t like it and I’d put it off. It was far more interesting to watch Anime on TV (which had interesting storylines and character development), or to play video games that rewarded you for completing challenges and so on.

I didn’t really have a clear mental model for what sort of career I wanted, or what sort of work or sacrifices I would have to do to get there. I was told that I was the creme de la creme, so surely I would figure it out along the way. I was going to do well whatever I did, so why bother? (Prophecies are bad.)

It’s interesting to look back at my report cards to learn more about what kind of person I was. I was typically attentive and engaged when the teacher was interesting, and I would be quick to participate, raise my hand, and so on. But I was also disruptive, I would crack a lot of jokes, talk to other people, read books under the table, etc.

I don’t think I was mean or nasty to anybody– I always felt really bad whenever I got anybody in trouble, or made a teacher frustrated or upset. I think many teachers have yelled at me over the years. Thinking about it brings back a familiar anxiety and discomfort in my stomach. I don’t blame those teachers for what they did, they were in a difficult place themselves and managing a classroom can’t be easy. But that’s how it is.

I kept spending as much time doing whatever I liked as I could. Sometimes I would get angry and upset with myself and stare at myself in the mirror, angry-crying, demanding that I start focusing on my schoolwork and pull my up grades and stop disappointing my parents and my family and the State (because GEP kids get more resources invested in them, I was brought to special meetings just to be told that) and Be A Good Kid. This would typically last a couple of days, maybe a week. But then it would be back to distractions, video games (my parents would try to keep them away from me but I would find workarounds. Sometimes I’d invent projects and other things and go to friends’ houses to play) and so on.

Secondary School:

It was sort of assumed that I’d end up in RI. I didn’t. I got 245 for my PSLE– which is criminally low for a GEP kid, you’re supposed to get 260+. My dad slapped me for it. I would go to Victoria School and I’d go there on probation– meaning if I didn’t do well enough at the end of the year, I’d be kicked out of the GEP. That was exactly what happened. For a brief moment I was given the impression that I would have to repeat Sec 1 in another school, but thankfully my Principal (Ang Pow Chew, good man) allowed me to go to Sec 2.

In VS I was in the IT Club but I didn’t really participate very much. I was excited for a while but eventually got bored and would avoid it. I began to develop an interest in Basketball, and I would research things like “how to get better at basketball”, dribbling techniques, drills, etc. Unfortunately VS didn’t have a basketball team (athletic resources were limited and funnelled into Soccer)  so I was mostly left playing at community centers and such after school. I would go to the gym from time to time but I didn’t know how to do the big things like squats and deadlifts, so I wasted my time doing bicep curls and tricep extensions. (Many years later I’d realize that squats and deadlifts are amazing and that I should’ve been doing them all along.)

I didn’t do great in Sec 2– I was probably in the middle third or maybe bottom half of the cohort. I attributed this to my disinterest in the way we were taught mathematics and science (chemistry and physics). It was just Not Interesting. I didn’t like memorizing things without understanding the rationale behind it. (Many years later I would find math and science utterly beautiful when learning about it from people who were passionate about it. Did you know that a parabola can always be described as an intersection between a plane and a cone? Why doesn’t anybody tell you this in school?)

I decided to pick 7 subjects instead of 8 in sec 3, thinking that I would use the extra time / free periods to do homework and study. Ha. Instead I would end up hanging out with most of the weaker students– smart guys (they did get into VS) but underachieving. We did have a bunch of fun. We’d skip school and go to LAN shops or play pool (I was terrible at pool, still am). On hindsight I think those were some of my favorite things about school, and honestly we could probably cut out a lot of the curriculum and people would still be fine. Just show them a bunch of really good videos by really passionate people in their fields and let them follow their curiosities. At least that’s what I would do for my younger self.

Anyway– I did do some studying in the final months towards my O’s. I got 14 points for my prelims, and assumed that that would mean I would get maybe 10 points for my O ‘s, which would get me into SAJC (which was where I wanted to go, because they had a cool uniform, a cool campus and a good basketball team). I got 14 points again and ended up going to TPJC.

Music:

My parents sent me to tuition for my O levels, but I ended up just making a bunch of friends there and didn’t study. Around that time I developed an interest in live music, and wanted to play in a band. I found a couple of bandmates and we started practicing, writing our own songs, doing gigs. I had a lot of fun promoting the band– coming up with the name, coming up with an image, talking to promoters, getting us to play gigs, corresponding with fans on MySpace and so on. It was way more fun and way more REAL than school. I started organizing my own gigs and we even made a bunch of cash from it– I think we made over $1,000 from our first gig, which was pretty good money for JC kid.

Junior College:

I found JC utterly stifling and fake, way worse than secondary school (I still miss and love VS). I picked up smoking. I would typically stay up late every night– I would blog, I think, and talk to friends outside of school– and go to school sleep-deprived like a zombie.

I had to repeat JC 1, which was a kick in the stomach from me. GEP student and now a repeat student. But I rationalized it away as “I didn’t do well because I didn’t study”. I tried to persuade my family that I would do better in Poly, but they would have none of it. So I just trudged along. 2007 was a really bad year for me. I liked some of my teachers, but JC in general felt like a farce and I wish I had never gone. My results weren’t good enough to get into any local Universities (NUS, SMU, NTU).

I used to skip school in my O level year and go to the Esplanade to study and get through overdue homework. I wouldn’t do nearly as much as I had planned to do. I would go to the Esplanade Library and pick out a bunch of Men’s magazines to read. I was particularly a fan of Esquire (and I particularly like Tom Chiarella, great writer). I began to develop the idea that I would work in the media industry some day. I might’ve written a blogpost about that somewhere– “I want to work in the media”.

I used to work at Shangri La Hotel when I was saving money to pay for my band’s CD, and I remember witnessing an media event thinking “I’d want to work in the media”. I’m kinda glad that didn’t play out, because I hear horror stories from friends in the media all the time these days. And at this point I have to say it’s utterly criminal how poorly we prepare kids to have the right sort of expectations about what a career is like, what working life is like.

NS:

Anyway. So I didn’t get into any of the universities, and it was time for NS. I was determined to make the most of my NS experience– I was hoping to chiong sua and become an officer. But I was given a temporary PES E status because they suspected I had Marfan’s Syndrome (for being very tall and skinny). So I couldn’t go to BMT straightaway– I became a storeman instead. I decided to use the free time to read and learn as much as I could, and threw myself into books about business and self-improvement and philosophy and everything else I was interested in. I built a community of friends (some from the music scene, some from friends-of-friends, Facebook was becoming a thing by now). I built a Facebook community. I started blogging regularly.

Blogging:

At some point I had written a blogpost about Singapore that got a bunch of comments, and that made me happy and excited (to get a bunch of comments) so I did more of that, and developed a bit of a reputation and a following. I decided that that was going to be my beachhead into my new life– that I was going to become some sort of blogger/writer type person. I figured that if I did it well enough for long enough, I’d get some interesting opportunities that I wouldn’t be able to imagine yet.

(I think some of this thinking might’ve been from some of the books I read, but I can’t quite pinpoint it to a single thing. The Internet always seemed like a magical land of opportunity to me, and I didn’t understand why other people didn’t see it that way.)

I decided that I was going to re-take my A’s as a private candidate, and document that process, and become a tutor for underachieving smart kids.

Eventually I actually got invited to the Istana to chat with the PM. The post I wrote about that got a lot of attention, and I got a bunch of invitations and job offers. This convinced me that I didn’t need to force myself to worry so much about the A’s– so I pretty much stopped studying and just kept blogging. (I did only slightly better than the previous time, I think, but with an entirely new subject and no teachers.)

Job:

I was planning to become an SIA flight steward, thinking I would make money and then blog in my downtime. But that didn’t work out. I went out for coffee with a couple of people who asked me, and one of them was the co-founder of a software company.  He asked me to manage their blog and social media efforts, which I agreed to mainly because I needed the money.

Turns out that I really loved the team and the working environment, and I’m still there 3-4 years later. I’ve developed my marketing and writing chops, and even manage other writers now. I’ve had several job offers since, but I’ve turned all of them down because I like where I am too much. (I wish I could clone myself. I suppose the next best thing I could do is train other people to do what I do– it’s really not that hard, it’s just applied common sense.)

So I’m in a pretty good place now, career-wise. I make a pretty decent amount of money, and I have the luxury of turning down job offers. My skillset is something that’s quite in demand, so I don’t really need to care about the economy or job prospects or whatever. There are several people who’d love to hire me tomorrow if I quit, which is something I honestly always believed would happen someday as long as I kept doing what I was doing. In the early days people would tell me that I was stupid, delusional, small-minded, didn’t understand how the world worked, idealistic, blah blah blah.

But at the end of the day it’s simple economics, isn’t it? If you can do something that people are willing to pay for, then you’re not going to go hungry. If you have design skills, writing skills, or best of all, if you can code, then you’re never going to go hungry. It might take a while to get good enough that people notice you and seek you out, but it works.

“Advice”:

Anyway so I’m guessing the reason my friend asked me about this is because a parent has a child who’s similar to me– really unhappy with school. What would I say to a person like that, or to their parents?

I guess the first thing I would say is– if you’re not happy in school, you’re probably not going to be happy working in the sort of job that school prepares you for. You’re not going to do well in the civil service, I think. So you shouldn’t try to force that, because then you’d probably be miserable and life is too short to be miserable at the thing you spend most of your time on.

Secondly– I wish I had spent MORE time pursuing my random little interests, not less. I wish I had also learned to code, and draw, and do design. Because those are very valuable skills in demand in the modern web age. Startups are a big thing now, and they’re not going to go away. People are constantly looking to build the next Facebook, and there’s a lot of money looking to invest in those things. What that means is that there are many young new companies willing to take risks on hungry young people who’re willing to learn.

That said, I did get lucky, the first person I seriously talked to turned out to be the real deal. There are a bunch of scammers and bullshitters who’ll try to get you to work for next to nothing. That’s why you should develop your bullshit detector as early as you can. You can increase your own luck by developing a body of work that you put in the public domain. The more work you do, and the more you put yourself out there, the more chances you

The worst thing about my life is that I never developed much discipline or work ethic. I don’t mean that in an exaggerated sense. I can foresee myself saying that on my deathbed, and that’s an outcome I’m desperately trying to avoid. The problem with smart, bullshit-sensitive kids is that they won’t develop discipline just because you tell them to. You have to pick something that THEY WANT TO DO, and then show them how discipline helps them achieve THAT. I think Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture covers all of this beautifully, so I’d refer you to that.

Life is really hard, but it doesn’t always have to be miserable. It can get better. Good luck.

 

0553 – self-regulate pt 1

It’s interesting and scary to contemplate the mind sometimes. And how it’s compelled to do certain things in certain ways, or not do certain things under certain circumstances. Screw conversations about whether we have free will or not– the more pertinent question is, what are the bugs in our mind, and how do we fix them? If they can’t be fixed, how do we keep them from inhibiting us?

I was just talking about this with a friend.About how if a “todo” task isn’t sufficiently precise, it doesn’t get done. “Buy Groceries” can sit pretty on a post-it for days and days. I won’t do it unless I write “go to NTUC FairPrice at Yishun MRT after work today and buy broccoli, carrots and chicken.”

What’s counter-intuitive is just a tiny bit of vagueness or fuzziness can stop the task from happening altogether. Intuition would suggest that something half as vague would get done half as well, or half as quickly. But in reality, it simply doesn’t get done.

I’m a loss-averse, pain-averse creature. I don’t really like that, but that’s how it is and I have to work with that for now, possibly for always. The pursuit of pleasure and gain doesn’t seem to motivate me anywhere near as much. As far as possible, I seem to be ‘happiest’ or ‘most stable’ just doing nothing. When left to my own devices, I like doing nothing. I like talking long random walks through the Internet. (If only that shit was good for my health. Maybe when we have some good AR, we can do both at the same time.)

I do know that I enjoy doing squats with heavy weights and feeling the burn and feeling the strength gains and the endorphins and stuff like that. I haven’t had much of a chance to do that recently because I’ve got RT commitments. I’m currently 11/20 done, and I’ll be done completely in May. This will be the first year since I finished my NS that I wouldn’t have had to go to CMPB to answer for why I didn’t complete my IPPT or my RT. It’s a great source of shame for me and I hate thinking about it, but I think it’s necessary that I think about it. That I really sit with myself and my feelings and confront myself about what’s going on, and how I allow these things to happen. And to be aware of all the post-hoc rationalisations. I mean, I want to fix this. [1]

So… what’s going on? Fundamentally my challenge remains the same as it always has. Self-regulation. Time management. Focus. Prioritisation. Fear management. So let’s walk through that again. We’ll do this again and again 500 times if we have to, until we get it right. We already know that we’ve made progress– we’re much, much better at these things now that we were at the start. We’ve gone on social media fasts. We’ve gone smoke-free. We’ve gone from squatting 30kg to 90kg. We’ve gone from being completely unreliable at work to being moderately reliable (although there’s still so much more improvement to be made here). We’ve gone from being a distant, disengaged spouse/son/friend to being more proactive. These are all steps in the right direction. We just need to keep going. And then we’ll overcompensate and take victory laps. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves there. The focus is on the struggle that’s in front of our face. Right now the struggle is to complete writing this. But that’s become somewhat easy, hasn’t it? We’ve done it over 550 times. We can write a thousand words. So what’s next?

What’s next is establishing more precise behaviours. It’s like controlling your muscles, right? It’s all in your brain. It’s all about your brain getting better at firing neurons in a more “patterned” way or something like that. Playing a more difficult piece on guitar requires more hand-eye-ear coordination than playing a simple one. And you’ve gone from simple to pretty hard with deliberate practice. [2]

So. The goal is to develop self-regulation skills. That means being mindful of how much time and energy is being spent on things. Deciding how to allocate these resources in pursuit of my interests and goals. That requires knowing what my interests and goals are. I think I have a fairly good idea, but it’s always worth revisiting. I want to become a great editor who inspires writers to do their best work. I want to be immersed in really good writing and thinking that challenges and inspires me. That opens my mind. That keeps me compassionate and excited and cheerful no matter how rough life gets. The main things stopping me from feeling that way– or the only thing, really– is my own incompetence at getting out of obligation debt into a surplus situation. I still haven’t ever “finished my homework”, I’m always two steps behind and improvising.

I’ve written about this many, many times. Writing alone will not solve it. But as long as I’m committed to writing regularly, I will continue to repeat myself until I internalise it effectively.

_____

[1] The next line that always comes out of my mind is “I really do”, but “I really do” doesn’t mean anything. Reality doesn’t give a shit about how much I say I want something bad, what matters is the change in behavior.

[2] A lesson from guitar-playing that I’ve always been a little hesitant to face up to is that my progress never happens in a linear or consistent fashion. I noodle around here and there mindlessly for months before getting bored with myself and then devoting myself to some intense practice, after which I cross some threshold or plateau and get better in a sudden leap. My question to me is– why not just have a series of those intense practice sessions, and get a lot better all at once? What’s stopping me from doing that? Nothing! Just inertia and a general sense of malaise or whatever nonsense. It’s not happening because I have not developed the skill of setting targets and then achieving them decisively. I’m doing this more for work, but I’m still a novice here.

 

0552 – shed your past selves

Every morning I wake up and it feels like I must’ve smoked a cigarette the night before. It’s felt like this ever since I stopped smoking, which was about a week ago. This is not a newsworthy event. I have started and stopped smoking several times now. I would smoke occasionally here and there with friends when I started, and I eventually became a “full blown” smoker who would smoke in the mornings and at nights, after every meals, in spaces in between. When I started work, I would take several smoke breaks a day, if I remember correctly. After a while, I’d only smoke before and after work, particularly because none of my colleagues smoked, and also because I think I wanted to cut down in general. Eventually I went cold turkey after reading about Jason Mraz and Allan Carr, and I quit for maybe 6-9 months. And then I started again. And then I stopped again. And then I started again. And then I stopped again, and here we are.

I don’t have the blind, naive conviction anymore to say that this time is forever and I’m never going to smoke again. I probably will. I’ll probably bum a cigarette or two from a friend when we drink. I’ll probably end up buying a pack maybe several months or maybe a year or several years from now. For the moment, I feel the need to really clean out my body. For my eyes and nose and lips and mouth and throat and lungs to heal and recover. A part of me likes to think that I’m making progress, and certainly it seems that it gets slightly easier each time. I remember the first time I quit I didn’t know how long I would be able to go, I didn’t know what it was going to be like, etc. Now I know that where I am right now is somewhere I’ve been before. It’s familiar territory. I know better how to deal with cravings, so I have more of a choice about whether or not I want to give in.

The thing is, I don’t want to be a person who is determined or defined by his relationship with cigarettes. Do I? No, I don’t think so. I’d like to have a range of different lenses and I’d like some better ones. I suppose if I had a kid, instantly I would be defining myself by my relationship with my child. Some people say you shouldn’t define yourself at all. I think that’s something to be experimented with, but I’m not so sure if it’s a sustainable way of life, at least while you’re still trying to make ends meet within the modern capitalist world. It might work in some sort of commune setting, maybe. Do those places exist? Maybe on a farm? But even then you’re a provider, you’re connected to some sort of economy, you have some sort of role and you play it. You can use meditation and reflection to give yourself perspective, to remind yourself that the broader context means that you’re just a speck in infinite space and there’s no reason to be neurotically constricted about anything.

What does it mean to shed your past self? How do you discard who you were to become who you want to become? Some stimuli I have sought in search of triggers that might lead to answers– Sadhguru, Horace&Pete, Elliot Hulse. I think of all of that I like Hulse’s perspective the most– a reminder that the obstacle is the way, that the rough times and depressive moods and all the bad stuff is fuel for the fire. It’s about digging deeper within to plant a stronger foundation. Hulse made the point that a lot of the strongest and greatest people also suffered the worst hardships, and overcompensated for those things.

I suppose it just keeps feeling like I’m waiting on the good times now, like I feel like I should be done with the bad shit. So I’ve stopped smoking again and I”ve started sleeping better again and the world definitely gets brighter and softer when you do that. It’s comforting to smell things, and to feel things on your skin.

I know that progress means discarding past selves. Past ideas. And I feel like I’ve gotten tired of holding on to things that– I can’t even really remember or recognise what I’m holding on to. And I don’t even really care anymore. A couple of years ago it would have mattered a lot to me that I not lose sight of the shore, that I keep with me a sense of where I came from. But I’m starting to realise that it’ll never leave me. I can actively try to forget everything and I won’t (try not to think of a pink elephant). I might lose it in the moment, but the good stuff, the important stuff, it always comes back with the right context or trigger. So I don’t have to worry about that stuff. I can let go of that. I can free up my mind to pay attention to the present, to my current circumstances, to do good things for me in the now, and to focus on becoming who I want to become.

And those things are fairly clear. I want to be stronger, more effective, more efficient, more useful and reliable to the people that I care about, more powerful, have more autonomy, feel more comfortable in my own skin, breathe deep, lift heavy.

I’m wary of thinking that some new idea or perspective is going to change everything. I don’t think it ever will, I don’t think it works that way. I’ve tried many on before, and they give maybe some brief excitement, but the real idea is no idea, the real perspective is no perspective. I just have to do the work. I just have to get rid of whatever is in the way of me doing my work. I have to face that head on. And I think that means just getting rid of everything non-essential. If it matters, it’ll turn up again. I have to trust that.