Weakness

A concept that I’ve noticed myself repeatedly thinking on with directness and clarity is that of “weakness”. Over the past months, it’s been something that I’ve been doing an extensive amount of thinking on and repeatedly procrastinating on drafting an entry on. After so much time continually shooting it off into the future, I’m well overdue to roll up my sleeves and give it my best shot.
When I first started really focusing my thoughts on the topic at hand, that first thing that came to mind was that familiar aggressive self-criticism: despite all the circumstances that caused it, the bottom line is that I simply wasn’t strong enough to not end up in a depressive spiral for an entire decade. To constantly see inspirational articles of people in the world conquering far greater adversities and thriving, finding myself with this very unflattering self-deprecating (and very public) writing log as the proof of the live I’ve led up until this point has been a source of both personal embarassment and resentment.
In turn, I found myself wrestling with the guilt of failing to recapture the strength that I once had. I recalled the memories of that time in my life where I knew happiness, and remembered feeling invincible in both character and mind. Yet, the more I reflected on these memories, the more I came to realize that I was recalling half-truths. Those times in the past when I was boisterous, opinionated, and outspoken…they were limited to the times I was around my family. I was free to be as arrogantly brave as I wanted to, because I had a nuclear arsenal on standby. If things ever were to go south, I had the assurance that the parents and siblings I looked up to would be there to back me up. The reality that I conveniently glossed over was that when I was physically separated from them, I turned into a docile sycophantic people pleaser.
If I jog the timeline all the way back to early childhood, I was completely soft, physically and emotionally. I had an extremely low pain threshold, and the sight of my own blood coming from even the smallest wound would send me into hysterics. As much as I was bold and outspoken, it was a confidence afforded to me by the comforting assurance that there were always people that I belonged to and would support me; my perceived strength back then was something borrowed, not innate. At my core, my nature was that of a pissant weakling.
A couple years ago, in one of those random conversations that take an unexpected turn towards a deep honesty I found myself having with my best friend, I remember him telling me that I was strong — the strongest person he knew. I recall feeling a brief esteem boost hearing that coming from him, right before being hit by an overwhelming wave of sadness at how untrue I felt that to be. Sure, I’ve exhibited resilience and resourcefulness that I never would have thought I had in me over the past few years, but the price I paid to do so is what destroyed me inside and sent me down that depressive spiral. I had to accept the loss of the life and identity I’d grown up with. I was forced to let go of all the people and relationships I was supposed to be able to rely on. Coerced into having to accept that the unconditional love of family and unwavering loyalty of friends was something that wasn’t real, or at the very least something the universe was determined to prove to me I wasn’t worthy of.
Revisiting those thoughts with my present frame of mind this year, I’ve finally flipped that perception. After all that time in isolation, going through those cognitive behavioral loops and rewriting the same old blog entries, I finally found the will to accept my reality and embrace the change into this new person I’ve been driving myself towards becoming. Before, it was out of a necessity that I resented, now it’s out of unbridled desire. Once upon a time, I was weak, and I knew it. I was insecure and utterly dependent on others for my sense of self and happiness. Now, the memories of my personal past, even up to just a few years ago, feel like the recollection of a previous lifetime. If I re-read my old updates, it’s almost as if I’m reading something written by a complete stranger.
During a recent play-through of Kingdom Hearts II a while back, there was a line of dialogue in a cutscene that stood out to me:
awakenthroughweakness
And so though it may have taken me far longer than it should have, through the copious amounts of weakness I once owned, I’ve carved out an awakened something new inside myself — its antithesis, an infallible reserve of mental-emotional fortitude and strength.

Permission for Ambition

So far, July hasn’t been a very good month in regard to physical activity and the ongoing weight loss project. Two weeks ago, I was incapacitated by prolonged TI band soreness. This week, it’s been the same with my calves. Pushing myself past the comfort of my running routines and embarking on muscle toning and growth exercises is shaping out to be just as physically painful and inconvenient as I expected it would be, but having started now there’s no choice but to see it through and keep pushing forward.
With all this downtime, I’ve been using the time of my day normally reserved for exercise to do some reflection and introspection — it’s been a good while since I’ve taken a personal “snapshot” for myself. Yesterday, I took the day off from work as I couldn’t even make it down the steps of the apartment complex with all the pain firing through my leg muscles. When I told my roommate that I’d be staying home and handed off the keys to the car so he could drive himself to work, he asked off-handedly if I had PTO to use for the day. I reactively laughed at the notion, since my primary source of income is still my temporary contract position doing admin work for a major bank and as a temp, I (and the majority of my co-workers) don’t get most of the benefits that come with a permanent full-time job.
As I spent the day at home putting my time to use towards my personal projects, I was surprised with how pleasant a mood I found myself in throughout the day on a weekday. When my mind wandered towards work, I realized that my elevated mood was a result of not being stuck in an enclosed room doing glorified data entry using outdated technology for a full eight hour shift. After posting that link to the article on LifeHacker about not needing permission to pursue one’s dreams, I started assessing myself through the lens of that piece of advice. One year ago, I was very happy to finally find a replacement source of income after that stint of unplanned unemployment. In the time since then, as I’ve recorded in previous entries throughout that time, I’ve been going paycheck to paycheck and barely keeping afloat financially. I’ve held in with the position in the hopes of having it turn to a full-time permanent position, but in the recent months it’s become clear that a secure long-term position is highly unlikely. Though I’ve considered searching for another job multiple times in the past year, I’ve been largely dissuaded by the memory of how difficult and time-consuming it was to find my current position. I’ve been intimidated and held back by my own fears and doubts, and over time I’ve sold myself a false sense of helplessness. Every day that I go in to work, I resent myself for allowing myself to have to spend my days doing something I dislike, doing unchallenging and mind-numbingly droll routine work instead of being part of meaningful projects that make the most of my capabilities. In focusing on the last year’s memories of stress and hardship, I’ve been betraying the true self that I’ve been so focused on embodying. Ignoring the relentless determination and ambition that fueled my great accomplishments of my early 20’s and acknowledging only my shortcomings and deficiencies.
The interconnected nature of the present day job market also adds to the pressure and doubt. The fields and positions that I’d be suited for lay largely unattainable; most require a college degree I don’t possess. Those that prioritize hands-on experience over academic accreditation I lack quantifiable recent demonstration of. In turn, the pressure has been placed on self-study in technological disciplines, honing my writing skills, and building a portfolio of work. In my head, this blog being only one Google search away from a prospective employer, the only out from my current predicament has seemed to wait until I can do x to do y in order to be able to do z and prove I’m capable of doing what I can. Save the money to buy the server space & domain to build the custom site and train up to being the writer the content to create a reader-base and prove to the world and myself that I’m capable of doing things I’ve already done. I’ve become so convinced that this difficult solution is the only one, completely ignoring that once upon a 2007, I coordinated multiple marketing campaigns with a globally distributed team promoting established Japanese music artists in overseas territories using an HP desktop equipped with Microsoft Office 2007 and a Nokia 6682 candybar phone. Now I have a powerhouse of a mobile office — MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPad — yet all I do is update database tables using a dated terminal emulator and a proprietary webapp that requires Internet Explorer 8 to use.
After all the effort I’ve put towards matters of personal development over the recent past, I finally deem myself at a place where I can lay claim to self-actualization. In turn, being limited by such a myopic fear-based perception makes me a hypocrite. For the longest time, I was a self-doubting wreck mired in deep depression. I started publishing my experiences with it not just as a means to work through the issues, but also to openly explore and explain myself to the world. To be completely upfront with my challenges and lowly beginnings of the new story I intended to take on in life. My writing output has not kept pace with the internal change, and now I feel just as removed from the weak self-doubting wreck I was a year ago as I did from this better version of myself throughout the past decade. I don’t mean to abandon writing on those matters since I still cling to the hope that someone in a similar situation may find them to be of help in some way, but I also can’t continue to let cleaning up after the lesser past self of recent years keep dissuading me from seeking out opportunity.

Emergence

As the month of May comes to its close, I can’t help but find myself drawing comparisons from my state in life then to how it is now. One year ago, I’d built up my credit and saved enough money to cut the final remaining links to my old life and move out of the family home, but found myself struggling with unemployment, lapsed bills, and persistent car trouble. In addition to addressing those obstacles, I was heavily preoccupied with the internal ones that I’ve written so much on throughout past entries. I’d decided that with the move, I’d officially end my social isolation and start testing out my reformed “self” in trying to reintegrate with my old life while still pushing in a new direction. In the process, there’s been a strong shift from spending all my time thinking things through towards enacting action.
Though there have been a few false starts and stumbles along the way, putting my idealized self into practice keeps becoming less and less difficult with every passing day. Everything that used to weigh on me and hold me back are no longer impassable obstacles. All the things I felt were missing from myself and how I experienced life have been put back in their rightful place. The goals and dreams that had started to feel like impossible lofty aspirations are now like projects waiting to be mapped out and strategically driven to completion. With the two I’ve been most focused on lately, I’ve been doing well at consistently losing weight over the past couple weeks, and on matters of the journey of self-rediscovery itself, it’s becoming a lot easier to identify and articulate what it was I had to process. Once you’re out of the chaos, it’s a lot easier to see the forest for the trees.
One year later, and I’m back in full form for the first time in the better part of a decade, ready to seriously outdo my old accomplishments. I’ve been keeping pace with my recently identified to-do’s, and waging a relentless assault on myself in the campaign for perpetual improvement. Life has fully regained it’s vivacity, flow, and meaning for me. It’s like waking up from a very long bad dream, finally back in actual full control of myself and my direction in life.
It’s going to be a summer of massive change and improvement on all personal fronts this year. I look forward to seeing myself on the other side of it.

Reconciliation: Recovering From a Mid-Life Crisis at 27

In migrating my self-hosted installation to my previously-abandoned wordpress.com blog, I’ve found myself re-reading past entires as I’ve been going through and changing the visibility on past posts I’d forgotten were still on the web; I archived everything when I was self-hosting, and you know…consistency. One entry that stood out at me was one that I composed back in August of this year regarding my personal journey in isolation throughout 2012. I can vividly recall my mindset when I wrote that: I felt unburdened and free, yet lost. I’d been a highly self-critical introspective mental-emotional train wreck for so long that when I allowed myself to let go and move past that, I didn’t feel like I had an identity of my own. So I wrote about the circumstances, the inspiration behind my decision, and the result (which, admittedly, is something that I’ve done many times before, each one feeling like I failed to capture all I really meant to say). Though the writing was on the wall throughout the entire length of that post, the one thing I didn’t touch upon was what the core issue was: I had been recovering from a conflict of identity and lack of self-esteem — a “midlife crisis” in my 20’s. This is what working through that has been like.

Depression

I tried to work these things out at the age of 25 when I first identified and acknowledged them, but it was like working a math problem that just didn’t add up. How could someone who’s constantly told that he’s capable and produces great work still be wading in the shallow end of the career pool at college-graduate age? How could someone who grew up knowing a large loving family turn out to be a person whose family is his greatest source of emotional anguish? Why, if I’m as smart as I think I am, have so many of the choices in life I’ve made turned out to be costly mistakes? Every day felt like I was trapped, confined to an contradictory existence. Day to day life felt like I was trapped behind an invisible screen, watching some meaningless life unfold. I remained functional; I went through the motions — went to work, hung out with friends, spent time with the little family I still had an active relationship with — but at the end of the day, I felt hollow and worthless, a pitiful jumble of inner turmoil and self doubt.

Resistance

In 2011, things improved financially to where I was finally able to stabilize myself, and could afford more time and mental energy to really focus on self-improvement. Though I’d been trying for quite some time to sort things out alone, convinced that I could solve my own problems by myself, I finally caved and decided to seek out professional assistance. So I started seeing a therapist.
I’d wager most people picture a patient lying down on a couch having a cathartic emotional breakdown when the subject of therapy comes up. I’ll admit, that was part of what encouraged me to give it a shot; maybe if I just loaded someone up with all the details and have him systematically hit me with each one, I could just cry it out and move on. The reality (which is much better than what I’d been secretly hoping for) was rather ordinary. It was like paying to have the conversation I needed to have. To discuss my innermost truths with someone of an objective and analytical mindset, not with someone who’d be quick to feel sympathy or validate my opinion as friends are prone to do. Someone who would carefully listen to what I was actually saying, and know the right things to say and the right questions to ask. That helped alleviate a fair amount of the pressure, and for awhile, things were looking up. Then things in the then-present personal life took a steep nosedive. I hit a breaking point, and I snapped. So I made my decision to have my 2012.

Self-Exile

In that year alone, I put a distance between “me” and myself. I stopped seeing my past as a linear history, and more like a collection of different people that I’ve been. It was partially externalizing all the chaos in my head, and partially an invitation to escapism. I put serious consideration into the idea of leaving all my social media accounts deactivated, getting a new phone number, disappear and head off to the opposite end of the country, and just completely start over during those first few months. While this approach helped me in getting some needed distance to get a better perspective on my sense of self, there was an unintended consequence. With every day restricted to absolute minimum social interactions and lots of time with my thoughts, there was nothing to really trigger emotional response or engagement. Day after day without the company of friends of the comfort of family to look forward to. No love, no happiness, no sadness, just…me. I stopped processing emotions, and was still in a detached state, only without the saddening pull of depression.

Reconciliation

When you spend that much time with a person, you inevitably have to make peace with them. This year, I focused on filtering out all the negative “programming” I’ve picked up through life and reconnecting with all those “past selves” I turned my back on. Around the same time I wrote that post on 2012 in August, I read an article on artofmanliness.com that analyzed the quote “the child is father to the man,” and described something very similar to what I’d been feeling in regard to my own history. This November, I toyed with the idea of partaking in National Novel Writing Month. As I did some research on story structure, I read about the “Hero’s Journey”. I tried translating my own experience into the monomyth model, and realized why it is I’ve been having such a hard time writing about this all. I thought I would find myself at the final stages in the model. Ultimately, I placed myself towards the beginning, at the step labeled Atonement with the Father. Since then, I’ve reconciled myself with the child I used to be, and hold in such high regard. I accept that he’s gone through some heavy ordeals in life that have led him to a place of unhappiness, and that his story is mine. The grief I carried for so long is not a result from an inability to meet societal standards or the expectations of others, but simply in having failed to deliver on the promise I used to hold, like I somehow managed to make all the wrong choices in life for myself in spite of my better qualities.

Redemption

Things now are, for the most part, in a pretty good place. I’ve got a laundry list of things that I need to get done in the near future – namely, developing a second income stream and finding something to replace my current primary – and some financial hurdles that I’ll be carrying over into the coming year. Those details aside, I feel whole and in complete control of myself, something I’ve been struggling to regain for a very long time now. I’ve rediscovered my inner warrior, that part of me that is fearless and thrives in adversity. I’ve been actively exercising, running 5+ miles on a regular basis. I’ve also been buckling down and pursuing mastery in the various areas of interest I’ve acquired over the years, my present focus placed on writing and getting to know computer programming by learning Python.
When I was a child, I envisioned my adult self to be someone who is genuinely interesting to meet, one of those people who are knowledgeable and proficiently skilled in multiple disciplines. Now, after so much internal struggle, I’ve remembered who I really see myself as, and have belief in “me” to give myself the chance to become that person.

Towards a Thinner Tomorrow: Preparation

I’m re-launching my workout & exercise blogging again. Last time I did it, I went full throttle out of the gate and burned out pretty quick. The reality is that this is a lifestyle change that takes gradual adjustment. I’m taking a smarter approach to things this time around – I’m easing into it all, slowly developing physical activity as a routine that will stick rather than a temporary ambition. I’m starting with a simple yet critical aspect: mentality.
Currently, physical fitness is quite possibly the aspect of my life that draws most of my attention. To put it simply, I’ve really let myself go. Two years ago, I was actively exercising and in the best shape I’ve been in since I was a kid. This says a lot, because even then I wasn’t in shape. I used to be a normal child. Growing up, my mom cooked a lot of “rich” food, and my dad always delegated his nutritional responsibilities to me to the closest fast food eatery. These eating habits persisted until after I graduated high school, when I made the conscious decision to avoid fast food burger joints like the plague. I started running every morning, and managed to trim down a lot. As I persisted with my physical activity, I started achieving a normal body shape and a seriously amazingly defined jawline.

Me - 2005me2007

me2008me2011

Me: 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011

This past year, I gave in and caved to the pressures of my life, and stopped caring about myself in many aspects. Not in a depressive helpless way, just an indifferent one. I went back to bad eating habits, stopped exercising, even let go of my usual meticulous attention to how I look; I stopped my facial care regiment and groomed only as necessary.
Presently, I simply just don’t feel good. When I look into a mirror, I do not recognize myself. I’ve become a really heavy smoker, bordering on a pack a day. I constantly feel sick and bloated, and awkward when I move. I’ve lost my awesome jawline. I have a bunch of pants hanging in my closet that used to be in regular use, and now rotate between two tightly fitting pairs of pants that even a few months ago were loose. Much as I hate to admit it, my self-confidence has taken a hit, and I constantly feel like my body is limiting me and preventing me from living the kind of life I want to and should be living.
Now, I want my life back, and I want it to be better than it was. I more or less want to become a jock. I want to shed all of my excess body fat, I want to become a moderate athlete, I want to become proficient at activities such as rock climbing, biking, and gymnastics. I want to push this body to it’s true limit, and shape it into something impressive. I want to go out clubbing with my shirt off. In short, I want to be healthy and I want to be as attractive as possible. On my way there, I’m going to log and blog the process religiously.
On a closing note, yes, the majority of this post is recycled from an earlier entry. I decided to edit and repost it as it’s own, as the category I’m filing it and all other exercise related posts are essentially going to be a sub-blog.

A Current State of Affairs

It’s been a very interesting time in my life lately. I’ve recently turned 25. Even though I’ve been getting back in the habit of maintaining an active handwritten journal, I’ve been meaning to get back to my blogging – I’ve got big plans that I need to get in motion. Looking back on my previous entries, I see that I managed to get everything setup and ready to go. Too bad let myself get so caught up with the personal life and didn’t follow through. Since then, lots of things have changed. I’ve re-centered myself, and have gotten back in touch my old fire. I’ve constantly felt like I’ve let myself fall behind of where I should be over the past years, but I now realize to what extent. There are so many things that I want to do with my life, and I have done next to nothing to bring those goals to fruition. Now that I’ve regained sight of those things, I’m committed to catching up to where I need to be. However, the historian in me dictates that I should take a snapshot of how everything is now, so that I can one day compare it to what will be.

Health

This is quite possibly the aspect of my life that draws most of my attention. To put it simply, I’ve really let myself go. Two years ago, I was actively exercising and in the best shape I’ve been in since I was a kid. This says a lot, because even then I wasn’t in shape. I used to be a normal child. Growing up, my mom cooked a lot of “rich” food, and my dad always delegated his nutritional responsibilities to me to the closest fast food eatery. These eating habits persisted until after I graduated high school, when I made the conscious decision to avoid fast food burger joints like the plague. I started running every morning, and managed to trim down a lot. Over the years, working out has been an on-again off-again thing with me. This past year, I gave in and caved to pressure, stopped caring about myself in many aspects. Not in a depressive helpless way, just an indifferent one. I went back to bad eating habits, stopped exercising, even let go of my usual meticulous attention to how I look; I stopped my facial care regiment and groomed only as necessary.
Presently, I simply just don’t feel good. When I look into a mirror, I do not recognize myself. I’ve become a really heavy smoker, bordering on a pack a day. I have a bunch of pants hanging in my closet that used to be in regular use, and now rotate between two tightly fitting pairs of pants that even a few months ago were loose. I’m afraid of working out because I fear that my physical limits have degraded so much that I’ll tire out in mere minutes.
Now, I want my life back, and I want it to be better than it was. I more or less want to become a jock. I want to shed all of my excess body fat, I want to become a moderate athlete, I want to become proficient at activities such as rock climbing, biking, and gymnastics. I want to push this body to it’s true limit, and shape it into something impressive. I want to go out clubbing with my shirt off. In short, I want to be healthy and I want to be as attractive as possible. On my way there, I’m going to log and blog the process religiously.

Finances & Work

At the beginning of this year, rather than make resolutions, I told myself I was simply tired of being fat and poor. Money is something that’s always been a bit of a problem for me. I grew up used to having money readily available, thanks to the family business on my dad’s side. Granted, we weren’t rich per se, but I never found myself lacking and always had the latest and greatest in tech and entertainment. Now as an adult, there are a lot of things that I would like to have, but can’t afford. Technological toys, fancy clothing, the list goes on. However, when I do encounter money, rather than save responsibly, I splurge. That’s something I need to work on.
Currently, I’m working 18-20 hours a week at RankPay doing account management and customer support. I got a raise not too long ago, and have been talked to about managing the company Twitter account. I met with Shawn recently, and he wants to get me up to snuff with advanced SEO so that I can author the company blog as well. There’s a lot of potential with my current job, and that’s something I plan to explore in the future. However, short term, I’m planning to pick up a second job, preferably in a restaurant setting again. My primary financial goals this year are to get to a place where I regularly have over $1000 in both my checking and savings accounts, and to finally get a new car.

Education

I’m going back to school this year, and actively working on my degree. I know that it’s not something that I need, but my desire to have it cannot be ignored.
Aside from the degree, there’s a lot of other interests that I’ve always had and neglected that I now want to cultivate. Graphic design, web design, programming, music…I’m going to become well versed in all of these things. I will become a Photoshop Master and competent designer. I will learn how to read sheet music and play guitar. I will learn CSS, JavaScript, and C++.

Spirituality

One big thing that I’ve recently started to really analyze is the meaning of the word “man”. I honestly feel that living up to the qualities of the word “man” and “woman” are something that are truly lost amongst people my age these days. Maybe it’s a geographical thing, living in southern California, but it feels like the defining characteristics of those words are things that very little people have these days, and even a smaller number care to attain. I’m not one of them. I want to train myself to be someone that earns respect, that’s very direct and efficient, that possesses knowledge on a varied number of subjects. I’ve got a lot that I need to get done. I’ve attempted to do it in the past, and I’ve failed multiple times. Now, I set out to do it, with failure no longer an option. I’m 25 now – time to become who I really am.