The Consequences of Perpetual Marginalization

After writing my previous entry, I got up from my desk in an uneasy state of mind. A big part of why I don’t write so much lately is that getting the thoughts out of my head, into text form, and slapping a period at the end of them means that they’re completed and done with. Keeping things private and inside my head is a mental equivalent of bargaining “just one more cigarette”, a little longer to mull things over on a given aspect about myself. Being at home and without any reason to project otherwise, it was pretty clear to my roommate/best friend that I was not in a good place. He asked what was wrong, and I told replied that it was just more of the usual mess that runs inside my head that bums him out to have to hear, only now without any restraint. To myself, I acknowleged that it makes me feel guilty for talking to him about these things as well — roles reversed, I would feel very saddened and frustrated to have to hear from someone that I care deeply for tell me that nothing feels worthwhile and would love to not have to deal with being alive anymore.
We discussed what was going through my head and what I had just written and posted moments earlier in our conversation, but it ended up derailing and becoming more about the barriers in communication that keep me from being more open and forthcoming about. That conversation was eventually dropped in favor of playing video games and watching TV together. However, in the time since then, I’ve been continuing to unpack the underlying though processes behind that feeling of disinterest in life that keeps cropping up.
When I decided to start blogging about myself in this manner, the idea was to put my truth out there, to show what a bad place I was in and, over time, capture the journey down the road of self-actualization. By now, I had planned to find myself in much better physical shape and realizing that version of myself that I envisioned. Instead, I’ve continued to falter, merely trading in old problems for new ones. Skimming through all of my old posts (published and private) the entries I wrote from 2010–2014 all revolved around an identity crisis, lack of confidence, chronic self-loathing. From Fall of 2015 onward, I’d been doing pretty well, occassional falls of the exercise wagon not withstanding. I haven’t felt that ruminative melancholy and crippling self-resentment in a very long time. The thing I wrestle with now is that I still haven’t found the sense of purpose I started looking for this year.
I am a introvert. I like the idea of being one of those charismatic life-of-the-party types, and while I can pull it off when I make the effort, in truth it tends to tire me out. But while mine is not a social nature, it is heavily tribal. In an old-world social structure, I would have been a watchtower sentry — mostly removed from the group in order to keep it safe, but still very much a part of it. To be where I am now, without a tribe that I belong to after years in self-exile and having left behind family and many friendships, leaves me bearing the shame and and loss of purpose I’d liken to that of feudal Japanese ronin who refused to commit ritual suicide after losing in battle. Where before I didn’t see myself as capable of contintuing to fight, now I just don’t feel like I have a reason to. I keep working on career development, getting in top physical shape, making more money…but for what, to afford fancy material things? Secure a place to wither away and die in at old age? Without anyone or anything to be doing it for, it just feels like I’m doing meaningless shit over and over, day by day. While I would like to champion the idea of doing things for oneself, it’s not able to sustain me; all that translates to is dragging out an already long lonesome existence to its inevitale end.
Because I’ve gotten very capable at stepping outside of my own thought processes, I can look at myself objectively and rationally. I realize that a problem that only I can fix. I realize that letting this go unresolved is likely enabling self-fullfilling prophecy complex. Yet, no matter how much I dissect things and try to goad myself with supportive messaging, it all amounts to very little; buying into that line of thinking seems like forcing on a pair of rose-colored glasses and false optimism and negligently ignoring years of historical data that tells me otherwise. With my mind being as logic oriented as it is, the latter train of thought always wins.


Believing What the World Has Repeatedly Told Me

Why does it feel like nothing matters?
Because I don’t matter.


From My Immediate Family

With my mother having sole custody, I was raised in a Mexican household with the cultural belief that family is of utmost importance and comes first, and I bought into it completely. So, even though growing up I preferred to spend most of my time to myself in front of my video games or a book, being the most intellectually inclined and technologically capable person in the family gave me a great sense of purpose from the times that I would be called on to do things for them that no one else could: format and revise my sister’s college papers, draft rental contracts in Spanish for my mother when she was managing my grandmother’s property in Mexico, design and create signs/flyers when needed, and so on.
But as I grew older and left adolescence behind on my way into young adulthood, the dynamic changed. I stopped being a part of the family after the events of summer 2001 (which I’ll get around to actually writing down some day) left me with only one of my sisters, who lives in North County San Diego, a 45 minute drive away. Not being able to drive myself anywhere at the time, I found comfort in a new “family” I fell into, my first actual group of close friends. After a couple of years, once the rage and resentment dissipated, I tried practicing forgiveness and started rebuilding relationships with my sisters. Though as much of an effort as I made in trying to be a good brother, my only reward was to be treated like a tool. Every time I would visit my sister up north, I was almost guaranteed to be updated that one of the others had called her and asked about me in the course of their conversation. It used to even bother her, as some calls she received from them were specifically to inquire about me and nothing else. Yet, my phone never rang…until they they needed something from me. My best friend lived with me for a time before I turned my back on them again for good back in 2012, and he’s recounted that he used to feel bad knowing how much I cared for them and that only time he ever saw them come to visit, he’d find me hunched over a desk fixing a computer or to have me e-filing their taxes for them.
In the Fall of 2010, my older brother went “missing” when he checked himself into rehab without telling anyone. In response, my sisters rallied and became a search party task force. They even reached out to their estranged biological father to enlist his aid, and for weeks straight, crossed the border into Mexico to keep up the search and make sure he was alive and well. Yet, when I was showing tell-tale signs of suicide risk and openly admitting severe depression, they let me go. None of them tried to support me, or intervene and fight for me when I started to drift away for good.

From My Extended Family

While everything above was happening with my immediate family, that one-degree-of-separation trend began manifesting itself with extended family. With my father’s home being located on the second story above the family liquor store business, I would regularly hear from my dad and uncle that one of my various cousins had stopped by and asked either for me or about me. I would always get in touch and let them know I’d heard they’d been by, and suggest finding a time to get together and actually interact; as is common with Mexican families, my cousins were like a set of lifelong friends and generally liked most of them. The idea was always met with with enthusiastic agreement, but it would never come to fruition. No matter how many times I made sure they had my cell number or followed up with them to make it happen, I could never get them to commit.

From My Friends

Once I noticed that trend with my family, I started to recognize that it was also happening all the time with my friends as well. I realized that the only time I would see the people I called friends was in large group gatherings. Because the majority of these friends overlapped between me and my best friend, I became the “comes with” for him — I would rarely get direct invitations, and was always informed about group plans through him, creating this feeling that I was constantly am unofficial invitee that he was going out of his way to keep me included.
I attempted to make a change by trying to find time to spend with them on an individual basis and strengthen those bonds in a way that group environments don’t really lend themselves to, to be more than just social drinking buddies. I started pitching the idea of haning out one-one-one with many of them, and just like with my cousins, they would seem delighted and enthused at the thought of it, but nothing would ever happen. I could give a two-week outlook on my schedule, and rare were the times that I would get a response to calendar, and even those were usually subject to last minute cancellations.
This is what made cutting all ties with family and friends in 2012 possible.

From My Relationships

The few times that I’ve been romantically engaged with people, there’s been a similar recurring trend there to. They got something out of me — emotional support, personal validation, etc. — but at the end of the day, I still wasn’t good enough for the long term. With every person, it’s always ended up in being left behind while they went off and made someone else their boyfriend.
And without fail, after the period of awkwardness passed and the emotional wounds healed, each one also came back later telling me how much I’ve been missed in their lives, regret over how things played out, and wanting to rekindle friendships.


The End Result: A Pointless Now


The above is only a surface level summary of how the various relationships in my life have played out. What isn’t accurately communicated is just how people that happened with, how many individual instances there were, and how often it still happens even today. Yes, the only way to create change is to take action and to never give up on trying…but my past experiences show me that no matter how differently I approach people, how drastically I change my thinking, how much weight I lose, things do not get better. Furthermore, not feeling like anything has changed makes me feel like a fraudulent hypocrite, writing today this post that flies in direct contradiction of the one I wrote one year ago to the day.
Irrational and petty as it sounds, like I’m choosing to trap myself in a self-pity party that doesn’t end…it’s as if there’s just something inherently wrong with me; why else is that even the people who allegedly cared for me the most have been so naturally inclined to use me as a tool, keep me at a distance, and turn me away/let me go so easily? I can handle rejection just fine, but a lifetime of positive verbal messaging and contradictory actions from others — it really fucks with your self-esteem and makes you doubt your own rationale, choices, and emotions. It took years of revisting old memories countless times to convince myself that I had done the best my young self could and that it wasn’t all entirely my fault.
It would be possible to disregard the past, commit to living in the moment, and believe in the future…were it not for present reality. Like I mentioned above, that enthusiasm about spending time together and subsequent lack of follow through still happens all too often. I know that a lot of it has to do with the current phase in life my peers are in; we’re not in our 20’s of abundant free time anymore, and many people have their jobs, significant others, and/or children to juggle in their schedule. Yet, with that being the case, and the detached nature of mobile messaging and social media dominating modern day social interactions, what chance does that leave to build the meaninful relationships that I would like to achieve? It feels like taking on a losing battle, one that I’ve already failed abysmally at multiple times before.
Thing is, I’ve already answered myself. Out of all the amazing things mankind has been able to accomplish, this definitely falls within the realm of possibility. The solution lies in the words of an old Roman emperor:

Unselfish action, now at this very moment.
Willing acceptance—now at this very moment—of all external events.
That is all you need.
—Marcus Aurelius

The true challenge is not letting my inherent limitations as a human being and the weariness of so much past failure get in the way.

Galvanized

It’s been a rough past months. Since the last time I sat down to draft an update for this blog, I once again fell off the workout bandwagon. Where before this cycle used to be triggered by cycles of demotivation and lack of affect, these last three months the cause has been rooted in my physical health. I expected to get back to business as usual after that bout in September, but late October and again this month, they came back at me harder than before and knocking me on my ass, so to speak.
Then came the Presidential Election. That upset was strong enough to drive me to write myself a pithy journal update, but I didn’t feel like I had much to say there; I was thinking and feeling the same thing that pretty much every rational and objective American was thinking that day. That Tuesday night feel like watching a country, logic, and pretty much all fucking reason die in real time, and it made me sad for the country — not just because of the obvious rammifications to come, but also because it seemingly forced everyone to take up that bleak realist lens through which my years of depression I’ve long written about put on my eyes.
As I wrote the day after social media:

Well…at least all those past years of experience combatting depression and constant suicidal ideation using nihilistic suppression of psychological affect (to varying success) makes waking up to a looming Trump America a lot easier to process effectively. The way the world feels shitty and senseless after last night’s results? That was my day-to-day for the better part of a decade. #UsedToIt

That old adage isn’t entirely true, misery doesn’t always want company. And in time since, it’s been a struggle to fight through whatever mess I’ve got going on physically and regrouping myself mentally. As much I was handling it pretty well on my own, I’m highly empathetic to my roommate/best friend/“little brother”, and his reaction to the outcome knocked whatever fortitude I had right out from under me. So much to the point that even though I’ve been highly aware of how long I’ve gone without writing at all and how much I would stand to gain by processing my thoughts through it, it all just seemed so pointless. The world itself is in such turmoil now that anything I’ve got going on the individual is absolutely trivial by comparison, and rendered moot by the course reality has taken. What does it matter to self-actualize and start writing the personal narrative I’ve been trying to obtain for so long when there’s a looming facist government rule that’s going to ignore the pressing issues with climate change and kill social progress until the Earth literlally drowns itself?
This train of cynical nihilistic thought isn’t exactly something new to me. In fact, it even managed to bring back my pernicious lesser self that engages in mortal ideation — that part of me that doesn’t want to deal with my self or this world and just wants it all to be over. But just like in times past, when I’ve stepped outside of my perception and coached myself with the tenets of stoicism to recollect my personal resolve, the lack of affect has won out. I hear what I’m telling myself and I know I’m right, but I still can’t bring myself to care. Even my forceful negative reinforcements — “don’t be such a weak lameass and get back to work” — have had no effect.
I think back to when I was in my adolescent years, and I remember how it used to feel like I was constantly fighting for my self and my identity, as well as the energy, confidence, and optimism with which I faced it. Fifteen years later, after losing all those things and struggling to find them all within myself again, I been feeling ragged, worn, and weary. Years of effort expended, and with very little to show for it, barely breaking even with my teenage self.
But now that mourning period for the 2016 election results has passed, and this present day reality demands more from me. I demand more from me. As much as I want to get away from feeling like the lone wolf fending for himself and be a happy social butterfly, it’s my nature. And while I can resent it for being so all I want, at the end of the day, it’s where my personal strength comes from when I’m not fighting it. Not being afraid of being alone and dying is empowering, but it also requires being familiar with loneliness and saddled with awareness of one’s mortality, and that can be crushing in itself.
But as stated above, I’m used to it at this point. It gets me down only because I choose to let it get me down. Yes, I want to be “done”, but the fact stands that I’m not. Being dejected and unwilling to fight accomplishes nothing, so even though it’s hard for me to see a point to it at many times, striving from the struggle once again is my only way forward. Things may be in a terrible state right now, it may be too late for us to prevent serious consequences of global warming, and the election outcome may have broken me down, but all that this has ultimately accomplished is shock me back into action. In spite this body and spirit that are both moderately past their prime, I will run, study, train, work, fight, and every other verb you can think of, harder than ever before.

No-Measurement Monday Check In

It’s Monday morning, and I’ve instructed myself to crank out a quick update before heading into work to get the week started. Looking at the blog archives, I see that it’s already been two weeks since the last time I posted something. Typically, Mondays are the days where i’m supposed to crank out a weekly measurement/stat/photo update on the progress with the weight loss efforts, but the thing is…I really hate doing it. As much as I’d like to be the type of person that’s really into physiological quantification, rigorously tracking activity and nutritional intake and steadily heading towards peak physical fitness, the reality that’s become very evident over my past updates is that I’m not. Even with all the tools I’ve collected over time, from analog tools like tape measures and body fat calipers to smart phone apps and wifi connected smart scales, there’s no out-the-box solution to fully automate that capture. At some point, it still requires sitting down in front of a text editor and compiling all that information. Like most people that aren’t professional athletes/body builders, it’s not exactly my favorite thing to do, especially since body changes, even when implementing a better diet and copious amounts of physical activity, is still a gradual process that fails to deliver on the instant-gratification level modern life has made us accustomed to.
Much like I wrote at the beginning of the month, I’m still back in the high 190/low 200 lb range that I spiked up to at the end of August. For the majority of this month, I’ve been avoiding even stepping on the scale — knowing that the number it’s going to read out lacks context and doesn’t account for the trade off in fat to muscle that my increased running and body weight training has been causing, it feels pointless to take a measurement that I know is inherently inaccurate. I tell myself that I should at least fall back to the tape measure & photographs, but those are tedious and time-consuming to take as well. Yet, despite the lack of activity with written updates, activity in real life has stayed steady. I’m still steadily moving ahead with that pursuit of personal purpose and power I most recently wrote about. I’m looking at 10 miles a day for the rest of the month if I’m going to meet the 200 mile goal again for this month (which I fully intend to), and have been upping my game with the non-cardio workouts; over the past week and half, I’ve been spending a lot of time with a new friend who’s a professional yoga instructor, and he’s both forced and inspired me to raise the bar for myself. In addition to the body weight routines and 7-minute workouts I’ve been doing, I’ve also (finally) started actively targeting abdominal/arm muscles and general flexbility with the aim of being able to pull of advanced yoga poses and handstands like he can.

Even 90°+ degree weather won't stop me

Even 90°+ degree weather won’t stop me


More noteworthy than any set of measurements and photographs I could post is the feedback I’ve been getting in direct conversations with people, having recently started making a change from my ascetic & hermetic ways of the past few years. Though I regularly allow RunKeeper to cross-post my activity logs to my social media accounts, outside of the occasional Facebook Like and Twitter Favorite, I don’t usually see much by way of commentary. Yet, in “catching up” with old friends & acquaintances conversationally, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see it routinely being brought up by the other party.
Kyle convo
Greg running conversation
It’s validating to hear that my desired intent, to inspire even just one person on even the smallest level, is taking place out with these updates, even if I’m not immediately made aware of it.

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.

Workplace Motivation

Although I’ve still been dealing with some lingering ankle & knee pain, I’ve been able to get myself back to work on laying down more miles. Since last Thursday, I’ve been steadily running my usual 5 mile route and getting back to my lunch time walks/jogs with my co-worker. She herself has already started to shed some weight. Every day, I hear about the extra mindfulness she practices when it comes to eating and the activity she does on her own personal time; she (half) jokingly calls me her “personal trainer”.
Yesterday towards the end of the work day, I was approached by a woman that works in the same area that I do, but don’t ever interact with since we’re part of different departments. She told me that at one point earlier in the day, she’d been walking behind me and noticed how much weight I’ve lost. Today, I took a change of running clothes with me for the lunch break jaunt. Since my walking buddy strictly power walks, I decided to run ahead to the end of the route and circle back to wherever she was, then finish the rest of the walk by running back and forth and jogging in place. When we got back to the office, I headed upstairs to the locker room to get changed. Along the way, one of the acquaintances I’ve made on the floor above saw me heading in, and said that I looked like I was “bringing sexy back”. I replied with “I’m tryin’…” as we passed each other, and a few feet later turned and added “well, in all honesty, can’t bring back something that was never here to begin with, but it’s still something to work towards.”
While it’s nice to receive unprompted feedback from people that are more or less strangers, I get more satisfaction from hearing and seeing my co-worker’s health improve. I’m not an expert trainer or nutritionist, just a work in progress that’s still very much overweight but happens to run a lot, but even that’s sufficient to get her moving, and despite her slightly older age still try to get to the point where she can drop the extra pounds and keep pace with me.
And while I’m updating:

RunKeeper Activities - June 2014

Little over seven miles today, and a lot activity in general this month…except for that week with the sprained ankle.