Cornered

In this recent lack of updates, I’ve come to the realization just how much weight it carries in my mind. As a tech enthusiast whose primary field of study has been Communications with an emphasis in Marketing, I’m aware of the importance of having a well established online presence. However, after taking so much time to work on myself and living outside of my old life, with strictly information internet usage and minimal social media engagement, the story I had to tell changed. I became less the tech savvy internet marketer who was part of the senior leadership of startup organization that helped bring Japanese rock to American shores, and more the survivor of a prolonged identity crisis. In my earlier years, I used to use writing as a means of processing life’s happenings, a way to collect and reflect intelligently on things. I made the effort to reconnect with that process, and the decision to publish what I wrote openly on the web as well. As a long time internet user, I’ve seen the unintentional and unexpected positive ways in which sharing a story can help other people. As a self-aware internet user, I have no objection to contributing my weaknesses and shortcomings to the version of me that exists in the collective internet cloud. I feel it would be wasteful to not be honest about these things, and throw away the First Amendment privilege we have in being able to openly express ourselves for the sake of appearance, presentation, and personal branding. That may sound a bit naive in ways, but sometimes I’m just a stubborn idealist — I accept that about myself.
All that being said, I feel that in focusing on capturing the present narrative throughout so many past incohesive posts, I’ve delayed pushing it forward. There’s a lot of areas of improvement that I’ve identified for myself, but my efforts have been greatly scattered and unfocused, resulting in very little improvement. Life calls for the actualization of the idealized self I’ve been striving to embody, and I’m ready for the challenge. But I feel encumbered by the story my younger self decided to share. After having painted so thoroughly a picture of myself as a broken individual in the process of reconnecting with his true “self”, I now feel like I’ve got some imaginary mountain of writing output that I have to generate to clean up after that decision. I’ve talked about the challenges and the struggles, but not on the resolutions and the takeways. I’ve been open about my weaknesses and my fears, but I’ve neglected my strengths and my accomplishments. It was a means to help myself sort it all out, and I’ll admit it worked, but everything has it’s cost. Fighting this feeling of obligation towards my writing is the one I’m currently facing, and the ramifications it has on my professional prospects because of its representation of myself as an individual. Overcoming everything that I’ve been struggling with internally the past few years is what’s been holding back my confidence and proudly demonstrate everything that I’m truly capable of.
This past weekend, I spent all of my day Saturday doing some initial business consultation with a friend who’s aspiring to start a catering business. I set her up with a collaborative online workflow for us to work together on, initiated conversations on branding and identity, establishing and communicating a story, and procured templates by which to compile a thorough business plan, and more specifically, a marketing plan. Having engaged in work of that nature and produced positive and measurable results as well as engaging in a new and ongoing project has sparked that old fire. The fact that I spend every workday conducting a routine set of basic administrative and data entry tasks in an enclosed room instead of doing something measurable that utilizes all of my capabilities is suffocating. And at my age, beginning to border inexcusable.
Now that the heavy lifting has been completed, it’s time to bring those chapters to a close and move on. Every day now brings an feeling of great promise that goes unseized and unexplored because I’m not exercising enough focus and determination. I recognize there’s a certain irony to my current situation, feeling inhibited by my past efforts to put my issues with my personal past to rest. Yet, having spent that recent Saturday doing something impactful that I enjoy, and writing about all of this now and getting the actual narrative up to speed, I feel an immense sense of progress and an equal sense of relief. I’ve regained trust in the idea that there’s a wealth of great ideas and talent inside my head. Successive failures in life knocked that belief out of me, but not being able to perform to my true potential is starting to eat away me. Reorienting and reclaiming myself has been my struggle, overcome but not completely told. As a result, what I have to show so far is the introspective lamentations of a troubled personal past and a weight loss project that routinely stalls out.
All I’ve written, to date, traps me in a corner, the image of a self-doubting incapable wreck. Though a lot of it has to do with the personal image I’ve been addressing, a lot of it stems from a personal fear: the fear that I’m not good enough. It’s a message I received repeatedly growing up, and though I’ve made my peace with it on that front, the realist in me knows that the world is not a very friendly place. The last time I actively looked for employment, it took months to finally end up where I am now, and reading so many of the unemployment stories on Gawker, where university graduates have gone months unemployed or having to settle for minimum wage, to desire to want something better begins to feel audacious, considering that despite all of my past professional accomplishments, I have no formal certification that gives entry to higher paying jobs.
But I remember that despite all the failures, things have paid out when I’ve taken bold moves in the past. I have that sense of unyielding confidence and unshakable resilience that I felt I lost so long ago. This corner is a trapping of my own, and I’ve conquered challenges far greater in life.

Growing Up Nowhere

In addition to supporting the story/idea sharing goal inherent to a blog, I’ve been pressuring myself more and more to write about my past in order to give more context to my output as a writer. Admittedly, I’ve been resistant to the idea because it entails revisiting old memories that I’ve only recently finished putting to bed for good. As a result, going around and digging them back up hasn’t been the most attractive prospect, and admittedly, also feels like I’d be taking steps backwards. This leaves me with the option to either use that rationale as an excuse not to do it, or get it done and out of the way without dwelling on the matter. In the spirit of productivity, I’m opting for the latter. This is the story of how I grew up nowhere.
Growing up with my mother being full-time custody holder, there are five instances of “home” throughout my formative years:

  1. Toddler Years: The house my family lived in right down the way from my dad’s place.
  2. Early Childhood: A duplex unit home in a nearby neighborhood.
  3. Childhood: A rental house in the city
  4. My Dad’s Place: The family home located above the family business, a liquor store in a low-income neighborhood.

The fifth and final one was the one that became my mother’s fixed residence, a house she bought in residential development compound located off the road between Tijuana and Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico in the mid ’90s. It was a small community of repeated base model homes made of brick, wood, and cement: 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, and a living room/kitchen area that owners would then add-on to and customize as they built. As they were in Mexico, they were probably in violation of countless standards and regulations that America has in place for housing. The basic units weren’t properly finished, and air would blow in through the tiny holes in the cement. These homes were on hills only a few miles away from the ocean, those winds would come fast and frigid, making showers a painful test of fortitude in the winters. For the first few years, there was no access to utilities. Nightfall signaled it was time to light an array of candles, and water had to be bought from the truck tanks of water vendors and stored in giant plastic barrels. Cooking required purchasing propane cylinder refills in a similar fashion. Bathing required turning on the propane line, fetching water from the barrel and boiling it in a pot, emptying the boiled water into a giant bucket, getting another pot’s worth of cold water from the barrel, cutting the boiled water with the cold water to ideal temperature, then grabbing a cup/bowl and taking a bath out of the bucket as quick as possible.
Since my dad paid the rent on the house we lived in stateside, time was split between both homes for the first couple years before the rental was given up sometime around 1997, which I believe coincided with when the electric utility commission finally got around to installing power lines. That ended up relocating me with my full-time custody holder to the other side of the US-Mexico border. In turn, I grew up in a very princess-in-the-tower-like manner. My mom strictly forbade me spending the night at other people’s homes, and the only place I could stay at in the states was either at my dad’s place when she felt up to leaving me there, or at one of my sisters’ homes provided I had explicit permission from her to go.
For the most part, I was peerless. My daily company was my little brother and a few of my nephews and nieces (one of my sisters bought a house in Mexico of her own a few blocks down the street), on which I had a good 5–6 year lead. Everyone else around me was significantly older. The neighborhood kids that were my age I didn’t connect with – small language barrier aside, they all cared about American movies and soccer whereas I was interested in role playing video games with engaging narratives, hard rock, and books. So my days were largely spent left alone to do my own thing, in my bedroom in a house off in the hills of Mexico with no phone, cable TV, or internet. I occupied my time with reading whatever books were available (once I exhausted my stock and went without new books for so long I started reading the Bible in Spanish and an English dictionary), replaying video games I’d beaten many times over, and playing around on my old Compaq Presario running Windows ME and sifting over all the stuff I’d managed to download onto when I still had my dial-up internet access at the old rental house in the states. I was frequently left to my own devices, unsupervised and unmonitored, and I found myself growing very comfortable with that. All I needed to occupy myself I had in the form of literature, entertainment, and my own imagination. When being indoors ceased to be appealing, I would head off on bike or foot and explore the trails in the chaparral that surrounded us.

Mom's House - Google Maps Satellite View
Satellite shot from Google Maps of the area my mom’s house is located in.

 
While I can frame that experience in the positive as affirming my autonomous and introspective nature, it also had some pretty severe drawbacks. Though I couldn’t control where we lived, I did vehemently refuse to give up on my school. I’d transferred from the elementary school in the “ghetto” to a middle school (and subsequently, the neighboring high school) as part of a program to diversify student bodies in schools, and I’d been a shoo-in for my ethnic background and my academic achievement — I’d been enrolled in the county’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program since the 2nd grade (the same year they tried to convince me to allow myself to be skipped to the 4th grade and I staunchly refused). However, after the move, my academic performance started suffering to disastrous results.
Home to School Commute Map
The commute from home at my mom’s to my middle school & high school (yellow pins). The green place marker is my dad’s place of residence.

Having a 1 hour morning commute without accounting for the variable time-padding needed to account for crossing the US-Mexico border inspection station and a designated school starting time of 7:30–7-:45 AM meant I was frequently late. I recall my 7th grade self realizing and feeling so disappointed with how numb and unconcerned I’d become to the embarrassment of regularly walking in late halfway through the second period of the school day. My afternoons at the end of a school day were not spent hanging out with friends or studying, they were spent waiting for my mom or my one of my sisters to get around to picking me up. Laptops were still a high-end luxury at the time, so the commute home was spent sitting patiently in the car. After being dragged around to run personal errands by the driver, getting home allowed for a 2–3 hour period in which to get homework done and get in leisure time before going to bed early to rise at 4:30–5AM to start the day over again.
As a result of this one detail in my past, I’ve struggled with two recurring concepts. The first being the shame of bearing the mantle of an unrealized child prodigy, someone who had a vast well of potential and failed to make anything come of it. The resentment of having the promise that parents hope to see in their children, and having it neglected in favor of ownership of a brick hut in a developing neighborhood in a developing nation. The other being how I’ve been so unintentionally trained to be so self-sufficient. On an intellectual level, I know that I do a good job of navigating life socially despite the social retardation circumstances like those would normally result in because I believe in and adhere to being the “best” version of myself and a “good” person. And because I’m not an idiot and have a solid grasp on tact and social graces that I’ve developed through keen observation and personal experience. However, I am also equally aware acknowledge that the ease with which I can become unapologetically aloof with anyone is alarming. Being able to completely detach from things/people, I’ve learned, becomes a huge liability if it starts to become reflexive and second-nature.

Finding the "Self"

[ted id=1193]
Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself
Thandie Newton

In her TED talk, speaker Thandie Newton speaks of a sense of oneness that newborns feel, and how she believes it becomes lost in the formation of the individual’s sense of identity. We go from an innate state of belief in oneness with everything to evaluating reality through distinctions and separations. In our early years, we are provided countless “facts” about ourselves, both from personal experiences and external input, and weave them together to form a projection of our individuality, a “vehicle for navigate our social world”. However, she also points out that it’s a projection based on other people’s own projections (and so on and so on), and questions whether the sense of self we have is the person we really are, want to, or even should be. Having recently concluded a years-long battle with my own identity crisis, I was immediately engaged by how effectively she was able to verbalize thoughts and feelings I’d long since grappled with but never seemed able to sufficiently capture in my own words.

So this whole interaction with self and identity was a very difficult one for me growing up. The self that I attempted to take out into the world was rejected over and over again. And my panic at not having a self that fit, and the confusion that came from my self being rejected, created anxiety, shame and hopelessness, which kind of defined me for a long time.

This was the root cause for a lot of the mental & emotional turmoil I’ve carried over the years. I formed my sense of self in the warmth of a loving family environment. I grew up believing that good things happen to good people and aware of the fact that the things that generally comprised a “good person” were also things that made me feel good about myself. So when the years passed and I found myself at end of a continuous series of betrayals and abandonments, I started to see myself as an embodiment of rejection, never to fit in and never to be good enough for anyone in any capacity.

I grew up on the coast of England in the ’70s. My dad is white from Cornwall, and my mom is black from Zimbabwe. Even the idea of us as a family was challenging to most people. But nature had its wicked way, and brown babies were born. But from about the age of five, I was aware that I didn’t fit. I was the black atheist kid in the all-white Catholic school run by nuns. I was an anomaly, and my self was rooting around for definition and trying to plug in. Because the self likes to fit, to see itself replicated, to belong. That confirms its existence and its importance.

I grew up in San Diego, CA in the late ’80s and the ’90s. My dad is first-generation Chinese American from Oakland, and my mom an illegal alien from Zacatacas, Mexico. To go into the circumstances of my upbringing in sufficient detail would be a lengthy endeavor that goes beyond the scope of this entry. Suffice to say, the result my history with childhood & development served to reinforce the archetype of “the perpetual outsider”. On top of juggling the duality of being my “Mexican” self when at home with my mom and my “Chinese” self when left with my dad and his family, there were also the constant changes in my primary home environment to deal with. When my mom relocated us to a house on the other side of the US-Mexico border, that virtually eliminated my ability to “belong” anywhere.

But in retrospect, the destruction of my self was so repetitive that I started to see a pattern. The self changed, got affected, broken, destroyed, but another one would evolve – sometimes stronger, sometimes hateful, sometimes not wanting to be there at all. The self was not constant. And how many times would my self have to die before I realized that it was never alive in the first place?

Throughout my 20’s, I tried time and time again to get past these issues. And I did, many times over. Yet, each success was soon followed by a relapse into that personal darkness. With every return, climbing out became subsequently harder, wrestling not only once again with matters previously thought put to rest but also new ones that had cropped up — one’s early 20’s are when life is supposed to be filled with constant growth and change. But each repurposed version of myself I took out into the world to try to find a place to fit in ultimately ended up a lonely failure. In 2011, the weight of all that came crashing down on me. My “self” lost its cohesion, and all those different personalities I’d adopted over the years seemingly became their own individual identities, fighting to assert claim to my true identity. Or in a less dramatic manner of phrasing, my mind started working overtime and became crippled by fear. Everything that got processed in my mind got worked over multiple times, through the outlooks and attitudes I’ve held throughout various stages in my life, many of which directly contradict with others. As a result, even the most basic decision making became extremely onerous. Asking myself “what would I do” would yield multiple options, and I couldn’t identify the choices that aligned with my “real” self. So I went into seclusion to sort things out, to work through everything without any external influence. I expected that time would finally finish the job and complete the healing process…but time doesn’t just heal; it also changes.

And when I realized and really understood that my self is a projection and that it has a function, a funny thing happened. I stopped giving it so much authority. I give it its due. I take it to therapy. I’ve become very familiar with its dysfunctional behavior. But I’m not ashamed of my self. In fact, I respect my self and its function. And over time and with practice, I’ve tried to live more and more from my essence. And if you can do that, incredible things happen.

For me, that realization came in the form of some very abstract rumination in my period of asceticism and self-exile. When I stopped asking myself the question who I was and instead asked what I was, all the mental noise was instantly cleaved by utter clarity. What I was was a walking sack of meat housing a very powerful biological self-aware computer. All the memories, experiences, beliefs, and ideas that comprise my sense of identity are ultimately reduced to a series of projections placed on me from external sources, stored as electrical and chemical impulses in a wrinkly grey cellular mass. One ill-placed blow to the head and my “self” could be wiped from existence, even if I were to live and recover. Reducing all the trauma and the sorrows from the past to such logical and scientific terms removed they power they held, and made them very easy to process and reconcile. Stepping outside my “self” to that degree also let freed me from the crushing abstractions we live with in modern society — familial obligations, wealth expectations, adherence to social mores — and has enabled me to manage conflict and discordance far better. Life becomes a lot easier to navigate when you can trust yourself not to succumb to your own personal biases, and when you begin to gain mental mastery over your emotions the universe loses its ability to make you its bitch.

Let’s live with each other and take it a breath at a time. If we can get under that heavy self, light a torch of awareness, and find our essence, our connection to the infinite and every other living thing. We knew it from the day we were born. Let’s not be freaked out by our bountiful nothingness. It’s more a reality than the ones our selves have created. Imagine what kind of existence we can have if we honor inevitable death of self, appreciate the privilege of life and marvel at what comes next. Simple awareness is where it begins.
Thank you for listening.

Blerching

Physically, I’ve veered off-course and fallen off the wagon pretty hard. Just a few weeks ago, I was running my 20 mile per week quota even though I was sick. This past week, I have been minimally exercising and eating excessively, or what I derived from The Oatmeal’s comic on running to be adequately described as blerching.
On top of not being active on the physical front, I’ve been pulling double duty on the stress smoking that I vowed to cut down on. A lot of it has to do with the mental strain I have coming at me from both my long-term plans and from my current income & workplace situation. Though I clearly still have some work to do when it comes to keeping myself steady on the path to realization, I just need to keep myself from getting lost in my own head. Reflect, read, write, and act, don’t react.

The Other Body

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, getting myself back in the groove and undoing the damage I did during the early winter months packing the pounds back on. In spite of coming down with a cough last week, I’ve been persistently hitting the streets and hitting my 20 mile per week quota. I’m already back down to the range I was in back towards the end of December. In fact, I’m actually doing better than I was then – even though the scale reads out the same numbers it did back then, I can feel that a few of those pounds this time around are constituted by muscle instead of fat. While it feels good to be back “on track”, I have to admit that I don’t look forward to once again having to put together those weigh-in posts now that there’s going to be actual progress to track again — taking measurements and photos is a drag and one of my least-favorite things to have to do. Furthermore, still being in the initial leg of the journey I see all the work still left to do more than the progress I’ve already made can be frustrating at times.
As I keep pushing forward on this project, now with more effort than ever before, I’m starting to notice a peculiar shift in my physiological self-perception. For the most part, I still feel heavy and, well, fat. It’s a state of constant awareness of the extra fat mass that still needs to be done away with that results in a physical feeling of sluggishness and insufficient musculature. In times past, the only escape from that sensation was when I found myself out on the street and completing my running route. When I’m out running, I feel completely “normal”. When I catch a glimpse of my reflection when I run past buildings and storefronts with highly reflective windows, I see a vastly different person than I see reflected in my bathroom mirrors at home when I’m getting ready for the work day. Yet, lately, I’ve been starting to randomly see and feel myself in that “other body” I inhabit throughout my days even when I’m not exercising. The prospect of reaching the point where that becomes the norm throughout the entirety of my days only fuels my motivation to keep pushing and ramp up the pace even higher.

Admissions

A few confessions:

Writing

I’ve been purposely writing in an “unattractive” format — long rambling paragraphs with extremely sparing use of media — because of how much I’ve resented my recent circumstances for being my reality. I made myself write about them in order to flex the writing muscles fired up and get back in the habit, but being stuck in a repeating loop of dire financial circumstance limited my written output (and life experiences) in a corresponding fashion. It’s demoralizing to decide to start writing about yourself, only to find yourself having the same pitiful story to tell month after month. So, I’ve been making the effort to capture pieces of it for practice, but have been purposely neglecting to put any real efforts towards readability and aesthetics. Now that that narrative is finally seeing a change, I find myself thinking of great writing ideas and creative projects that I’d like to start turning into something tangible.

Smoking

In spite of all the running that I do, I’ve long-maintained a very unhealthy smoking habit. I tried curbing it in an effort to whittle it down and phase it out last year, but when the car problems started raining on me, the subsequent stress drove me head first back into the habit. My consumption rate is higher than it ever has been, and maybe it’s age but I’m starting to feel the physiological consequences more and more, and the more I align and commit myself to my goals, the more I resent myself for maintaining the habit. Self-inflicted cancer inducing guilt.

Weight Loss Updates

I haven’t been updating, due to the circumstances covered in detail in my recent post. As with my writing, the coming change in personal circumstances is going to allow for a lot more progress on this front.

Honesty

Of the various personality traits that my child self possessed, the one that I regard highest when I reflect on times past was my brutal sense of honesty. In those early years, I was a boisterous and opinionated child, the kind of kid that’s impossible to get to just shut up. In tandem, those qualities frequently cast me in the role of the child who eagerly betrayed lying parents/relatives lies, thinking I was helping by correcting a faulty recollection on their part. When they’d reactively tried to shush me in the moment, it would confuse me — I didn’t comprehend why I was being silenced for presenting the truth. By the time I started attending grade school, I recognized that lying was something that people did and that they had often had reasons for doing it, but still didn’t fully comprehend what would motivate a person to willingly not tell the truth. When we started learning about US Presidents, I distinctly remember drawing a sense of inspiration and camaraderie from one Mr. Abraham “Honest Abe” Lincoln.
Once I started growing out of the toddler/child phase and consequences became an active part of life, I started experimenting with deception in the same manner most kids do. It was something I only kept within my immediate family. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had the notion that if I lied to someone I wasn’t related to and was found out, I’d be introduced to a harsh unknown punishment I didn’t care to ever know. As childhood transitioned into adolescence, I gradually grew comfortable with the practice of lying. The more I started to see the world for what it really is, the more I noticed that it had actually been pretty common in my life; my family members told little lies all the time, I was just not able to recognize it with my child mentality. This familiarity with small lies stayed with me until around the age of 24. It was then I started really examining my choices and behaviors, and really started coming down on myself for getting so comfortable with the process. Even though I knew that everyone lies at some point in their life, what with human nature and all, I still felt like I’d ruined some mythical clean record of honesty and compromised my integrity over small things that weren’t worth lying about.
It was at that age of 24 that I started feeling a hard disconnect from my true self and started delving into the subject of personal development in an attempt to fix that. Honesty was one of the key areas in which I felt that incongruence. As a teenager, I lied to avoid punishment or to further my own interests/desires. As a young adult, I found that I lied because I’d grown to fear the consequences of telling the truth, and it permeated even the basic social interactions; it became preferable for me to say to friends I was leaving because I was tired and go spend the rest of the night alone at home than to simply express that I was bored or had no interest in what we were doing and suggest an alternative activity.
Now, after the big year of isolation in 2012, I’ve reconnected with that child self that I’ve desperately missed for the last decade, that person who only speaks truth (or, when applicable, simply refuses to answer the question) and doesn’t give a damn about what might happen, planted firmly on the belief that honesty should not be punished. Having emerged as a strong proponent of the mythopoetic men’s movement, I strive for utmost honesty I believe it to be a quality that any true man should possess, because it is the right thing to do. After all, you have to first put something out into the world before you can rightfully begin to expect it from others.

Humble Beginnings

It’s been a good few weeks since I’ve done some writing. I’ve been neglecting both the blog and my offline journal, focusing on the goings of daily life, exercising, and planning my next steps carefully. The last update I posted on the blog was very cathartic for me; getting into a lot of the smaller details about the past couple years and everything that’s changed in that time has given me a sense of finality to a chapter of my life that I needed to bring to successfully bring a close since my younger self decided it was something worth introducing to the web. Moving past it, I feel like I’ve just woken up from a bad dream to a giant mess to clean up.
From experience and what I’ve read on the matter of productivity and goals, journaling and capturing life at its different stages provide excellent points of comparison against which to measure progress made. Here is the narrative at present.

Career

I’m 27, and on the cusp of turning 28. I’ve been in a prolonged state of isolation, almost two years, in my own journey of personal development. I’ve fought to reconcile myself with my past, reclaim my sense of identity, and redefine myself, my goals, and my expectations in life. I fight to give myself the opportunities a person of my capability deserves and to realize my full potential. I also recognize that the road ahead is long, and filled with challenges greater than those I’ve already overcome. Though I showed great promise as a child, I was not raised in conditions that agreed with academic achievement. I didn’t produce the scores and work to qualify for scholarships or even realistically apply to any university. Without any money having been saved by my family to pay for college, I joined the work force immediately after leaving high school. My plan was to take a couple years off to just have fun, and save money to buy myself a car and a computer capable of running software for graphic editing and web design, then return to school starting a local community college, and transferring into a university after a couple years.
From 18–20, I worked a series of jobs in retail and coffee shops. I bought myself a car, which was stolen only a year after I bought it. I came upon the opportunity to work a part of a startup marketing company that a group of close internet friends decided to form at the age of 21. For the first time in my life, I was able to apply all of the technological and organizational skills that I’d picked up through my hobbies and areas of interest for self-study. I spent 12–16 hours a day in front of my computer, writing emails, drafting documents, templating stationary, coordinating teams, managing projects, conducting research, processing data, and compiling business plans and campaign deliverables. The results the team produced opened the doors to some great experiences, traveling to Japan and meeting the bands I used to listen to in high school in a professional capacity.
Eventually, the marketing startup phased out of operation, and I returned back to “normal” life. I worked at a couple of restaurants before landing a job in a tech-oriented field as a support specialist for a local SEO company. At this point, I started making good enough money to buy myself another car, and build sufficient credit to finance a MacBook Pro to replace my aging computer that was unable to keep pace with my performance needs at work. Early last year, I transitioned away from that job, and after a couple of months wading through a highly competitive job market for a replacement income source, came upon my current position as a temp for Union Bank at a corporate office site.
Right now, I find myself frustrated and feeling trapped by my current situation. My job entails duties that are way below my capabilities. I’m constantly bored, and resent that I’m forced to spend my time doing what I do when I could be doing something more meaningful, and in turn, higher paying. I’m at an age where I should have a bachelors/masters degree and time invested with a company, or finishing up a doctorate degree. Since college wasn’t academically or financially viable for me and all that time lost can’t be reclaimed, my path is now forced to be one of the self-made success. I’ll admit that despite my age, I do have a strong intent to obtain the academic dress of a degree. However, the cost of education is something that I’m going to have to find a way to finance myself. Essentially, I’m going to be doing things backwards – getting the job to make the money for the degree, not getting the degree to make the money. Unconventional, but that’s just the way my life is.
Right now, I work my day job to cover the essential living costs. I’ve been in a constant state of financial constraint for almost a whole year now, causing me to further resent myself for letting myself get into this current position, but also motivating me to do something to change it. In my down time, I’m focused on buffing up my knowledge in various disciplines in a systematic order. Right now, I’m concentrating my efforts on getting acquainted with computer programming by learning Python, and soaking up everything I can in relation to finance and taxes. One thing I’ve noticed in all the loan applications I process at work is that successful people applying for high principal loans all have extensive investment portfolios – indicates to me that I need to learn how those work. I’ve also been planning to make a stronger effort to develop my writing ability, both by building a blog with read-worthy content and keeping my private offline journal consistently up to date. Once I can successfully design & build for the modern web landscape, I aim to freelance my development talents to make the income needed for school, and to upgrade my lifestyle. Ultimately, I’d like to be able to make another income stream out of building useful software for computers and mobile devices.

Health

Along with the career situation at present, the subject of health commands the majority of my efforts at present. I’ve been meaning to address my physical deficiencies for a very long time now, and I’ve grown tired of constantly carrying the guilt of failure at actually getting anything done. Over the past year, I’ve been making solid strides in making that part of me that enjoys running a regular part of my routine. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been completing my 5+ mile routes multiple times a week. Admittedly, I haven’t been dieting too well because I’m hesitant to push to a lower weight at the moment – doing that would mean having to buy new clothes, and I’m still not out the woods enough to accommodate that investment. Still, I run regularly now, and have also starting implementing arm and core workouts into my exercises.
This year, I’m going to reach those high goals I set for myself so long ago. I’m running out of 20’s, and while I’ve still got youth on my side, I want to experience the what “the other side” feels like; I’ve been a husky kid and an overweight guy pretty much all of my life, and I’ve got no excuses for letting things stay that way. I want to enjoy runs in different parts of the world. I want to be able to go rock climbing and hike long & difficult trails. To know what it feels like to sprint down a shoreline or lose myself in the middle of a crowd at a dance festival without a shirt on and feel confident.
There’s a giant laundry list of experiences and sensations that I want out of life, and being the pudgy, sedentary, overweight smoker I’ve been over the past few years has outlived its viability as an option.

Relationships

In my time away to myself, I aimed to get myself back to a state of mental/emotional self-sufficiency. Though I’ve proven to myself that I could very well live out the rest of my life in permanent solitude and in perpetual pursuit of a better self, living life isolated and alone is not how I want things to ultimately pan out – one of those just because I can doesn’t mean I will type of situations. So in addition to everything I’ve got on my plate in direct relation to myself, I also aim to start reestablishing my “tribe”. Back before I started focusing on all of this self-improvement, I was a pretty active social butterfly and networker. Now, after so much time apart to myself, staying in touch and constantly in communication with people has come to feel very strange and irregular. Yet, now that I’m once again confident in my ability to create, nurture, and maintain relationships with people, it’s a part of life that I’m very eager to once again partake in.

In Closing

I look ahead at what the year will bring, and I see wave after wave of continuous hardships and challenges. I no longer have the naive belief that I’ll reach some certain “point” at which I’ll feel happy and content. I’ve got a lot of dreams that I want to accomplish and some pretty high standards that I’ve set for myself, and I’ve got a lot of lost ground to make up for. My story hasn’t been a happy one, nor an easy one, but I accept it. More than that, I celebrate it. Had my life played out to all of the better alternative outcomes of my past experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. For a long time, I focused on all the negative results of those experiences – the self doubt, the feelings of abandonment, the unwillingness to fully trust the people closest to me in life, etc. Now, I’ve reconnected with that inner fire, that unwavering confidence in my identity and capabilities. I’m ready to pick up the fight again and start doing everything I should be for myself.
May this year be filled with things that I’ve legitimately earned. I’m ready and willing to hurt, sweat, and bleed however much it takes to get things done.

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.

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.