No Sleep

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Normally I make a joke when people point out that I don’t sleep much anymore.  Saying things like “There ain’t no rest for the wicked” or “I can sleep when I’m dead” because it’s funny to me.  Truthfully, I do get enough sleep every night, around 5 to 6 hours during the week and 7 1/2 on the weekends.  What people are mostly commenting on is the fact I tend to work late night, but for me, it’s peaceful, a way to wind down the day and sometimes the only time I can really concentrate on anything.

But not this week.

This week has been different.  Nights have been restless with the apprehensions about my future and school. I spent them staring at a screen, pushing myself to finish what I said I need to after which I would go to shut my eyes, and all I get is the darkness but nothing else. No calm, no peace, just quiet darkness.

I don’t really know if it means I’m in a bad place or a good one.  It’s the romantic in me that sees this as the final barrier to really being able to say I’ve put my all into anything.  But it’s not fun, the cloud that persists over my head, my eyes that burn in the light, and I am unable to think or do anything productively. Maybe I’ll get used this change to 3 or 4 hours, this feeling of sleeplessness, perhaps these feeling will go away after I stick with it for long enough.  I don’t know, but even in my recovery I am still tired but must press on.

It’s week one, and if this is any indication of how the rest of this year goes I am in for a roller coaster. I tell myself that this is what my dream requires, this sacrifice of self that may take a lot but ultimately will give me what I’ve been envisioning since I began this journey back in high school. For me it’s a constant question, how much will I need to push myself to get what I want and a constant wonder of what more will it take from me before this is through.

Thinking about it, take is a strong word since I choose to do follow through with it. I choose to try and stay up for as long as possible.  I choose to try and squeeze the most out of my days. I choose to forgo going out when I have work, I choose to stay on campus those extra hours to get things done.  I choose, I choose, I choose, and maybe that’s my problem with it, it finally came a time where I no longer chose, my body just did, and I was left unable to stop this restive onslaught. I don’t know if it’s a battle I will need to fight in the future, but the moment I guess I’ll just take advantage of all the extra time not sleeping.

Soft and Hard

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To be straight with it, I’m not doing enough.  I’m not accomplishing enough, I’m not working enough, I simply not productive enough. I’m spending too much time thinking about the lack of time rather than using that time to make up the difference. Like blood flow to a muscle, we only grow stronger in what we practice and do, so as this fall peaks onto the horizon I will determine what exactly is needed, and where exactly I have been placing my time.

It’s like triage, which part of myself is in the most need of help. Which part of me is most likely to survive and thrive in this big wide world of ours.  I’m sitting here in this chair waiting for the answer to come.  My thoughts drift elsewhere, wanting some reprieve from this inglorious situation I find myself.

What do I cut first? Where is the fat in my life that takes up so much energy? Where are these thoughts that leed me astray and placate my desires with comfort instead of determination? How to I reduce without losing who I am, or maybe it’s who I am that’s the problem.

I feel it in my blood, flowing back and forth within me like conflicting bodies fighting over a contested birthright. My blood boils telling me that this fight is raging within me, between two parts of myself which for all intents and purposes are me.  Frustration mounts as my desires go unfulfilled, who should I back in this fight, who should win, is this the moment I decide my destiny?

Soft and Hard, that’s what it feels like to me, these two opposing ideologies that have served me in life now must battle for me to carry forward. Soft, the relaxed emotional person from my youth.  The softness reduced the blow of a childhood that was known to throw a punch or two.  Introspective, but understanding, it is the part of me clings to comfort when times are bad but endures as long as it’s needed. The hard, an emerging self built from frustrations of the past from not getting as far as I needed.  It’s the part that pursues, acts, and pushes forward regardless of what other people thing.  It feeds on frustration, anguish, and an insatiable need to do more.

We are what we feed into, so we have control what grows within us. So in choosing, its easy to say I need to put away that part of myself, this side part of me full of missed opportunities from lack of action that bog it down because soft is smooth and comforting. I can’t be that way anymore, not now when the wake of my future beckons me to come. I have to act, grasp at the opportunity to move and to exist in this place I’ve wanted to. So hard, a place I can build a foundation upon must will sustain me, until I need that soft part of me once again.

Beyond The Sort

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A tall building on a warm evening. A slight breeze blowing in the northwestern direction picking up the heat emanating off the hot concrete from the earlier that sun-scarred day. It’s warm enough for sweat beads to form on the body but cool enough not to be bothersome.  The last lights of the sun have already dissipated leaving only the artificial lamps of the living to illuminate the blackened streets below. There on top of that building we stand alone on the precipice, waiting for the answer, will we float or sink. It is as if we are to walk along the edge and be judged. Judged by a force that does not know context or form will decide. Where then does our destiny lie, and will we ever know unless we open ourselves to falling. Will it decide right or left, one will lead to death and the other release.  There we walk, teetering on that edge, hoping it’s not already too late.

Almost every student looking to attend graduate school have to take a test. Its named  Graduate Record Examination or called more commonly as the GRE. This test is daunting to most because of its deceptively simple questions require students to brush up on skills and abilities that ultimately have nothing to do with the subject matter they are attempting to study. Of course, there are exceptions to this but ultimately this exam that is the great standardizer among students and although it may not get you into a program, it can certainly keep you out.  I bring up this exam, not for the exam,  I could devote pages to how much this test has cheated young scholars that I know out of opportunities, no today I want to highlight of because of the way this exam is scored.

You can refer to this test as a living test, it’s really amazing. You see, as you take the test, the difficulty of the test will adjust to you, you get one wrong, questions get easier, you get one right, the test gets harder.  What it’s doing is gauging your score by homing in on exactly where your proficiency level is.  The only problem with this is that the first couple questions ultimately become the most important ones.  These are the great sorting questions, get the first couple wrong and it is impossible to get a high score on the GRE.  First sort, top half or bottom, then exactly where in those halves you lie. The rest of the questions are there to accurately gauge your specific score and percentile.  This is done so that Math majors and English majors can take the same test and still get an accurate measurement of their ability when compared to everyone else in between.

Now while you take the test, you can bring your score up if those first couple questions just happened to be your weakness, but for some, the test is decided after a much shorter time. You might answer all the questions, but your score was determined only after the first few, your ability to fly cut short by the first few mistakes.  Of course exactly how your test is scored and exactly how long it took to score it is a company secret, you’ll never know how long it took for people to make those judgments. If you do bad, you have to start all over, pay out some more money and hope that next time will go better.

It’s really unfortunate not just because the test is terrible but a lot of the time this system mirrors the reality.  We are sorted in such a way where the first few mistakes ultimately set us back, mistakes that may have nothing to do with the path you are trying to follow control you. If you get the first couple answers wrong you get sorted, and sorted, and sorted until having to start over becomes the only option but at that point, you’ve put all your time and money to get there.  What does it take to bridge that gap, how do you become the one that rises to the top, the cream instead of the water? Do these barriers matter because at some point when we get mixed together you can’t really break cream from coffee.

I don’t argue that it’s a way to give those who show more potential more opportunity and the system works for some but it is also seeded in the belief that people don’t change and with that belief, great barriers arise to separate those cans from cannots.  This is not everywhere, there are great institutions whose message to the world is let us help you make a good life for yourself.  It is then I who has this problem, this desire of prestige reserved for the few who are sorted.  This inequality in my heart that calls to say that I am not worth the dirt on the ground if I can’t fly in the sky.  What are we then to this, the world tells us where the “important” people are and live. To the hill that rises live those who stand above us all who live below telling us only the few deserve the right to live there.

We stand on the precipice readying ourselves to be sorted by the force that knows not who were are or what we can do by a system built by those of who have just like us been sorted. We crawl upon each other hoping that we get high enough to reach and yet we crush all those below holding all the weight. We destroy and rid ourselves of anything weighing us down in hope fly but remove everything about ourselves that makes flying worthwhile. We are not then defined by this, we are defined by the actions and relations to our fellow man and I’d be damned if I will let this system built by the collective action of those who sort us to keep me changing the world.

Wait Weight? Don’t Tell Me!

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A friend’s post online sparked a thought, one about size, weight, and we feel about ourselves.

One of the things I am happy to see through social media is all the positive life progress people post online to keep themselves accountable. People are making their lives better and tracking every moment of it. These progressive pictures that propagate may be pesky to some people, but it always reminds me of being able to overcome adversity and the ability for us to turn our lives around, not through ease but through hard work and perseverance.

I used to count calories to see low I could go. Food was the enemy, and I was just a warrior in my battle against it.

I had always been heavy for my height, thankfully always getting taller to accommodate for all the extra calories.  By the time I entered high school I was already unhappy with myself, which was one part depression and two parts the unfortunate side effect from it.  I ate to make myself feel okay, thinking I needed that extra sandwich at lunch.  I was a new place, with new people, after an old place with old people, something needed to change.

I was in my second year, learning to love the hobby of running that the results gave me something more than I could imagine, confidence.  I was starting to feel comfortable in my own skin.  The problem was I didn’t really know what healthy was, I mean sure my cousins worked out but I was never really privy to what exactly they were doing.  So I stuck to my guns, decided to do all I could to reduce my weight.  I was adhering to a guideline set out for me by the BMI index and dropping weight as much as I could.

I think few things really affected me during this period. First is that I got down to the weight that I wanted to, finally for the first time in my recorded life I hit the standard weight category. Second, my sister constantly referred to me as manorexic because of this weight loss. Third, I felt like I was finally able to have control over my own body. Lastly, the way I was eating caused me to have dizzy spells in the middle of the day where my vision would act like I was in the ocean and start wiggling about. I wanted to keep going because it felt so good to lose but my body resisted and stopped.

That being said, the next year I gained some of the weight back (partially because I was happily in my first relationship) and I have been yoyo-ing ever since. In all the subsequent years after that, I have never had a normal BMI number. Now it’s not unobtainable for a long stretch, but the question is, what is it that I want.

Years after another set of up and down I decided that my fitness goal instead of a number I am shooting for a fitness level.  I want to be able to get up and go if my friends ask me to go on a spontaneous hike. I devoted myself not to look at the scale, as it is deceiving, never letting me get away from how others think my body should look and feel.

Now my goals have grown from there, and I feel like I am the most fit I have ever been in my life, not skinny in the conventional sense but have a lot more muscle than before.  I am happy because I can eat the occasional unhealthy meal knowing I mostly eat healthy things and keep active incredibly regularly.

I stepped on the scale recently, not by choice but I wasn’t worried about what it said.  I am 6’1″, 222 pounds, conventionally this weight would mean I was on the verge of obesity but I know that’s not true.  This is a weight of effort and work, muscle.  We’re not all the same, and there are better ways to check how well you’re doing but it is always possible to become healthy, our bodies want us to be.  In the end as long as your making progress, then that’s all that matters, you are lapping everyone on the couch and that’s something to be proud of.

I will occasionally get worried about the number of calories I eat or feel like I need to step up my game at the gym. The mirror truthfully never is anything other than a battle between me and my scarred self-image. Whats most important is that I’m healthy, so if you ever wanted to have me step on a scale I might reply “Wait weight? Don’t tell me!”

Untitled.

A writes got to write.

But these worse, they don’t come easy.
Like a separation of skin from spirit, my hesitation comes from within.

There is a pain I wish to feel, sorrow in my heart that would make me feel okay
Like all of which I have just gone through is not just me but something more.

How can you argue with yourself
When your body and mind fail, you and you are sitting at the keys wishing words to pour out, but none come.
I scared them away with this intensity, and I don’t know how to get them back.

I have to be here, to suffer through the ambient silence and allow myself to be consumed by its misery. Quietly be eaten away but the hands of time as the push me towards the end of days.

I am not great, nor am I good.  This separation of what others see and what I do confuses me.  How could they see something that I can’t, why won’t the way I see? I would be much easier for me.

I need to write because I am a writer. Without writing I feel this pain weigh heavy on my heart. So I will put words to a page to save myself from the nothing within.

The Eternal Calm

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Like the sitting shores of a forgotten beach lays waveless water calm and deep.   Its sands untouched, unmoved, unmanned stacks so high like a reaching hand. From atop the sandy hill, you can see the waters still. And with those waters without a wake, reflects the world we hope to make.  Sky is ground and ground is sky, maybe it’s how we learn to fly. Because out on the horizon where these two skies meet, lies the eternal calm of a waveless beach.

The storm has passed for now, and my body is telling me that I need to rest.  It’s in these time, right after the rain ceases to fall, that calm rolls over and we are allowed to sit and ponder before life resumes again. I have faced these fears of mine, fears of inadequacy and being an impostor.  My stress levels have dropped, and my body relaxes. Many of these things have subsided for the moment, though to be honest I probably am just in the eye of the hurricane, waiting for the water wall to hit again.

I feel this weird, eerie calm wash over me. My body lightens and heavies, recovering from the burden I have been putting it through. I am a bit flat affect, much quieter and introverted. This part of me comes out to restore and refresh. To remind me that I am human and though life will move on, that things will change and the only way to get through them is to take care of myself.

So that’s what I am doing this week, not thinking much, but thinking regularly. Not doing much but moving forward.  Not saying much but speaking volumes. Soon the world will become boisterous again with the tide of fall so I will enjoy the calm while I can. Today is for rest so tomorrow I can be strong again.

 

The Promise

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I bought a ring recently, seemingly out the blue but it had been something I was thinking about doing for a while now. In slipping it on my finger, it felt it right, felt like exactly what I needed. Now the ring is nothing fancy, just a black and red silicone band that fits my finger well enough. A simple ring that called to be worn, a finger bear and empty.  There is something I needed from this ring that I couldn’t get from a tattoo or some other symbols. With every morning, be it habit or choice, I could put on the ring and carry it around as a reminder to myself. A reminder I spend my life pursuing the things that matter to me, a life I choose above all other alternatives. Each time I put on the ring, I will choose to walk this path, a promise to myself that this path is a choice, and the path that I have chosen.

It’s easy to lose sight of the important things when the mounting stress and deadlines are sitting at my doorstep.  Over the past couple of weeks, it has been difficult starting a cycle of impending dread that would mount infinitely high until I felt like my head was ringing and a weight upon my chest.

These feeling pass though, as long as we let it and when everything clears it always comes with revelation.  Whether or not this is the, I want to be doing with my life.  It’s not the first time this has happened and these feelings never get any easier to feel, there is great humility in them.  When everything is stripped away things become clear and path before me adjusts to razor sharp focus.  I want this life, it’s a life I have been building up for years.  When everything is overwhelming, the motivation and feelings towards it feel bloated and stale.  It’s easy to lose sight of the goal or become jaded with the constant progress I need to make to achieve it. Sometimes we need that suffering to stay true to the path.

Above all things I have been thinking about life, and what life really is about.  Sure there are many aspects to it, roles to fill, things to do, and memories to have. But a lot of what it comes down to is the suffering we choose.  Take for instance parenting side effects include sleepless nights, undue stress, premature hair loss, loss of time, and loss of money and yet billions of people choose to do it.  If I went up to most parents I don’t think they would even think about it, the choose this life because suffering culminates to something more, something fulfilling.  We choose our sufferings because it brings us closer to the lives we want to live. I look at it and think about it, would it be better to be suffering from having lost my purpose, or grief of giving up on a dream? I would always much rather have sleepless nights and stressed filled hours pursuing something greater than myself than the problem of too much sleep and not enough to do.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we choose from infinitely many possibilities, some being better than others and yet it’s us to suffer through.  I would much rather suffer for the things I love than suffer for the things I hate. I have a ring now, that fills my finger and reminds me of the choice I make every day to move towards my dream.

The Things Destroying Me.

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The point of this blog is to talk, have a conversation with myself and others about life. Sometimes I worry about this because I live on a line of wanting to show everything and feeling too bashful to explain the subtle nuances that permeate my being that may lie in the far reaches of social taboo.  Slowly I attempt to unravel this as experience give me inspiration to write and press forward.  I guess today is one of those days because my life feels like it’s wrapped like an ouroboros destroying itself while trying to live.

In recent weeks I have reported my progressive tribulations with my inability to work.  My hands have heavy, my eyes refuse to look at screens because they hurt, and from the sudden rise in heartbeat from attempting to open my email I am starting to think some of these symptoms are psychosomatic.  What is the cure to this, I don’t know, but from what I know about most trials in my life, the only way to really become serious about solving a problem is recognizing there is one in the first place.

I feel like I am falling apart, the order I crafted now feels like an inverted tower of Hanoi, building large bases on small foundations wondering when everything will simply topple over and chaos returns. I can’t keep all these balls that I am juggling in my hand, and I have a feeling at any given moment I start messing up and lose one after another. I am starting to forget when things are happening, losing track of tasks I have to do.  That aided with my systems of effort beginning to fail in the heat-drenched summer, I feel powerless to anything except persist.

My time is slipping away right in front of me, and I am letting it.  Under the excuse of needing time to myself, this unstructured period is ruinous for everything I am attempting to do. A push, drive to move forward dissipates in the lack of deadlines and feelings of need. My head is pounding attempting to push forward but the time I sitting in front of my task that sense and ability won’t come. Like calling for a hero but it never arriving I slink back into my chair in attempts to wait it out, maybe just a couple minutes longer and I can finally do it.

I am falling back into the bad habits of yesterday.  This idea that through it all I can find makeshift comfort in the virtual illusion of porn haunts me. This tugging I had no problem overcoming seems now a persistent voice attempting to seduce me into a false serenity built on a growing instability of self.  This force, like most know, is built on a promise of escape and the illusion of intimacy contends with my desire to keep focused and away from what I know harms me.

I feel now dread from the simple act of checking if there anything more to do, waiting for the call of failure in and the black and white textures of an email or text. I dread this failure, but it keeps me still. I try to face it but it overwhelms me, and I don’t know what to do.

I want to slink away, be away from everyone and everything. Just a quiet moment for my thoughts and yet when those times come I can help but surround myself in noise. I want to have control, and I feel like I’m losing it.  I want to just succeed, but all I feel is failure.  Why won’t my body move what I want it to – what I need it to. I feel at the mercy of these things I feel like no control over and powerless to stop.

In all of it I know is two things.

First, I surrender to it, I will fail, fall, and falter.  There are things in life that are bigger than us, stronger than us and to get through them we have to recognize that they have this power.

Second, I have to persist. Strength isn’t gained in a day, and courage isn’t fostered through a peaceful life. I am not strong sometimes, and that’s okay.  Little by little and piece by piece things will get done and time will pass. Things will change and as they do so will I.

I don’t know how this will turn out, but it scares me. Scares me a lot.

Touch The Sky And Fly

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My hands won’t move like I want them to, gracing the keys of my keyboard only as a means to waste the empty time I yearn for. These hands of mine can’t seem to catch that little spark of motivation to light my spirit ablaze and free me of this cumbersome dread that seems to linger. A lingering that fills up with self-doubt and feelings of personal failure.  I keep telling myself, I need a day. A day where nothing happens that I am free for a moment of the shackles that bind me to earth.  I feel the weight sitting upon me like chains stacked aloft wishing to be free of this burden. All I can do is climb to the sky in hopes to touch it and be like the birds that fly above. Maybe then I will be able to unburden these weights from me and float free.  My breath feels short, as the mountain I climb peaks are hidden in clouds, the path ahead is treacherous, but I am more afraid the shattered pieces of a broken will than any jagged rocks I may find along the way.

Is it discipline than I lack?  Motivation is a fleeting mistress that only comes by to entice you along the path but is long gone by the time it actually matters.  I need to pursue discipline than, a being that requires energy to fight back the entropy of the continued universe has on my life. With each rising degree the summer heat saps my energy, leaving me with traces of what could have been produced.  Is the answer simply just to decide to do so? Can it be that simple as just to power through? Most of human nature is left to an infinitely complex set of dispositions and experiences, and yet each of us is faced with the simple dichotomous decision of will and won’t. Is that where my problem lies.  I am simply not saying will enough and letting time pass by and chose for me.

Here I sit in the heat of summer surrounded by fans hoping for the night air to finally cool.  Maybe tomorrow rings in my head, a tomorrow of infinite possibilities. I know I can’t wait until then. Everything is given to tomorrow, so much so that tomorrow never comes because it is scared of the work.  What is better than tomorrow but today. If I start working today then we can find a way to inch by inch climb this mountain shrouded in clouds and finally touch the sky.

Flying isn’t the act of merely finding yourself in the air, but working hard enough to keep yourself there.

Animated Change

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It was the 1980’s, a time of great change in music, movies, and media. You see, up to that point, this small art style coming out of Japan was starting to make headway with western audiences.  An older generation appreciating the art from the 50’s and 60’s huddled together at small expos and cons to collect as much of this foreign delicacy as they could. What they didn’t know is that a few short years this would all change, and change quickly.

The first change came fast, a new popular show called Sailor moon came out with a roar, bringing young girls flocking for more from animators across the sea. It was such a hit that the transition period between the old and the new felt more like a crash than a movement. Gradually as the 90’s pressed on Americans were introduced to a variety of styles, artists, genres, and stories never seen on home TVs.  These pieces of Anime as is was called presented new ideas and spun the idea of exactly what show could be like. Shows that weren’t afraid to tell a story where the hero dies at the end, where the send-off is bittersweet, and you’re forced to think about yourself and the world around you a little bit differently. Masters of their craft illuminate the halls of an art form that continues to shift and changes with each passing year. New stories are being told, new artforms being discovered, and new people finding this glorious cacophony of beautiful minutes shared across millions around the world.

Why am I telling you all this?

I discovered Anime a little over 12 years ago.  One night, sitting quietly in a room watching a marathon of a show I have never seen before got me hooked.  A show about a soul reaper and a boy with the power to see the dead.  It was easy enough to pick up, even read, and that’s saying something from a boy who never read.  It consumed me and held me it’s magical embrace, so when the opportunity arose I went to my first convention and I hadn’t looked back since. It has a staple of my early July, more regular than my schooling and in some way connects me to the craft I grew to love.

This year demarks my tenth year of going to Anime Expo, and something is different this time.  Year after year, as I’ve gotten older a little less comes with me each time enter those grand halls.
Sometimes it’s friends, I’ve seen my fair share move forward and on from the con.
Sometimes it shows, I’ll feel a little more out of touch with what people are excited about.
Recently it’s been the focus,  what everyone seems to want and buy there doesn’t interest me as much anymore.  It could be from the familiarity from many years attending but it all feels repetitive, distant.

It’s a combination of all these things that makes going back a little bit harder each year. This by no means is it a bad convention. It’s a great convention, with some growing pains but people still get excited about all the new and wonderful things they are experiencing. It’s just me, I’m changing, and my relationship to the fandom is different now.  Like an old man coming back to a schoolyard years after he graduated, it’s more reminiscent of times past than times present.  Things have changed, people have changed, places have changed as they should. It has to adapt to the people it’s still serving, long after we make use of it.  But is it my time to graduate, to move forward onto something new? It’s this conflict that weighs heavy in my heart. When I leave, it may not be forever, but if I ever return it will be different, for different reasons and a different me.

This fight with my personal obsolescence hits me because this con is part of me, my childhood and adolescence.  Giving it up means part of me has changed, that young kid inside though always with me is pushing me forward beyond him.  He’s telling me to let go and find my next adventure.  Let go and choose a new path beyond, whatever it may be. Live life with these memories as wings on my back, not as a tether around my neck.

It’s hard to give up and put away these things.  Truthfully, I will always read manga, and watch anime as its part of who I am now. But I have to pursue my next adventure.

Thank you Anime Expo, for all that you are. You helped introduce me to the heroes who showed me how to give it all I got, no matter the odds.