Reservist 

It’s only at reservist training that I truly see how so many people, after years of being taken care of (willingly or otherwise), degrade into adults who are primarily sick and fat.

Add on to that dirty, lacking in self respect and an ego that gets in the way of compliance to regimentation.

I don’t get it, where’s our pride and sense of self? How hard is it to do something well cos you can, and should, and most importantly would only do you good?

Does life so often degrade to a cycle of work, pleasure, sleep, occasionally punctuated by some sort of tension or crisis.

Speaking of which, I think it’s easy to be fat and out of shape but I’ll elaborate later.

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What next

It feels like after uni everything started sliding away and going downhill. It was a really good time, I did so much, and lots of things fell into place.

I was amongst people with whom I felt I belonged, we cared for one another, we understood each other. I had the time and space I needed to grow, train and perfect my regiment and execute it to a T. I had everything I needed on campus, and then I could go back home to unwind and rest. Basically I had everything going right for me.

Gone are my friends, I don’t have a home any more and my work place is not a fun place to be. I’m just floating around, supposed to chase this and that target for my career or whatever but man I don’t believe in those things. I never did. Every day I’m waiting foe the day to come to an end and collectively, I’m just waiting for some end.

It’s like I’m in limbo. Nowhere to go, no time to do the things I believe in, and yeah there are people who care for me but sometimes it feels people don’t just care, they also want to pull you somewhere or make you into something and occasionally that gets tiring. My heart isn’t at rest and sleep is just a transition between two half-wakeful states. I hardly get excited or look forward to things anymore. Which is funny because we just bought our own place and are gonna start renovation soon but there is no part of me excited about the completion or moving in. I can only hope that that place will be my own home; somehow I can’t be sure. It’s unpredictable I guess? I don’t know what it’ll be like, what factors will emerge and what might happen next.

The truth is hardly anything is within our control but that is a depressing reality when these many uncontrollable factors somehow are at odds with you.

Mahlon’s have evolved from exciting, happy events to a bright point on a dark route. I’ll reach it and bask in the light then I’ll have to leave it again. Is this because I’ve grown lax in my daily salawat? Is this a result of my heedlessness or lack of remembrance?

I’m waiting for the end. I’m not ready for it but I want it. This life is a prison, sometimes painful. A part of me feels I have something big to offer to the world but what is it and what is the point? Why do I want to do it? Who do I benefit? Do they really need me to do it? 

I need to sleep so I can stay awake tomorrow… even if I don’t want to.

Pie

We’re at a time where where have weak, physically incompetent people kicking up a fuss over and getting all paranoid over ‘safety’ in sports.

I don’t discount that tragic accidents have happened, and they are upsetting, but the fact remains that such incidences are indeed rare and sometimes are caused by negligence or fault of the victims themselves. It is the human mind that tends to focus on that rare unfortunate incident, because it just plain sticks out. Every day, for years, things run smoothly and normally but that’s boring so it pales in comparison.

All these people who are so afraid should take a look at rugby players. Their sport involves running into people and falling down a lot. They’re fine. And we’ve got tiny kids playing the sport too.

After one tragic incident, everything looks like it can ‘topple over at any time’. What are we talking about here, poltergeists?? Unless there’s an earthquake, things don’t simply topple over unless they’re very unstable to begin with. Don’t be surprised if one day you find tables, chairs, cupboards, lamp posts and what have you all securely fastened to the ground so it won’t TOPPLE OVER AND HURT SOMEONE.

THIS UPSETS ME SEVERELY BECAUSE WE ARE PASSING ON AN EXAGGERATED FEAR COMPLEX AND EXTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL TO OUR KIDS, WHO WILL GROW UP TO BE SEVERELY OUT OF SYNC WITH THE PHYSICAL WORLD AND WHO THINK IT PERFECTLY FINE TO START BLAMING THIS THING AND THAT PERSON WHEN THINGS GO WRONG. 

SOMETIMES IT’S OUR FAULT SO PLEASE WE MUST HAVE THE GRACE TO ACCEPT IT AND JUST MOVE ON. NOT EVERY INCIDENT REQUIRES A RELOOKING AT EVERYTHING AND SOMETIMES ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN. THEY ARE CALLED ‘ACCIDENTS’ FOR A REASON; SO MUCH IS OUT OF OUR HANDS AND SIMPLY BEYOND OUR ABILITY TO CONTROL, INFLUENCE AND/OR PREVENT.

On the bright side it’s a good sign that people can sit down and discuss things in a civil manner. It’s also a good thing that we seem to care for one another.

But really, most of it is starting to get sorely unbearable. Many people have discussed this phenomena of being over protective, overly cautious and carrying a false sense of control. At this point this environment sickens me and as much as I feel I need to and can do things to improve the state of things, I also really just wanna get the heaven out of here.

Sigh… I’m sighing and I’m not one to sigh. I hate what this job has become and I’m embarrassed to be a part of it. I don’t wanna offend anyone yet I know I can’t speak the truth, however tactfully, without stepping on some toes.

If you were offended by this then maybe you’re one of them, but know this: I don’t hate you. I get it, you’ve got something to lose and God I know how that feels. It’s scary, unreal, and a painful truth.

But its okay, we’ll be okay, we’re all in this together. Your pain is my pain and I’m not gonna let anything happen to your loved one simply because they are connected to me too. We are all alive, that is a most powerful binding factor.

We will be okay. Do things out of love and logic, not fear and out of force, because the latter will undo the good we do.

Draft: How to Work in a Lousy Environment

Drafts are ideas i have chosen to commit to written word despite wanting to write it to perfection; that might take too long than i like or can afford, so i’m sticking to advice i read: shipping beats perfection. I honestly don’t know if i’ll ever revisit this piece.

This piece is intended for those who cannot get out of a lousy work environment, for reasons such as being bonded (i know what that feels like) or anything else you deem valid. The strategies listed are mainly targeted at making the best of the situation and not sabotaging ourselves on top of being in a crap place.

In essence, what we will do is:

  1. Manage well what we can control
  2. Automate as much as possible
  3. Build pillars of support

Italicised content are examples and not essential to your reading.

Let’s start.

1. Manage well what we can control

  • Seek to improve your situation, and always start small but stay consistent. It is normal to feel a rush of enthusiasm and hope sometimes, but kick yourself in the behind and make yourself do one thing at a time. Once you’ve settled in to that new habit, start a new one.
  • Dress sharply. For every profession, there’s an image of what the best in that field looks like. Cultivate that image in your mind, then build your wardrobe to match it.

    e.g. deliveryman: if there’s a uniform it should fit well, be clean and ironed. Choose shoes that strike a balance between looking good and matching the demands of your work.

  • Keep yourself well groomed: hair, facial hair, body hair, nails. Keep yourself clean and smelling good. Opt for fresh scents as opposed to strong, heady, ‘masculine’ scents.
  • Adopt good posture always. When you stand tall, you feel good. Period.
  • Structure your meals and plan what to eat if possible. This prevents us from bingeing or consuming loads of junk food which in turn will harm our health. I factor in food i like into my plan so when it comes time to eat i know exactly what to eat and enjoy it doubly knowing that it’s good for my body.
  • Stay. Calm. Always. The more calm you are the more energy you have for important work as less of it is lost to high emotions and self-restraint.
  • Your space is your temple. Make it nice and conducive to your work so that every time you go there you feel at ease and are bathed in positive vibes.
  • Time is precious and when lost, never found again. Prioritize and cut out the fluff you can do without e.g. browsing social media sites, reading the papers. You’ll soon see life is amazing without all those things cluttering up your mind and eating away chunks of your time.

2. Automate as much as possible

  • Take some time at first to organize the little things so that they can sort themselves out. That way they won’t bug you and rob your attention from what truly deserves your mental energies (the article that inspired this: Why Teachers Are So Tired).

    e.g. i only have one email subscription, the Art of Manliness newsletter. Everything else i opt out from or delete when it appears in my inbox (unless it’s important or work related of course). That way i don’t have to sieve through my inbox for ‘important’ things. Also, i get a text when my phone bill is due, then i’ll pay it via ibanking. I can choose to set an automatic deduction but i personally want to see what i’m billed for and it also helps keep my consumption in check.

    My backpack is organised according to how i use it. Left easy access pouch (from Decathlon, i attached it myself to the strap) contains my earpiece and any small article accidentally brought home from work e.g. marker, pen. Right pouch contains my house keys. I don’t have to think when i need to open the door or listen to something; it’s just there.

    I have something of a launchpad: a little container where i put the stuff i carry in my pockets every morning to work. That way once i get dressed i scoop everything up, distribute to pockets, and i’m off. 

    My workflow (i’m a teacher) is still in the process of fine-tuning because honestly it seems i am a totally different person every other month or so. But i roughly have sections/storage containers for: extra worksheets/circulars, worksheets to mark, worksheets to be done, stationery, form class admin documents, lesson resources, binders and rubber bands. That way when i’m doing work i can just reach out without thinking and grab what i need/continue with my state of flow, uninterrupted.

  • Have a clear system for dealing with tasks and incoming demands. One i’ve used: Today’s Big Three. Every night, choose three core items to get done the next day and strive to complete them as soon as possible. With the core settled, you’re left with smaller tasks (in theory). And when you at least have a focus of what to do, you’re more likely to get something done rather than try to do everything and accomplishing nothing.

    Another thing i’ve read, though not used personally, is the Urgent/Important decision matrix. Something urgent needs to be done quickly. Something important cannot be missed. Not everything urgent is important e.g. a colleague wants to know your lunch order.

    This gives us four categories:
    1. Urgent and important – prepare documents for an emergency meeting
    2. Important and not urgent – send out meeting minutes
    3. Urgent and unimportant – a colleague just dropped by your table wanting to know what happened yesterday (sorry mate i can’t talk now but i’ll tell you later)
    4. Not urgent and unimportant – responding to lame WhatsApp messages, reading everything in your inbox (why not just delete a lot of it lol)

  • As far as possible, have a routine for your day; most people already take the same route to work, stop by for breakfast at the same place at the same time, but also include what you do once you get home all the way till you close your eyes to sleep… AND your weekend and off days. This is something i’m working on myself but every time i click something into place, my life feels that much better.

3. Build Pillars of Support

  • Living alone is boring and todally not fun. There are nice people everywhere so seek them out, genuinely like and be nice to them and spread good vibes between you and them. Some examples of nice people i’ve personally found:
    • Cats
    • Family
    • Cleaners
    • Admin staff
    • Some colleagues
    • Security guards
    • Bus drivers
  • Engage in meditation and deep breathing. Having some time to connect with the divine or simply disengage from this physical world can do wonders for our stress levels, perspective of life and how we feel in general.
  • Practice deep breathing. We don’t breathe deep often enough and we really need it. Just do it, i won’t explain more.
  • Get some exercise in every day if you can’t commit to solid workouts several times a week. Exercise makes you feel good and duh, it’s good for your body too.I used to go to the gym several times a week but when that went through the window i’ve started doing pull ups every day, starting at 5 (it was too easy to be honest but i started small cos being overly ambitious at the start can lead to quick failure), and now i’m at 9; besides working my muscles a little, i’m getting excited with my slow but steady progress and the possibilities that lay ahead. I also do a minute of push ups when i get home.

  • Have something to look forward to. For me it’s reading, writing and gaming. I have a book with me almost everywhere i go and when a pocket of empty time presents itself, however small, i do my best to pull out my book and read.

 

Whoever you are and whatever your situation, i hope you apply these steps bit by bit. Above all, i really pray you find the strength and goodness in wherever you find yourself in; you were not put there by chance, so make the most of it.

And when you can, and you know you must, GET OUT OF THERE.

There is always greener grass; but that isn’t a reason to settle for an environment that doesn’t support your growth, health and respect you as a valued individual who’s part of a family and not merely an expendable cog in a huge, soulless machine.

(Oh wow this doesn’t seem so draft-ish anymore now that i’ve finished writing it. Inspiration here for ‘if you aren’t afraid to lose then you’ll do more to achieve and find bigger wins’. Placebo effect too? Another time.)

Some things i learnt from wanting to ask

I was setting a math paper when i came up with this question:

Leo was trying to sell off his comic collection. 4 people made offers to him:

Alan : I will buy 3/4 of your collection for $3000
Bob   : I will buy 7/8 of your collection for $2000
Cody : I will buy ½ of your collection for $2000
Dan   : I will buy 2/6 of your collection for $1000

I decided to take it out of the paper because:

  1. i didn’t know what to ask; this was a multiple choice, ‘not so easy but not so difficult’ question and i just couldn’t figure out what to ask!
  2. there are so many ways of looking at this, too many variables, that i think it is more suited for a discussion than a test paper

For instance:

I could ask, ‘Which customer made the best offer?’

To which you could say either Alan or Cody. Alan was offering the most money out of only 4 offers. Who’s to say Leo would get any more offers afterwards? And what if he doesn’t wanna wait, and ends up getting rid of the unsold comics?

Then again with Cody’s offer he’ll still be left with half his collection, and the possibility of a second buyer later.

I could ask who was paying the most per comic, but what’s the point of that really. Doing the math like that doesn’t really get us anything all that useful.

If i asked which was the worst offer then obviously it would be Dan but anyone can arrive at that answer without much thinking, so it doesn’t qualify as a suitable question.

Are there any other interesting angles to this? Would you have phrased the story differently?

Perfection in Nature

I was looking at the sky this morning when i started thinking about how ‘perfect’ nature was and why that sort of perfection will not exist in a totally man-made construct or environment.

The important point in my head was the very definition of perfection. The idea of perfection differs between individuals and is heavily influenced by our biases. Perfection exists in form, function, systems and with regards to expectations and limitations.

  1. Form: when something looks it best and cannot be improved further. E.g. a computer-rendered image of a square; it is accurate to the pixel.
  2. Function: when something does what it is meant to do, and does so at the highest level. E.g. a compass that consistently points North
  3. Systems: when objects or parts of a system interact with one another seamlessly. E.g. the systems in a car that work together: engine, air-conditioning, radio, drivetrain, lock mechanism, brake system.
  4. Expectations and limitations: when something is not perfect in any of the above three ways but we regard it as so because the threshold must necessarily be lowered given circumstances, our expectations and naturally-occurring limitations which cannot be avoided or removed. E.g. when a row of uniformed men stand according to height, there is ‘perfection’ in the form even though the height increment between men is not constant and their body shapes are different along with their other physical features. Yet these are naturally occurring limitations so we disregard them.

To me nature is perfect in every sense because:

  1. Form: we are products of nature. We get our form and taste for good form from the world around us. Even our opinions are influenced by external stimuli. If the form of something affected its function, then in nature it is perfected.
  2. Function: things work, even when they don’t. Handicaps can still live, the laws of nature hold fast no matter the season, and no external hand is needed to get things functioning. They just do.
  3. Systems: Every single thing right down to the littlest detail is in harmony with the rest of the universe, and that is why it is still around. It was here way before us, and will continue to be here after us.
  4. Expectations and limitations: like form, our expectations and limitations are sometimes set by nature or based on it. And independent of all that, nature just is. Put simply it just doesn’t care what we think.

Perfection can be achieved, to a degree, in man-made constructs and environments, but what we lack is the ability to transfer the organic spirit to our creations. Even the most sophisticated of inventions rely upon some external force to keep itself alive. Take for example a highly advanced android:

  • Firstly the android has no real function in this world except to serve humans
  • Without humans its existence is meaningless
  • Should it live after us, it only needs to take from the environment what is needed to keep itself alive
  • It will likely cease to function one day, or reproduce if it was programmed to
  • But again, it will serve no real purpose except the preservation of its existence and the continuation of its kind. I should think it not part of any food web, but maybe time and science will prove me wrong

The biggest point for me is, to be honest, how nature just doesn’t care about anything. It will do and it will keep doing. Changing when it is time to change, things will die, new creatures born, and it will just go on. We too, are a part of nature, and will someday go, however fiercely we fight for autonomy, control and influence. We did not choose to be born yet we were brought here, that should be enough of proof that we are not the bosses.

And yet amidst all this mess and chaos, nature continues. There is no epic destruction to stop it in its tracks, except for the Divine, or any other Reason you might subscribe to or not.

This is something that needs more contemplation, and who knows what further revelations await.

Problems Are Openings 

When you’re caught in a terrible situation or phase of your life, ask:

1) how do you handle it / what is your response? 

Then reflect: 

2) What do I wish I was / who is it I want to be?

Then realize:

3) This is an opportunity for me to achieve that. I need to do know what I wish I could or would do, so that I can be the person I want to be.
Some say things don’t happen by chance, some people call it fate. Whatever you believe, it remains that the only thing you have full control over is what YOU do.

So control yourself and steer in the right direction, and not let circumstances and events push you around.