Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Stop projecting into the future

Staying in “the present” can sometimes be very difficult.

The mind is a wonderful yet often uncontrollable thing, and when it wants to it’ll wander off on its own, down paths that you aren’t necessarily ready yet to confront. The more you try to control it, the more it slips away, as if it’s mocking you for your foolish attempts. Being able to focus on the moment and the direct task in front of you is a learned practice, because the mind puts up continual distractions, either from your pass, or the future.

I had such an episode yesterday morning: I was going about my usual morning routine when I received an email from my coworker that she will be out sick for the day. Obviously, the first mistake was checking work email during off-work hours; nevertheless, the message from my coworker took me completely away from what I was doing at that moment, and right into a rather negative chain of thought.

It’s quite selfish, too: my mind immediately went to creating scenarios where the my coworker’s absence meant an increased burden on me. Perhaps work will get super busy, and the lack of personnel meant I’ll be running around like a madman, not getting a moment to breathe. What if today was the particular kind of day that everything at work goes to hell, and I’d be the one stuck plugging the hole on the damaged dam? I’d better get mentally prepared for such scenarios.

Mind you, this was at 9 AM in the morning, and I didn’t start work until 2:30 PM. What a monumental waste it is to worry about something that isn’t yet to occur, to negatively project outwards into the future what might happen. What if things turn out to be okay? None of it is in my control until I get to work, so it’s rather futile and stupid to ponder on the possibilities and be stressed over them. There’s really no utility to it, but the mind is going to do what it is wont to do.

It takes practice to be able to snap out of such thought processes, to detach and evaluate from a macro level. Does this matter right now? If the answer is no, then I know to stop worrying and return to what I was doing. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong; I’ve a bad tendency to create worst case future scenarios for myself, and it’s a constant struggle to calm myself down, to not be so attached to outcomes that most of the time won’t even materialize.

As always, it’s a work in progress.

I guess anything can be a canvas; even other people’s property!

Anxiety 2019

Lately I’ve come to realize I’ve been battling a new sort of anxiety for the better part of this year. I can’t exactly put a definitive word to it; the best I can describe it is a nagging sense of insecurity about the status quo. Perhaps it’s easier to give an example.

We’re suppose to relax on weekends, right? Those of us in a fortunate enough position to have a regular weekday job get to chill on Saturdays and Sundays after a hard week’s work. Problem for me is, I can’t seem to fully enjoy my weekends. When I’m out doing super fun stuff like driving the GT3 around, I’d often times have a sense of guilt about it: I am having too much leisure; this is too bloody nice of a car; stop having so much fun and free time, because there’s plenty of work to do to preserving this whole thing.

Things are going along far too nicely; exactly when is the music going to stop?

No wonder that even on a holiday like Labor Day, I can’t seem shutdown my operating system and be in a state of not doing.

Instead of fully relaxing, I’d have anxiety about the work week ahead, and stressing about am I doing my best to warrant a long future with the company. Irrational thoughts, too, like am I just one giant imposter? I don’t really deserve to be paid for the work that I am doing; surely the guillotine will drop any minute now! It became a never-ending rat-race, and downtimes at work would trigger my anxiety, because I immediately worry about not doing enough.

Keep in mind that in reality, from the outside looking in, things are going well.

There’s insecurity about other stuff, too, like the housing. Even though it’s highly unlikely we’d be kicked out of our current below-market rate renting situation, I’d have anxiety about that, and would get deep down into the negative rabbit hole of running worst case scenarios in my head and how everything will change. Again, it’s mostly irrational thoughts, but the stress from that is real, and only now that I’ve snapped out of it do I see it clearly.

One of the four noble truths in Buddhism is that life is suffering, but it isn’t the type of suffering in what we tend to associate the word with, but rather it’s the suffering from wanting to hold onto things, and preserving what we have. Even when your life is measurably great, you will suffer greatly if you become attached to the status quo, desperate to hold on, and constantly scared it’ll all be taken away.

I think that’s been exactly my issue, and I’m glad that certain events in the past months have rescued me out.

Spare a thought for the groom-to-be decked out in full tuxedo in Japan’s hot and humid summer weather.

Skydiving and staying present in the moment

Various schools of philosophy preaches the importance of being in the present, to have supreme concentration on the right here and right now.

Those of us who study and practice philosophy know that is far easier read than executed. The mind so easily wanders to either the future or the past; before you’re even done eating dinner, you’re already thinking about what to cook for breakfast tomorrow. The modern world full of distractions certainly compounds the distraction situation, with the smartphone ever attached to us, like an IV drip of a hospital patient.

Having mind and focus on the present is incredibly tough.

I recently heard of an example demonstrating precisely the mental state of being in the present. It has to do with skydiving, and the exact moment a skydiver is about to jump off the airplane. At that time, the area of focus shrinks down to the very point that only concerns with making the jump. The skydiver isn’t thinking about his mortgage payments or that argument he had with a coworker the previous day: his sole concentration is with accomplishing the mission of landing back on the ground, safe and alive.

That’s the exact feeling and mindset of being in the present that we can harness. To be so completely involved in what we’re currently doing that other thoughts can’t possibly enter the brain. Obviously, we shouldn’t need a pretend life-and-death scenario to draw that out of us. Skydiving can be just like any other thing we do on a daily basis, and therefore it’s absolutely possible to give that same amount of focus towards anything.

It takes practice, of course. A lifetime’s worth.

I’m just running in the 90’s.

Everything is connected

Sometimes, things happen connectedly right after one another, like a set of dominoes put into play.

A few weeks back, I decided that it wasn’t tenable any longer for me to take the bus home after my night shift. After seeing someone get robbed at my connecting stop, and the fact that for a few of the nights, it was only me waiting for the bus; it’s the smart move to make. It’s not that I’m scared to be mugged - you’d never go outside if you’re afraid of such a thing living in San Francisco - but rather it’s the additional stress that I can definitely do without. My head is a on a constant swivel during times when I’m at the station alone, stress level elevated.

As I’ve read lately, stress causes an intense burden on the human body, so if I can throw some money at a problem to make the stress go away, it’d be worth every penny.

The solution for my night commute problem was originally to take either UBER or LYFT home. It’s a bit spendy compared to taking the bus, but relative to buying a second car to commute with, it’s far less of a headache and much more convenient, not having to worry about parking and maintaining yet another vehicle. The entire point of this exercise is to reduce stress, remember?

I was ready to execute this plan when I realized my brother is permanently home from college now, so he’s available to do chauffeur duties. Why don’t I pay him the money instead and have him pick me up at work? He’s just starting out working after undergrad, so he for sure could use the extra cash every month. So I broached the plan to him and he was completely onboard, because the additional money allows him to do something he’d wanted to do for some time now: sell his VW GTI for another car.

I’m sure there’s some altruism in there too, and that he loves his big brother.

Anyways, the main reason for him wanting out of the GTI is because he’s getting knee pain from operating the manual transmission, though I’m sure the car enthusiast wont to switch cars simply for a taste of new flavor is part of the mix as well. After we agreed on the arrangement of him doing UBER duties for me, he immediately put in motion to sell the GTI and acquire an AUDI A3 - all within the same day. Three days later, the deals were done, and my brother is driving in his new, automatic gearbox car.

Funny how this was put into motion by me seeking to reduce stress.

Nothing, just a peacock walking by while refueling the car.

No rest for the wicked?

It was Labor Day this past weekend, and after a hectic week at work, in which it was the first week of the Fall semester, the respite of a three-day weekend came at precisely the right time. I had plans to do my normal two-day weekend routine on Saturday and Sunday, and then come Monday, the goal was to do absolutely nothing, and just chill.

Well, Monday rolled around, and along with it the difficulty: I actually couldn’t make myself to not do anything! That morning, by the time the second consecutive Youtube video rolled around, I already had pangs of regret in wasting time and not being productive. On Labor Day, the day where I am suppose to relax and be lazy - and super fortunate to be in a position to do so, I have trouble in execution. What happened to the guy who could simply binge-watch a string of television seasons, like any other normal person?

He’s no longer here.

After watching the second video, I was too uncomfortable with the notion that I’m going to be doing that for the rest of the day. So, even though it’s technically a holiday, I returned to my daily routine, albeit in less of a time crunch since I didn’t have work: study Korean for an hour, read a book for an hour, and write a piece for this very website. It wasn’t until I’ve finished all three items that I felt at ease with watching car-related stuff on Youtube for the rest of the day.

The inability to just chill: is it a bad thing? Is there some latent anxiety or depression that I’m using constant productivity to avoid confronting? I really don’t know. The clock never stops on the action long enough for me to invade my own mind and find out the answer; I’d get antsy and pick up the book again, or write some more; or I still have many great podcasts to listen to, so let’s jump back to that queue.

These days I have a great desire for peace and quiet, but ironically, granting that silence for my own mind is a grace I can’t seem to give myself. I’m far too eager for what’s next, which is why even on Labor Day I’m unable to fully commit to a day of doing nothing.

I’m sure there’s some positives to that, too; hashtag hustle. That’s the ‘yin’ and the ‘yang’.

This is exactly how I pictured Japan car culture looks like.

How dare you pass me!

Ego is a heck of a thing.

Even as I mature into my thirties and give less and less care about what other people think; even though I drive a six-figure car that’s easily in the fastest top 1% of all the vehicles on the road - therefore no reason be self-conscious at all, certain moments can still momentarily awaken those base and rabid emotions.

Case in point this past weekend when I was doing my usual drive on the mountain roads in the GT3, going at a reasonable clip: not enough for jail time, but definitely faster than the posted speed limits. Suddenly I noticed in the back mirror two cars coming up rather quickly onto my tail, and soon I became a mobile roadblock to their desires to go faster. Had it been my younger years in a similar class of machinery (an impossibility, but indulge me), I would have eagerly taken the challenge and sped up into pseudo race against them. Me at 31, highly cognizant of my mortality, cannot be tempted such foolishness.

So I kept to my pace, and at the earliest passing opportunity (thank goodness these guys weren’t assholes who pass over a double-yellow line or in a blind corner) allowed them to by. The leading car was what looked to be highly-modified Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, while the follower is a current-generation Chevy Camaro. No harm no foul: if they want to go triple digits on these mountain roads, I’m not about to play citizen police. I’ve encountered those sorts of people too, and they are I would say equally as dangerous as those who overtake illegally.

I was ready to move on my merry way, but for some reason, feelings of embarrassment and anger started to well up from within. Those guys must be laughing their asses off thinking I’m some chump who can’t pilot a 911 GT3 to its best ability: “Look at this guy, all money and no skill!” (the no skill part is very true) In turn, I was seething over their audacity to pass me with their lowly cars that are not only slower on spec than the GT3, but when combined is still worth less than my German sports car.

Needless to say, my ego took over; I had brief thoughts of chasing these guy down, though thankfully those feelings were indeed fleeting, and I was able to detach from the situation and calm myself down. The fact of the matter is the two drivers wanted to go faster than me, and they passed me in an objectively very safe manner. There’s really nothing to fume about, but something about the ego’s inability to accept slights, especially those pertaining to manhood like who can go faster in a car.

I’d thought owning one of the best driver’s car ever produced would alleviate such juvenile tendencies; there’d be no need for comparisons and battles. It seems it may in fact exacerbate situations: last thing anyone wants is to look utterly stupid inside an expensive car. The ego probably wouldn’t have reared its head had I been driving a Honda Fit.

As always, a work in progress.

I’m just running in the 90s.

Don't dream it's over

This past weekend I enjoyed some lazy time doing nothing substantial by watching Initial D Fifth Stage. I’d realized that while I’ve seen the first four stages of the anime multiple times, I’ve yet to rewatch the fifth series since it first aired all the way back in 2014(!). As one of the three major seminal products in inspiring my passion for cars - the other two being Gran Turismo video game and Top Gear television program, I figured it was a good time as any for a revisit.

Every time I watch Initial D I am overwhelmed with a desire to just get in the car and drive. Good thing my current car is parked quite bit away from where I live, because to be under the influence of mountain road drift battles and effervescent Eurobeat music while piloting the Porsche would not be the best mixture for a good outcome. I’d begin to think myself as the master of the mountain roads and go way beyond the limits of safety; definitely don’t want to end up like this guy.

Anyways, as I was half way through the anime marathon, my mind couldn’t help itself and wandered to the future some hours later when I’d have finished watching the entirety of Fifth Stage. I then started feeling sad that this current happiness of rewatching a beloved anime will soon be over and I’d be back to the harsh reality of having to prepare for work the next day. Indeed, why am I upset about it being over when I’m still in the middle of it? If doing something relaxing and fun is going to make me feel bad afterwards, then what’s the point?

This experience isn’t new: I can remember being at concerts and feeling upset midway through that this moment of bliss will soon be over.

This tendency of mine to feel sad about happy things ending is definitely not healthy. I’d get detached from the present and unable to immerse fully in what is suppose to be joyous activities. Furthermore, I don’t think it’s productive to allow my base state of happiness or feeling to be affected by things I do, whether it be something leisurely like watching television, or something burdensome like the weekday work. The constant up and down would be disastrous for my mental well-being, when all I really want is peace.

Emotion is good and welcomed, but not when it comes at the expense of being in the moment, and feeling melancholic about something happy that will be over in a few hours. As I’ve said many times, things like this is a constant work in progress.

My brother’s in Oregon.