Monday, October 22, 2012

Life's not fair

I need to get a few things out of my system. Please feel free to skip to the end of the whining.

*takes a deep breath*
This has been a royally craptastic week. I don’t have a car because a tire fell off of my usual ride. That’s ok, happens all the time, right? Maybe I could’ve been seriously hurt or killed, but it happened when I was going 5 mph so I’m just peachy. Except for that part where I’m now stuck with a rental car until the foreseeable future. I don’t even know how bad the damage is. I try to be grateful that I’m not DEAD but all I can think about is how pointless the whole universe is. Those parts of my life where I can measure my accomplishments are all stalled out. This health condition drags me down; a person like me should have at least a few reasons to live another day, reasons beyond habit and instinct.

/end rant

Ignore the stuff above. I have something more important to talk about today. My blog is not *just* for venting when I need to vent. It’s for saying what needs to be said. If you happen to be reading this, this is not directed at you. This is an internal monologue that I have decided to preserve here.

Life’s not fair. You’ve heard that all your life. Well guess what? It’s bullshit. Life is brutally fair. You have what you have because you worked hard for it. You kept working when others quit, you kept looking for ways to improve yourself and reach your goals. Yet now, all of a sudden you’ve stopped fighting. Why? I’ll tell you why. You think life’s not fair, you think you’ve gotten lucky so far and you don’t want to push your luck. You’ve cashed out of life.

You can’t do that.

The other people on this planet - they all have their own reasons to keep struggling. But you don’t need their reasons. The universe has no patience with the weak, the lazy, or the slow. The universe is never going to reallocate your share to someone more deserving – what you don’t earn, no one gets. You are becoming wasted potential. The ONLY way to share the wealth is to earn your fair share and use it to help others do the same.

Get back in the fucking game.

/end internal monologue

I don’t have a lot to say to anyone right now. I’ve had some communication issues lately. I feel like I haven’t been told everything I need to know but I haven’t been asking questions because I don’t know what to ask. What is the right question here? Am I supposed to ask at all, or is the guessing part of the fun? So much for open honest feedback – life is never that simple.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My lost summer

This summer, I seriously thought I was going insane. At the rate my life was falling apart I thought I would end up quitting my job, quitting school, and spending my days in my house avoiding the world. For some reason my decent life was extremely distressing to me.

Turns out, I have a medical condition. A really dumb one. I have hypothyroidism. I call my disorder dumb not because I think its fake or in any way less legitimate than other diseases but rather because it made my whole life really stupid.

I can't even fully describe how bad I felt this summer. I would stare at a computer and cry, I would finish working out and cry, I would go to bed and cry. When I wasn't crying, I was mostly staring at things, or sleeping. I was always tired, always sad, always bored.

Sadly, none of this made me see a doctor - I thought I was depressed and that I'd get over it. I could rant for hours about how our societal views of depression are dangerous and unhealthy, but that's a whole different story. For this stupid problem of mine, what finally pushed me to go see a doctor was that I could no longer concentrate, and I was starting to forget things.

I was losing time. I would sit down to read an article on CNN or watch a TV show and suddenly I would notice that 3 hours had passed. Worse, I would think back on the time and realize I couldn't remember what I had read or seen. It was just gone. This was scary to me.

One blood test and a prescription later and I'm like an entirely different person. I thought I was young and healthy and yet this one thing wiped out most of my summer.

So, if my blog has seemed too quiet - that's why.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Panic switch

I have been royally slacking on jiu-jitsu this summer. I'm going to try not to overanalyze that - it's just the way the last few weeks have been and I plan on being more consistent as summer wraps up and I get back to school.

Tonight's class was interesting. There's a tournament coming up (the same one I had planned on competing in until I bought a house and hit a brick wall of stress) so for tonight's class we reviewed the rules and basic strategy of competition BJJ before sparring from standing.

I thought I was coping just fine with this until I was almost through my third "match". My partner finally managed to get a full 3 seconds worth of mount on me. Not a big deal. Until my mind blew everything out of proportion and I panicked.

It was like something snapped inside my mind and I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. Forget jiu-jitsu, I could barely breathe. It was all panic over losing too, my partner wasn't even being heavy on me or anything. Some thought weaseled into my brain about how I just lost 4 more points and there was no way I could come back from that and all my issues with competing came flooding into my head. Ow.

I kept it together long enough to finish the class but damn. I guess I have an ego problem. I'm definitely overly concerned with these points whenever we talk about BJJ in terms of points. I also have a serious confidence problem. I have no faith whatsoever in my ability to use BJJ to help me out in a competition setting. I probably don't have a lot of confidence in regular sparring either but it doesn't ambush me the same way.

And it is definitely the ambushing the screws with my mind. So much ow. I'm off to take some advil and get sleep. Hopefully Thursday's class is better.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Inefficient Markets

My apartment complex wants to charge me 2.5 months rent to get out of 3, maybe 3.5 months of my lease. If I was simply concerned with my own financial well being, I would take the deal, after all, I save up to a full months rent, right?

However, I'm angry. First, the apartment I have is currently unavailable and our complex is generally full, so I'm thinking they will rent it out fairly easily. So they get my 2.5 months and the extra rent. Second, they have the nerve to act like they're doing me a favor. BAH. I was cool with as long as it was "2 months rent, we let you go, easy!" No one mentioned "oh and we keep the security deposit too!".

All I wanted was for them to add the apartment to there list of available apartments and let me out of the lease when they found someone. But no, they either want me to hand them extra money that they haven't earned or pay to keep a nice empty apartment until the end of December.

Financially, the choice is clear. I should hand them the money and move on. But I'm not going to do it. Instead, I'm going to try and find someone to assign the lease to (which they tried to tell me was subletting and was illegal - like, this is supposed to be your business, not mine). If I can't find anyone, then at least I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I have never broken a lease agreement.

And I'll get my security deposit back. Jerks.

And this is why efficient markets are bullshit.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First House Madness

I used to roll my eyes at people who missed weeks and weeks of their normal lives to buy a house. Like, how distracting can it be, really? My apologies to any of those people. I am in the process of buying my first house (we close Thursday!) and I am completely distracted.

The most recent casualty in this house buying extravaganza is my entry in the BJJ tournament a week from Saturday. Here are my excuses for dropping out:

  • I would rather put the money towards my house
  • I don't even like competing, why am I doing something I don't find fun
  • It was killing my motivation for jiu jitsu in general.
This last one is the only one that worries me. I may not have any love of competing but I do love going to class ... usually. But as soon as I signed up I dropped from 3-4 classes a week to 2 classes. I can blame that on the house if I want, but I think it had more to do with the tournament.

I don't feel bad about this. I did what I needed to do and no one will be really impacted by my decision. At least I was back in class tonight and finally happy to be there for the first time in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, back to the house.
As you can see, its green. Very green. With red shutters. I hated the outside, at first, but its already been renamed in my mind as "Christmas House" and I plan on continuing the red and green theme in the back yard (which is dead and is thus a blank slate).

Its not my dream house or anything, but it has a few things I like. It has a random pond in front, which I will fill with horrors on Halloween (and maybe other things for other holidays). The driveway actually slopes down to the road. The living room has built in shelves that are begging me to fill them with clutter. Yeah. It's my house. Or, it will be, on Thursday.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Will today be any different?

"Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only that the cat died nobly" - Arnold Edinborough

I mentioned on Facebook that my primary motivation for trying a second jiu jitsu tournament is curiosity - specifically the question of "Will this time be different?" Even to me this seems like an odd question because I know, as a good proactive kinda gal, that I control what's different - at least a lot of what could be different. That part is boring.

I don't want to spend too much time going into my problem with tournaments because I haven't exactly figured it out yet. I will say that I survive pretty well preparing for a tournament and I seem to do moderately well actually surviving matches, win or lose. It's after the tournament - I just break down. 

I have a theory that my real fear is that I'm really not cut out for BJJ (the first sport that I haven't avoided with religious fervor) and that tournaments serve only to prove that to everyone. Here, let me put it in a way that maximizes it's ridiculousness (complete with highlighting): "My deep dark secret is that I am doomed to suck at jiu jitsu forever and tournaments will expose my secret and lead to me being ostracized". I understand how ridiculous this sounds. I also understand that the only way to guarantee I suck at jiujitsu forever is to quit now, while I suck, duh. Anyway, my point is that I haven't actually figured out ANYTHING. What am I afraid of? Do I have something to prove? Is it to myself? Is it to everyone else? Can I do better? Can it be worse? The more questions I have about something the more I will suffer through to get answers. This is where curiosity comes in.

Curiosity is, essentially, the only reason I get up in the morning. This is not counting the several years in my recent past where I didn't want to get up in the morning at all. That's a whole different problem that I have mostly gotten over. In general, when I am happy and functional and waking up in order to live my life like it matters I wake up in order to satisfy my curiosity. Will today be any different?

Maybe someone reading this will be thinking some cliche bullshit like "You make today what it is" or "Every day is what you make it" but I have lived this life long enough to know that I'm dependent on other people to satisfy my curiosity in a positive way. I may wake up curious to know if I will find a solution for a problem at work on a given day but that question is too boring to hold my interest for long (hence several years of waking up miserable). The real burning curiosity I have is for things like: "Will someone really make me laugh today?", "Will someone say or do something that makes me smile?", "Will someone ask me to do something new and interesting?". I need people. The moments of power that resonate in me require the interaction of two minds (see this post). These moments recharge my emotional reserves.

This next tournament might still be lacking in fun but I don't care. I just want to know if any given day will contain any truly interesting interactions with another mind and I have learned that truly interesting interactions are more likely if I do unusual things like competing even when I hate it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Philosophical Ramblings: Thoughts on justice, redemption, and defeat

I usually save this kind of rambling until I'm drunk, but I'll make an exception. I'll try not to wander too deeply into metaphysics. Instead, you can expect many references to literature and movies.

Certain moments have power. By power I mean it is more likely in these moments that something fundamental will change. They are forks in fate, maybe not your fate, but someone's. Sometimes that's due to rarity - a solar eclipse or certain weather phenomenon. Sometimes its because of the emotions involved - right before a first kiss or a sporting competition. There are lots of these and some resonate more strongly with certain people. If you read this and think of your own moments, I would love to read about them on other blogs. Seriously. Mercedes Lackey does a great job describing the energy that builds up ahead of these moments in her Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series.

Anyway, I am obsessed with one such type of moment that centers around the idea of justice.

When someone commits a crime, ideally, justice is waiting for them somewhere. The obsession for me is not when justice gets there or even how... My first concern is the mind of the criminal.

Do they realize that they are being punished for their crime?

Do they feel fear? If they fear, is it because they were caught or because they realized the magnitude of what they have done? A really good example of this is the fight between Eragon and Galbatorix at the end of the Inheritance series. Eragon breaks Galbatorix by forcing him to understand.

I spent too many moments of my childhood contemplating how to make people actually FEEL the weight of their crimes. This is unhealthy. Take that scene in Children of the Mind where Jane (in the body of Valentine) literally freaks out over Quera (the little snot - easily my least liked character of any novel anywhere).... it is way too much stress for human circuits. And I used to feel that way ALL THE TIME. Makes my blood boil just to think about that scene.

This is why my favorite books as a kid were by Roald Dahl - that man had an excellent sense of little kid justice. Very satisfying. Another good example is Professor Umbridge in the Harry Potter series. Even though you KNOW Harry made his own situation worse through his own stubbornness, you still wait patiently for Umbridge to get what's coming to her. And it does! Peace at last. I have called this justice-porn. If you think too deeply it has all kinds of problems, but on the surface it provides a few cheap moments of pleasure as Umbridge suffers.

This is bad, of course. There's a word for this: schadenfreude and it has little to do with justice. An eye for an eye is very unenlightened justice. I have moved on. I am now more interested with that one moment when you see how a person reacts. It doesn't matter anyway - justice can happen even if you have no remorse whatsoever. Professor Umbridge remained blissfully unaware of her own sinisterness. That bitch.

My point here is that there is power in that moment when a person is faced with something really horrible and pauses just for a moment to see if they can connect it back to some wrong they've committed. It matters if it's fear or if it is the beginning of redemption. In the Lion King when Simba pins Scar, he never feels remorse, he just tries to get out alive. Redemption is more interesting, more emotionally appealing in literature, and more important to my own sense of justice.

There's a second, related, set of moments. Replace the cut and dry villain of the earlier references with two people who are simply on different sides of an epic struggle. When two warriors on opposite sides of a holy war meet, what happens? If one side vastly overpowers the other how does that translate into a superior moral position?

What will someone do when faced with overwhelming force? That person can choose to fight until completely overwhelmed (in many stories they often die in the process) or they can surrender. Often fighting to the end is considered honorable. See The Last Samurai, or my favorite: Asuka's Last Stand at the end of Evangelion. To confront the inevitable takes grit. However, I believe there is just as much power in the alternative. To acknowledge defeat and submit to it is also interesting. Take this quote from a simple interpretation of the pagan legend of the Holly and Oak Kings.

"I yield. I am defeated. But I ask of you, my brother, that you spare me." The king was defeated with or without the speech, but acknowledging it gives the moment more power. It is difficult to deny a legitimate surrender. Fate forks.

The Thri-kreen race of Dungeons and Dragons is described as being intolerant of untested leaders. They will attempt to establish dominance, but if defeated they are loyal to the victor. If every battle was a fight to the death nothing would get done - surrender is an acknowledgement of standing, a variation of an oath of fealty. Combat -> Defeat -> Submission seems more interesting to me as a source of loyalty than all the ties of honor and fancy words that often serve in the sci-fi/fantasy genre but it requires a bit more honesty than I can usually credit to humanity. If someone recites an oath with malicious intent at least no one loses any eyes.

Are you still reading this or did you just skip to the end to see how long it would take me to stop rambling? Anyway, I don't care if you skipped all the crap in the middle, I just wrote it because it was on my mind all day.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dealing with frustration

I had so many plans for this blog post and all of them are disappointing me. It's horribly frustrating, so before I go insane I am going to go with the flow and talk about frustration and how I deal with it.

The short answer is I don't. I bottle it up until I'm afraid that if I express even a small sliver of it I'll explode and then I go some place and hide. While hiding I cry and scream and do whatever works until the level of frustration drops below the point where I worry I'll hurt someone.

Adam tried to point out to me that, at least in BJJ, I really ought to try to convert this anger into some kind of energy to apply to my technique. My problem is that when I get frustrated in BJJ, say, for example, because I've escaped from mount just to find myself in side-control (and on and on), my first thought is not "well, I'll just escape from this too, and this time I'll get on top". That might be productive. No... my frustrated thoughts tend to wander towards breaking fingers, biting, and poking eyes. Civilized people just don't do this, ok, maybe in the mythical "street fight" but never to one's training partner. So now I'm in the awkward position of trying to fight against one person to get out of side-control and fighting against myself to get my thoughts back to proper jiujitsu.

On top of this, I really don't think people perceive my reactions to being frustrated correctly. People seem to tell me things like "It's ok, everyone starts out a little claustrophobic." or "You'll figure out how to position yourself so you know you won't get hurt." Maybe I'm wrong; maybe I am dealing with a secret fear of being crushed. I think what actually scares me is how desperate I am in that moment to inflict as much pain as possible. It probably doesn't matter - either way I need to deal with it and get past it. I just feel like the advice for dealing with claustrophobia is "just breathe and realize you're safe" and breathing, though helpful, does not diminish my desire to destroy fragile appendages. 

This is not just feelings either. When I get this frustrated and angry I will self-destruct rather than hurt another person. If my lip is bleeding, odds are its because I bit it until it did.

Don't think I limit my bizarre overreactions to BJJ. Other parts of my life are more frustrating than jiujitsu ever is. I miss my bird. I can't seem to get pregnant. I have motivation problems. Normal jobs bore me to tears. I take my frustrated rage and I hit the gym until I'm too tired to think about it anymore. 

As far as jiujitsu goes, I'm trying two things. First, I need a better handle on what frustrates me. The worst, I think, is being caught in one position too long. Second, I'm starting to deal with frustration by not letting it get to the sadistic stage. Say I am caught in one position too long. I'm trying to count roughly to 10 as I am trying to escape. If I haven't managed to escape and my training partner is, for whatever reason, just not moving, I'll just tap out anyway. I need to protect my mental stability as much as my neck, arms, whatever. 

If anyone has some better ideas, please, let me know.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The soulless intern

I read this article today: 32 Idiotic Mistakes Wall Street Interns Make Every Summer and it bothered me. No, it completely pissed me off and made me so glad I have a finance internship in the laid back city of Denver. The article isn't all of it, there's a forum that started the madness... It's epic. Anyway...

Here's why I'm so GRRR about this:
  1. Elitism at its best: It's ridiculous to tell interns that the Rolex watch or [insert fancy suit brand here] makes them look spoiled while also telling them that they can't wear Hermes ties until they are full time employees.
  2. Dehumanizing perspective: People are more than just their work. If Wall Street wants faceless drones to produce analyst reports, I hear machine learning is getting very sophisticated. I prefer to work with people and that starts with really seeing them.
  3. Conformity rules: Lip service is paid to diversity but the real truth is that no one cares what color your skin is (or if you're male or female) as long as your suit is navy, your shirt is pressed, your shoes are leather, and you work way harder than your internship salary pays you to do. Also true (in my experience) is that the subset of people willing to put up with this shit with smiles on their faces are not a diverse subset of the population - not even of the ones interested in finance.

It's a high stress world and 99.9% of the people who succeed can put up with all this. I wouldn't last a week with my purple suit, cheap shoes and complete lack of regard for all things conformist.

But that's ok. I have my own plan.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My nightmare

I am so grateful to xkcd for showing me I am not the only one with this problem. For me, it's always the same class - Intro to Scientific Computing taught by Professor Ganesh. I took this class my last semester at Mines in order to finish my degree in Computer Science. This class was legendary. The first time Ganesh taught it, he failed all but TWO students. I took the class his third time teaching it. He was clearly learning to reign in his frustration with his students.

While working I would still have this dream and I would have to remind myself that I graduated already. Now I'm a grad student and I can't use that excuse anymore. So when I wake up after dreaming that Ganesh now teaches my Securities Valuation class (which my dream mind thinks I've ditched for 3 weeks straight), the panic does not just go away.

FML. I have this dream twice a week right now. *pulls hair out*

An extraordinary day

I was going to title this blog post "a normal day", but then I realized that I was just so excited to finally have a normal day. What's normal? Who knows.

What I do know is that my appetite is back, I survived drills class without an emotional breakdown, and I am not currently blaming grad school for all my problems. My life isn't perfect but I don't want perfect, I want stuff to work on. I want to be engaged and interested. I fear boredom above all else.

I have a side project related to finance, I don't want to track its progress here because that would make this blog very dry - so I made a new blog: Sentinel Project. It's not very interesting yet, but it will be.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My unified theory of everything

I have been going through life metaphors almost as quickly as I can dream them up. Here is my life, split up by how I perceived the future.

Phase 0: Don't Fuck Up. From as far back as I can remember until about age 18.

I'm sure I had other motivations in those 18 years, but you can summarize most of my actions as trying to minimize failure/embarrassment. I had this idea in my head that nice, happy people did not fuck up things. Every mistake I made as a kid made me feel horrible and I had to add it to a huge list in my head labelled "NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. I felt horrible even if I was completely alone but it was always infinitely worse if I made a mistake and some other kid made fun of me for it or some adult lectured me about it.

A sample of things that have, at some point, been on that list:
Don't make jokes that might hurt people's feelings
Don't play with knives
Don't play basketball/kickball/softball....
Don't ask for food
Don't sing
Don't play with power tools
Don't touch animals

Dangerous! I might get hurt!

Can't hurt me. Any wonder I'm a software engineer?
Sure, some reasonable things made the list. But for the most part I was training myself to avoid taking any kind of risk. Luckily I eventually realized that adults fuck up all the time. And some of them are even still happy, nice people... It was time for a new way of looking at life

Phase 1: Trophy Collecting. From when I graduated high school until about age 25.

During these years I was completely OBSESSED with the idea of reaching certain milestones. I poured my heart and soul into accomplishing certain goals:

Graduating from college
Getting married
Finding a good job
Buying a BMW
Learning to play the guitar

I was getting pretty good at this life thing. I had a super awesome high score and everything... Wait. Right. At some point I realized that my perception of life had more in common with World of Warcraft then it did with reality. I also realized I was miserable. There is no great scoreboard in the afterlife measuring all your achievements. The only reason to live this way is if you're the kind of pathetic person that wants to have more achievements than everyone else. So I moved on.

Phase 2: Cathedral building. From about age 25 until about now.

I wanted to stop defining my life by my position relative to other people. I started looking at what I really wanted. I set goals. I pursued my dreams. I saw myself as the architect of my own future and what I was building would be glorious. I decided that I would only do things that made me happy or that helped me to be happier in the future.

I give up. This theory of life was beautiful. Unfortunately, life just doesn't work this way. My bird died, my interviews went awry, my family planning schedule slipped its deadline, and my life at grad school went from interesting to mind-numbingly boring.

I'm building a cathedral here and the shipment of windows is late, the tools are missing, and the slave labor is revolting! I CAN'T WORK LIKE THIS!

Phase 3: My unified theory of everything.

I don't actually have one. So I'm going to steal one from Kung Fu Panda: "There is no secret ingredient. " I keep looking for something that doesn't even seem to exist. I really want to stop planning how I will live my life and just get on with living it.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Death in the family

A week ago today I woke up to find my pet parrot, Paradyse, dead in her cage. She was almost 7 years old, when she should have lived to be at least 15. I don't deal with death very often. I've only been to one funeral that I can remember, and I wasn't close to the person who died (who was not a relative). I also have never had a pet that was not a fish. One with a real personality and a place in my life.

I spent the day cleaning. My apartment is now cleaner than it's been since Adam and I moved our stuff into it. It could have been worse.

I try to find the good in all things and this is no exception. Even though I am devastated that my birdie will not be around to watch my kids grow up like I planned, I feel like I have gained perspective. 

I have a better idea of what is important to me. I am tired of spending so much time worrying about things when I could be doing more to help the people I love.

I am less afraid. Everything could change in one freak accident or one tragic illness. Against that, why should I be so afraid of anything that doesn't kill me? Hell, I'm afraid of things that don't even matter. Things like interviews. It doesn't even make sense anymore. 

I want my bird back. I know that's impossible.

Life goes on. There's so much to deal with right now.

I miss you.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Now that I'm sane again...

I can talk about what really happened at the tournament.

First, before I get so worked up about going backwards I should instead consider that maybe I simply wasn't as far along as I thought. And either way, the way forward is clear enough.

Looking back, I see that I was way more afraid of competing than I realized. This makes sense. I've never competed in any kind of sports before, ever. My childhood was spent avoiding the humiliation of sports at all costs and since that's impossible I have a lot of bad memories. I thought I was passed all that. It's been years! WHY NOW?

Anyway, I have finally found a place where it is actually safe to fail, where I won't be made fun of for being slow or weak as long as I keep working hard. It's incredibly valuable, but it can't undo a lifetime of fear in one day.

I was prepared to face my fear of competing. What I wasn't prepared for was the lifetime of childhood fears that ambushed me after my matches were over. The fear of being judged, of never fitting in, of feeling so alone. Feelings I had buried for years completely overwhelmed me.

It took about a day for me to recover enough to breathe properly. I wish I could say that those fears belong to different person, a younger me that no longer exists, but I can't. I will just have to work past these fears like I do all the others.

So, my first BJJ tournament ever was a disaster. I was completely terrified and I didn't even know it until after I had a match, when I had a complete emotional meltdown. Good times.

I'm better now. I have a chance to heal a few childhood scars and become a better person. So what if it now looks like more work than I thought?

Here's a list of some things to work on that actually matter to jiu-jitsu (this is not a complete list, I have a gazillion things to work on, these just stand out after Saturday):
  1. I really need to figure out how to get into deep half-guard. Seriously, it just confuses me, every bloody time, even when I manage it.
  2. Takedowns. Suck. They suck enough when you have a vague idea what you're doing but when your mind blanks out on you because you're SCARED OUT OF YOUR MIND it sucks worse.
  3. Sweeps. I don't get these. Pretty much any of them. I suppose I'll pick one or two and drill them until the weight distribution/timing thing starts to click. And then drill them some more.
  4. OMFG guillotines. First, I need to not stick my neck out like an idiot and second, if I fail at that I need to set up the defense faster. Its not like its hard.
  5. Knee-on-belly. This is a side project. Its not high priority, but its fun to try to set up and one day I might actually get it. I'm optimistic.
Well, that's weeks and weeks of work on its own, so I'll stop there. :D

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why am I writing about this?

I don't think I should be talking about this. I think I should just go take a nap and in a few hours the whole world will look different. Or I could wait a few days. Time. Time would let me distill my feelings into something I could look at and learn from. It was my first BJJ tournament ever, it has to fit in somewhere.

But part of me is furious. I am furious with that voice in my head that is capable of being so cruel. I am not even capable of being so mean to someone else, but I can do it to myself.

Would I really do this? Would I really put down in a public blog the kinds of things I say to myself? Am I trying to shame myself into being a nicer person? Am I just trying to get these feelings that I can't handle out of me? Have I figured out nothing since I was an overemotional teenager?

No... I'm writing this down so I can come back here later. Maybe in a year. Maybe 5 years. However long it takes for me to be able to look at this again.

This is what I have to deal with inside my own head; this is my problem:
"You know, if you keep this up they'll eventually just tell you to always pull guard, because takedowns are just not your thing."

"He had that. I don't know how you got out of that, he must have just gone easy on you again."

"You have gotten better, but everyone else gets better too. You will always be the weakest link on the team."

Just right here, I have some serious insecurities. Why am I so convinced I'm an object of pity? Why can't I believe that I can do better than this?

I don't know. I signed up for the tournament to challenge myself. To see how I handled the pressure. The answer: badly. I expected to be able to say, "Look - I was afraid of this but next time I will be less afraid". Instead I feel like I'm afraid of things I wasn't afraid of before, like I've gone backwards.

I'll take that nap now and see how the world looks in a few hours.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Three questions for the end of the day

Back in my angry, bitter, post-undergrad days I was really tired of being surrounded by people who couldn't keep their shit together. Seriously, this life is not that hard. Step 1: Get some skills in something and get a job. Step 2: Try to show up and not fail at your job and you should have enough money to do something fun after hours. Step 3: Don't be an asshole (maybe this should be step 1.)

So many people fail at these easy steps... but I'm over it now.

Somewhere in my journey I realized that this philosophy was doing me great harm. It would be great if the world was so simple: Show up to life, work hard, and be rewarded or don't and be a failure. Too bad nothing is that simple.

People have their own challenges. Now when I look at other people I don't give a damn how their paychecks compare to mine or how big their houses are or how well they measure up to my old standards of success. Instead, I look at how they deal with little things. Do they treat others with dignity? Do they pause to appreciate beauty in the world? Do they learn from failure or make excuses?

This has made me a much nicer person. Until I realize I still beat myself up over my old standards of success.

Now at the end of the day, I ask myself those same questions. 
Did I treat others with dignity? 
Did I pause to appreciate what was beautiful? 
Did I learn from failure or did I make excuses?

Before I wrote this, I was sinking into a bad mood. Late at night its so easy to feel alone and weak. Its so easy to trivialize the day's work as I look ahead and see how far away my goals still are. But on this day I did not fail my three questions.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Today's takedown thoughts

I'm starting to feel better about these takedown classes. I'm so bad at them that its very easy to see any kind of improvement.

A few examples: 
  • Sure, he knocked me over, but I managed to pull guard instead of ending up in side control.
  • Ok, so maybe the nice blue belt let me set up whatever takedown I wanted, but my timing was much better this time, I could feel it.
  • I actually took a second to stop and breathe instead of my usual hyper tense state of near panic
Now that we've defined some positive space, its time for me to take a serious look at a couple of things for next time.

First, whatever I did that landed me in the receiving end of a piledriver was not good. I don't know what was worse - that I didn't take any action to avoid it or that once caught I had a couple of scary seconds to contemplate if I knew how to not get dropped on my head and the only thing I could come up with was "trust my training partner not to drop me on my head". Though true, it was also completely useless. Funny, though.

Second, I seriously need to work on my endurance outside of training. Sure, I would like to be stronger too, but I can deal with being weaker by applying better technique and timing, but I need to survive longer. (Note: I know better technique helps here too, but I'm going to attack this problem from multiple directions) I am really starting to hate the feeling that an opportunity opened up and I missed it because I have reached a level of exhaustion that makes every movement - hell, even every thought - like trying to walk through water.
EDIT: I forgot to mention it, but I need to remember it to motivate me later. Someone said I looked like a whipped puppy towards the end of class. In my imagination, that's pretty close to how I felt. This is not a good feeling. This is why I need more endurance.

This will require better time management on my part. Story of my life. Time to set some goals.

1. I want to add to my schedule (somehow) one session at the gym and two long jogs a week.
2. EAT. SOMETHING. Really, this is getting ridiculous. I don't care so much if I try to live on egg whites, fresh fruit, almond milk and bread as long as I eat enough of it to keep going.

Thought I would end this rambling mess with another random thought I had today. I was trying to show a friend this really cool armbar to triangle transition and I had it WRONG. FAIL. Yet it only took us about a minute to figure out the one step I had backwards and then we practiced it right. I think its a small step in the right direction that we could look at a technique and figure out what was off about it. At least we didn't just try and do it wrong over and over. That said, I'll try and know what I'm talking about in the future. Promise.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Two (very minor) BJJ victories

Really, I should have better things to do at 2AM. Things like sleeping. But here I am, rambling away.

For my own record, I am going to celebrate two BJJ victories from this week. People should celebrate progress more often. Rest assured that I am beating myself up about my failures outside of this blog, but I like to keep this space positive whenever possible.

Today I had a drills class that was based on mount. Given my size, weight, and skill level, that meant I spent most of my time in class trying to escape. Maybe at some point I'll get into stories about what worked and what didn't work technique-wise, but for now I'm focusing on mindset. The victory for me here is that I kept trying. Its so easy to just pause for a minute when I'm tired, even when that's the worst thing I can do. So I said I wasn't going to do that, I would keep fighting until something worked and I didn't care if that meant suffering through an entire 5 minute round barely able to breathe as I fought off every submission attempt. It was fun, but ow. I needed a 3 hour nap after class before I could move again. However, I'm tougher than I thought. I will try to do that all the time now.

Second victory was Thursday. The normal class is focused on takedowns for the next month or whatever. It was time to confront that fear of falling that follows me around making me all tense and disturbing my aura of somewhat calm. I survived. Not the most glamorous victory, but I'll take it. Kudos to fellow white-belt Scott for being very patient and helpful and for being just nice enough that I learned a ton and just mean enough that I had to face my fear. Seriously, its hard to explain striking that kind of balance, but I know what it feels like and I respect the training partners that can do it that much more.

On a related note I have extra special leg bruises - see! I'm thinking about going as a leopard for Halloween.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thoughts on teaching

I love being a student. I always have. So one of the things I hate is knowledge-hoarding. Why do people act like you have to pass some kind of test or prove your worth before you can even be a student? The places where I've learned the most (and been the happiest) are those places where all that is expected of the students is an open mind and a willingness to work hard.

To clarify: I expect to have to "pay my dues". I just also expect to be treated with dignity. I shouldn't have to beg to be taught like a dog for table scraps. This is my problem with Ivy League universities; they seem to take great joy in watching prospective students humiliate themselves... but I digress.

Somehow in my life I have found people willing to share their knowledge without egocentric power trips or ruthless competition for attention. I am grateful, but what happens when I am cast as a teacher? I think everyone reaches a level of experience where they might need to teach as well as learn. I've often had to teach math and computer programming, for example.

I do not consider myself to be a teacher for two reasons. First, I get caught up on details and and I never know where to begin. Second, I run out of patience. I often wish I could just download my entire understanding of a subject to a hard drive and hand it to someone and have them understand it instantly.

Recently, as my patience ran out while explaining a topic, I thought about why I was getting frustrated. I was angry that my student didn't magically "get it". I handed you a hard drive with my entire understanding! Why is this so hard for you?!

I see, the blame-the-student excuse. Have my favorite teachers ever done this to me? Not that I can remember. But it gets worse. I also felt a certain vicious selfishness creeping up. Well, if he can't understand this, then I will always have something he doesn't.

NO. ABSOLUTELY NEVER AGAIN. I will not tolerate the hypocrisy of this anymore. I may prefer to be a student for the rest of my life, but I will aspire to follow these rules.

  • I will try to learn well enough that I could teach someone else.
  • I will share what I know without hesitation.
  • I will remember that everything must be learned, including how to teach.
  • I will not be threatened by the success of teaching. What I have learned cannot be taken from me and is not diminished by someone else having it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Could it be...? Nah, that's impossible.

I feel stuck! Like I'm sitting around waiting for life to move on rather than living my life. I hate this feeling and tonight I'm not going to stand for it.

I decided to reflect on this for a while (the alternative was Pinterest) and I thought about my goals and what I need to do to advance them. Is there anything I can do RIGHT NOW to help me get over this feeling?


Ok not exactly silence. There is ALWAYS something that could be done. But I couldn't think of anything that was more than a break-even proposition. For example, I could go work out, but I'm still sore and bruised and I'm waking up at 6 AM to go work out so there is not a lot of value there.

Then it dawned on me... Is this feeling because my entire life is going according to plan?


I can almost hear my perception of self being rearranged.

1. I am so unprepared for my life to be going according to plan that I am frustrated I don't have anything to do. [Side note: I KNOW I've manufactured a crisis to avoid this sensation before, I'm so glad I don't do that anymore]

2. Nothing goes according to plan. Bring it on. >:D

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Getting a job in corporate America.

When I was trying to land a job as an engineer, I had zero problems getting job offers. Getting the offers I wanted was a little challenging because I had no idea what I wanted. Its hard when you have never had a real job to just decide what you would want that job to look like.

Point is, I had offers, no problem.

Business degrees are different, supposedly. You're supposed to really work at selling yourself and presenting to your future employer as much evidence as possible that you are exactly what they need. I'm ok with this in theory, but at some point I always get asked to phrase something a certain way or to make extra sure I bring up something in an interview even if its barely relevant to the question... Oh, and my favorite is when I'm told to have a flaw/weakness that is not a real flaw/weakness. Like being a perfectionist. "Oh, I'm just so obsessed with getting a problem done right that I'll work myself half to death to make sure of it, its a real weakness of mine."

Here are my priorities in finding a job - as straightforward and honest as I can make them:

1. Does the culture fit? I'm honest, sometimes brutally so. I need to know I can ask questions and say what's on my mind without feeling like I crossed a line every time. I like real criticism. Make me better, push me, that's fine. I also need support, I prefer to be working in a team to working completely alone.

2. Am I solving problems? I need to be investigating real problems or implementing solutions to problems. I have no interest in a desk job trying to maximize return. I want to be protecting something, whether that's a company from legal issues or clients from getting ripped off, or the industry from its own reputation. Finance makes our world function and I want to be on the front lines keeping the industry fair and prosperous.

That's it. I care about what I get paid only out of fairness. I have a great sea of talent and skill and I should be compensated. I'm not after amazing bonus checks.

I'm not in finance for the money. I'm in it because of how important this industry is to everything else. It must be protected. If someone can use my skills to do that, I will be loyal to them for a very, very long time. If no one can, then I will just put aside my vast technical skills and join a local police department.

Thoughts on rolling and staying calm.

This story will cover Reason I Love BJJ #4.

Today during open mat I had the chance to roll with one of my favorite instructors. It was extremely fun and a good reminder of why I like to go to open mat. After I finally had to stop and rest, he said that I did a good job of staying calm, and that he likes to force lower belts to match his pace and I did just that.

I really appreciated the compliment. I feel calm when I roll, at least 80% of the time. I can do better then 80% and I'll work on that, but the level of calm that I feel when I'm rolling is amazing.

Here's my deal. I get bored easily. There aren't many things out there that can focus my mind completely. Until I found BJJ, engineering problems came the closest. I could sit and try and solve a problem for hours. Unfortunately, working out in corporate America was usually not as challenging as my homework was during my undergrad experience. Ever since I graduated college I've been sitting on too many spare moments to think.

I can't be trusted to think of productive things in this situation. End of story. Instead I'll think about how I could've done something better or how I failed in some way. Insecurity manifested. Without a problem to focus on, I waste energy on maintaining a near-constant level of anxiety.

Then I started rolling. Nothing focuses the mind like trying to survive. Trying to recall the techniques needed to escape and avoid being submitted (not to mention planning for some kind of offense, should the opportunity present itself) leaves no room for insecurity. Why wouldn't I be calm?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dealing with insecurity

When I was a child I thought, "When I'm an adult I'll be more confident in myself, adults seem confident"

When I was in college I thought, "When I have a job I'll be more confident, at least then I'll know what I'm doing"

When I had a job I thought, "When I figure out what it is I really want to do, then I'll finally shake off this insecurity"

When I finally figured out what I want my life to stand for I thought, "Maybe I'm a coward because everything that was ever supposed to make me less afraid hasn't worked. I'm still afraid of everything"

I think I finally get it.. Nothing is going to suddenly fix my insecurity. Maybe its a character flaw. Over the years I've practiced the fine art of beating the insecurities down just far enough to take a few steps in the right direction. I have to live with fear but I will not be governed by fear as a slave is by a whip. This is enough for me now.

So here's today's list of beaten down fears (its not even noon!):
Fear of falling on ice
Fear of rejection
Fear of being weak or inadequate
Fear of losing the respect of those I care about

And today's list of dreams that managed to get me out of bed:
Career in law enforcement
Starting a family
Blue belt
Masters degree

"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'” - Mary Anne Radmacher

Monday, March 5, 2012

Song lyrics!

I feel like summarizing my mood tonight through song lyrics. I will flip through my iTunes library and focus on the songs and lyrics that seem to speak to me tonight. Maybe this will make a good meditation topic later.

"Angel of Mercy/How did you move me?/Why am I on my feet again?" - Mercy/OneRepublic

"As pretty as a picture hanging from a fixture
Strong like a family, strong as I wanna be
Bright as day, as light as play
As hard as nails, as grand as a whale
All I wanna be, all I wanna be, oh
All I wanna be is everything" - Everything at Once/Lenka

"And where the journey may lead me
Let your prayers be my guide
I can not stay here, my family
But I'll remember my pride" - Shadowland

"Some people see the revolution but most only see the girl
I can lose my hard earned freedom if my fear defines my world
I declare my independence from the critics and their stones
I can find my revolution I can learn to stand alone..." One Girl Revolution/Superchick

"I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m somewhere I belong" Somewhere I Belong/Linkin Park

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reasons #2 and #3

Continuing the Why I Love BJJ series with reasons #2 and #3.

Reason #2: Oel ngati kame. I only recently realized that I have spent my whole life seeing people through this crazy personal filter. I assumed everyone had their masks and a logical set of virtues and vices and I tried to sum individuals up as being so many pieces. I am not sure why I do this but I think its because I see myself as a set of disconnected parts. I feel like this: 

"Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I've ever known."

I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but now I realize that the pieces make a whole - in me and in everyone else. Its hard to grapple with someone - to be that vulnerable - without dealing with people as they are. Likewise, I feel like the people I roll with see me as I am - flaws and all - and accept me anyway.

Reason #3: Its like having brothers! I'm an only child, so maybe I have no idea, but it definitely feels like I have a huge extended family now.

So this is what learning from failure really means...

I have been trying to express in words why I am now so attached to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. The more I thought about it the more I realized that I should probably just start writing the reasons down. Maybe some reasons will stick with me, maybe some will fade, maybe the whole relative order of importance will shift... maybe I'll just get started.

Today's reason why I am addicted to BJJ is that I now have a better understanding of my insecurities.

Early in my life, I discovered I had a talent for math. I enjoyed math - I wasn't born knowing how to do anything with numbers, but learning how to do it came so easy to me it wasn't even fair.

Now take BJJ - I have no particular talent for it. I have no history of athletic activity and I am often quite slow to learn the muscle memory required for any kind of sport. I started only with enough determination to keep showing up.

This is not about valuing a challenge over the easy path. First, math has been hard for me. Sure, maybe even early calculus was easy but at some point I hit non-linear partial differential equations and it got a little rough. For me, the difference between the two is in my insecurity. I have always been secure in my ability to do math. Whenever I can't solve a problem as quickly as I want to I end up frustrated and angry. Maybe in BJJ I would benefit from more confidence, sure, but working through something without that innate sense of security has changed me.

I now have the smallest glimmer of an understanding of what it means to accomplish something really difficult - something that requires living with insecurity and building confidence from the ground up. This is a work in progress - insecurity still dominates my perspective - but I am more balanced and less frustrated by my failures in every area of my life.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sometimes you need to vent

Small disclaimer: I love my life, today has not been a bad day, but my energy is completely off, so I'm going to rattle off the things that are bugging me in the hopes that these thoughts will be less toxic on my screen than in my head.

1. I HATE this chair. I try to go to school and get some work done and of course all the comfy chairs are taken so I'm stuck at this table where my keyboard is too high and I can't curl my feet under me

[Mid-rant Pause to switch to a comfy chair that just became available] Ha. This is already working.

2. My classes are boring. Why is it so hard for me to focus these days? I find myself thinking about abstract questions and before I know it, I've missed 4 of the professor's slides.

3. I'm feeling deeply insecure and I am so completely sick of this feeling which has haunted me since early childhood. It makes me mean-spirited and prone to anger and jealousy, even towards the people I care about the most. It has to stop.

4.  ....
This list was longer a minute ago, but I already feel better. Back to work.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I took December off. No apologies.

First day back in class and I'm already feeling the impatience that bubbles up whenever someone takes twenty minutes to explain simple mathematics. To deflect some of this I have decided to update my blog with my goals for the next week or so.

1. Submit my resume for a final review
2. Pursue that part-time job idea more throughly
3. Complete Catalyst project work
4. Renew my attempts to combine my degree with BI classes