Learning Never Stops

I’ve learned a few lessons in the past couple of weeks.  I have irritated myself with mistakes.  I have been disappointed by how I react to people or situations.  But in the end I have learned various lessons.  I observe myself during situations, realizing I am acting in specific ways – in ways that I wish I didn’t, but didn’t have the courage to act otherwise.  Afterwards, I looked back, and knew the mistakes I had made.  They were very clear.  I thought about how I would react the next time something similar happens, and I hope that I am able to react in a way that I would be happy with.

Most fears come from how I think people will think about me.  It happens everyday.  How will they look at me when I pick my son up from school?  I have visible tattoos in a society that doesn’t accept them.  What will that person think when I remind them of something they owe me?  Will they think I am a greedy person?  Even if they did, why should I care?  I know in my mind, what is right for me.  What other people think – or more specifically, what I think other people think – about me should really have no bearing on my own life.  BUT, yet it does.  It prevents from being me.  Actually, it is just me that is preventing myself.

Stuff happens in life, but it’s not the stuff that happens, but how we react to it that is most important.  The things that have happened to me in recent weeks are like signals from myself to indicate that I am unhappy with an aspect of myself.  The occurrences are indications that I need to change something, I need to learn something, I have some of deficiency, or some kind of ignorance.  Feelings of pain, anger, irritation, annoyance, bitterness, stubbornness are the feelings of growth.  The old cliche, no pain, no gain is literally true.  Without some kind of death, there is no life.

Every time some challenge occurs, something that I struggle with, something that bugs the hell out of me; these are little deaths.  The death of some kind of innocence, something I did not forsee, something that had to die in order for me to grow.  The thing is, there will always be these kind of deaths, some larger and more destructive than others.  I will learn to keep dying.

Months ago, I told myself that I need to make mistakes in order to learn.  And now, the fruits of my labour are being born.  Mistakes have been made, lessons learned, growth achieved.  These things are part of what makes me an adventurer.  What makes me feel uncomfortable will surely help me grow.  I don’t think I have ever achieved anything useful in a zone of comfort.  And I could point to times of discomfort where I learned the most about myself.

And that’s kind of what it’s all about: learning about myself.  learning what I am capable of.  Yes, it really is a hero’s journey, and I wouldn’t change it for anything else.

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Faith in Youth

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Today I met an inspiring young man, all of 18 years old.  He carried himself with grace and humility.  He was wise beyond his years.

He has recently returned to his home country after being away for 2 years.  Can you imagine?  Being 16, leaving your own country, going to school in a place where your own language is not used.  Could you handle it?  Would I have been able to?  I don’t know.  I know I was too wrapped up in my own seemingly meaningless youth at that point in my life to care about personal growth and challenges. Hell, it took me up until a couple of years ago to realize the way I did shit wasn’t really cutting it on the development front.

But the guy I met today has that going for him already.  It kind of restored my faith in the youth of today.  Because I know how sidetracked and carefree we can be as teenagers.  And this is Japan.  I know some shit happens here, but the kind of stuff I was doing as high school student in Canada was probably worse.  So I am aware of how messed up youth can be.  And not having family to help out and set you straight can be devastating.

It was just refreshing to meet a young dude with tons of potential and ambition.  But maybe I’m wrong and there lots of those types out there already.  I just hope my own son will listen to reason, have a supportive network and seek out opportunities.  I waited too long to do that myself.  I wouldn’t consider myself a failure by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly wasted a lot of time doing nothing.  Knowing now how quickly time passes, I would give advice to youth -if they were to listen-to not waste time playing video games, hanging out in arcades (does those still exist?), stealing shit, doing drugs, getting wasted, fighting, etc…..all that dumb shit.

I definitely traveled alot when I was younger.  I would always say travel when you can.  I learned so much about myself that way.  Now, travel takes on a more relaxed and comfortable tone.  It’s less about challenging myself and more about pampering.  But when you’re young, there’s not much pampering, and that’s a good thing.  We need challenges to grow.

Again, back to the young lad I met today.  He is ready to take on the world it seems.  He is up for a challenge.  I respect that.

Made me feel good about the possible state of the world after my own kid(s?) grow up.  Cuz I know I haven’t done much to help it out.  Faith now lies in the spirited and dedicated youth of today.

 

Just Walk Away

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Sometimes I encounter little tests.  How I react to these tests takes me a step closer, or a step farther away from the kind of person I want to be.

I have changed in the past few years.  I used to let my emotions take control of my ability to rationalize, so that I would simply respond to such ‘tests’ with anger, jealousy and spite.  My late father provided the earliest examples of how NOT to deal with situations that had the potential to evoke such negative feelings.   I was not immune to the rage that flowed through his blood and infected mine.  I didn’t have the strength to resist my own urges.  There were times I cowered in fear of his reactions, and in turn, I have laid bare  the raw reactions that come from anger, irritation, annoyance.  In doing so, I have also instilled fear in those I love.  Afterwards, I saw clearly the consequences of letting emotions drive my reactions, and I regretted them to no end.

But like I said, I have changed.  I no longer succumb to the dark side of emotions.  I do not let myself engage.  It takes an enormous amount of restraint to not let my feelings wash over me.  In those moments, I breathe deeply.  I concentrate my breaths, allowing the rhythmic motion of my chest to calm me down.  I keep my mouth shut, or I lower my voice to low whisper, evoking in myself a feeling of calm, rationality.  I examine the person I am arguing with.  I tell myself, I cannot control what they do or think.  I can only control myself.  I force myself remain quiet, in control.  Yes, I tuck my balls between my legs, and run away from myself, because it is myself that I fear:  The irrational child within me who cannot see beyond his own desire to win, the desire not to lose, the desire to hurt.

I can only control me.  Sometimes that is difficult, but the consequences of not doing so are at best unpleasant, and at worst, harmful.  So I step back, look at myself, feel the swell of emotion rising up, and I bat it back.  I resist the urge to confront.  Because in the end, I have only myself to confront, and that is challenging enough.

I just walk away.