The Captain and Author

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

— “Invictus” by  William Ernest Henley

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

 

Living a life is sometimes a tricky business. You already know a lot about it when problems occurs to others; but you tend to “lose it” when it comes to your town problems.

The lesson I learnt today is we do have a choice.

It’s fun sometimes to play the victim. Many do that, often. We overestimate the power of all the things and people around us, but underestimate ourselves.

Last night, I had a drink with my good friend Diane. She has been suffering from a breakup of a ten-year relationship. She lost 10 kg within 3 months, because she couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep for almost 2 months after it happened.

Of course, as how everyone gets over a breakup, she got better. Sadness comes from time to time, but she feels free now. “I haven’t felt this free and… light for a long time. Too long.” she said.

Diane is a girl of the romantic. She has a soul for art and a wish for helping the less fortunate in the world. After a Gin&Tonic, she said to me: “I believe that the universe has purpose for everyone. I just need to find mine. When the road doesn’t feel right, it is the wrong road to be on.”

“But we all have our choice on this.” She said, “we can choose how the universe wants us to live, to achieve our own purposes. Or we can ignore it, living in the feeling of wrongness for the rest of the road.”

And never get to where we are supposed to go.

It’s just like Henley wrote in his poem. If there is fate, then I’m my own captain.

Thinking about what our purpose assigned by the universe is — for me, this is living consciously.

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Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

I believe, that we are actually not as smart as we think. People can be tricked into wanting something which they did not wish for.

I believe, we are what we believe we are.

Living a life is like telling ourselves a story. As authors, we already have a vision of how the story should go. But when the plot goes on, we start to have different expectations on how the story line is supposed to follow. That influences how the story as a whole turns out in the end, and of course, it also affects our “ending”.

Our envisioned story for ourselves, is “the assigned purpose from the universe”.

Maybe everything that happens to everyone on this planet — billions of different story lines — is a composition of a grand novel by somebody else. For better or worse, useful or pointless, we should be a satisfying lead role in our own story. A lead role will experience ups and downs, fulfillment and disappointment, comedy and tragedy. I only wish: mine, will be a good read.

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“I chose the suffering that I am going through.” said Diane. “It brings me to another direction. I chose the direction. I don’t know where it leads to… not to perfection or anything like that. Happy ending is not what I wish for. But I will keep myself and the loved ones around me happy.”

We don’t know when our stories are going to end. Maybe in tens of years, maybe next month, maybe later today. But let’s just try to have as little regrets as possible when that moment comes.

 

30 Days Writing Challenge – Day 8

 

雪山中

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Photo by Flo Maderebner on Pexels.com

恐惧是可怕的。

但是迷惑更是。

已经很久没有勇敢面对过自己的真心。原来,自己成为这样的人也是有根源的。

因为我的父母从来没有勇气对我表达足以致痛的实情。

为了逃避自己的难过,以及想要面对可能残酷现实的好奇心,我来到瑞士的雪山之中。

身在雪山之巅,俯瞰周边绿绿的树林与村落,我想的却一直是,我该带我的家人好好来这里看一看。

我要努力,要让他们来欧洲好好看看。这个世界有多大,这里有多美。

而回去,就是要面对一定会来的事实。而我,却是如此胆小。我的怯懦,则都是从我的家庭教育中得来的。以爱的名义(也是因为真的爱吧)欺瞒着别人。其实也都是非常自私的表现。

逃避的确是我最擅长的了。可是不管怎样选择逃避,这件事是没有时间让我逃避的。

在这里还有两天。我会好好告诉我的家人,我去了那里,和谁在一起。但是我也要一个真相。这么久了,这么多痛苦,怀疑,回忆和眼泪。我也算值得了一个真相。不论那是一颗可以放下的心,或者是一场即将到来的恶战。他们应该相信我。他们不该总是想保护我,就将我与险恶的现实尝试着隔离。这样的结果不过是让我更加难过,更加痛苦而已。

好与坏,总是要面对。尤其是和别人有关的。欺瞒,就不是对的爱的方式吧。爱是保护,但也应该是相信。爱应该是,为了爱对方,而更加好好爱自己。有心享受爱的愉悦,也要知道我们都要承受爱的责任与随之而来的严肃与不可逃避的痛苦。爱是尊重。

不要怕。一切都还不晚。

 

30 Days Writing Challenge – Day 7

 

Keep Your Eyes on Where Your Ball Should Go

Keep your eyes on where your ball should go. A classic metaphor teaching us to focus on the intended destination. But if the destination is too far away, it may only leave us pain and frustration.

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When the journey is very long, longer than you know how. You might lose patience, you might lose faith. What can possibly keep you going?

It will be easier, if you just enjoy being on the road. Close your eyes, feel the wind blowing in from the outside. Be silent, with the noisiness of the strange world. Because that’s how you make friends with it.

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People nowadays always say: don’t just exist. Start living!

Sometimes it is hard to feel alive. Living means experiencing the world around you. If we keep using the metaphor of life as a road trip, living is what you are experiencing now — it’s the wind, the sound, the company next to you, the beautiful or sometimes awful view outside.

Living is not the destination.

Living is nothing else but now.

That’s saying, the ball metaphor is better used for redirecting one’s emotion. Someone believes his life is miserable is not able to feel the happiness around him, not to mention starting to do something to make his life a little better. This is why I’ve always been afraid of growing cynical. (Unavoidably I did, a little bit.) Cynicism comes from negative experience and focusing only on the negativity and losing hope.

If you want the ball to land in the basket, looks at the basket, and throw the ball.

It might land in the basket. It might also not.

If it does, pick up the basket; if it doesn’t leave them there — it’s just a basket, and a ball.

Anyway, get back to your car, and keep driving.

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30 Days Writing Challenge – Day 6

We Can (not always) Have It All

Thoreau, Gandhi, Mandela — it’s easy to see why their words and ideas have been massaged into gauzy slogans. They were inspirational figures, dreamers of beautiful dreams. But what goes missing in the slogans is that they were also sober, steely men. Each of them knew that thoroughgoing change, whether personal or social, involves humility and sacrifice, and that the effort to change oneself or the world always exacts a price.

But ours is an era in which it’s believed that we can reinvent ourselves whenever we choose. So we recast the wisdom of the great thinkers in the shape of our illusions. Shorn of their complexities, their politics, their grasp of the sheer arduousness of change, they stand before us now. They are shiny from their makeovers, they are fabulous and gorgeous, and they want us to know that we can have it all.

— Brian Morton, “Falser Words Were Never Spoken”

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Morton’s article makes it clear that the words that we thought were from the great figures who encourage us, are actually illusions of ourselves in which we reinvented the people like Gandhi, in order to make them tell us what we want to hear.

“We can have it all.” Oversimplified slogan worsens the hardship that facing us everyday.

Why do we need to repeat the “words from the great” like mantra everyday?

Quotes are supposed to be followed by a source — said by whom. (Although I’ve been wondering since I was little: is the chance of two people saying the same thing really that low?) But nowadays, many quotations by celebrities in different areas are everywhere — on posters, postcards, t-shirts, hats, key chains, notebook covers, Facebook wall, Instagram feed…

A positive celebrity is a symbol her/himself. The symbol of the positiveness shines a better and more effective light on the quotes that are probably from her/him, or assigned to her/him.

There are two possibilities of what happens when a quote like the following appears in your social media feed:

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If you didn’t know who this guy was, you might first notice the quote. Then you thought: “hey, he’s right! I totally agree with him and I need someone to tell me that!” Then you might google him, and get to know who Justin Bieber is, and start to like his music and so on. In this process, this picture increased the influence of the singer. It might have had some good effect on you too, while you read it. But most importantly, you are thinking “Justin Bieber is such a smart cookie!”

If you first notice Bieber’s photo, you might think: “Hmm, I don’t really like him.” But then you saw what he “said”, which you also appreciate because you think you “need to be strong”, because you are also “talented” but not everybody likes you. Then you might think: “well, he’s not so bad.” Like this, this picture improved the celebrity’s image, and made him more likable, to some degree.

If after seeing the photo of Bieber and reading the quotation, you remain indifferent — congratulations for…nothing. It just means that you are not a Justin-Bieber person. But it doesn’t mean that you are immune to all the other celebrity spectacles.

How about…

Business

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Love

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Funny

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You are not stupid

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It’s like when we are in kindergarten, we fell down and got hurt, we needed our parents or grandparents to come to us and tell us “everything will be okay.” They were the people we wished we could be.

They are the voice we would like to believe. We want to have it all. We need to be told that we can have it all.

30 Days Writing Challenge – Day 5

How I Redirect My Attention from Negative to Positive

It is very hard to stay in a positive routine everyday while you encounter disappointment also on a daily basis.

Life, sometimes like a bitch, just wants to drag you down for no benefit for herself.

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And, of course, while writing here, I got distracted by something else that I always wanted to search online. I was away from this editing page for 15 minutes. Yes, feeling distracted can be very frustrating. Like all the other things that are frustrating my daily life.

Not wishing to bump you up (since you are reading till now) by my dissatisfying life phase, I just want to record how I’m feeling everyday. So when the day come — when I finally get to express the goodness of things which I do HAVE in my life, I can look back, and realize how this journey was, how much obstacles there were, and how proud I should be of myself, for overcoming them and pulling it all through.

I should remind myself on one point more often: everything I’m experiencing right now is becoming part of who I am. By the time I arrive at the end of the road, this moment, “the past” of the future me, will have become the composition of the whole definition of “me”. I wish I will be able to feel happy and fulfilled. I might not conquer the world, but I just want to make something in my life which I can call meaningful.

Meaningful for myself, for the people I love, and even better, for the people I don’t know. Meaningfulness can be often defined out of subjectivity. The meaningfulness I would like to have, can be from any of these parties’ perspective. I’m not intentionally try to play noble or anything by saying this, but I will be happy if any other people say that I did meaningful things in my life.

Selfish achievement is motivated by human greediness. There will never be enough. Forever lacking the true satisfaction from achievement is the curse of a lonely, “successful” life. (Why am I giving my opinion on this? I’ve never been “successful”… )

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So the cheesy saying is right afterall: love is the cure.

Self love is the ground rule for loving somebody else. Loving others keeps the self love healthy, for it prevent us falling into the selfish pit.

 

30 Days Writing Challenge – Day 4

The Best Time is (if) Now

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My interview yesterday was, without any exaggeration, a disaster.

I’m not usually bad at interviews. In fact, I always give better impression and build connection with the people in a face-to-face situation. Being invited to an interview is already a step forward towards getting the job. I know. I was grateful for the opportunity. Yet, when I started to open my mouth talking to the three people sitting in front of me, looking nice but also sceptical, I realized, how unprepared I was.

All these years, what I’ve become is a person who believes herself to be someone that she’s not. Overestimating myself led me to underestimating the real world around me. The ”self” that I thought I was building in the past three years was nothing more than an hallucinating image of a strong, intelligent, and  out of the day-to-day self storytelling and a group of loving but sometimes misleading friends.  I finally got to know, yesterday at the interview, whilst I was talking — how unlogic I sounded, how unorganised my arguments were, and the self-doubt that I reflected from my unstable voice, clearer and clearer.

I failed myself. That’s the only idea I had when I walked out from that building after the horrific 45 minutes. I spent the whole day sitting in front of my computer, wondering what has gone wrong for the past three years.

I miss my years in the kindergarten. Focusing only on the present has made me fulfilled all the time — the emotions to the fullest — happy or sad. But the emotions were intensive but, very short. Like everything else, everything passes. I had dreams about ”when I grow up”. Because mother always talked about it: ”you can only do this, when you become a grown-up.” I did look forward to it, and tried to imagine how that’s going to be like. But my focus quickly changed back to the now and present. Never regretted, because I never looked back. I never needed to.

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I miss the time when I was in elementary school. Everything was so easy. I received so much praise for a little effort. An artecraft made of wool threads and a pencil, a dance show which I was the lead dancer as well as the director and choreographer… I could do anything and achieve anything, if I wanted. As far as the things I could influence by myself concerned, nothing was hard. All the classes, sport, dancing… I was always in charge, for myself. I decided what I liked and disliked. Having nothing to fear, I had faith in what I was capable of.

I miss the time when I was in my Bachelor’s in China. Getting up at 6:30 everyday, spending the whole day in the library reading and writing, going running 10,000 meters at 21:00, going back to my dorm, eating a yogurt, watching an episode of Fringe, and going to sleep — I was fighting for a goal, the most important but also upcoming goal. I wanted to escape from where I was. I didn’t belong there. I focused. I was fearless. For me, there was no plan B. For me, it wasn’t the best time, but that was the best version of me.

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Unlike the present I’m living in right now.

So what is the best time of my life? The best. I mean, for myself, not for some social standard created by others. When I doing nothing else but focusing on the present moment, and taking charge for that moment, and seeing myself as how I really am (merits and flaws), having a goal that I really, really, really want to achieve, and everyday doing something that leads the way to it — if these are not going to make me feel ok again, I don’t know what will.

So, I am living in my best time, if I decide to do all the mentioned things, now.

 

Taking steps is easy
Standing still is hard.

— Regina Spektor ”You’ve Got Time”

30 Days Writing Challenge – Day 3 (5 Days between day 2 and day 3 … the plan broke down again. But I will still do it. Let’s see how long time it’s going to take me finish this ”30” days writing challenge)

Removing the Object That Makes You Sad

There are good days. There are bad days.

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Today is one of those days which cannot be simply describe as “good” or “bad”.

Woke up late. But cleaned up my apartment and went swimming. Talked to my family in the afternoon. My mood was lightened up as soon as I made them laugh.

I’ve never studied psychology. But now I understand how important it is for a person to feel that they are needed, they are capable, they are worthy.

Many have been telling me (I myself as well), that there is no point of proving yourself to others. Because it is your life, glorious or sucking. The most important is how you feel about yourself, at this moment. But doing this wouldn’t necessarily mean that you are “feeling good about yourself and not caring about other people’s opinion”. Maybe, you are feeling good because you are enjoying saying and acting different from the vast majority who do care a lot about how the other people’s judgement.

After all, feeling different and special is also many people’s wish.

Coming back to how I felt today.

I felt guilty for getting up late on a Thursday. I felt bad because I’m still jobless. I felt shitty because I haven’t done sports for so long. So to sum up, I felt terrible. About myself and my life. Yet, everything changed when I made a joke while talking to my grandma on Skype. She laughed, I kept going, telling her all the funny things which she did when I was there the last time with her. She kept laughing. After hanging up, my heart became so light — the terrible feeling disappeared.

My life is still in a pretty bad shape right now. But somehow that stopped dragging me down. It’s like when you have a painting at home. It’s drawn by an old lover. You got it after a heart-wrenching breakup. When you first got it, you hung it on the wall behind your sofa. You looked at it every time when you passed by. And you felt sad looking at it. The paining had an impact on you, strongly and continuously. Every time.

But after a few months, you have gradually gotten used to the painting in your living room. You still look at it. But now, only seldom, you throw a glance over it. Maybe you have decided to move on, and really making it. Most of the time you are not even noticing that it’s there. The painting has lost the constant influence on your attention, let alone your emotion.

It is still there. But its impact on you has been decreased.

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The suppressed influence of the painting on you has not been completely destroyed. It comes back, when you realize how much you are still loving him/her. The only way to completely stop the object from hurting you, regardless of other factors that you are not in charge, is to remove the object from your life. Or at least your sight.

I still need to hold myself together again, by doing everything which I believe, will make me feel less shitty about my current situation. Meanwhile, removing the reason to feel shitty is a grand action scheme which includes getting up early (the most important comes first), fulfilling at least 1 to 2 tasks daily, and most importantly, finding a job. (Or preferably, a PhD)

At the same time, I will need to pick up the little “pain killers” that prevent me from dropping in the self-pity and self-scorning pit again.

Go outside. It’s summer after all. The nature can only cheer you up.

 

 

30 Days Writing Challenge – Day 2

What is Stopping me from Being Who I Want to Be?

I have been asking myself a question quite often lately: aren’t you tired of “starting new”? Don’t you want to give up “giving up” a plan?

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I realize, nobody else in my social circle seems to being stuck in stillness, but me.

“Feeling trapped”. This is exactly what I’m feeling. And this is exactly what I want to get rid of.  People say, if you feel like something’s got to be changed right now, do it, before you hit rock bottom.

But some people (I’m proudly to be one of them), who are used to letting themselves free fall, hitting the bottom, feeling the pain, and then skyrocketing back up, with the assistance of the force of back bounces.

And maybe, free falling again.

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I was not scared of restarting the upwards effort. But I knew exactly where it would head to — which I hated. And I still do.

But then I panicked, finally. Because I realized how “okay” I feel about this vicious circle that was making me stuck here. I realized, nobody is absolutely irreplaceable in anybody’s life. But my life belongs to me. I’m never a fan of absolute statements. But that’s two absoluteness I can absolutely make.

I’m feeling numb.

If I were a limb, feeling numb like this, probably indicates that I’m becoming useless and not treatable anymore — that’s death for a limb.

So here you go. It’s getting harder and harder to feel the pain of not being who I want to be, the pain of not living the life as how I expect myself to life. It’s been so long since I’ve had any sense of self-fulfillment (not after I finished my Master Thesis). Or dating back to the first time I move to this dream city of mine — goal achieved. Now start enjoying the aimlessness.

And later suffering from it.

 

 

 

 

30 Days Writing Challenge – Day 1