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2022 Yearly Review: Losing to Win

“The only real test of intelligence is if you get what you want out of life.” – Naval Ravikant

Every year I try to track my life through monthly themes.

The process is relatively simple – I pick two weaknesses that I feel like need to work on and I give those two themes a little more attention each month.

At the beginning and end of the month, I write down my thoughts on the process.

I started doing this halfway through 2019.

I did it completely in 2020.

I missed a few months in 2021.

I only managed to do two months in 2022.

Funny enough, I felt as if I ruined my yearly tradition by not reflecting…but that is something I felt last year as well. This is a pattern I fall into. I noticed this when I wrote the following passage:

A painful anxiety throughout the year was knowing that I was going through my days, my most valuable days, with very little reflection. Perhaps I practiced reflection more than the average person I interacted with, but no where near enough that myself or my family deserved. I knew that I would have to write a yearly reflection, but I did not have my themes. I felt like since I was not keeping up with my old structure, I had lost the ability to reflect upon the year. How silly. But such a real struggle for me.

The most useful part of reflection is noticing these patterns in me that are clearly delusional and self destructive. So I recognize the pattern and move forward. Keeping with the reflecting as much as I can with the intention to extract value where I can.

This year I lost heavily. I had to let go of many things in order to win in the ways that actually mattered.

This year felt like I was in The Monkey Trap.

I felt like the monkey who won’t let go of the banana even if it means freeing themselves from a trap.

I was caught up in holding on to my goals and beliefs so tightly that I was stuck in a trap of my own creation.

I’m grateful to say that I have learned the value of letting go of my previous desires to obtain the freedom to pursue new ones.

This year I didn’t blog, make music, content, exercise, build business, play video games nearly as much as I wanted to, but I was able to do something more.

I was able to be a father and a pillar in my community. Both of which require more than I believed I could provide.

I was upset when I saw my streaks dying, month after month of not creating, not dedicating my time to myself – but then I would have moments when I’m with my daughter and I can see her getting older and growing before my eyes.

I realized that those moments are the most valuable and no matter what I was pursuing. Any earthly goal that I could conceive would be just to reach these moments that I already have.

I felt guilt because I have not accrued mass wealth, but that would have just been to spend time with my children anyway.

So this post will be a way for me to reflect upon another just as eventful and meaningful year.

All journal entries are in italics and my comments from today follow CM:

January – Vision & Patience

Beginning of the Month:

I’m trying to reflect, but it’s hard to find time. Any time that I do have to myself is usually when I am extremely tired. I’m still “cursed” with my need to be productive, so I’ve been keeping any progress I make in my head. For example, I only had a few minutes to write this reflect so I did the majority of the “reflecting” while I was desperately trying to stay awake feeding my daughter. After all, most of writing is thinking. But that got me realizing, that I do not necessarily need to have dedicated time to work on a project, I just need to dedicate my thoughts to it. That is what I’m trying to practice with vision. I want to be better able to tap into my ability to create and sustain a vision. Perhaps this will be able to give me the progress I so desperately crave. As for patience, this is a common theme for me. I want everything done yesterday, I don’t know why. I want all my business ideas and creative projects to be finished. If I work on patience, I will find what I’m looking for. At least, that’s the plan. Last year, being patient was exactly what I needed to be. Despite patience being a frequent compliment that I receive, I don’t feel like I am a patient person at all.

CM: This was an omen for how the year was going to go. I definitely not not find the time to reflect for a large portion of this year and I felt it weighing on me every day. Interesting how many of the thoughts I had then are similar to the thoughts I have now. Perhaps lack of reflection keeps us stick in the same loops, until we realize our way out of them.

End of the Month:

It’s hard doing these themes without having the themes in my face on a regular basis. Usually, I would have the themes written on a whiteboard in my room so I could see them, but just holding them in Notion isn’t the business. I didn’t check my themes for the entire month and tbh I forgot about them. However, taking the time to think about the last month and how I’ve worked on my vision and patience has shown me that I haven’t fell off the path completely. I’d like to think I’m improving when it comes to my patience. When I’m at work, I’m more patient with my students and with myself too. Sometimes I trip, but I like to think I’m getting a little better. When it comes to vision, I think it’s interesting that I chose it because I had a hard time maintaining the bigger picture this last month. It’s like I knew that I was going to be caught up in the rise and grind of being a teacher intern while getting my masters while doing the EdTPAs. It’s been tough, but every now and again I remember the vision and I keep chugging a lot….because what else can I do. It’s okay to feel the way I’ve been as long as I remember that it is all in service to something greater.

CM: Oh, I’ve been done with my Master’s degree for a while and I forgot how bad the grind was. This was a tough time. Every minute had to be planned and executed perfectly or the “house of cards” would fall. I’m so happy to be past that now. I was hyper aware of my streaks and reflection habits dying. It’s a shame that it got the best of me. EdTPAs were trash and a half.

February – Resilience & Gratitude

Beginning of the Month:

This month I need to work on my resilience and gratitude. Manly because the thought of improving either seems sickening. Resilience because I’m entering an extremely tough portion of my program: I’m working on the EdTPAs, while teaching, while working on my masters, while being a relatively new father. Plus, it’s not like I’m just trying to do all of these things in a half assed sort of way, I’m trying to be bomb at all of these. (Maybe except the EdTPAs). As for gratitude, even thought I practice it every morning, it’s been tough to be grateful for my circumstances. I’m sure I need a perspective shift, but I also feel like that doesn’t take away from the burden and rigor of what I am going through. Nonetheless, I’m going to work on my gratitude and hope my misery lessens. Maybe this is all just what it’s like to be a student again. I feel like I’ve been in grad school long enough to lose sight of the “fun” to role-play a student and battle test my ideas. I’ve been able to learn a lot, but it’s also taking a toll on me physically and mentally.

CM: Definitely true. What is funny about this post is I had a few people ask how to better practice gratitude throughout the year. LOL.

End of the Month:

nothing written

CM: This was when I clearly hit my breaking point. I stopped pretty much everything that I believed was worth doing. I was able to do some things over the year, but February was when it primarily stopped. I guess I did improve both of these themes now that I am reflecting on them in December. Even though I may pay attention to my growth and development more than the average person, I did not feel as if it was enough for me to have net growth over the year in these specific domains.

Since years are much longer than 2 months and I had quiet a bit happen this year that I want to reflect on a few key moments that stick out when I think back on what influenced me most this year.


This year I had an event that distinctly marked my transformation from my role in my childhood family to father of my primary family.

It was painful, but necessary. The loss of one life, to gain a new and better life. Since this is a public post, I am not going to go in detail. However, it was extremely important for me to go through this time. It showed me the importance of a boy accepting his responsibility to protect, provide, and become a valuable man.

It was also an experience to live out the wisdom that I have recently learned. The specific story escapes me, but the archetypical biblical story of moving out of tyranny to get to the promise land is as real as can be. After escaping tyranny, one would expect to get to the promise land, but that isn’t the case. You end up in a desert. Upon faith and perseverance, you can find a path through the hostile and barren land into the promise land where you can enjoy everything you have prayed for in your darkest times.

As unlikely as that story seems true…it is. It was the narrative that got me through the desert and into my promise land.

In the desert, I effectively was separated from my daughter, fell into homelessness, all while still working on my degree.

These were some of the darkest and challenging times of my life. Unfortunately, that itself is an extremely loaded statement. I compromised on many of my values and had to act counterintuitive to my intentions in order to move out of this space. I had to let go of my previous beliefs in order to move forward. The Monkey Trap again.

Fortunately, we were able to find and rent an apartment to give us stable shelter until we were able to enter the relatively highly guarded world of homeownership. (This was not something I knew was going to happen until mid December) This was not by accident. The timing was remarkable, but it was also after years of preparing for this.

After this dark time, I was reunited with my daughter.

Never again will I be involuntarily separated from her. Since she was so young, when she saw me again, I could tell I was a stranger to her. That was a heartbreaking experiencing. Thankfully now, she sees me as her secondary caregiver and trusts me to protect her when surrounded by unknowns. The pain parents feel when they want to be with their children but cannot is excruciating. I cannot imagine losing a child permanently.

On a lighter note, I was able to go on my first work sponsored strip to San Diego to be trained as an AVID teacher.

This was super cool to see teachers developing themselves to be the best educators they can be. Most were like this, some where there because their school mandated them to be. During the training sessions, I realized that my insights and perspectives were valuable even to the teachers who have been around the block a few time (20+ years of experience). I could even see the educators who were there because they had to enjoyed my insights. More evidence that I need to share my thoughts. Training teachers is something I am capable of doing despite my minimal of formal experience.

This was also lovely because I got to develop deeper relationships with my co-workers and take my daughter to the city where her mother and I met. Seeing her by the rooftop poolside was a sight I would have worked my whole life to see.

I finished my Master’s degree in Education.

This was no doubt extremely difficult. If I was any less of the man, or scholar, that I see myself to be, I would not have been able to complete this. This moment meant a few different things to me.

I used it as an opportunity to share my accomplishments with others to see who would be happy for me when I win. The results were surprising to say the least. The people who knew me the least were happiest for me. The people who knew me the most could not have cared less. Shocking and painful. Despite the negative emotion, I noticed that may be why I do not care to celebrate my wins.

This was starkly obvious to me when my students asked me why I don’t hang my degrees in my room. The honest answer was because I learned to not care about my accomplishments. At least, not a petty Master’s degree in Education.

Despite the other insights, this was an important step in legitimizing my claim to disseminate educational information to the public. I know I don’t need a degree for that, but my super-ego says I do and hopefully this prevents any subconscious blockages.

First escrow fail, second escrow succeeded.

Pretty much this. We were in escrow for condo which fell through. That was heartbreaking. I also see why so many people get turned off by Real Estate. It was an ugly experience for me, but I know RE Investing can be extremely lucrative if I can get the system down right. The second escrow for a bigger and better house is going through and is a much better experience than the last.

After the first deal busted, I was ready to not enter homeownership for years, if not decades more. But, we kept faith and perseverance and now we are ending this year with a stark juxtaposition for the beginning.

A new year of develop relationships with students and sinking my teeth deeper into teaching.

As a second year teacher, I was nervous when the school year started because I had to start over making connections with all the students again. I found myself missing my classes from last year because the connections made the job palatable. This year, I’m discovering 160 new relationships and it is just as meaningful, fun, and challenging as last year.

This job renews every year. It is painful, but rewarding. I still frequently get gifts and complements which is so damn gratifying I can’t put words to it.

I had the wonderful privilege of starting an Investment club on campus where I teach students principles of personal finance and investing after school. This has created a community on campus that has improved the experience of many of the students who participate.

I was able to be a judge for the science and engineering fair. As lame as it might seem to work extra duty on a Friday, I found it to be an important experience for me. I needed to witness more proof that I am clearly in a different place in society. The fact that I was called upon for my science expertise is mind blowing to me. Although that is exactly what a chemistry teacher is in society, but to see that it can stretch beyond the classroom was important for me. Especially being on a journey to prove to myself that I can adequately provide useful and valuable information.

I had my first date with Kyra after becoming parents.

I cannot express the importance of date nights for two people who are rearing children. In order to be a good parent, one must be a good partner. Spending quality time to rediscover and tend to the flames that started the fire is crucial for a stable and happy family.

Plus it was a lot of fun living like we didn’t have kids for a bit. (Funny enough, we spend most of the night talking about our daughter). We didn’t do anything crazy. We just saw a lecture from a professor. Classic Chris and Kyra entertainment.

The discovery of a lifetime – ANOTHER baby girl is on the way.

Everything from my Becoming a Parent blog post, but X2.

How beautiful it is to be blessed with another daughter. Especially when she is the result of love. I am so excited for the privilege and honor of raising up another beautiful and strong woman for this world. Lord knows we need it. I’m so excited to meet my little girl.

However, this was another Monkey Trap. I realized that I had to lose my expectation of having a son. It’s becoming unlikely that I will have another kid and I confronted the fact that I was addicted to the pride I had in my name. I had to accept that the impact I have on the world does not have to be associated with the name Mukiibi.

While this may seem trivial to many, for me it was intense and difficult to let go. I had to untangle the idea that my pride in my family name was tied up with the love I had for my father and that this pride was a large motivational force in my life. This pride was far more responsible for the majority of my accomplishments than the other qualities that I believed I had. Entertaining the idea that Pride being one of the seven deadly sins, but also the source of many of my accomplishments was difficult. Realizing it was true made me want to vomit.

It’s becoming more likely than not that the name will not carry on. Realizing this loss made room for the love that I will need to properly father my newest daughter, but also allowed me to use virtue and intention as guiding stars for my future endeavors.


Despite the challenges of the year, this has been one to remember. This year was pivotal to my life and my development as well as my family. This was the year so many of my dreams seemed within my reach. I’m excited to see what 2023 will bring.

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On Becoming a Parent

“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.”

Carl Jung

“Happiness comes from suffering. There is no happiness in comfort.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

In the last year, I had the fantastic privilege to undergo the transformation of a lifetime.

I became a parent.

When I found out I was going to be a father, I had a massive rush of emotions. At the time, I was absorbing as much information as I could so I could find something that resonnated with me.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt like if I can’t find my feelings in something external to me, there is a chance I could be losing touch.

I also had this buzzing voice of anxiety in the back of my head saying “if I can’t capture this emotion, then I will ruin my child.” (The first of many transformations)

I desperately wanted to find something that explains what I was feeling, but I couldn’t.

Everything I found on parenting, from books to videos to people, didn’t quite explain what I was going through.

The clichès like “everything changes” or “it will never be the same” wasn’t enough for me. I needed something that fully captured my experiences, or at least pointed to them.

Becoming a parent is a transformation that so many people experience and probably the most important transformation of our lives. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find something that explains this widespread and significant experience.

So I do what I always do when I’m frustrated.

Create.

In high school if I was feeling a certain way and couldn’t find a song that expressed my feelings, then I could write one.

Today I couldn’t find an essay, book, lecture, or anything that captures my experience of becoming a parent.

So I am going to write it myself.

I’m hoping this post does a few things:

1) ensure my sanity

2) helps other people in the process of becoming a parent. I hope others can find themselves in my experience and discover that they aren’t alone.

3) gives my kid(s) some guidance if (God forbid) I cannot give it myself.

(Another of many transformations) I realized that all my actions help create a world that my children will inherit. It is critical that I share my lessons and experiences in a way that is relatively easy to understand so that they may spend their finite time and energy blazing new trails while standing on my shoulders rather than relearning and unlearning pathologies through trial and error.

This first section I wrote during Kyra’s pregnancy. They included my thoughts and lessons in an effort to track my transformation.

Before the Birth

All my life I put pressure on myself to be a better person especially for my unborn children.

That was a common axiom that underscored the majority of my motivations for as long as I can remember.

Every time I went through a terrible experience, I would think “my kids will never have to go through this.”

An experience I’m sure many people can sympathize with.

Coming to Terms with Limitations

I have just discovered I am becoming a parent, and for the first time, I realized that I am who I am.

The person who will raise my children is the person I am now, in all my glory and tragedy.

This was wildly uncomfortable, to say the least.

I realize that this is the same with my parents, all parents. They were equally as flawed and broken when they had me. Children tend to have high expectations of their parents, and view them as godlike, especially in their younger years.

But I see now that they are just people, who have become parents.

They, like all other parents, are human beings with dreams unrealized and unresolved trauma yet to be discovered.

I had to confront all of my ridiculous standards and insecurities, and admit they were ridiculous.

I had to accept that I was not where I wanted to be in life and there was a good chance that my parents weren’t either.

This has given me a new compassion and understanding for all parents.

Becoming a parent has been a massive coming to terms with my own flaws and limitations.

It’s painful to know that my child will have to endure my sins and share in a life that I, reluctantly admit, am not completely proud of.

This truth often brings me to tears.

This life, for better or worse, is both of ours now. So I will do my best to move forward with the proper attitude and congruent actions. I will strive to create a life that I am proud of and happy to share with my child.

For many years, I lived my life as if it is of little consequence and now I must confess, atone, and realize my potential. If I don’t, then it is my child I must answer to.

This is a game where I can’t pretend that I don’t care.

I do. Immensely.

Although this coming to terms with self is deep and intense, I have received wisdom, clarity, and compassion of equal or greater magnitude. I suspect, if a person is attentive and self-aware, then they’ll undergo a similar transformation upon becoming a parent.

Accepting Extreme Vulnerability

Part of this transformation is accepting vulnerability. This is vulnerability beyond any level that I have ever known. I knew it existed intellectually, but it is humbling to experience it for myself.

It’s difficult to accept this vulnerability, especially as a man. I’ve spent so much time and energy learning how to be “tough” and in the times that I grew up, that meant not being vulnerable.

Now, I must unlearn that nonsense and willingly accept that what I care most about in the world can be easily harmed.

I have to accept that I have an undeniable weak point.

When I was younger, I used to pretend like I didn’t care as a technique to limit vulnerability.

I tricked many people into thinking that I didn’t care about a lot of things, but most importantly, I tricked myself.

Now there’s no denying that I care. No hiding in the dark.

I have a theory that parents who abandon their children, specifically fathers, cannot accept this extreme vulnerability. The massive responsibility plays a role too, but I believe the vulnerability is more difficult to cope with.

It’s hard to welcome this feeling, but I must if I am to properly welcome my daughter.

I cannot both fully love my daughter and reject the vulnerability that comes with it.

The beginning of bonding starts with being vulnerable.

Accepting vulnerability makes you alive.

Unlocking New Levels of Will

I always had a sense that there was more that I had to offer than what I was already putting out. Most days I convinced myself that I was giving my all, but I always had a little voice that said I could do more.

Now I can say that that little voice was right.

I love breaking through self-perceived limitations, but becoming a parent gives me a whole new idea of what it means to push myself.

It has given me a new sense of what is possible.

It’s like in the hero’s journey, the hero must tap into a more profound strength that they didn’t know existed. Becoming a parent feels the same way.

No one will love this child as much as I do, and certainly, no one will sacrifice as much as I will for her.

Regardless, the tasks must be done which means they must be done by me.

No exceptions.

I feel like I captured my feelings relatively well in this journal entry that I wrote in February 2021, the month of discovery. I published this in my 2021 Yearly Review.

This month I was thrown for the biggest loop of my life and I lost sight of my themes for a while. Despite the turbulence, Leadership and Persistence have definitely been developed. The new information I got this month unlocked a new level of everything inside of me. While I was trying, half-assed I admit, to develop myself in leadership and persistence, this new jolt has given me everything I need to be an effective leader. Not just of a company, not just of my life, but of my family’s life as well. I’ve also learned how to push myself much further than my perceived capacities. I’ve accomplished things this month I never thought I could. Again I’ve been confronted with the impossible and again I contend with it. This time it is voluntary, and this time the stakes are high. In this case, I have accessed something much deeper than mere persistence. It’s like I have direct access to the fire of humanity inside myself. I am reborn. I was worried that I was going to lose my ability to write and be creative through the new changes, but now I see that staying connected to them in the midst of the chaos is what will enrich life further. I can see I am even more capable of what I was capable of before. It is almost like constraints allow us to access more of our potential, but only after a certain time. I don’t want to be too specific in this entry in case I make it public, but I’m happy with the developments I’ve made over the years and I’m excited to see where this takes me.

The bolded section of this entry really highlights what I was feeling at the moment.

Everyone has heard stories of mothers lifting entire cars to save their children.

Now I can see that those are not fairy tales, but testaments to the strength of the Human Will when fueled by the love for their children.

Excitment & Fear

I’m not sure which I feel the most. Excitement because I cannot wait to see and meet the combination of my love (Kyra) and myself. I desperately want to know which parts of each of us that she will manifest. I want to know her interests and personality. I want to know everything about her.

But at the same time.

I don’t want my life as a childless person to end. Honestly, I love only having to think about myself and I’m scared that I won’t be able to properly consider my daughter’s needs.

I’m worried that I won’t be enough for her. I’m worried that my blind spots are catastrophic and my trauma responses are unregulated. I’m worried that I won’t be able to properly provide and protect. I’m worried that she won’t let me love her.

I’m worried that I won’t be a good enough father.

I’ll flip between these two states multiple times per hour. It’s exhausting and vitalizing.

I don’t know which is more true but I do know that contrary experiences capture the complexity of the human-animal.

Pay Attention to Aims

If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that you get what aim for. To be frank, I didn’t feel like I was ready to have kids. (Looking back, I don’t think anyone feels ready to have kids. If they say they are, but don’t have kids or aren’t trying, then they probably can’t fathom the depths of their ignorance.)

I wouldn’t call my current lifestyle the ideal situation for having kids either.

But part of me wanted to have a family of my own more than anything in the entire world. I would say that the most honest and vulnerable part of me wanted this, and that’s what exactly I got.

If we’re honest enough, we can see that we make choices that lead us to where we want to go.

While I thought I believed I wanted a life of adventure, immense wealth, and travel, but my actions rarely depicted this.

I spent a ton of time developing my relationship with Kyra so that we can create a strong foundation to build a healthy and happy family. I spent even more time learning how to share ideas and becoming reliabile.

I’m sure if I was able to break down the hours of my life, I can see that I spent way more time watering this garden than anywhere else in my life. This is probably because the most authentic part of me was aiming for having a family of my own.

I learned to be extremely mindful of what I want and what my actions are working towards. If I’m not, then I get hit with “surprises.”

Funny enough, I would have many conversations with Kyra where I would complain that I was frustrated because the problems I had in my life weren’t “age-appropriate.” I certainly got what I was aiming for. Now I have all the “age-appropriate” problems I could ever ask for.

Looking back, I was so foolish for being upset about that.

The Death of The Boy

In order to become a good father, I must not be a boy. Like every young man, learning how to become a man has always been a high priority.

Now that I am a father, I have no excuse to act like a child…a boy.

The boy is not fit to be a father because he can only think of himself.

He cannot participate in asymmetrical relationships. Parenting, if anything at all, is an asymmetrical relationship.

I must voluntarily take on responsibilities.

I must be strong and formidable.

I must be reliable and trustworthy.

I must be honest, productive, and generous.

I must be selfless and patient.

A boy cannot properly take on this role without also causing destruction.

The first three days, in particular, were difficult. I felt the boy die within me and a rebirth of a new man take shape in my soul. This is as violent and majestic as a phoenix combusting and rising from the flames. I felt parts of my burn off and the tighter that I held on, the more it hurt.

I had to let go.

I had to accept that I was transforming, and it was permanent.

The death of Chris the Boy made room for Chris the Father.

Since I found out about the pregnancy, all the deadwood, so to speak, had to burn off. All the perceived ideas of who I am and who I want to be had to die. It’s not easy to let go of yourself, but in order to become a parent, it’s necessary. I’m sure this is partly why so many people, men, and women, cannot rise to the occasion.

Confronting Latent Insecurities and Fears

I feel like in order to transform I must overcome the challenge of becoming the worst parts of both of my parents, a fear that I’ve had for a long time.

I’ve seen many people mindlessly repeat the patterns they saw in their parents which produces the same results they had.

While my parents were far from the worst, they are plenty of things they did that I do not plan on repeating with my daughter. I’m not going to outline them here, but the generational trauma stops with me.

The Crushing Responsibility

I heard someone say that being a parent is a crushing responsibility, and in some ways it is.

But this is not a bad thing.

But one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the last few years is that responsibility gives life meaning. When we are responsible for something, we operate on a higher level. We become more resilient and can withstand conditions that would have otherwise ended us.

I have been given the privilege to take on the greatest responsibility, which comes with great access to my own inner strength, tenacity, compassion, and a richer experience of life.

This means I don’t have the luxury of wasting time anymore. I thought I didn’t waste time before the transformation, but now I really don’t. Wasting time makes everything infinitely more difficult with a child. It’s better to maximize what I have. Now I can viscerally feel every second go by. If that second is not properly used, then I am flooded by negative emotions.

While my hypersensitivity to time can be quite uncomfortable, this transformation taught me that we, as human beings, want and need to lift a heavy load. Perhaps I can even say a life that is easy to navigate is not one worth living.

Accepting the responsibility means that I am burdened with a certain set of problems, but set free from so many others. For the first time in my life, I am clear on what is important and what is not. Before the transformation, there was a lot up for debate. Nowadays, not so much.

After the Birth

These are some of the thoughts I recorded after my daughter was born.

Abusive Relationships and Parenting

I heard somewhere that being a parent of a newborn is like being in an abusive relationship. This is because people who are abusive are mentally infants.

I see many new parents who have a tough time dealing with non-reciprocal relationships, but I have been practicing non-reciprocal behavior for most of my life. I constantly felt as if I was giving more than I was getting and I learned to not let that breed resentment in me.

I learned to take on the perspective – if I’m not willing to do it without reciprocal behavior then I won’t do it.

This thought process has made becoming a parent manageable.

Attending to the needs of my newborn daughter is tough, but not unlike abusive relationships that I have had in the past. I must consistently minimize myself and repress my needs in order to meet the demands of the child.

In the past, this dynamic drove me crazy. This is appropriate because I wasn’t a parent. But now, I am not bothered at all by this dynamic because I know that it is appropriate for my daughter to act this way. She litereally is a child! However, it will be my responsibility to socialize her and makes sure she doesn’t act like this forever.

The Dark Side of Becoming a Parent

In the spirit of honesty, it’s not all nice. I was resentful of my need for security and sometimes I believed that having a kid was throwing my potential away. This was a belief that had to burn off quickly.

I realized it was a choice to believe things like that.

My mind can make up so many thoughts that aren’t necessarily true and I don’t have to believe them.

Honestly, it’s revitalizing to believe the contrary – becoming a parent is a goal that everyone should take seriously.

The darker side of becoming a parent is discovering how much a parent loves their child. Unfortunately, there are behaviors my parents committed that I cannot imagine repeating with my daughter.

Reflecting upon on much of my childhood, the question arises “How could a parent treat their child that way?” If they loved me as much as I love my daughter, how can they act that way?

Perhaps they experience the parent-child relationship differently.

Maybe I love my daughter more than they love me.

Maybe they are so unconscious, that they are living a life that they would not approve of.

Whatever the answer, I know I am afraid to find out.

These were questions I wondered often as a child but easily ignored. Now I think about them more often, even though I know it doesn’t do me much good.

One thing that is known, is that my parents primarily operated out of resentment.

I must be mindful of my resentments, especially so I do not accidentally project onto her. I need to be honest about when I feel like I do not want to fulfil my parental duties and deal with those feelings in a healthy way.

If I don’t, then I will create a world in which I will love her less.

The worst part is that no one else in the world will care for her like I do. This means I have to be extremely careful to notice when she does things that makes me dislike her.

If I can recognize those behaviors and stop them before they perpetuate, I can potentially limit the number of things she’ll do to make other people not like her.

This is not because I need the world to like my child.

It is because I want to world to open itself to my child and provide her with opportunities and allies.

If I cannot recognize when my child makes me dislike her, then I cannot help her regulate her behavior.

Children who cannot regulate themselves are quickly rejected from the communities and have a much more difficult experience of life.

Intense Magnification

Becoming a parent has accelerated the process of getting everything I want, but also magnifies the problems within myself. I feel as if the limits on life have been taken out. The happiness I can feel is more intense than what I felt before. The same can be said for suffering.

I’ve also noticed an increased tendency of being self-critical. I think it’s because I don’t want my unconscious pathologies to decide what my daugher’s life is. So I am incentivised to dig deep within myself to be better, be more.

I feel like I have a new access to emotions and a new understanding of asking for help. I used to never ask for help, but now I will let nothing get in the way of fulfilling my duties as a parent. Especially pride, which is a sin I frequently grapple with.

This magnification has also appeared in my relationship with Kyra, my daughters’ mother.

It feels like we are a family now.

We’re constantly improving and learning how to better cooperate and negotiate. Although that does not sound romantic, those are two critical pillars of our relationship and it is what keeps us growing stronger every day.

Mostly Positive Responses

Most people said congratulations, which could mean they either see me as fit to be a parent, or they feel compelled to congratulate me.

Either way this helps me feel like I could handle this, although approval from the masses isn’t a solid foundation.

I’ve become more aware of people’s judgement, or envy.

As sad as it is to say, some people aren’t genuinely happy for me when I share what probably is the best news in the world. I try to live my life by being around people who are on my team. I test that I like to use is sharing good news. If they’re happy for me, then they’re on my team. If they aren’t, then they’re jealous or a possible enemy.

This is a great time to know exactly who will be on my team.

I’m keeping my family close to allies, not enemies.

Constraints are Crucial

Many people see having children as synonymous with “sayin goodbye to freedom.”

Poor thinking.

Life already has constraints and we typically define our lives by our constraints, so I say that it is better to have constraints and a well defined life rather than not.

Yes, there are freedoms I’ve lost, but there are privledges that I have gained. I believe it is a great trade.

I Want Her to Grow Up

When my daughter looks at me, I can see so clearly what I want for her.

I want her to be excited to grow up and fulfill her potential.

I’ve seen too many adults that make me feel like growing up is dreadful.

Why is it dreadful to become more wise, knowledgeable, and capable?

Maybe because most adults don’t try to inspire. Perhaps she can.

Godwilling, I can be an example for her.

My Relationship with Time has Changed

Becoming a parent has taught me more about valuing my time, scheduling, storytelling, patience, and time management more than anything else ever could have.

Free time is an unbelievably powerful force. Having kids makes this clear.

I’ve written many parts of this essay in the middle of the night on my phone while I’m holding my daughter (because she won’t let us put her down)

-Currently she’s 8 weeks old and sleep from 6pm-12am if I’m lucky-

If I am awake I must USE the time, not spend it.

I wish I understood this to the level that I do now, but I know that I could have only reached this level of understanding through actually becoming a parent.

Becoming a parent is deeply discovering consequences. Everything has a cost, and parenting puts that right up in your face.

I have also channelled a greater capacity for patience.

There are times when I want things to speed up, but she is a reminder that nature takes it’s time and happens fast enough.

I remember wanting the pregnancy to speed up. Then I wanted the labor to speed up, and the infant stage, and the toddler stage.

I desperately want to see what my daughter will be like as an adult similarly to how I felt wanting my video game characters to be at full power.

I’ve learned that dropping that tendency and enjoying what I have in the moment is how I get what I will miss when we are older.

I’ve learned that I will get to those points in time, but right now is a moment to soak in as well. I think of this when she is screaming and crying, but also when we are playing.

So many parents tell me that they miss the days when their children were young. Hearing that gives me the patience to take a breath and enjoy the stage she is now.

The Great Hope

Once more, life is full of the genuine wonder and excitement that I once had as a kid.

Except now, the feelings aren’t as overwhelming. I notice that same curiosity of wondering what will actualize from new potential.

I’ve heard that becoming a parent is the opportunity to have the best relationship I could ever have in my life.

Ever.

I didn’t believe this to be true, but after spending time with my daughter I see that it is.

But I also know that it can be destroyed.

The love a child has for their parent is instinctual and as the adult, we can either foster it or destroy it.

I am aiming for the best relationship anyone can have with anyone.

So far so good.

Balancing Control

There’s a growing urdge to control the environment. I feel like if I can’t, then I feel like a bad person.

I had a higher tolerance to urdge before becoming a parent, but I’m not able to tolerate it as much as I used to.

Finding a balance of understanding how much I need to control the environment versus how much I need to control myself is difficult.

For me, becoming a parent puts me in a psychological position where I must play the “parent” role as referred to in Berne’s Games People Play. I felt like if I could not control the environment for my child, then I am a juvenile. As rediculous as that is to say, I could not shake the cognitive dissonance.

Over time I’ve learned, and am still learning, how to find that balance between controlling myself and controlling my environment.

New Relationship to Ambition

I’ve been thinking about the morality of ambition. I’ve always seen it as a good thing, but I feel like I am at a point in my life where being too ambitious is counterproductive.

For a while I wanted to so desperately cling to the systems and habits I previously built. As if those systems were me. I grew more upset every day that I missed my goals. I had to discover that I am working on the greatest project I have ever taken on and will ever take on – it’s imperfect but great.

All of the endeavours that I could ever undertake are not as important as this.

I want to keep aiming up, because that is something that I do believe is absolutely good.

But I don’t need to aim as high and as a result, I can dedicate more to being a better parent.

So In Love

There is no sweeter sound, no more infectious rhythm, than my daughter’s heartbeat.

I’m always thinking of her, especially when I’m not with her.

She get’s cooler every day.

Every day her movements are more and more refined. It’s astonishing.

All of her accomplishments make my heart sing. Ever single one. Even the small ones.

I’m happiest when I’m doing boring things with her like laying down or feeding her.

I love playing with her and helping her develop. There is nothing more gratifying and satisfying.

I was worried that I would get stuck with “some kid,” but she continues to impress me. She constantly reminds me that I am not dealing with “some kid,” but that she is someone who is so much likely that I cannot even begin to understand.

The best part is that she lets me love her. Admittedly, I was worried that I would love her so much and she would not care at all. That fear could not have been further from the truth. She lets me love her in a way that no one else can and that’s enough to bring a tear to my eye. Even at a young age, I can tell that our bond is strong.

Joining the Human Race

I wrote about this in my 2021 Yearly Review: Joining the Human Race. Becoming a parent has given me a compassion and love for the ineffectiveness and ineffcientness of humanity.

My engineering training has taught me to seek and destroy inefficiencies, but becoming a parent has taught me to love them.

Our inefficiencies hold the most joyful and gripping moments of life.

Humans are messy, slow, and riddled with mistakes. That’s what makes us human.

This is not a bad thing.

Do we need to strive to be better? Yes.

Do we need to see human error as wrong? Absolutely not.

Discovering this has given me a new perspective on dealing with people. This is a perspective that was difficult to genuinely believe before becoming a parent.

Children Bring Out the Best in Others

I had a student who brought a gun to school. Before I knew, he saw me in the hallway and asked me about my daughter. He genuinely wanted to know how she was. It felt as if he truly cared for her, perhaps he did.

I found out later that he was armed and he was expelled. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, he just want to look cool in front of his friends. Seek love and acceptance by providing value, not fear. The bottom line is…becoming a parent softens everyone.

Becoming a parent has helped me see the softer sides of all people. I get people smiling in my direction and walking near me as opposed to looking at me with suspicion or hostility. A stark contrast from my experience as a single 6 foot tall Black man, where I usually get the more defensive or hostile side of people.

We had a saying in healthcare: kids are the great equilaizor.

This meant that no matter who you are, seeing a sick or hurt kid will hit you emotionally.

That is true with just every day interactions. People love seeing children and they always bring out their loving side. Kids always level. the playing field.

It’s magical.

Rediscovering the World & Discovering the Future

Loving my child is like rediscovering the world.

Seeing her learn the simple things from using her hands to looking at shapes is amazing. I watched her look at nature for the first time and it was miraculous. I hope more experiences like this are to come. The world is interesting and full of life again.

Loving my child discovering the future.

The world I am leave behind needs to be better for her. She also needs to learn that she needs to do everything she can to make the world better as well.

For a long time, I lived for myself. For the first time, I see how I am just one part of something much bigger. I am part of the force that builds for the future. This means the choices I make are extremely important.

No More Room for Cowardice

There were many fears and insecurities that I had to confront while becoming a parent.

I could not let any of them stop me.

Fear and insecurities are excuses that people use to act like cowards.

When I am fulfilling my duties as a father, there is no insecurity. I am the security. I must become the security.

What is peculiar, is that I had so much insecurity when I would do things for myself. I was just letting myself be a coward. Because I could afford to.

No more.

Last Thoughts

Becoming a parent is both terrible and wonderful, much like the rest of the human experience.

However, I can say that the experience of becoming a parent is something that everyone should take seriously.

I have a theory that if someone were to strive to be the best parent they can be, then they will unlock the most rewarding game humans can play.

Becoming parents makes us human. It is what we are made to do.

Many modern people think otherwise because they have been tricked into thinking that there are other games to play that are more satisfying.

Becoming a parent is the best game we can play. It gives us access to the best experiences.

But only if we do it well.

Categories
Lifestyle Productivity

The Ocho System

“That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee.”

Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)

I got this wonderful idea from American athlete and writer, Joe Holder. The Ocho System is a powerful framework based on the principle:

One helps others. Others help one.

Improving one area will prove all of the areas. Holder presents these areas in the context of wellness and fitness, but I can see this being a broader life philosophy.

Part of what makes this so powerful is taking on the possibility that:

None of them are well, until all of them are well.

Like I said earlier, this can apply broadly across life. So this can apply to our families, communities, and different parts of ourselves.

I had a few experiences in college and shortly afterward that helped me see the world in a different light. I personally discovered the interconnectedness of everything and it’s had a profound impact on me. If my actions affect everything around me, then my actions matter. Suddenly, everything became meaningful and important. As opposed to my semi-nihilistic worldview before — everything isn’t connected and some things don’t matter at all.

Holder has integrated the fact that everything is interconnected with The Ocho System.

There is no one, there is just all.

It is impossible to ignore the effects of one thing on another.

Holder said that The Ocho System is about taking control of physical health and allowing that to bleed into other areas of our lives.

Personally, I think this goes much deeper than our physical health, but the physical is a nontrivial aspect.

It plays off the number 8 and is designed to create an infinite feedback loop of wellness and gratitude. Working on The 8 makes us well, which makes gratitude easier, which makes being well easier. It’s a great way of creating a success spiral.

8 Core Components

Physical Health

Emotional Health

Intellectual Health

Environmental Health

Spiritual Health

Occupational Health

These are developed in the context of our bigger life purpose. Simply working on these parts of our lives isn’t enough, they have to be developed in service to something bigger.

How do we know what the context is?

Just ask why.

Why develop physical health?

Why develop emotional health?

Why develop intellectual health? And so on, and so on…

Answering why will help us when we’re not feeling as motivated to keep up the work.

Developing each of these areas takes time, effort, commitment, discipline, and drive. However, it gets easier the longer we work on them. Like I said earlier, working on these areas creates an infinite feedback loop of wellness and gratitude which makes upkeep much easier too.

I recommend writing down the goals that improve each component. People who write their goals down tend to accomplish their goals more often than people who don’t. Writing down our goals provides a smaller scale clearly articulated purpose.

For me personally, I try to do something every day that benefits each of these areas. I have daily goals that, if met, would improve or maintain my current levels.

A few of these goals are as follows:

Running and Kettlebell Swings for Physical Health

Journaling and Creating Music for Emotional Health

Reading and Writing for Intellectual Health

Cleaning and Responsible Networking for Environmental Health

Meditation, Reading, and Writing for Spiritual Health

Working on my Businesses for Occupational Health

These are just the things I try to do every day. I also try to keep these areas in mind when I’m doing most things. I want the actions I take in the day to benefit me in the best way possible and I can do that by ensuring my actions benefit one of the 8 areas.

I also want to include another way of looking at the “one helps others, others help one” principle. The Ocho System can be applied broadly and works well for health, but if you really want to zero in on improving your physical health check our the Five Core Biomotor Skills.

5 Core Biomotor Skills

Coordination

Strength

Endurance

Agility

Balance

Improving one of these will improve the other 4. This is a great framework for starting to take control of your physical health. Just focus on improving one of these things a day and in time you will transform yourself.

Categories
Education Lifestyle

Living Amongst Racists

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.”

Maya Angelou (American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist)

Is this racist or my imagination?

Usually, I don’t write on topics like this, but in light of the recent events and my absolute exhaustion from keeping my mouth shut, I am doing to write about how to deal with racism.

At least, how I deal with racism.

Recently in the United States, there’s been an uptrend in racially motivated hate crimes towards Asian-Americans and I can’t help but see parallels to what’s been happening to African-Americans.

Maybe the attacks are due to resentment built up over the past year from the COVID-19 lockdowns and people are blaming Asians.

Maybe the violence is correlational and it has nothing to do with race at all.

The question of “Is this racist or is it just my imagination?” is always buzzing around when you’re a hated minority.

Unfortunately, the answer doesn’t matter. All that matters is how we act in the face of the unfairness.

Right now, I’m watching my fellow Asian brothers and sisters respond to the violence in a way that I’m compassionate for, but must caution against.

I want people who read this to take a few things from this piece:

If you are lucky enough to not deal with racism frequently, then I would like to invite you to reflect on a time when you felt similar to some of the things I’ll talk about. If you can’t remember a time, then imagine your child dealing with those feelings and be thankful you don’t have to experience them. Find compassion for those living in fear, anger, and injustice. It’s tough to be hated for reasons that you cannot control and when that hatred is carried out by the rest of society it eats at every part of your life.

If you are experiencing anxiety or rage because you are part of a hated group, then I would like to invite you to use some of the methods that I talk about later in the post to cope with it. It’s not glamorous and it doesn’t solve a lot of problems outright, but I believe it’s a good enough way forward.

Right now, there is no perfect solution.

Some of My Racial Experiences

I can speak on this because I’ve grown up around racism. In every facet of my life, there have always been questions raised regarding my race. My dad is from Africa and my Mom is from the Philippines. I grew up in a city that’s mostly white and conservative. I’ve dealt with racism at every age and I’ve seen it more than someone growing up in my time would expect. For context, I was born in 1994.

I’m one of few Black people on my Asian side and I’m the only Asian (other than my sister) on my black side.

I’m no stranger to the awareness of my individuality and the knowledge that I’m different.

I was first called a nigger when I was 4.

I’ve been called a nigger countless times since then. The word is almost meaningless to me now.

Every time I meet someone, I have to prove that I’m not dangerous nor stupid.

I’ve had cuffs slapped on for WWB, walking while black. It’s a thing if you aren’t already aware. According to the cops, I looked “dangerous and suspicious.”

In stores, Loss Prevention follows me around – meanwhile little teenage girls all over the world are stealing millions of dollars of makeup.

I grew up ashamed of my hair, my skin, my “exotic” features. There was no Zendaya and it wasn’t always cool to be Black.

Girls didn’t like me because I couldn’t spike my hair. Girls didn’t date me because they didn’t what to be known that they like Black guys.

Because back then (the early 2010s), dating a nigger was enough to taint your reputation. In some places, it’s still that way.

It’s like I’m living in a monster that’s occasionally trying to eat me. Sometimes it is, sometimes it just seems like it is.

It’s impossible to know the difference with certainty.

Repression

For a long time, I was angry about it. I hated who I was because I wasn’t like everyone else around me. The worst part, was I couldn’t do anything with the anger. I didn’t even let myself feel the anger and pain for longer than a few seconds.

I wasn’t allowed to complain about it. I could talk to my dad about it, but it’s not like he could make the anger go away.

He was dealing with it too.

Every Black person I knew was dealing with it.

There was no clear answer.

The rage grew and grew and I kept it all inside. In time, I learned how to sublimate it into work. My father always told me that I would have to work 7x as hard as a white kid to get the same opportunities. (So far he’s been right.) So I turned my rage into work. I worked as hard as I could to prove that I’m not some useless nigger. I worked hard to prove that this nigger is actually much smarter than anyone around him.

This was easier to do when the racism was latent.

But sometimes the injustice was too much.

Sometimes I cried about it. Sometimes I was bitchy.

Sometimes I would get so angry I’d scream as loud as I could.

Sometimes I wanted to kill myself.

Never did I shoot up a school. Never did I take out my anger on other people. Even if they seemed like they deserved it. If no one has said it now, I’ll be the first to stand by this – dealing with racism will incite enough rage in an individual to shoot up a school. That being said, under no circumstances will that make anything better.

Constraining the evil within is fundamental to maintaining peace and harmony.

Besides, if I didn’t handle my feelings properly, I’m just more of the nigger they think I am.

Racism engulfs your life whether you like it or not. Do this and you’re a nigger. Do that and you’re not a nigger.

No matter what everything is in the context of “more or less nigger.”

It wasn’t all rage though. There was also self-doubt compounded with external verification.

Part of me was worried that the racists were right.

Maybe I really was inferior. It certainly didn’t help Blacks were often portrayed as criminals and low lives. The “maybe they’re right” thought came up often enough to stop me from taking opportunities. Looking back, my life may have been different if I saw myself as someone who belongs to the society they’re living in. But that doesn’t matter now. The older I get, the more I realized that this isn’t the case.

Nothing about my ethnic heritage places me above or below anyone else.

I wish I lived in a world where every human being comes to that conclusion. Perhaps we will build one in time.

I’ll say it again for the people in the back –

Nothing about my ethnic heritage places me above or below anyone else.

How I Cope with Racism

“To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try.”

Rosa Parks (American activist)

It wasn’t fair, but I learned a few ways of dealing with it. These are no means a perfect solution, but I’ve fought this uphill battle my whole life.

These methods are what I’ve learned over my experiences. I currently use these practices to deal with the consistent hum of racism that underscores my entire life.

This is how I know how to constructively and effectively cope with racism.

The reason why I’m writing about methods to deal with racism is that if we use the methods that feel natural to us, we end up creating more pain and suffering in the long run.

If we react with our feelings, we will only prove the racists right. They will only see those actions as proof of their ill-informed beliefs.

Focus on Unity Instead of Hate

“An eye for an eye makes the world blind.”

Mahatma Gandhi (Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King Jr (African American Baptist minister and activist)

Even though it’s incredibly tempting to. Focusing on the hate only adds to the problem.

It’s so easy to just say “White people did this” or “white people are trash,” but that type of behavior is the same type of thinking that perpetuates the issue of prejudice in the first place.

Assigning people to groups and using them as representations of the entire group is a horribly destructive way of conceptualizing the world.

If you don’t think so, answer this question:

Would you pay for the crimes of someone else with your same eye color?

The beautiful part about the world we live in today is that most people aren’t racist. Being a beacon of light that illuminates our unity in this dark world will attract a lot of supporters who will join us in building a better tomorrow. It’s going to be a long and tough battle, but I do believe in time racism will disappear.

In my post, The Hero of Heroes: Marduk vs. Tiamat & The Significance of Speech, I talk about how people spend at least half of their existence in the world of conversation. Our lives are shaped by the conversations we participate in just as much (or even more) than our physical environments.

That being said, focusing on the hate will just add more hate to the conversation. Focusing on unity will add unity to the conversation. In my experience, paying attention to the nature of our conversations is crucial for not only living a life by design but also combating racism and ignorance.

Aim to Change Individuals, Not Groups

It’s not likely that one person will single-handedly end racism. It needs to be a group effort. Groups on their own do not respond well to change, but people do. If we are going to exterminate racism, it must be done one person at a time.

Groups are solidified in their stances. The beliefs of individuals, however, are more subject to change, especially when factoring in personal experience.

I met a lot of people with prejudices who’ve changed their opinion after spending some time with me. It’s all about connection and showing them that we’re more alike than different.

This doesn’t work in groups. We need to feel a personal connection to change what we believe and that connection is easier found on the individual level.

Sympathize with their Ignorance

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Audre Lorde (American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist)

I know this is asking for a lot and it’s not something I’d suggest for most people, but if you are capable of doing this it can save you so much wasted energy on hatred and anger.

Turn the hate into pity.

Racists have not known, and will never know if they don’t change, any of the pleasures that your culture has contributed to the human experience.

I love so many things about my heritage that the ignorant have missed out on. Honestly, I feel bad for them.

I have great pity for anyone who hasn’t engaged an educated Black person in meaningful conversation. Black Africans intensely value education and the conversations you can get from them are stimulating to the highest degree.

I have great pity for anyone who hasn’t had Filipino food. Filipinos are amazing cooks and essentially hold food as a virtue. People who close themselves off will never try chicken adobo.

Honestly, racists have a duller experience of life.

Show them what their missing.

Don’t be angry at them. Don’t be afraid of them.

Have pity for them. The poor animals locked themselves in a cage.

Find the Bigot in You

I got this piece of advice from Dr. Edith Eger, a holocaust survivor. She used this method to deal with the Nazis while she was in Auschwitz. If she could practice this while being dehumanized in a concentration camp, while they murdered her family and loved ones, then we can certainly find the strength to practice this in the face of modern racism.

While it’s easy to think that another person holds racist and irrational beliefs, it’s much harder to recognize that that person is just like us or rather that we are like them.

Each of us, no matter how “woke” or “conscious” has a little bigot inside of us.

We’re all a little unreasonable attached to a belief or opinion.

The only difference with racists is that their beliefs are prejudiced against a certain kind of people. To the racist, their beliefs are no different than ours and until we can understand that, we will further perpetuate the outgroup vs. ingroup dynamic.

Change Minds Slowly

Everyone does things at their own pace. There is nothing we can do to force that. At a certain level, how someone changes is entirely up to them and most people won’t change quickly. Most people will only change when it’s convenient for them.

That being said – shoving things down people’s throats only creates a backlash.

This is why I’m not trying to promote any hashtags like #blacklivesmatter or #stopasianhate because they will create more of the exact thing they are trying to destroy.

When Black Lives Matter started getting popular, I was worried that there was going to be a backlash. People hate when they can’t choose and everyone in the country was forced to see Black Lives Matter everywhere.

While I agree with the mission (obviously, I’m Black and hurt by racism just as much as the next guy), but I’m don’t support bombarding ideas in people’s faces. That is not the same as spreading awareness. BLM became the “Pop-Up” Ad version of anti-racist movements and it made people mad.

Suddenly, Blue Lives Matter appears. Because you can’t say White Lives Matter or Black Lives Don’t Matter – that makes the reaction too obvious. Even in some of our most disgusting social games, we have a little class.

Blue Lives Matter was not created to support law enforcement.

It was a reaction to Black Lives Matter, and I was terrified of what a racial backlash would look like.

We’ll we’ve seen some of it, but there are other effects that are less obvious.

Now people can put bumper stickers that proudly display their opposition to anti-racist movements. Which is terrifying to see all around you. Where I’m from, people have that black and blue flag everywhere.

It’s both terrifying and disgusting.

Racists now have a unified symbol for hating black people that’s socially accepted and guised under the support of law enforcement.

Blacklash is almost always a result of “forced feeding,” so to speak.

If we shove ideas in people’s faces when they aren’t open to them, we piss them off and they swing back harder.

Back-lashes are everywhere and the best way to stop them is to change minds slowly.

True social change happens slowly anyway.

So let’s tread a little more intentionally and mitigate the damage.

I say this now because I really don’t want to see an anti-Asian backlash.

Be an Exception to Their Rule

“Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.”

Oprah Winfrey (American talk show host, television producer, actress, author, and philanthropist)

Focus on being the example of what a “good one” would look like if they existed. People are more likely to change their minds through personal experience. That being said, if someone is to change their mind, they can only change it by their own volition.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with racists and they tell me exactly what they think of Black people or “farmer” Asians, but in the same breathe will tell me that I’m the exception to their rule.

“Oh you’re not one of them Chris.”

“You know the other niggers, not you. You actually care and have respect for people.”

“You’re not even Black, you’re white on the inside where it counts.”

I knew their ignorance wasn’t physically dangerous, so it wasn’t worth getting upset over their statements.

Being “the exception” is me showing them proof that people who they hold in contempt aren’t what they think they are.

Once we see one example, others start showing up more and more. I strive to be good enough to open the door so they can have another positive experience with someone else like me.

I try to plant seeds for a garden I’ll never see.

Ask Questions

In the words of the brilliant astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “It’s not enough to be right, you also have to be effective.”

Telling someone they’re wrong or that they don’t understand something will not bring awareness to their ignorance.

Rather than attack or accuse, ask questions.

Just ask them a question that proves they think the same way as you.

This can be tricky at first, but with some practice, it’s extremely effective.

In conversations, people have two orientations: peace or combat.

When someone is oriented to peace, conversations are easy and smooth. Misunderstandings are no big deal and the stakes are low.

However, when someone is oriented to combat, everything becomes a battle of life and death.

This is when people become defensive or offensive. It’s much harder to change minds or learn something new when people are oriented to combat.

Asking questions pacifies people (orients them to peace) and allows them to come to conclusions on their own. Which is the only way anyone can understand anything. When we hear a question, our brain immediately goes to work on finding an answer.

The magic happens when we don’t have an answer.

Suddenly, we discover that there are things we don’t know and we open up to new information.

This is when people are most likely to change their minds or learn something new.

For example, if someone says they don’t believe in global warming, ask them if they’re still willing to buy a beachfront house even though the water levels are rising due to polar ice caps melting. In the context of race relations, it’s much more difficult to come up with questions but it’s so worth it.

This is one of my favorite techniques and I use it for much more than just dealing with racism. It’s fantastic for dealing with ignorance of all kinds.

Respond, Don’t React

Mindfulness is everything.

Pay attention to how you make others feel and pay attention to how they make you feel.

Monitor your behavior so that others don’t feel threatened. That sounds like a cop-out, but people can only respond well to something that they don’t deem as a threat.

Appear innocuous, change their perspectives. Additionally, mindfulness helps us from reacting in a way that either justifies their (incredibly ignorant) perspective or escalates a situation.

When I hear a racist spout their ignorant beliefs, when I see those Blue Lives Matter flags, I want to beat the hell out of those people. I want to drag them on the ground and curb-stop their faces.

Let me just say that the anger I feel when I’m around those ignorant bigots is intense, but I also know it’s dangerous.

If I act with my reactions, I continue the war, perpetuate hateful ideas, and prove the racists right. However, if I respond in an intentional way I’m much more likely to connect with them and create genuine lasting change.

When I get angry in the face of racism, I use mindfulness practices and ask myself “Is what I want to do a reaction or a response?” If it’s a reaction, I stop myself. Not to be a bigger person (although that’s a good reason), but because it could cost me my life. I’ll say it again because I don’t think people understand how serious that is –

Reacting incorrectly as a hated minority could cost you your life.

That’s the self-preservatory reason to respond rather than react. But there’s another reason too.

People are more likely to positively respond to a response as opposed to a reaction. Most of the time, people will act reasonably with someone who is being reasonable with them. Although, it would require “more reasonableness” to control your reactions in the face of racism. There is a moral and self-preservatory responsibility and in this case, the burden falls on the hated minority. This is why mindfulness is key to fighting racism, we must be aware of what we are even when the world tries to lie.

Pick and Choose Battles

Not every hill is worth dying on. If I stopped to fight every person who’s called me a nigger, I’d never get anything done.

That being said, sometimes it’s worth it to stand up and say something.

Not every hill is worth dying on, but some are.

When choosing to fight, be mindful of the methods I listed off earlier. Respond, don’t react.

Ask questions.

Understand where they’re coming from.

Be an example of excellence.

Find the Humor In It

Dave Chappell is the perfect example of this. He’s taken all of the injustice, ignorance, and evil he’s seen and sublimated it into a beautiful art form.

Pain and the fear of not belonging is at the root of all of these racial jokes.

The jokes aren’t just a way to sublimate the pain. They’re also our best bet in protecting our mental health.

Finding the humor in the darkness keeps things bearable. Being able to laugh in the face of racism, not only makes it easier to not react but also keeps our heads above water. It’s so easy to let anger and fear dominate our minds but if we actively find the humor, we don’t let it win.

Laugh about it. As painful as it is, it’s also absurd and ridiculous and sometimes absurd and ridiculous things are funny.

Allow the Challenge to Make You Better

You must work at least 7x as hard as a white kid to get the same respect, the same chance, the same rewards, everything. It’s unfair, but it’s what is. Accept the challenge, step up to the plate, don’t complain. Complaining just makes you look more like a nigger.

My dad told me that when I was 4 years old. I internalized it and it’s been true for most things in my life. It’s the perspective that fuels my seemingly high levels of conscientiousness.

Being exceptional is a necessity, not an option.

Rather than reject the reality we’re given, it’s much more constructive (and healthy) to accept the challenge and allow it to grow us.

Now, it’s important to not have this spiral out of control and get stuck in a cycle of always trying to prove ourselves. I did that for a long time and it’s exhausting and not sustainable.

Human beings can adapt to extremely uncomfortable environments. We can thrive in seemingly impossible situations. For anyone who doubts this, I highly recommend reading writings from Holocaust survivors, specifically Viktor Frankl and Edith Eger. We can adapt to unfair, unjust, and inhumane conditions and, as Nietzsche would say, it makes us stronger, as long as it doesn’t kill us.

Now I don’t want to make this sound like it easy or that it’s what we’re built for. All I know is that we can adapt if we need to. It’s extremely difficult and even harder to do when under the real-time pressures of racism and bigotry.

I’ve recently found great solace in knowing that our ancestors never gave up, despite enduring more suffering than us modern people, and we have their blood coursing through our veins.

It is up to us to create an environment for other people to feel their feelings without being judged.

We can kill with just our eyes, but we can also love too.

Choose love. Choose unity.

Suffocate the hate. Suffocate the ignorance.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Martin Luther King Jr (African American Baptist minister and activist)
Categories
Lifestyle

On Trials and Stumbles in Creative Pursuits

“Frightened by the loss of our familiar mooring places, shall we become paralyzed and cover our inaction with apathy?”

Rollo May (The Courage to Create)

This is the first blog post that I’ve posted since mid-February, which means I haven’t published something in well over a month. This on its own isn’t a very big deal, especially since my priorities have been elsewhere, but I feel like it’s too big to just simply ignore.

Originally I wanted to just jump back right into my regularly scheduled content, but I feel like there are lessons to learn upon reflecting on my short absence. So I’m going to slow down and take the time to reflect.

When I started my blog, I intended to write a blog post every week.

No matter what.

I even lowered the standards for what a blog post is. I told myself that a blog post can be about literally anything. I set the bar low, so I can actually hit it every week. I try to optimize my systems for consistency, not necessarily quality. I figured the quality will come with multiple iterations. I like to rig the game to win, especially games that I play on my own.

Unfortunately, the lower standards didn’t matter and I still didn’t post over the last month and a half.

When I first started writing, I knew that there were going to be times when I was going to be tested. I knew that there were going to be weeks when it felt impossible to put out a blog post, but I expected myself to step up to the challenge. When I started this blog, I was excited to see if I actually could step up. I kept it up for over a year and I was pretty proud of myself. There were weeks when it was hard, but given the nature of the things I was writing, it was too hard for me to stop writing and create a relationship with myself where I know myself as someone who doesn’t step up to the challenge.

Recently, I feel like I’ve been truly tested and I let it take me out for over a month. (I’m hoping I can publicly speak on this in a few months.) I reluctantly admit that I’ve allowed the chaos of life to interrupt what I was building.

In fact, I let the chaos convince me that what I was building wasn’t even worth the energy at all.

This was the worst part. I fooled myself into believing that nothing was better than something. This gave way to nihilism, victimization, and apathy. All three of which I don’t have the luxury to entertain.

Once I realized that these were just ideas going on in my head, I was able to separate my actions from my thoughts.

A wise man never believes every thought that enters his head.

Now I’m in a place where I can actively choose to not let this take me down. I can more effectively resist the temptation to self-destruct or abandon all commitments.

The chaos of the recent months is not going to destroy my blog, my YouTube channel, or any of my other creative pursuits.

I cannot let it, especially since the chaos is not of a tragic nature. The disarray is not tragic and, if I can help it, the results of it should not be either. I shall not let a good thing destroy creation. I must look deeper within myself to find the strength to choose to contribute to “more life” rather than death or “less life.”

I can detach from the part of me that wants to give in and make room for more intentional thought habits.

We can overcome trials with a certain level of detachment.

When we’re tested, there are perspectives we can take on that will crush us under pressure and ones that allow us to act with more freedom.

Detachment can be a fine line. Seeing the situation, not from our own perspective, but from another point of view that doesn’t take our personal feelings into account gives us the freedom to act in an intentional way rather than reactionary.

However, it’s possible to be too detached. I feel like that happened to me over the past few weeks and it’s the underlying cause of my stumble.

If I allowed myself to simply give in to what I felt I needed, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post, nor have plans for future blog posts. The real tragedy would be the premature death of all of the other creative works I’ve planned around this blog and the lives that would have been touched by those works are left without its influence. I felt like I needed to stop writing and focus on more practical elements of life, but that’s not meaningful enough for me.

While there are practical elements to consider, completely abandoning my creative pursuits would be me choosing “less life”.

It would be meaning dampening down my will.

Extinguishing the white-hot fire within me that makes me human.

It would be destroying my own potential.

Now, I have to give credit where credit is due because I did not come to this conclusion completely on my own through a detached perspective. There were a series of external influences that helped push me in this direction.

I have to thank my students and my fellow writers for reaching out to me during my hiatus. Although no one was explicitly concerned that I wasn’t writing anything or even knew that I was considering dropping it altogether, they all showed me that my work matters way more than I thought it did. The combination of people emailing me to write for my blog and my students asking me about my books and music showed me that I do not create in a vacuum.

I will also have to give a mention to Rollo May’s The Courage to Create. It’s full of fantastic quotes that I felt were pertinent to what I was dealing with.

“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also you will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole.”

Rollo May (The Courage to Create)

My creative projects have a nontrivial influence on people and I cannot throw that away simply because I’m overwhelmed.

In the thick of my trials and tribulations, I forgot about the world I’ve been working so hard to create.

I forgot that I had a vision for a better future.

I forgot that I sacrificed day in and day out to bring about this vision.

I forgot that I sold other people on this vision – a world where people can live their life by design.

I forgot that I actually love writing and sharing ideas.

I forgot that being creative revivifies me and imbues my life with meaning.

And so I humbly admit that I’ve stumbled.

I did not have a perfect run of things, but that is okay because I am standing back up. I will be up and running in time, but I have to acknowledge that I’m not as strong of a writer as I was when I was being consistent.

However, I do have something new to bring to the table – more wisdom and a more experienced perspective. I still have the willingness to improve, which is the most important ingredient to getting back on my feet.

I’m going to start slow, aim at consistency, and remember that creativity makes me and the world better.

I’m going to fall back in love with the research, learning, and writing process.

I’m going to let go of the judgment and contempt I have for myself in failing to reach my commitments.

Forgiveness of the self is crucial.

While I acknowledge that I probably have enough to finish my book, I want to work on learning more and synthesizing these ideas deeper. I want the process to be full of passion so the book comes out that much richer.

While I learned a lot during my hiatus, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that my younger self has real wisdom in him. Usually, when I look back on younger versions of myself, I can’t believe how foolish I was. But now, for the first time, I am surprised by the wisdom and forethought I had. For the first time (that I’m aware of), my future self wasn’t as wise as my past self and that makes me really happy. To me, it’s evidence that I’m growing and I have my own best interests at heart (which isn’t always obvious to me). I’ve developed a new trust in myself that I cannot accurately describe and I hope to take it with me during this journey.

We’ll be tried. We’ll stumble. We’ll rise again.

I’m excited to get back into creating and I hope it’s a fruitful as it once was.

I’m placing my bets on my ability to get back up and I think everyone else should too.