the personal manifesto first edition

belonging

I’ve only ever written for myself. I know that sounds a bit narcissistic, but I don’t really have an audience other than myself, a fingerful of friends, family, and a couple of strangers now and again. I’m writing for the “imaginary audience” that I have made up. This audience is, at least in my head, made up of individuals who are: smart, emotionally intelligent, empathetic, and big picture thinkers. They’re unwavering in their morals and beliefs, but open enough to know that these things can sometimes change with time. Here’s a personal manifesto that I wrote up for myself about a year ago and I think it’s high time that I share it with you all (by you I mean my imaginary audience).

On Work

Regardless of the job, I will exhibit responsibility and excellent work ethics. I will never lie, cheat, or dishonor my birth and will always work for the cause, whatever that may be. Even in the face of adversity, I will never falter or waver in my actions. Remember the words of Thomas Edison:

“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

On People

I will treat every single person as a unique individual with varied experiences and a story to tell. No matter the circumstances, I will treat everyone with respect, a smile, and pleasant conversation. I will treat people as they want to be treated and provide a sense of community. As Donald Miller wrote:

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”

On Hardships

I will always fight for the beliefs I think are right, with confidence and unfaltering passion. by no means will i be unbending, but i will not let hardships and conflict deter me from being true to my nature. regardless of the difficulty or obstacles in my way, I will find the strength to carry on and use these experiences to improve myself and help others. Keep this by Peter Deunov in mind:

“Human happiness is defined by the hardships and conflicts you have been through. The greater they are, the greater is your happiness.”

on the experiences that change us fear, pain, and vulnerability

these lines

these lines

We see fear, pain, and vulnerability paraded around in articles, presented as topics that we can change simply by following a few basic guidelines, conveniently numbered for your viewing pleasure. They are not. Fear, pain, and vulnerability are stable and constant concepts. They are concepts that withstand time and change, and will recur, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. The way we deal with these issues shapes our own behaviors and beliefs, so much so that they not only influence us, but change our character, down to the core. You see, we all have to deal with these, dare I say, stigmatized concepts. We automatically assume that negative emotions are always bad and that they will lead to a horrible life full of failure and grief. Fear is a part of being human, just as pain manifests itself everywhere, and vulnerability isn’t all that bad. We’re not supernatural or better than anyone else, and we’re not perfect. Don’t be surprised when, one day, you look closely at that person you have put on a pedestal and realize that perfect is fallible.

To be infallible is to be, essentially, inhuman.

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the direction of my life where to go from here

the trail

I’ve never been one to think on and on about the direction of my life. It’s not that I don’t have ambitions, desires, dreams, or goals, but that I like to focus on the present. I’ve found that when you’re standing in the middle of an empty road and lost, your best option is to stay there for a while. Turning tail and running back into the past does nothing for you. You’ve already seen and experienced that. Trudging on is not truly an option either, especially when you haven’t fully experienced the present moment. I like to stand in one spot and look around until I am ready to see something else, but keep in mind that life is a constant move forward. Even if I don’t feel like moving, I let the road move from underneath me. Staying in one spot for too long, you take the risk of getting run over by a speeding vehicle when you least expect it.

There’s nothing quite like the current moment.

As time ticks by, things start to change. That cloud that looks like a unicorn won’t stay looking like a unicorn for long. It’s something that I’ve noticed from my time taking pictures. Things don’t like to stagnate, and so, they’re always in a constant state of flux. Perhaps this is why people stand behind grabbing life by the horns. If you don’t take the chance now, there may not be another chance for you to take in the future. I’ve come to realize that it might be my time to move on from where I am now, after having several enlightening talks with two different people. As always, I take what they have to say with a few sprinkles of salt, because in the end, it will be my own choices that shape my future existence.
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elliot rodger’s twisted world and worldviews a series of brief remarks

By now, I assume you’ve all heard about the brutal and bloody massacre that took place in Santa Barbara. It’s been all over the news and has sparked a wave of related but disjointed vocal outbursts on social media. I just got done reading the memoir-manifesto titled My Twisted World by Elliot Rodger, which details his life story and all the things that led up to this so-called “Day of Retribution”. I have a few thoughts on this topic and I thought I’d put that out there, but first and foremost, I want to say that it was a gripping account and a unique window into the psyche of a troubled young man. It’s tragic that this had to transpire and my thoughts go out to the families and friends of those who lost their lives.

I can understand why he did it. I can certainly feel the turmoil and anger through his writing.

I don’t approve of violent means, but this was a major cry for help and as far as he knew, he wasn’t good enough for the world and saw himself as a failure in life and in love, gauged by the number of girls he slept with and dated. I must admit, I couldn’t quite follow the logic in his writing or the thought process, but I found it fraught with irony, self-loathing, and above all else – pain and frustrations. Perhaps it was the combination of these feelings and his depressed mood that overrode his logic and sense of morality. The social pressures in his writing are very real and very powerful, but more on that later. I just wanted to voice a few things and highlight a few passages. It is clear that there was something, perhaps something out of balance with his  neurochemistry that plagued him. He exhibits many signs of have a narcissistic personality disorder, being bipolar, and being extremely compulsive.

In 137 pages of text, I’ve picked out passages that stuck out most to me and gave me the most amount of insight:

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the balance beam: risk and reward art of vulnerability

GuardedI was recently talking to a friend (see here) about managing assumptions and expectations. I had to think about this one quite a bit, especially because the common-day phrase is “when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me”. It was so engrained in my head that I had to banish that thought in order to think about this as objectively as possible. I came to the same conclusion I’ve drawn so many times before: we all have expectations and we all assume in one way or other, but that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. It’s quite alright to assume and expect.

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Life is tough.

Sometimes life is tough. You get pounded on all sides by waves and waves of despair. It feels like a gigantic bag is closing all around you – a big black bag that threatens to rob you of oxygen. So you struggle and claw at the opening, trying desperately to keep yourself from getting swallowed by the darkness. You take big gulps of air in preparation for what comes next and when it comes, it blows you away. The bag constricts your sides, your back, and even your front, squeezing every single molecule of oxygen out of your feeble lungs. It doesn’t hurt. There is no pain. Actually there’s nothing but the deadening silence, pierced by your own mental screams. You scream inside your head for help and you think about opening your mouth to scream out for help, but no. You realize that no one will hear you anyway. Sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum. That science lesson came in handy after all.

That’s it. You’re on your last straw. All those times you’ve held your breath through tunnels and stretched your limits until you were blue in the face haven’t helped at all. Inadequate preparation sucks balls doesn’t it? And you barely have time to do anything as your life flashes before your eyes. Trust me, that shit happens. When it does, you suddenly realize you’re ready. It’s not that you’ve given up, but that you’ve been given so much. Epiphany. You realize that it doesn’t really matter that a big ‘ole black bag is trying to squeeze your intestines out or that it’s trying to cut your life short. You realize that you’ve come a long way in life and that you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished, even though it might be nothing when you compare it to other people you know. But that’s just it. For you to be born into your circumstances and make it to this point is an accomplishment. How many times have you faced adversity and won? How many times have you almost given up, but didn’t? Those are triumphs and they are yours. Choices, whether you liked the results or not, swing our lives in radical directions, but the sooner you realize that they were always yours, the sooner you’ll be willing take charge EVERY TIME. Hold yourself accountable for every single action you take.

And let me take this opportunity to thank you, because without you, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Without you, I never would have realized how inherently silent but confident I am. My outer expressions of nonchalantness may not be an accurate representation of my inner dude. Inner dude is a prick and I silence him most of the time, but that’s where my high confidence, self-esteem, and self-respect come from. Still, I have to tell you that you make it all wonderful.

Dear Mom

maDear Mom,

I thought of you the other day. It’s not like I don’t normally think of you, but I couldn’t stop thinking about you yesterday because of something that someone said to me. I don’t know where you are, but I know that you’re listening. After all, every single time the N train enters the tunnel, I talk to you. It’s a little ritual that I’ve carried on for two years.

I know I didn’t go with the family to visit you the other day. Let me tell you something: I was out that day with kimchi girl. Do you remember her? That’s not her name, but you don’t know her real name. After all, you were never properly introduced. I really wish I had tried though. It’s the one thing I’ve ever regretted – that I never introduced you to her because you would be happy. Happy that at least I know what to do with my heart and know where to put it – in nothing but the best. But I do remember this: I remember you calling her the kimchi girl. You were still semi-coherent at that point, but you lectured me about her and you just wouldn’t stop. You kept telling me to write a book about you and telling me how to treat a lady. You tried so hard to tell me how to treat a lady: that I should always respect her, that I should always support her, and that I should never lie. I didn’t have the heart to tell you that no, she was not “my” lady. Not even close. I didn’t have the heart to tell you that kimchi girl, in all likelihood would never be “my” lady. Maybe in my dream world she could be, but in that world I would also be everything else she was looking for. So I played along, giving you false hope I suppose. I kept my mouth shut and didn’t deny anything. I’m never going to forget that.

Ma, let me tell you a story and I hope that you’re proud of me. Proud that even though I decided to walk my own path and not become a lawyer, engineer, or doctor, I’ve decided to follow in your footsteps and mimic your personality and spirit. They say that when you die, you still live on in the hearts and minds of the people you’ve made an impression on. I now know it is the truth – I have first-hand experience.

It was a pretty wet day and I was walking into Nordstrom. I wanted to pick up a pair of boots or a few shirts. I walked toward the door and noticed that a woman was walking up behind me, so I held the door open for her and this is what she had to say:

Thank you. You are such a gentleman. The world needs more people like you. Your mother raised you well and please, tell your mother I said that.

So that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m telling you what she said. I haven’t written you a letter since I went off to boot camp. Even then, those letters were updates on life, and not about deeply profound experiences. This experience touched me deeply and who would have thought it would happen at the entrance of a department store. I know you raised me well. You raised me to respect others and treat others not only how you would like to be treated, but as they would like to be treated. You taught me to cook, care for others, help the less fortunate, and be accepting. Tolerance was not enough. You wanted me to open my eyes to the intricacies of the people around me. You were the one who pushed me to excel in the art of making connections: something that evolved into my passion for growing myself emotionally and mentally. I majored in communication because I saw how good you were at it and I wanted to do the same. I saw how well you taught students and the relationships that you were able to form with strangers. I thought to myself “I want to be able to do that too”. I know why you did it. You were always the happy one and I realize now that it was because the more you helped others and surrounded yourself with pleasant people looking for a conversation, the happier you became. I’m doing the same. Thank you.

Let’s go back to the woman at Nordstrom. I realize that sex had nothing to do with it. All this time everyone has been talking about being the “nice guy” or being “chivalrous”, but that’s not really what it’s about is it? I felt like it was more about having a deep respect for others and making a conscious decision to make life a little easier for everyone involved. I could have let the door close so she could open it herself, but that is inefficient. An extra minute of my time or a show of respect and friendliness to a fellow human being? That was my choice and I clearly made the right one according to how you raised me. I would have and have done the same thing for a male. Male, female, or however you want to identify as – it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I acknowledged the presence of another soul in the same vicinity as myself. I remember learning the 6 paces rule. If the person is farther than 6 paces, don’t wait. But for me, extending that standard distance is paying the proper respect.  I’m not a “nice guy” and I’m not even that “nice”. But I respect everyone until they give me a sound reason not to and it’s usually a result of their actions.

And I thought of you, ma. I thought of how you always listened to your heart. You did what you wanted and what you thought was best if you believed in it. By golly you were stubborn as hell. Look what you made. You created me and I’m the same way. My brain says I shouldn’t, but my heart always wins out. You know the best part of the story? My friend held the second set of doors for this woman because I set the precedent and he felt like he had to. I hope that soon, he will also understand and feel the same way I do. That instead of feeling pressured to do it, he will volunteer his services. Yesterday, I made my mark and inspired someone to think about something, the way you inspired me and all of your students. It all starts somewhere and I’ll make my mark on others the way you made your mark on me – one person at a time.

Your son.