Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why I Don't Like Running

The answer isn't "because it sucks."

Even though it kinda does.

So in primary school I used to be a lot more active because I was a small child, and small children are like miniature nuclear reactors and if they don't expel copious amounts of energy they explode and kill anyone in a 10m radius. Somehow, despite being like every other kid who runs around, I got fatter than others (I've naturally fixed that now). So despite my efforts not to irradiate my neighbourhood with Smallchildium 245 I just wasn't very good at it. But sometimes things can be fun even if you're not good at them, right? Right.

Well running is compulsory in school. PE classes demand that I embarrassingly participate in sports regardless of aptitude. That would just be a distant unpleasant memory but they didn't just make it compulsory but competitive.

Every year there's a sports carnival where everyone is forced to compete in multiple events and most of all: running. It isn't just a bad class for the entire school, it is a spectator event for everyone's parents to come out and cheer on their kids and film it for prosperity on VHS tapes they've long since stashed away in some chest in the back of the closet along with their only semi-working VHS player they'll uncover one day and relive all the horribly low-quality nostalgia. Thing is, I know I suck. My parents know I suck. My classmates know I suck. Why are you forcing me to show off how much I suck in front of their entire school and their relatives? It didn't motivate me to get better at running, it only made me want to hide whenever it was Sports Day...

Forced competition isn't good for self esteem, especially when you know you're going to lose. See, the only person who really benefits from a school-wide competition is the people who know they're going to win and no one else's parents really need to be there to film it. I suppose you could congratulate the middle kids on their "hard work and effort. It's good that you tried" but when you're so bad and embarrassed in front of hundreds of people "you tried" doesn't give a positive reinforcement about effort it just makes trying seem pointless and leaves a negative association.

I have two 2nd place ribbons. Each one is a slap in the face.

Because an entire year group can't run one on one race track at the same time we had divisions based on skill. I believe I was in E division. That is the worst one. I won those ribbons in year 6 and 7. Coming 2nd doesn't really mean much to a person if there's only two people in the race including yourself (year 6). The next year I one-up'd myself and managed to actually beat someone in a race of 3. Problem is that kid had had heart surgery a few years back... I had only just beaten him.

I don't remember which race it was but at one point I was just so far behind, struggling, tired, and humiliated by the fact that the race had basically finished already and every second I spent running was just another one where every scream and cheer was directed at me. Everyone was looking at me fail and I didn't take it well. I stopped. I couldn't do it. I'd already lost, why even bother to run those last 15 metres?

There wasn't one. I still can't think of a reason.

They didn't let me live that down until I graduated and moved onto highschool where no one remembered it had ever happened.

Competing in general isn't pointless... as long as you have some basic skill in what you're doing. I knew I wasn't good at sports. I had little co-ordination, I wasn't very fit, and I hated doing things in front of others. The idea of enforcing sports into schools is probably now firmly embedded because we're trying to teach kids to be physically active and healthy and that's good... but the way the entire idea is enforced is terrible. It praises the naturally athletic and it humiliates the pudgy and emotionally insecure. Every year I'd be forced to compete. I tried so hard not to be part of it because every single year it just drilled into my brain: you are a loser. Every single one of your peers is better than you. You suck.

Maybe... just maybe... I'd be a fitter person and enjoy sports so much more if only they hadn't forced me to do it in school. Running made me hate myself and gave the other kids a quantifiable measure to make me feel inferior to them.

In highschool these sports carnivals were less enforced. As the years went by I managed to get out of more and more events until I didn't compete at all and took the day as a day off. The less I competed in sporting events I knew I couldn't do well in the more I started liking myself as a person.

I don't hate all sports, even though I generally don't want to do them these days. Team sports were fun because I wasn't singled out and ridiculed. I could participate and it wasn't me losing it was the team losing. No one pointed and laughed me afterwards if the team lost. I didn't have to be good I just needed to contribute. I liked team sports...

But running is one of the worst things that ever happened to me as a child and it took me years to recover from the emotional pain it put me through...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

On Social Anxiety

There's a party happening tonight and I'm invited.

Oh Saturday night... My media consumption has led me to believe that Friday/Saturday nights are the time to go out and have wild social gatherings with music, alcohol, and teaming up with a "wingman" for more one-on-one social interaction later on that night with someone I've just met. There's also this sort of not-so-subtle undertone that if you're indoors by yourself on these particular nights then you're a bit sad. Yeah... not my thing.

But alas, sometimes people end up liking me enough to try and take me away from my comfort zone and into loud places with lots of strangers on the pretense of "birthdays" or "I'm leaving the country and this is the last we'll see each other for at least half a year". Crazy, I know. I guess there's something appealing about my personality that people seem to realise is great in a normal environment but doesn't translate well into ENVIRONMENTS WHERE EVERYONE IS COMPETING TO BE HEARD. So now I have to deal with going places - places I've most likely never been before (there's just so many places to be on a Friday/Saturday night. It's like they're being grown like daisies in a garden that smells a bit more than faintly of beer and vodka shots) which is an added bit of stress because I often (quite easily) get lost. My sense of direction has firmly developed around the idea that I remain stationary.

The problem is people aren't going to stop liking me and inviting me places for birthdays, even if I constantly decline their invitations, because for the other 364 days of the year in our friendship I'm pretty fine to interact with. It's just when it comes to parties I get stressed out. I like one-on-one interaction where I can talk to a person without having to yell over some live one-man cover band that (to his credit) sings things 10+ years old so he can ride the warm waves of nostalgia that he gets back from the audience. Or worse, someone who confuses speed with proficiency and energy with entertainment. Admittedly I am more fine with more familiar faces around me so will gladly go to house parties hosted by highschool friends. It's the parties in pubs that make me panic.

Why... *melts into an anxious puddle on the floor* Pubs are intimidating. They just are. I'm not an anti-social person. I love hanging out with people, interacting with everyone, and crowds aren't an issue. When I go to convention centres the crowds can get so packed that I'm slowly shuffling with people bumping into me from every direction and I'm fine. I also end up talking to 30 different people I know and several I don't just by pure chance.

But pubs are not my friend. There's security within a person's home. You know that, whoever appears, is friend not foe. There's always a corner you can stand in and not be bothered as you judge the playlist (but never tamper with it because that's really rude. Seriously guys. Don't do that. Especially mid-song. That's slap worthy, I was listening to that). There's no social obligations that I don't already understand that I need to do and all that is required to enter is a simple knock on the door. No one checks your ID, there's no awkward standing around uncomfortably scanning the horizon of heads to discover where your band of friends are, there's just a house and it's nice and relaxing. Your voice does not get soar by the end of the night which is also a bonus and there's no risk of running into drunkards in the streets ready to fight.

But I need to go out sometimes... and I might even want to go willingly. After all, some people do end up leaving the country for who knows how long and you need to wish them goodbye. Alternatively they could be an old friend you see once a year at most due to distance. So getting anxious every time I need to leave the door on an adventure somewhere that is loud and unfamiliar won't do.

I'm forcing myself to go tonight because I can think of no better way to tackle this other than head on. Screw being scared! Not to say being scared is for wimps, we all get scared every now and then, (like at all those deadly snakes that live in Australia, all the deadly mammals that live in Australia, or all the deadly spiders than live in Australia. Thank goodness I live in... oh wait) but fear is not what controls us... well, sometimes it does, but not always! The water is always coldest when you're slowly edging in the pool and even though you're always angry whenever that one annoying friend pushes you all the way in when you weren't expecting it you quickly forget your grievances because you get used to the cold. Fear is like swimming, once you dive in and immerse yourself you realise it wasn't as bad as you expected (this does not work if your fear is of drowning because you can't swim... if this is the case then try to think of a different analogy). So I may be uncomfortable now as I sit in front of a computer typing a lengthy blog post to procrastinate going to this party, but I know once I'm there and I familiarise myself with this new place and the new people I'll be OK.

Perhaps I'll even make a new friend.

Perhaps I'll get ganged up on and mugged by 3 deadly snakes, a redback spider, and a kangaroo (those things have mean right hooks) and lose all my money.

Only one way to find out!

*Deep breath*. Time to walk out that door.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why I Keep Embarrassing Blog Archives

"Once it's on the internet it's there forever" is probably your parents favourite misguided impression of how the internet actually works. See it's only there forever if you're popular enough to have things copied and pasted then stolen and put on 9gag. (I hate 9gag so much for stealing my art but that's another story). See if you're relatively unknown like me, despite having a steady internet presence since 2008, people don't notice or remember thing things you used to do only what you're doing now. Even then not everyone notices. I could delete a lot of this blog and I'm guessing a lot of people wouldn't notice, and even if they did there'd be no way for them to recover those missing posts for their own purposes.

Once they're gone, they're gone. Even for me. Sometimes that's probably for the best... who wants to re-read the poorly spelt sentences that start off with lowercase letters that talk about inane "random" things that my teenage self was interested in? Hopefully no one. But I might one day...

I keep things around. I keep up old videos that I wouldn't dare show any of my friends because I wrote and filmed them when I was 15 years old. I don't tell anyone about my blogs that I have long since disused... but they're there. Floating around in cyberspace, waiting to be seen again by me in the future like old photo albums left in pristine condition. No dust needs to be brushed off, just a few keys to be pressed to be treated to old memories immortalised (until I kill it) in text.

Partly because of the nostalgia value because re-reading an old blog helps me remember some event I'd completely forgotten and it's like discovering buried treasure in my mind. Partly because what I've made over the years is the only good way to really measure my progress as a person.

This blog has changed over the years from personal posts about my day like a diary, to comedic posts designed for no reason outside of quick laughs, to being treated like it does or doesn't have an audience, to tackling big ideas and thoughts as well as the former. My writing has improved, my expression has improved (I hope, though I'm not sure here is where thoughts go to be expressed in their finality but to be drafted and so forgive me if the things I say aren't quite developed) and the themes that I write about in my blog are more diverse. This demonstrates how I've changed intellectually, it also charts my changing interests, how I think differently. Blogs aren't just diaries, they're archives of the development of person.

Even if no one reads this blog I can still come back and cringe over the spelling mistakes and be comforted that because I cringe I have changed into a person who has reason to cringe. I've improved. Each post, whatever it is, is a message in a virtual bottle dropped in the sea of life to be found again one day by the future me so I can read it and remember who I used to be.

I hope future me is happy. Present you is. Past you was a doofus and you probably think present me is too... but you can see I'm getting better. I have to be. One day I'll become you.

Why Does a Monkey Write a Love Song?

So take an ordinary every day situation like say... sitting down and watching TV (or, if you're like me, sitting down and watching Youtube) and then reimagine it with a monkey instead of a person. Or a chimpanzee because they look more human (they're not monkeys but whatever). The monkey isn't acting like a monkey though, they're acting exactly like a human would as if they've been trained and raised by humans to be like humans.

Suddenly that situation is re-examined with new context because the part of it that has agency over that situation - the person - has been changed. It becomes unusual. Absurd. Kinda comical? Because a monkey doesn't need to watch TV. All a monkey really needs to do is acquire food, shelter, and mate. As much as we love monkeys we don't see them as having the same emotional depth or intellectual finesse as we do.

See the point of this exercise is to disconnect from the familiar and re-examine it in an objective context by removing it from the realm of the real, but keep it grounded enough for you to relate to it by having a near human analogue - the monkey. In short: when you replace things with monkeys ordinary situations become strange. It's an exercise in de-familiarization.

Imagine a world run by literal monkeys (none of that "hur hur politicians are like monkeys" nonsense, I mean literally monkeys). A monkey wakes up, put on its tiny monkey shoes, kisses its monkey wife goodbye, and sits in traffic for an hour in a metal box with wheels. Things stop making sense because well... why does a monkey do that? Why doesn't a monkey just get out and go live in a tree?

We hold certain cultural ideas of what we should or should not do. We have traditions. We also have ideas about what is grand, what is amazing, what is deep. We discern between different things as if they have some innate quality despite having no practical value. One piece of art is deep, another is talentless and stupid, and people will disagree continuously. But imagine a monkey sitting in an art gallery looking at art.

Why does a monkey look at art?

Why does a monkey decide it is more important to dress in a suit and tie instead of something comfortable?

Why does a monkey look down on other monkeys for acting differently?

This was all inspired by listening to a love song on the radio. It was deep, it was moving, it had this real heartfelt emotion embedded within the notes within the lyrics as if they very sounds that escaped the singers mouth weren't just words but feelings being transmitted through the air. Then I imagined a monkey sitting in a darkly lit room plucking chords trying to find just the right one to express how it felt and suddenly it was... different. Why does a monkey write a love song? Sure, it wants to mate, but what exactly is it about an acoustic guitar that somehow makes that emotion worth more? As if making it lyrical made it any more important than just outright simple basic "I love you. I want to be with you and it hurts when I'm alone and I think of you." Introducing the monkey removes this human concept of "depth" and strips away any meaning that has artificially been imbued upon that situation due to personal opinion or experience.

I'm not saying we should all re-examine our entire lives and realise some inherent lack of meaning or purpose... because we're not monkeys. That's silly. But it's just fascinating as a thought experiment to look at things through the lens that they're just staged events and the actors are all monkeys. It might be helpful to you somehow. You could be really upset at something and think "why does a monkey get offended at X?" and upon examination realise it isn't important and feel better. Alternatively you might be able to justify it outside of personal in which case you have constructively approached a situation and gone away understanding it better. Or maybe it's just fun to think of Monkeys doing human things...

At any rate it offers you a new perspective on things...

But then again... why does a monkey read a blog post?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sleep Deprivation

I don't sleep too well these days and I'm not sure why. Perhaps some deep and thoughtful psychoanalysis could shed some light on this but then again maybe it's the humidity in the air that messes with me.

Being tired constantly is interesting. The feeling of exhaustion isn't this consistent linear thing as it should be. The longer I'm awake the more tired I should be, right? I awaken from naps even more exhausted then before or I'm just sitting there when I gradually become more awake but not more alert. Things stop being a simple tired/awake dichotomy. I feel disconnected and simple things that cause guaranteed endorphin drips in my brain don't mean anything to me anymore. Tumblr stops being an endless scroll of mindless entertainment (combined with some in depth critical analysis, media theory, and feminist ideology in bite sized pieces of witty criticism on rape culture and patriarchy etc, let's not completely downplay Tumblr as entirely mindless) and it becomes... well it becomes a website. And what is a website? It's an image on an LCD screen. At its core it becomes black text on a blue background and what is the appeal of that...

I'm not addicted to anything when I'm tired. I'm free to whatever because I'm so disconnected from the world around me. My perspective changes on everything. Attachment dissolves and is replaced with a fresh attitude to everything and I realise that I'm sitting in front of a box due to routine... I don't actually care while I'm tired because my brain doesn't give me its all-natural-self-medicated happiness when it wants to switch off for a few hours.

I don't feel like I'm interacting with the world properly anymore. It's like I'm not quite there anymore. I feel things but I feel more inwardly if that makes sense... as if my experience is this insular bubble that is partially cut off from the world and the things around me have to seep in to make a proper impact on me. I'm floating around on different kinds of surfaces that don't matter as long as they're solid.

I have no motivation to do things because they require me to put more effort into them than I'm capable of exerting. I sit and think in fragments, in thoughts that lack words, an abstract drone of sleep deprived thought processes I quickly forget...

When there's no distinct feelings, no strong attachment to the world around me, that's when I feel my own presence. I sit there just sitting and existing.

If I don't sleep for long enough it is like meditation on the self. My mind empties... and all that is left is the fact that I exist.

I really need to sleep.