Thursday, July 30, 2009

Let It Burn

Two days before I left on this trip, a good friend of mine called me in a frantic panic, warning that between the dates of April 28th and May 7th, I would meet someone that would either make this the best or the worst experience of my life. Now I’m not one for superstition, but for those 9 days, I restrained myself to redundant routine in deliberate avoidance of meeting anyone new.

“Safe”, I thought to myself as the miniature black border outlined the 8th of May on my electronic calendar. What I didn’t foresee was for her to get the dates wrong. I also didn’t expect that it would be someone I vaguely knew from my past. But most of all, I didn’t anticipate that the determination of my experience would be in my own hands. I guess what they say is true. You do create your own destiny.

It ended up sparking an intense reflection of my entire life, from my past and present career choices to the many buffoonish fumblings with the opposite sex. It became an agonizing circular comparison of what my life could have been and what it is. At times the regret paralyzed me in a state of stagnant contemplation. At times it was downright painful.

I helplessly clung onto the few memories of ecstatic happiness I had retained; yet I still found a way to reduce them to times of just getting caught up in the moment, paltry instances of misinterpretation, or an oversimplification of happiness. I somehow manage to ruin everything for myself, even the times that have already passed.

But I still contest that what I felt during those times were real. That smile, that revival of hope that the world is still a decent place, were in fact sincere. What I’ve come to realize is that genuine passion expels so feverishly that it burns. For me, it's has just been so infrequent that instead of learning from it, I let it engulf me. Hence the product of my life: unstable occurrences of the extreme ups and downs. I still haven’t learned to control or bring them out from within. I am still reliant on external factors. I am petty, just like everyone I said I wasn’t like.

I’ve foolishly extended this trip multiple times, despite the fact that I’ve been longing to go home since almost the beginning. One part of me says the pain will always make you stronger, but realistically, the other, much more trivial part of me, is just waiting in vain hope that maybe some stroke of burning passion will present itself again and this time, I won’t be foolish enough to let it pass me by.

Sometimes I think too much. Sometimes I dwell too long in those dark corners of regret and remorse and I fretfully scurry over what parts of my potential I can still salvage. But fuck it. I’ve decided that should that moment present itself again, should I be lucky enough to recognize it, and most importantly, should I be brave enough to embrace it, I’m putting on my shoes and dancing my way right into that fire, even if it burns me up in the process.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Somewhere in the middle

Sometimes when you wander too much, you lose sight of who you are. Sometimes you need to be grounded in order to figure out where you need to be. I never thought things could get this bad when traveling. Dazed and confused. It's time to come home now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

one and a half hrs of sleep was all i got

Have you ever looked back at your life and analyzed every single trivial detail, then just wish you could go back and rearrange it all? You wish you would have went that way instead of this way, chosen A instead of B, courageously pushed through instead of cowered back into the safety net of comfort?

You know, I used to think I was different. I kept thinking it was society, not me that was dysfunctional. Blame it on structural oppression, blame it on media brainwashing, blame it on how people are, whatever justifies your fear from grasping what's out there. But for every pointed finger, there's three pointing back at you.

I know fantasizing about building a time machine and reliving those lost moments can be just as much of a time drain as any other flashy media gimmick created in the modern day. I know it's best to leave the past behind you; thinking about it too much just takes up time that should be spent on the present, and then you go back and regret that lost time as well. But you know, it's a lot easier said than done.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Moving On

I once etched into a table in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, "Regret kills. Live with none." I somehow have still not learned to live by that phrase I engraved over a year ago. I'm beginning to wonder how regret is created. Is it the actual events that happen to us or the endless string of "what if's" you create in your own mind afterward? Sometimes I'd like to believe that we create our own misery, because by that logic we should therefore be able, at our own will, to halt the repressive anguish we put ourselves through. But truth is, it is a hybrid of it all. The opportunities that seemingly fall into our laps, the decisions we voluntarily make, and the interpretations we conclude at the end of it all.

Fifty-one hours on an uncomfortable bus strangely become more physically bearable when your mind is trapped in a never ending contemplation about regret. I spent my bus ride from Lima, Peru to Valparaiso, Chile, tormenting myself over missing out on yet another opportunity, which caused an intense analysis of all the events of my life. My biggest concern is feeling that I've been given all the chances and abilities to be someone great, only I let fear get the best of me. Someone who had more courage to realize their potential would achieve unimaginable feats, yet I can't seem to. I guess it just makes me jealous of this imaginary figure I fabricated in my own head and that envy soon transforms to bitterness.

There are so many other ways I wish my life turned out. I should have kept playing piano. I should have joined the wrestling team when the coach asked me to. I should have went to the bathroom before I walked her home. But dwelling in all those missed opportunities will kill you. It only prevents you from moving on. Sooner or later you have to let go. Sometimes you have to look at the brighter side of things and realize that maybe things could have been a lot worse. Sometimes you have to understand that perhaps had you went that way instead of this way, you wouldn't have the few things that do make you satisfied with yourself. Sometimes you must believe that things turned out the way they did for a reason, even if it means lying to yourself, just for that trivial purpose to be content with who and where you are.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Love/Hate Thing

I used to say that in order to love something, you'd have to have hated it at one point as well. How can you feel love without hate? Joy without pain? You can't truly appreciate either extreme unless you're acquainted with its counterpart. I wonder if the same holds true for the contrary. I've spent more time in Lima than in any other single place in all my travels and I can say that I've had some of the most miserable times of my life here. I can sincerely say that I hate living in Lima.

But it has nothing to do with the place itself. I have some real good friends here, enjoy the local cuisine, and know the bus routes better than Seattle's. But rather my resentment for Lima is that I've had my dreams and aspirations crushed in front of me and in the face of pressure I have folded; cowering into the familiar safety of comfort and turning into a pathetic, loathing, unproductive sloth who detests his inability to reach his full potential. So it's not Lima I hate. It's me.

I look at some of the comments people leave on the various medium of cyberspace networking and I can't see that person they all seem to know. HE wouldn't be as timid. HE wouldn't be indecisive. HE would be living that dashing fairytale adventure journey that everyone expects. I wish I could be that person. But I can't.

I spent the last two weeks agonizing whether I should go here or there, North or South, and in some ways it was representative of my past or my future. What ends up happening is that the internal deliberation distracts you from the only moment that matters. So after wasting a considerable amount of time and money, I ended up fruitlessly chasing the unattainable ghosts of my past and fumbling upon the prospects of new opportunities. In some ways you could say I put those matters to rest, in others you could say I did better than I had ever expected and maybe should be content with that. But in the end, it is what it is. It is useless to contemplate on the moments that never happened.

So what can I say about my time in Lima? A friend told me it's like New York. You hate it and love it at the same time. You want to leave everyday, but you'll miss it once you finally do. I made my last walk around the neighborhood and felt...quite indifferent. I don't know what to make of this time I've spent here. I can't tell if I loved or hated it. Maybe at the very least I can say that it has been a learning experience; a realization of my character and the countless opportunities I let pass by. But you take your punches in stride and learn to avoid them next time. And you can always change yourself and who you are. It's just about having the courage to snap your fingers and say, "now".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Ten Count

No, couldn't be, I silently thought this morning when a thread on the boxing forum that I frequent caught my eye. "Arguello found dead :(" it read.

Alexis Arguello, aka El Flaco Explosiva, was found dead this morning in his hometown of Managua, Nicaragua. The first thing that popped in my head was how I actually got to meet the former champ last year at his birthday party (we coincidentally have the same birthday). I remember being delightfully surprised at how welcoming this guy was, how approachable and sincere he carried himself and how despite being a damn near superstar in Nicaragua, he was one of the most humble, down-to-earth people I've ever met.

Like most fighters, Arguello lifted his country during a time of civil unrest and social instability. Boxers are individual embodiments of a nation's spirit. Fighters like the Filipino sensation Manny Pacquiao or even the first Peruvian world titlist Kina Malpartida dissolve all the present concerns surrounding the nation when they compete. For that moment, all that matters is their triumph. And even though it may not offer any sort of tangible long-term solution, amidst difficult times, it brings a country an instance of hope, no matter how tiny or short-lived it lasts.

Last year Arguello was elected mayor of Nicaragua. People would call him the "gentleman of the ring", labeled by both national and international observers as one of the classiest fighters to grace the canvas. Today I opened my inbox to a message that said "URGENTE NIKOOOO!!!!". A friend in Nicaragua wrote me about the devastating news, informing me that thousands are filling the streets of Managua, giving their ultimo adios to the champ.

Most news releases about his passing can be found somewhere in the back, mixed in with the miscellaneous press releases as Arguello is virtually an unknown to the international non-boxing observer. But those that have heard of him, mostly know him for his valiant losses to the American fighter Aaron Pryor, but I mainly remember him for what he said to his opponent Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini in his 14th round KO victory. I think his words sum up what kind of person he was.

Rest in peace, Champion.

(From 4:25 on captures Alexis Arguello's essence. RIP.)