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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Listening To Debbie Millman

So before writing this post, I was running. Running is a thing I have wanted to introduce as a regular feature in my life for quite some time now, not because I particularly enjoy it, but because I believe in its health benefits. I would much rather play rugby for my health, but my current schedule won't permit it. And even if I did have the time, there is the added burden of looking for a new bunch of people to play with, since I've moved. So I'm stuck with running for now.

But as with any other of my endeavours, they fail to have any sort of longevity. But I've been doing it for three weeks now, so that's something. And in that time, I've realised something about myself: the last thing I want to think about while I'm running is running. So I get to choose between three things to distract me from the fact that I'm running while doing it which are: podcasts, Netflix shows and songs. What I end up choosing depends on what mood I'm in on that particular evening.

Earlier today I chose podcasts, and I listened to The Tim Ferriss Show, more specifically to one of the more recent episodes in which he talks with Debbie Millman. Debbie Millman is a writer, designer and the host of the podcast "Design Matters". This episode was the first time I had ever heard of her, and I'm glad that I did because she is such an interesting person to listen to and hear the life story of. The episode is called "How To Design A Life", so if you're into design or just interesting people in general, I highly recommend it. If you want to give it a listen (it's a long one, just so you know), click here.

I want to talk about three points she made in the conversation that I found remarkable. The first one is her realisation of what she really wanted in life. For decades, she had thought that what she really wanted was financial stability and being self-sufficient. But within this past couple of years, she has realised that she had been lying to herself all this time. What she really wanted was to stay in Manhattan, the most expensive city in the world. Everything she did, all the decisions she made was based on that condition. She did everything she could to be able to stay in Manhattan, even if it meant living in deplorable conditions in a rented room four flights of stairs up.

What astounded me was that it took her all those years to realise that she had been lying to herself and to finally find out what her true motivations were. So she asked into the microphone, "have a think about the one thing that you truly couldn't live without," and it prompted me to have a think about my answer. And at this point in my life, I would want to answer self-sufficiency. I want to be able to provide for myself and the people I care most about, no matter where I am or what I do. But because I am a product of privilege, in my mind I am always not too far away from being able to move onto something else that might pay the bills if I didn't like what I was doing at any particular moment in time. Because of the incredible luck I've had throughout my life, I've been able to get to where I am and aspire to go even further in the future. So I still have doubt over my answer of self-sufficiency being what I truly need. Maybe I'm too young to discover the truth and to look beyond my own lie. Only time will tell, but for now that's what I feel like my answer is.

The second thing from the podcast episode was a piece of advice that Debbie gave the listeners, which was a piece of advice that one of her teachers gave her. She instructed the listeners to imagine that the date was exactly this day, but ten years in the future (so as of writing this piece, 20th January 2027) and imagine what an ideal life of yours would look like. If you had the option of never failing anything ever in anything that you choose to do with your life, what would it look like in ten years. Debbie asked us to be as specific as possible, from the moment one wakes up to the moment they go to bed again, what does that ideal, completely successful version of future you's day look like? Once you've written it, keep it safe and reread it once a year every year.

She said that all the things she wrote 12 years ago have come true today, and it was surreal for her to go through. She also says that she tells her students to do the same, and students from a decade ago have sent her letters saying that the things they wrote had come true too. So it's proven to be a very powerful thing in quite a few people's lives. I wish to take on this exercise one day in what remains in January 2017. I'll most probably put it here for safekeeping.

The third thing was the story of the hardest decision she had to make in her life, which was to turn down the offer to become CEO of a company that she had worked for for decades. She said no to it ultimately because she felt like that would be going down the same path in life as she had already gone for so long at a time when she felt like she needed to switch paths. It was a hard decision for her because the job was a comfort zone for her, since she knew the company and what the company needed and how to do the job properly. Plus, she wouldn't have to wonder how to pay the bills if she were the CEO for a while.

But she said something to the effect of, "people often look at an offer and become afraid to turn it down because they somehow, in their brains, dismiss the fact that other, different offers may and do come in the future. People think that by saying no to this one thing, no other thing is going to pop up, when in reality, loads of things always keep popping up. Some things need that initial offer to be off the table first before presenting itself to you, so we have to keep that in mind when making decisions." I paraphrased super-heavily in that quote, I apologise.

But it reminded me of what video-maker Casey Neistat once said about life's progress being akin to Tarzan swinging from tree vine to tree vine. He can't move on until he lets go of the previous vine and starts reaching for a new one. He'll stay in the same place forever if he doesn't learn to let go of the tree vines.

So how these two quotes relate to me is that (and I think this is no secret) I'm going to have to let go of this tree vine that is being a school teacher in order to pursue other, more interesting things to me. And it's a scary decision to want to make, since there's no safety in that. There's all the safety in a government school teaching job. The pay's good, it's noble work in that teachers help mould the future generations, all that jazz.

But I don't feel fulfilled. I don't feel like I'm growing. I always feel like I'm stagnant. I even sometimes feel like the more I stay on as a teacher, the more I become this person I despise. A person that's egotistical, lacks integrity, demands respect when he hasn't earn it, looks down on other people. Maybe that's just a flaw in my own character, and it doesn't matter what kind of work I do. If I'm a douche, I'll be a douche doing anything. But because I've only ever been a full-time teacher, I can't say for certain that I'll stay the same doing something else.

At the same time, I see people that become the best versions of themselves because they are teachers. The profession brings out the best in them. I feel like I need to go on a journey to find what that profession is for myself, because I'm pretty sure it isn't being a primary school teacher.

The other day I scolded a kid because they hid a book from me. It was petty of me to do that, to feel slighted by a nine year old who didn't know any better. I left the class feeling as disgusted with myself as I had ever felt. I keep thinking that the sooner I'm taken away from these kids the better. They deserve better than me. So much better than the piece of trash that is me.

Here's to letting go and moving forward.

1 comment:

Nurul Afifah said...

Im kinda thinking about the same thing. It's scary. But I dont want to get stuck either. Hope you'll find your true profession. It's fun to read your blog as you actually update quite a few now.