Thursday, July 25, 2019

Happy Birthday Anwar

I always feel a bad-kind-of-weird whenever my birthday rolls around (I think).

I remember feeling really shitty on my birthday a handful of years ago, and what I did to overcome the feeling was writing on the back of a receipt I had with me at the time the things that I felt thankful about. It was a good exercise, I think, and it helped curb my spiral at the time.

A couple of years ago I reread that receipt-list-thing (I think) and cracked a smile. I was a small bit proud of my younger self for taking care of himself in such a way. How nice of him.

I find myself not feeling great again tonight, which is why I have turned to the blog to duke it out with my thoughts here. My wife isn't here for me to kacau (she's in her final week of her second European tour), and besides, I really don't want to take up anybody else's time with these unclear feelings and thoughts.

I have two "happy" memories when it comes to my birthday. The first was the time my parents got me and my brother small foldable tables that were green (and I think there were pictures of Batman and Robin on the things) for my birthday. My parents don't typically get me or my brothers anything for our birthdays beyond a nicer-than-usual dinner, so this memory kind of sticks out in my mind.

The second memory is from my first year degree at Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Pulau Pinang. The other TESOL boys pranked me on my birthday (I think I wrote about it in this blog, I can't be bothered to check at the moment) by saying that one of their motorcycles had broken down and asked me to help. When I arrived on the scene, they pelted me with raw eggs (as opposed to hard-boiled eggs, I guess) and threw flour at me. We had a good laugh and took pictures (or at least that's how I remember it).

Every other birthday doesn't really register in my brain. I know that my father got me my first camera on my 20th birthday (I think), but I don't know why my brain and self have not tagged it as "happy" per se. It's just there. Every other birthday was either meh, or a variation of what I'm feeling right now, a feeling of dread and anxiety bordering on crisis.

I've been saying "I think" a lot in this post so far. This is because they are statements made with my memory as the primary (and singular) source, and I cannot be sure of what my brain chooses to retain and/or modify. Malcolm Gladwell has a couple of good podcast episodes about memory and how it's weird on his podcast "Revisionist History" (the episodes' titles are "A Polite Word for Liar" and "Free Brian Williams"). Those two episodes changed my relationship to memory, particularly my own, and I think it'll never be the same again.

Back to my birthday and me. I think about why I feel this certain type of way when it's my birthday. Is it because I'm, like, getting older, therefore closer to death, therefore less time to do the things I want to do and achieve the things I want to achieve? Is it also another reminder of how I'm still not where I want to be in my life as a actor/writer/musician, and so I feel bad about how little I have done and how I haven't really made anything I could really be proud of yet, and time is running out and I'm not even improving my skill-set and at this pace I will die not having achieved my versions of "success" after having taken into account how much privilege I was born and continue to live with and will forever be remembered as a disappointment, not only to my parents (because that's a given) but to everyone else too?

And then I think, am I only doing this to myself? Could it be possible that I don't have to think these thoughts, but I choose to think them anyway, only to justify to myself why I'm feeling shitty? And when I have told myself why I'm feeling shitty, I can continue feeling shitty because there's a legit reason to feel shitty, and I get to feel sorry for myself and wallow in that self-loathing and hate? And while I'm wallowing in the pits of despair, I have an excuse for not working on myself to becoming a better actor/writer/musician/friend/brother/person, because hey, who could be a decent person under this much pain and anguish, right? So am I just giving myself an excuse to be a shitty human being?

I don't think people care about me. But people prove me wrong. Some people, anyway. And I don't think I'm worthy of people caring about me. I oscillate between thinking "Why doesn't anybody care about me??" and "These people are wrong for caring about me!" pretty steadily. But I do understand that these are just my thoughts and my thoughts cannot be trusted, at least not a hundred percent. I also have to believe people when they say they care about me, and when they act in ways that show that they do. I have to believe their words and actions, because they can't all be liars, right? I'd like to think I have nice people around me. I really do think they're nice people. And that's nice.

But I do have to somehow take care of myself jugak. Care about myself jugak. Fight the voices that say "I'm shit" that come from my brain jugak. I am not only the voices in my brain. I contain multitudes, and I am valid in this multitudiness. I have to believe that, if not for my own sake, then for the sake of the people that love me.

I feel like I have to do the gratitude thing again. Here goes:

1. I am thankful that my wife is also my best friend. I am thankful that she's an amazing person, and that she cares about me very much. I am thankful that she finds some joy in my existence, and my co-existence with her in time and space.

2. I am grateful that I the band IDLES exist and make wonderful music, perform it with such vigour and energy, and are playing in my head currently.

3. I am thankful that I get to make Youtube videos for a living currently. it's definitely not something I hate, and I don't think I absolutely suck at it (most times, although sometimes it's a seesaw).

4. I am grateful for books and my continuing to read a wide array of them. I do wish I read more books, yes, but hey, I read books every now and again, and they have helped shape me into the human I am currently, for better or for worse, so there's that.

5. I am grateful I get to perform on stage semi-regularly as a theatre-actor, an improvisor and a musician. The times that I am performing are the times that I feel most alive and most useful to the people around me, and I am thankful that I have the opportunities to do those things.

6. I am grateful for the podcasts that I listen to regularly. I love them. They give me life. They are as follows in no particular order: The Anthropocene Reviewed, Freakonomics Radio, Good One, RadioLab, The Valleycast, Welcome To Our Podcast, Comedy Bang Bang, Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend, Dear Hank & John, Delete This, Dynamic Banter, Off Camera, R U Talkin' REM Re: Me?, Threedom.

7. Thank God for jokes.

8. I am grateful that I have enough resources to be doing what I am doing right now, which is taking my sweet time typing away at a laptop, not having to care about how I'm going to pay rent, or the car's next payment, or where my next meal is going to come from. I am grateful.

9. I am grateful that I have this blog as a punching bag for me to figure out what's going on in my brain.

10. I am grateful that I have found it within myself to write this blogpost. It has helped, somewhat.

I was actually planning on getting some reading done before turning into bed tonight (I am currently on Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, after being blown away by his other book, Sapiens), but midnight is fast approaching, and my least favourite version of me (besides sick-me) is sleep-deprived-me. Maybe that's why I'm currently feeling shitty. I had a late night last night, as I do most Wednesday nights when I perform short-form improv at The Joke Factory at Publika.

Maybe one or two pages and then get to sleeping, yeah Anwar?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019 Trade-Offs

So in trying to write this post, I went back to read my past three start-of-the-year blogposts (2016 - Looking Back Looking Forward; 2017 - Achievements, Failures and Rethinking; 2018 - Floating With No Direction), and what I've found is that I've been doing a variation of looking back at the things I've failed to do in the past, trying to explain to myself why I failed, setting myself some goals for the year that was to come and planning on how I was going to not fail this time based on what I've learned from the reflecting I just did. Always failed anyway.

I don't think the reflection bit is at fault. I'm always glad I do those, and I kinda wish I did it more often, since it gives me a sense of clarity that is evasive when I don't write. It's the follow-through that I always have a hard time with. Making sure that I fall into a habit of consistently doing things that will help me in achieving the things I want to achieve in the long-run has always been one of my biggest weaknesses. I am more prone to doing things that feel nice in the moment, as is the propensity for most humans, I assume. So instead of writing those things I said I wanted to write, I take a nap. Instead of studying script-writing, I swipe through instastories. Instead of spending the time to memorize guitar scales, I take a second nap. I have always been my own biggest burden.

I recently watched a John Green video entitled How To Make Goals, Not Resolutions and in that video John explains that in order to do the things we set out to do, we have to be ready to make certain trade-offs. The example John cites is if he wants to spend more time with his family, then he needs to spend less time doing other things (such as make videos, write books, record podcasts, etc.). And those trade-offs aren't the easiest of things to make for him, since doing those other things brings a lot of people happiness and/or enjoyment of some sort, and he'd like to not disappoint those people. Not to mention that those other things help put food on the table for him and his family, so there's another dimension to it. The whole video is worth a watch and I like it a lot.

He also speaks about the importance of making those trade-offs consciously. And I guess what I've been trying to do with these start-of-the-year posts is an effort towards making those conscious trade-offs. But looking back, I guess my writing of those trade-offs have always been one-sided. I've always said what I wanted to do more of, but I tend to not think about what I want to do less of in order to make sure those trade-offs make sense. I seem to say "write more!" without bearing in mind "sleep less!" I tend to want to have my cake and eat it too.

Having this in mind, I play the scenario of the perpetually-sleepy me coming back home from work and mustering up the will-power to sit in front of the laptop some more just to put some words on the page, and I kinda don't see that happening. Me at home is the person who wants nothing else to do than watch some Netflix (I just started watching Ozark, Jason Bateman me likey) and fall onto the bed, scroll through some tweets before sleeping. I don't see myself changing to my workout clothes and going to the apartment gym to kayuh the bicycle for twenty minutes when I know that an episode of whatever-it-is is just waiting to be watched there on the couch.

Deep in the recesses of my heart, I know what I want to do this year. They are as follows:

1. Write three short plays, give them to three directors to put up on the same stage (probably Revolution Stage, Bandar Utama). Ever since I started watching plays more regularly in 2017, I've been intrigued by the idea of writing something for the stage. Teater Modular by Ridhwan Saidi in particular is a big inspiration in this regard. The challenge is pretty straight forward (I think): most plays that I've watched tend to happen in one setting. I'm not denying that multiple settings do happen too, but I think limiting myself in the setting department will allow me to challenge myself to write something specifically for the stage. And I think that limit will have me answer the "where?" question only once, so I can get to filling in the other blanks sooner. I have a handful of director friends now that I've gone through last year's directing workshop, so I look forward to collaborating with them again.

2. Write, shoot and submit a short film for Short and Sweet: Short Films category. I just found out that Short and Sweet also has a Short Films category last year when I was acting in the theatre category, and I immediately thought I would want to make something to submit there. But of course I have to write and produce it first, which will prove to be a huge challenge, since I even find writing on this blog challenging enough.

3. Act in more things. This one is kinda out of my control. What I've found is that the life of an actor isn't much in terms of autonomy. Even though I love doing it, I still have to depend on other people to choose me to do it in order to do it, which is more than a little disheartening, but as they say: that's showbiz baby. All I can do is put myself in positions where people might see me and my capabilities better, and hope that they see me fit to play in their productions.

But what do I trade-off in order to do these things? That's the real question.