Good Luck My Friend!

Last night a well respected friend left the states to return back to his hometown in China. Several of his classmates/friends and me, his former landlord, went to see him off at the airport. Tenant departures in the past have never been so dramatic, as generally I choose not to have a close relationship to those that I do business with, no matter how much money is involved, and likewise vice versa.

But inevitably it was difficult to do. During the 1.5 years that he lived with me, he never gave me any reason to keep a distance. Before I knew it, we had meaningful conversations at night – ones that truly reflect the way we live and view the importance of our lives. We spoke of relationships, business, jobs, friendships, romantic relationships (including introducing me to one), and whatever relevant topic made sense at the time. His background gave me a different perspective on how the wealthy perceived living life, yet he never lived a life that looked wealthy (from a materialistic point of view).

At first, I actually didn’t want to go to the airport. I knew that seeing his departure would make it difficult for me, but once he made his way through airport security, I was glad I went. Buddhist meditation teaches students not to cling on hard to anything, as it would create a craving which will bring us misery if it is not fulfilled. Avoiding it is not the solution – the solution is to embrace it knowing that it will come and go. During the time span between when it comes and goes, no matter how long, we are taught to live in the moment, enjoy what we are experiencing, and be grateful that it happened. Life is too short and precious to constantly cling onto the past, and worry too much about the future. Life is the here and now.

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Let go of the unessential

In the past few months, my heart has dealt with much discomfort and it still continues on today. A combination of work, emotional stress, and pressure gives me random moments of anger and anxiety. It’s not crazy in the sense that I lose control of myself, but it can become so overbearing that I need a moment to take multiple deep breaths to allow the pain to slowly subside.

I spent a lot of time trying to counter the discomfort by doing fun things I enjoy. Running, weight training, reading, food adventures, real estate…that’s just to name a few. It helps, but only for a short while. Then I recalled this quote from Bruce Lee:

“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

It became clear that I was going about this the wrong way. I need to think and confront this problem, but not let myself become obsessed. I need to find a way to let go of the problem – having good times just to distract me from the problem isn’t the true solution.

A simple analogy is spoiled milk. When milk is spoiled, anyone with common sense will throw it out. You can add sugar, food coloring, and whatever else you want to mask the smelly odor and bad taste, but it doesn’t change that underneath it all bad milk exists, no matter how hard we try to counter it with good stuff. Spoiled milk is simply bad, so it only makes sense to throw it out.

But tossing away pain in our heart is not as easy as throwing away spoiled milk. We have to learn to let go. The anger only exists because I choose to let it bother me.

Stirring the Pot

I remember not long ago when my heart was broken by a woman I genuinely wanted to marry. I won’t get into the details, but in my mind, I felt I had found the person that would complement my life. I wanted to work extra hard because of her. Things just seemed to make sense. But when the engagement didn’t happen, it felt as if my life started spinning endlessly. Needless to say, I entered a painful period of depression.

Another time this happened was during my fifth year of college, when I was applying for post-graduation full time work. I thought I had the perfect resume to get hired – a respectable degree backed by Fortune 500 company experiences. There was just no way things could fall through. But I was wrong…by the time Fall hiring had ended, I had nothing to show for it. I had entered another period of uncertainty in my life.

Each problem was different, but what was consistent is the result: in each case, I was forced to re-think the direction in which my life was heading. Granted, it was extremely painful in most cases. However, what was most important was it forced me to re-think whether it would have actually made sense if those problems never happened. Did the chosen path actually make sense, or did I simply do what I thought should be done?

For instance, when I got rejected from all the job interviews, I started another internship, and subsequently took some time off to study abroad in China. I took a long hard look at where my career was headed. It delayed my graduation, but in hindsight it was one of the best decisions I made. Because after taking time to reflect on what happened, my goals had more purpose and meaning, as opposed to having goals just for the sake of having it. When goals have real conviction, it all of a sudden appears to be more easier to obtain. It’s not actually any easier, what changed was my attitude: I decided to not let any obstacle get in my way. The feeling was very exhilarating.

As for love, my breakup made me realize it was okay to want things for myself. Naturally I am more of a giver than taker, but it was almost a necessity to want things for myself – the reason being that balance in life was necessary. My partner and I need to live for each other, it can’t be a one way street.

These two instances are only a few of the many times that setbacks made me realize there was something bigger I needed to see. But what I appreciate most is each one forced me to take a deeper look inside myself. The result was a better understanding of myself and a new appreciation for life.

One thing to remember is that, even when a pot’s content is stirred and disrupted, eventually it’ll stop and be calm again. Everything in the pot will land in a different spot, but will be more balanced. The disruption is only temporary and the only result is clarity.