Five Kilometre March in a Perfect Storm

There is no unifying thought or theme this week. It's just a bunch of random thoughts cobbled together poorly. I'm repeating myself a lot from previous posts. Skip this one if you have something better to do.


A sentiment I want to combat is how the tone of many of my recent posts amount to "poor me, my life is so hard." Surely, my life isn't all that bad, so I don't want to neglect the fact that I actually have it pretty good in a lot of ways. There are aspects about my life that put me ahead, so what does it matter that I have some setbacks now?

  • Straight cis male.
  • Live in Alberta, Canada.
  • Able bodied.
  • I know both of my parents. They were married and had jobs.
  • I'm Christian. It's a major world religion that's looked on favourably.
  • My dad was a pastor, so he had higher status within our community. I was treated specially as a result.
  • I could afford to receive a post-secondary education.
  • I'm married. My wife has a job and education as well.
  • I speak English kinda fluently.
  • I'm both young and old enough to do what I want.

It puts my suffering in context. I won't say I have it easy, but it could be a lot worse. Some things I earned, but many other advantages were given to me. I don't really know how to contribute to the discourse on privilege, so I just wanted to highlight that I have quite a few things working in my favour. The privileged operate like Fight Club. If you don't acknowledge the advantages you inherited, then they magically don't exist. Acknowledging privilege doesn't do much, especially in alleviating the suffering or oppression of others, but it seems to be a sticking point for some people who can't face the help they received.

Perfect Storm

I've been pretty efficient with my life so far, so I think it's okay if I take some time to myself. All the time I've saved from weaving through traffic, getting an education and some good jobs, choosing the difficult paths that pay off over a long time, I think it adds up to at least a few months off. I didn't adequately manage many of insecurities and emotional problems, but then they all exploded at the same time: the longing for self-acceptance, burnout, shortcuts in self-care, poor physical health practices. The perfect storm.

Pam Beesly: Michael tends to procrastinate a bit whenever he has to do work. Time cards, he has to sign these every Friday. Purchase orders have to be approved at the end of every month. And expense reports, all he has to do is initial these at the end of every quarter. But once every year, it all falls on the same Friday. That's today. I call it the perfect storm.

I'm still trying to understand the cost of choosing my health over working. One way of capturing that price is by calculating the opportunity cost. It represents what you lost out on when you chose one path over another. For example, instead of going to university for five years, I could have worked and made money. Therefore, the opportunity cost of going to university is the cost of my tuition and living costs plus the wages I would have earned over those five years.

What is the opportunity cost of taking this health detour? It's hard to quantify mental health, but somehow psychometrists do it. Every four counselling sessions, my counsellor makes me fill out scales that gets me to rank how I feel in different areas with a score from 1 to 5 (I don't even remember what the scale even is). For this little time out from work, I figured out a couple questions that will make show the difference between me doing poorly vs. doing well: - How well can I contain my emotions? - How well do I process my emotions? - How does stress affect my day to day operation? - How well adjusted am I? - How consistent is my exercise? - How much time do I spend in addictive or obsessive activities? - How well am I self-regulating? - Am I being compassionate to myself?

The answers to these questions are subjective and hard to pin down, and it doesn't really answer my original question on opportunity cost. There are the lost wages from not working at TELUS anymore (plus my unlimited wireless data 😭). I didn't get paid for about a month before I quit. Afterwards, I applied for EI, so that reduces the opportunity cost. So is that it? One month of lost wages and reduced income offset by employment insurance? My health is improving now, so how do you calculate the price of my health deteriorating if I were still employed? Supposing I kept working, how would I measure the cost of another eventual mental breakdown? Right now, I feel like I just bailed from a sinking ship, and the waters are still swirling around me. I can't seem to really find which way is up, so I'm swinging my arms around and kicking until I find some traction.

In an alternate universe, I would still be pursuing a career as a doctor. Then once I realized it wasn't for me, I would switch into engineering after a couple years of failed attempts at getting into med school. In another alternate universe, I wouldn't have tried so hard to be with Carrie and instead I would be single, dating around until I realized I made a mistake in letting go of my soulmate. In yet another alternate timeline, I would still be talking with my family and wasting my energy on trying to get them to love me in the way I want them to. Instead, we have this timeline, where I made all the "better" decisions. I saved myself from a lot of wasted time, pain, and suffering by avoiding those other paths, which I can't even calculate, so I think I can take this brief health detour without skipping too much of a beat.

Five Kilometre March

I'm Pokewalking pretty consistently every day. When I'm feeling upset, it's good to go for a walk and listen to music or a podcast. I draw this practice from the 20 Mile March from "Great by Choice." Two people raced to Antarctica in 1911, Roald Amundsen and Robert Flacon Scott. One team traveled in spurts depending on the weather; hiking a lot when it was nice and not at all when the weather was terrible. The other team made consistent progress each day totalling 20 miles, regardless of conditions. The team that did the 20 mile march, Roald Amundsen, won the race, whereas the other team died along the way, which Jim Collins and his research team says is the way to go for maximum success. I walk about 5 km during each Pokewalk. I haven't hit the gym yet for my exercise routine, but once I do, I will have a solid foundation of consistent performance and strength to build on.

I'm a generalist. I always pictured myself sticking to one field and extracting all the little lessons from that backdrop, but the trend of my life so far has not followed that path. I played piano for 13 years, drums for two, and then stopped playing music altogether. I've written online only a few years now across two blogs, I've had nine different job positions/rotations in the last eight years, and I'm juggling 10 books at the moment. I could be more diligent about finishing one book at a time, limiting myself to how many books I juggle, and dedicate time each day to reading. That would be my 20 Mile March if I were really concerned about finishing them, but I don't read books that way lately. When I start reading, I'll run into some sort of insight that distracts me from the material that sparked or inspired it. It's like a springboard that focuses my mind onto an area of weakness I didn't know I had. When I have time to be inspired, I jump into a book. Then I put the book down once it triggers thoughts about a problem. It never used to be like this, but that's how reading operates for me right now. That's one way I try to engage in the healing process.


I don't want to seem as though I think my life is the worst, so I highlighted a few areas of privilege. I still don't really know what's going on or how to get better, but one way I'm doing that is by being consistent with my Pokéwalks. I'm still struggling with self-compassion, particularly in knowing how much breathing room to allow myself, so I'm still fighting to give myself some parameters or measures on how to know when I'll be okay again. Even though I'm not at a job, I still work throughout the day. There are chores and errands that need doing, and when those are done, I read a section of a book until it illuminates a blind spot in my mind. Everything is still swirling in my head, so the little I can actually manage is to walk, listen to music, and read books through my perfect storm.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le