Begin Again (Begin Again)

One of the major themes of my life is about starting over. My parents started over in a new country twice, and all throughout my life, I've had multiple reboots. I went to a French immersion elementary school, already its own unique subculture initiated by the previous Trudeau. Then we moved to a different part of town where I went to a new school for grade five, starting over with a new group of friends. For high school, I went in only knowing one person as an acquaintance. The track I took in university was odd, transferring from Sciences to Engineering in my first year, and no one I knew was doing that at the same time. I moved around for my co-op jobs, to Fort Mac and to Calgary, and all of my jobs have been across different industries. It was hard growing up in this strange land where I had to learn the culture and etiquette alongside my parents, a common feature of diaspora (people dispersed from their homeland). I don't talk to my family of origin anymore because I'm starting over with a new family of choice. Nowadays, I'm picking up the pieces of my life after it exploded in the last seven months. That's basically my life story; lots of new beginnings.

I'm coming to terms with the fact that I've had to deal with chaotic and open-ended situations since I was young. Despite my parents providing me with food and shelter for so long, I have this chip on my shoulder about fending for myself. Compared to my cohort, I've shown the ability to take on a lot more responsibility and ambiguity. In my career, I've shown initiative to try new ideas, revamp existing processes, and take on self-directed challenges. One of my friends had to take care of their entire family since they were a kid, so it's little wonder they're taking on huge responsibilities in adulthood and making a ton of money.

A lot of pushback on immigrants and refugees is about how we're given unfair advantages because of tokenism. There's a fear that we're taking over because we're so highly motivated to do more work for less money, and my simple response is that a lot of immigrants have to or they'll just go hungry and die. For people who haven't had to start over in a major way, who do so only if they choose to, there's the option to take it easy if you want. Even simply moving to a new city, I had to create new routines for basic things like groceries, but I also had to replace important things like my social network, family doctor, mechanic, bars and dance clubs, and so on. For people who've lived in the same place most of their lives, they don't have to spend 5-10 years integrating and learning a new culture while preserving and honouring the remnants of their own. People learn a new language for fun, but when I was in grade one, I peed my pants in class when my teacher didn't let me go to the washroom because I didn't know how to ask in French. It's cute enough when children practice their language skills and say the darndest things, but what about when grown adults with dark skin follow grammatical rules to their logical and non-sensical ends? These people can't simply go back to their country either. Colonialism is a "heads I win, tails you lose" proposition. Countries are ransacked for their natural resources through war and genocide, then the resulting refugees are accepted with "open arms" by those same countries destroying their homes. The immigrants that people are jealous of are thriving off of their survival instincts, which is a fun stress to soak in all the time. I wonder what it's like not starting over every couple years.

Since I have been able to restart in so many areas of my life, it's tempting to think that I can just keep doing it indefinitely, but even Superman hangs up his cape at the end of each day. I try hard, but that's when you die hard. A strong work ethic can be a trap because you think most problems can be solved if you merely try hard enough. I've been keeping a positive attitude since starting my job search in this new year, but this week, I buckled and lost the will to go on. I can't hold off the feelings of discouragement and self-pity forever. I eventually have to feel those emotions and use them as motivation. Optimism can turn to denial, and occasionally visiting those heavy feelings can help to drive the clever life hacks. Can't keep your chin up all the time. Rather than facing the headaches directly or ignoring my issues, I need to just get them off my mind for a while. Keeping them front of mind all the time isn't helping. And in a broader sense, I was reminded that the reason I'm not working right now is because of the August Fiasco. I could have reasonably returned to work in September, but since my life hosted a major implosion the month prior, I had to extend my time off by a few more months. It's not ideal, but things could have been way worse compared to if I had returned to work. I also compensate for Carrie's absence in our marriage, so that's an area where I can reclaim some energy. Alas, here I am, in the middle of another major reboot. Die another day.

I got a second interview for the Apple Store, so hurray! However, they told us there aren't any actual openings but that they hire proactively so as to fill any vacancies as quickly as possible. Prior to the group interview last Sunday, I had to kill a powerful demon that had been following me for a week. It was this nagging fear of trying to chase someone's approval and not getting it despite all my efforts. It's a familiar feeling, a desperate, adrenaline-fuelled motivation to climb over a wall that's impossibly high. It took a lot out of me to dismantle that feeling while I was reviewing interview questions and answers. I know everyone was saying I'd be perfect for the job because I'm already the Apple techie guy that people turn to for technical problems. The same day of the interview, someone asked me to help them understand their phone bill and how to save money. However, the problems lie with my confidence, self-esteem, ego. I get tripped up over myself, even though I'm good at interviewing because I prepare well. I was dragging around this heavy feeling of inadequacy and panic in case the interviewers couldn't see my value. It's a throwback to my relationship with my dad, where I constantly felt like I wasn't good enough no matter how hard I tried or whatever external factors I used to boost my personal value.

In the mean time, I'm continuing the job search. I submitted an application to Alberta Works for income support, so I have to go to their offices with Carrie and be assessed for how much support I really need. There are also some other large corporations that I can apply for, like McDonald's, Starbucks, Best Buy. Maybe I can set up my 3D printer on and start printing things for people for money. I also have to continue with my EI application and see where that goes. These days, the end result isn't so much important as the fact that I keep trying.

It's hard to begin again in so many ways. I've been meaning to dedicate time to learning software/app development, but it's been really hard to even get started with all the kerfuffle with government assistance and employment. 3D printing keeps my spirits up, and now I'm starting to do some really cool and random projects with people. Learning AutoCAD would be helpful in an engineering job as well, but that's another new beginning. Maybe I shouldn't worry about rebooting my career in software and perhaps just stick with the 3D printing.

I had two really hard conversations with friends this week. One friend wasn't doing so well. 2016 was really rough on them, with serious health issues causing them to take a step back in school and to fall into depression. I'm doing what I can to help, but they've already shown amazing strength in fighting back and taking care of themselves. Their family has never been very fostering to their development, so I could relate on a very personal level. I was both heartbroken by their circumstances and encouraged by their strength and resourcefulness. The other conversation, I was dreading. I let things decay for months before saying something. It hurt a lot to be passive about it, and it hurt even more being direct about it this week. I don't know where things are going, but something needed to be said. It makes me sad.

One feeling that compounded my problems was that I already escaped the struggle once before, so I feel like life is supposed to be easy now. I grew up poor, so I already know what it's like to not have nice things and feeling stressed about money all the time. Now that I'm out of school and able to work a good job, getting by isn't supposed to be so hard anymore, but that's not necessarily true. Why should life be easy for me? Who owes me the good life? I did escape the struggle and enjoy myself for a few years, and I will return to that state eventually as all these long term investments pay off. One activity that was easy to stop doing once I left my job was shopping. There are lots of little items I could buy that are $5, $50, a couple hundred bucks which I wouldn't have thought twice about before, but it wasn't hard giving up that style of shopping because I don't need anything. Over time, I've bought a lot of nice things which hold up and don't need constant replacement. Buy it nice or buy it twice. Looking around the home, my needs are over-served by our products and I could stand to even get rid of a lot of it on Kijiji or in a garage sale. Plus I can just print whatever I'm missing 😋. All it comes down to now is bills and cooking more at home. Times is tough, and many people are struggling right now. Why shouldn't I?

A person could argue that I had the choice to keep things the same and not restart all the time. That's technically true, but that would have kept me in the cycle of poverty. How do you stay alive if you only tread water and not swim for the shore? It's possible depending on how you start out in life. I swam back to shore once before, but I got pulled back out by the rip tide of the August Fiasco.

"But remember, anybody can get it. The hard part is keepin' it, motherfucker."

Dr. Dre ("Wesley's Theory" by Kendrick Lamar)

I'm playing "Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" in the lead up to the release of "Breath of the Wild," and like all LoZ games, there are long and tedious overarching quests filled with lots of mandatory little tasks and optional side quests along the way. I'm slowly making my way through this journey of Carrie graduating school, and I'm working through all the little things that need to happen along the way, eg. applying for jobs, helping out friends, fighting my demons, building my strength, restoring my health, acquiring new tools and skills. Not everything necessarily leads to employment or whatever it means to win in this game, but I'm doing a lot of good along the way. Since I'm the Hero of Time and I have the power of the Triforce of Courage, I've gone through quite a few reboots over the years, and I'm sure I will continue to before it's game over.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le