So something that I have wondered about a lot over the last year or so is pretty much like—am I on the right path?
One thing is for sure—I’ve often been on the wrong path.
And it’s a lot easier to know if you’re on the wrong path.
Because when you’re on the wrong path, you’re just not that great of a person.
When I was on the wrong path, I just sort of stopped caring about stuff.
My main prerogative was just to look for an escape.
When I think back, I think a lot about my upbringing.
And I mean this is a pretty oft-talked about sort of theme.
But I mean I grew up in a small town full of white people.
And I had like a pretty stereotypical Asian American upbringing.
You know, like, I played piano and stuff and I was on the math team and I played all the sports and whatnot.
But for the most part, my path was always provided for me.
I didn’t have all that much say in it.
And my path at the time was never about like me or who I was.
It was about like checking off the right boxes so I could hurry up and get out of this small town that I grew up in.
(Trust me, the irony is not lost on me that I now sit here writing this post in my childhood bedroom in that same small town where I grew up. The prodigal son returns. It all comes full circle. But I think the difference now is that I’m pretty kewl with being here.)
And I mean, this is by no means a condemnation of my parents. They did a great job and they’ve always supported me in the only way that they knew how. I’ve never once doubted their love.
For that, I’m truly lucky, blessed, and ultimately immensely grateful.
But that didn’t make the path they provided me any less hard.
I remember wanting to play the guitar but not being allowed to. Because, you know. Rock stars don’t present themselves in a respectable way.
I remember wanting to play football and not being allowed to because my mom didn’t want me to hit my head. (Fair play, mom. I’m with you on this one. As an aside, I still played football with my friends for fun. This one time in high school, I got a horrible concussion. Like, I was out of it for like 12 hours. And it had all these lingering effects. To this day, I still wonder about like the long lasting damages of that incident.)
I remember having this favorite pair of pants in middle school that I thought looked super kewl. My dad disagreed though and one day, I came home to find that he had cut and helmed them so they were three inches shorter so that they hung like half an inch above my shoes, which is sort of trendy these days if you’ve ever owned a Tom Ford suit (not that I have). But back then, well, let’s just say that I never wore my favorite pair of pants ever again.
I remember my first girlfriend which was around the same time. And her mom was super kewl so after we hung out, she’d drop me off three houses down so I could sneak home without my parents knowing where I had been.
None of which is deeply insidious really in any way. My parents just cared about me and wanted me to be a good person in their image.
And being immigrants themselves, they were still coming to terms with what that meant in a new world and a new culture that they were still learning and adapting to.
But what all of that pretty much taught me as soon as I hit puberty was that I needed to basically suppress my own wants and passions if I wanted to get by—at the very least, until I got to college.
A lot of these things were masked at the time anyway, because I was pretty good at doing things even if I wasn’t really into it.
Like, I got really good at the cello. I was really good at tennis. I was really good at math and other school stuff. I mean, I got really good grades and graduated 5th in my class. And let’s just say that my parents were super pleased with my SAT score.
But all of that sort of hid like the underlying ambivalence.
My mom always said that I was lazy, and in a way she was right.
Back then, I only did what I had to do. I studied just enough. I trained just enough. Just enough to be the best. And I went to a small town so it didn’t take much to be the best at stuff like cello and tennis. Or in the case of math, like almost the best because best was out of the question. And I happily settled for second best if the narrative suited me. Because again, I didn’t really care about any of this stuff. I just did it to check a box. To prove that I was capable.
And so most of the time I gave like 50% effort. Maybe less. Maybe a lot less because, I mean it was good enough, anyway.
I spent so much time proving myself to others, I never really bothered proving anything to myself.
Because, anyway, it was never my own path to choose in the first place.
So it wasn’t really until college that I sort of started to figure out who I really was.
But people don’t turn on a dime.
You don’t instantly shed the baggage of your past.
And so that figuring out process was a long journey.
I had suppressed my own wants and passions for so long and I had cared little for so long, I mean, it’s like my brain and heart was a car that’s been in the garage for 18 years.
You can’t just expect to turn the key and expect the engine to start purring.
(And plus, I had suppressed a lot of other things, too besides passions. Plenty of wants that I could now explore in college. So yeah, after 18, I was a bad boy, lol.)
The other thing with suppressing all your stuff for so long is that, even when you start to discover it, you already have all this inertia and momentum from your past life.
Which can just be so debilitating because you have so much more to lose now if you suddenly change course.
I think a lot of the joy that comes from pursuing your passions when you’re young and naive is that there’s so much less pressure. You have no responsibilities. You can just do you and not worry about like, how you’re going to pay rent in NYC.
And so my path has been this long and winding road.
It’s not been this consistent journey either. I’ve gotten lost. Taken wrong turns for the wrong reasons. Found my way back. Only to find the road blocked thus forced to divert course once again.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about all of this stuff because I was reading this post my friend Janet wrote, which is pretty kewl. And it must be pretty kewl if it made me think about all this stuff. I like the title, too. All paths lead to nowhere.
It’s funny because I had this written in my notes already from the other day:
“whatever u do, do it with love, with discipline, and make sure u have fun”
That’s easy to say, but in practice, hard to do especially if you’re on the wrong path.
Janet opens with a quote by Carlos Castaneda from The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Here’s the relevant snippet:
“This question is one that only a very old man asks. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.”
Janet follows up with her own question:
“Does this path have a heart? Do you find your flow in what you do?”
Which brings me back to my own original question.
If there are a million paths, how do I know that I’m on the right one?
And isn’t that what’s so scary about life in the first place?
That inherent uncertainty?
That fear of the unknown?
The lack of science and the need for faith?
I remember a few years back when I was living with Sammy at our apartment on Eldridge St. in the Lower East Side.
We had this wonderful cat named Kaz. (Kaz also moved to the suburbs, BTW. He’s at Sharukh’s house.)
And I remember Sammy would always say like:
“If Kaz is good, then we’re good.”
Kaz was sort of like this barometer for how we were doing in our lives, whether or not we were on the right path.
If Kaz was pissed off all the time and was peeing everywhere, well, we were probably screwing things up in a major way.
But if Kaz was super happy, well, that was pretty awesome.
Anyway, Janet talks about how she’s finding her own path and the sort of validation she gets about whether or not she’s on the right one:
“While I didn’t consciously ask myself, “does this path have a heart?” – I suppose in some way I did. And I always have (when I left finance and NYC, when I left the Philippines, when I decided to stay in Hawaii.) The path I am on right now – with art, surf, friends, community, love, and public service – well, someone who knows me very well recently told me, that my heart is radiating out of my smile, out of my voice, and out of my presence. That is definite confirmation that I am in the right place, on the right path. And if art has something to do with it, then of course I’m going to keep drawing and painting!”
I guess for Janet, her community has become her Kaz, which is pretty kewl.
My friend Vahe is also in search of his own path.
He quit his job late last year, traveled for a few months, and recently settled down in LA to, you know, start that beautiful grind, baby.
Vahe’s doing some music stuff. He’s played the guitar for like 12 years.
Which is kewl, but it’s also super scary. I mean Vahe is a super talented software engineer who was making a ton of money in SF living that tech life.
And now he’s back at square zero.
We were talking about it last week and he was like:
“Yea and as I said the other day I got all the equipment so I can’t blame the lack of em.. same way we got rid of all of the limitations and now it’s scary cuz finally it all 100% depends on you lol no one to blame.”
And yeah, these same feelings are baked into my own core these days.
When I was living a path given to me, it didn’t really matter of I cared.
And I would often blame other people or blame my situation rather than take responsibility or ownership over my own life.
But living your own path, committing to it, you suddenly no longer have a choice in the matter.
There are no more scapegoats.
Over the last year or so, without Kaz, running has sort of been my barometer for whether or not I’m on the right path.
Like, if I’m running, I figure I’m doing something right.
If I’m doing this thing that’s just so hard, that’s such a struggle, with seemingly no purpose—literally running in a big circle and going nowhere (like all paths, incidentally)
Because life, whatever path you’re own, it’s really about the struggle and how you embrace it.
Running to me is like the physical manifestation of that.
Working out and stuff is super fun. Running is never fun. It always hurts. The only bliss you feel is after, once that pressure and stress suddenly releases as you arrive at your destination.
And yet there’s no real destination with running.
It’s entirely self-imposed.
Tomorrow, it starts all over again.
Back in high school, I was pretty OK on paper.
But I can tell you first hand that I was barely trying.
These days, I live in my parents house and I make no money from my work and I have like barely any subscribers and barely any views for my videos. (Although we did recently hit the 1000 view mark!)
But that’s OK I think.
Because I no longer get my energy from my results. (Although I would love some big results, lol. Who wouldn’t.)
I just get a lot of energy from doing my thing.
Back in high school, I would have been a lot better at the sports I was playing if I ran more. And yet I didn’t run.
These days, I run just to do it.
There’s no one at the finish line giving me a high five.
There’s no award.
I’d like to think that this tells me something about the path I’m on.
(Well, there’s Strava and people can give you kudos, which is kinda like a high five, but I have like no followers. It’s just Sammy and Susan giving me the same kudos over and over again. Which I super appreciate of, though, love you guys.)
Anyway, I’d like to think that the same thing applies to making videos and stuff like that.
Like running, there is a progression to it.
And like running, I’m doing it to do it.
Not because I have to.
But because I want to.
I remember back in high school, I never checked over my work. I always made these careless mistake because my primary goal was to get it over with as fast as possible versus trying to get a perfect score. (Hey, who cares about the score as long as you understand it? Well, apparently people care about scores in life. Like colleges. And companies and stuff.)
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at Pawan’s memorial service. (I pretty much read a censored and edited version of my DONUTS piece so you guys already know wsup.)
Anyway, a bunch of my old high school teachers and stuff were there, Mrs. Matts, my AP chemistry and AP physics teacher. Mrs. Banks, my 6th grade teacher. Mrs. Tremblay, my AP english teacher. (She liked my speech, so that was kewl.) My guidance counselor, Mr. Hammond, was there, too.
And so was my old math teacher, Ms. Pupko.
And so after the service there’s a bunch of us chatting in a group and she walks up to me, and she was like, and I mean this was literally the first thing she said, like before she even said “hi.”
“Do you remember the regents exam???”
I was like, yeah…
“Do you remember taking those practice tests? And you got two 100s on the two practice tests, and you were like, OK, that’s it, I’m not practicing anymore. I don’t need to take anymore of these practice exams.”
“DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT YOU GOT ON THE REGENTS?”
And I’m like, uhhh… a 97??
“A NINETY-SIX. YOU GOT A NINETY-SIX!!!!!!!!”
Lol, so yeah, that actually happened. I mean she was literally yelling.
But yeah, that was pretty much me in high school.
Anyway, which brings us to today’s video. (Sorry for the long intro lol.)
I’ve been working on a bunch of other video stuff the last couple of months, between Sammy and Ki’s video and some Pawan videos. (I have one more Pawan video I’m finishing.)
So this one has sort of been on the back burner.
But it’s also why I sort of think of it as like the season finale to DONUTS S1.
And then once I finish through the this backlog of videos, we’ll start fresh with S2.
As you all know, Sammy’s been closely intertwined with my personal running journey.
Last year was all about firsts. Our runs, our first races. And also qualifying for the 2018 NYC Marathon, which is later this year.
This year is a little different since we’re building now on a year’s worth of work already invested.
We’ve also got the big one coming up in November.
Right now, we’re training for our second half marathon, the Brooklyn Half in May. (Well, technically Sammy’s first. You’ll see what I mean, whehehehe.)
So we have this bet going on where we have to run 20 miles a week for the next 10 weeks or so, which we both just completed our first week of.
FML, my whole body hurts today.
This latest episode is about our first half marathon, which we ran back in October so it’s like the final chapter of that story, the story of that first year of running.
(You can watch the last running episode here, which sort of sets this one up.)
So I actually started editing Thursday morning.
And it was around Friday night when I messaged the boys like, YO IT’S DONE, IT’S FINALLY DONE, while I was exporting the final cut of the video.
Since Friday, there’s been 14 other final cuts of the video, lol. (I ended up working all of Saturday and Sunday on it, too.)
This morning, I exported the final 15th final cut. (After noticing an issue while watching it on my phone this morning when I woke up.)
All of which is to say—I guess this ain’t math class anymore.
(Also, apologies in advance but my shotgun mic was on the wrong setting for a lot of this video.)
(Also also, H/T Praveen for one of the songs I use, Hope in a Box by Tomas Barfod.)