2012 STATE OF THE UNION.

I haven’t written anything here in about 6 months which is by far the longest period of inactivity in this blog’s illustrious 3+ year history. The best years of this blog were without doubt when I lived in Korea and I had stories galore from my students and travels. Since I’ve moved back to the States, stories have dried up a little. I don’t know why. It’s not for lack of activity. Perhaps it’s for a lack of things I would enjoy reading about. Anyway, I’m forcing myself to do things in 2012 and I’ll start tonight with this post.

I just realized that in 2011, I spent time in California (north and south), Vegas (6 hours), New Orleans (my favorite American place), Wisconsin (maybe my 3 favorite days of the year), India (the longest time I’ve spent there since I was 16) and Spain (Fantastico, no? Si, pheenoameenal.)

And even apart from travelling, it’s been a very different year. Probably one of the more transitional ones of my life. I quit a lot of bad habits. Quit eating whatever I want all the time. Quit the cheeba. Quit having beers every time I felt a pang of thirst. Started learning about nutrition. I started drinking water. I started drinking wine. I started exercising. I started yoga. All these new habits came just in time. I think I was well bored of eating, drinking and smoking but I hadn’t realized it. Those had been my primary outlets for fun for a decade (probably not drinking as much but certainly the other 2) and it was tough to visualize anything else replacing them. I had wanted to get in shape for years but it was one of those wants that I didn’t want immediately…I wanted to want it, you know? I’d get around to it. It was sort of like cleaning the garage or scrubbing the bathtub. Not today. But soon. Sure, I want it! Just not right now…

I got a rash, man.

I felt like I was running out of “I’ll get to it tomorrows” on Superbowl Sunday in February 2011. I had driven to Las Vegas by myself and I felt like crap the whole drive there. I felt like crap when I got there. I didn’t feel like drinking. I didn’t feel like eating. I felt like vomiting just walking by other people smoking. I got into my car my first evening there and drove through masses of Packers fans en route to somewhere I hoped I’d feel better. It didn’t happen. Turned out I had an infection and my throat swelled up. I couldn’t get food down. I couldn’t drink because of my medication and smoking was obviously out of the question. For a week, I couldn’t eat and that eventually led to a month of not sleeping. I don’t know how but I did not sleep properly for one month. In that period, I left California. I was travelling for work in one hotel after another and I just couldn’t bear it any longer without rest. My eyelids were heavy all the time. I headed East, had a quick stop in New Jersey and then headed to Boston for work. There, I felt better enough to have one solid drinking session with an old college chum and a good friend of his. I drank my problems away while we talked about MIT. Men in Transition. I woke up and went to work my spirits heightened how they are by a proper night of good drinks and better conversation. A Pick-me-up at last.

A week later, I felt better mentally but I knew I needed to make some changes. I still wasn’t sleeping. Doctor said my blood pressure was getting higher. Nothing in my existing habits was making me happy anymore. That had never happened to me in my life. It was very strange and is still somewhat surprising. I went to India for 3 weeks. That 3 weeks turned into 4 months. There, I got a personal trainer. He worked me out three times a week. It was like that rubber pencil illusion. I was stiff and rigid and I would actually hear things snap in my body and he’d marvel “WHAT MAN HOW LONG HAVE YOU NOT EXERCISED FOR???” I would crack up. A long time, boss. Too long.

I’m a buff Pied Piper these days

   Four months later, I was a lot lighter, a little stronger and a lot happier.  I got back to the States and continued that healthy lifestyle. I’ve eaten about 500 apples this year.  Red Delicious ones. Gala ones. Fuji ones. Granny Smith ones. Countless cucumbers. All the green teas.  Earl Grey. Bigelow. Twinings. I try to avoid fast food. I drink very rarely, maybe once in two weeks, maybe once a month. I love cardio now. I look forward to that. I don’t enjoy weights as much but I’m trying to force myself and I don’t hate them as much as I did a few months ago. I’m certainly no Bruce Lee by any means. I still have a hyper sweet tooth and break my diet often but my goal is to reach my high school weight by August or so. I’m at that stage of health consciousness where if I’m in a restaurant I order the sensible thing almost all of the time – but I’m still incredibly pleased if the waitress brings me the unhealthy alternative by mistake. “OH I’m sorry, did you say Grilled Vegetables instead of French Fries?” I did. Wait, did I? Well, surely we can’t waste these wonderful fries now. They don’t seem so bad. Cute little buggers. They wouldn’t hurt me.

Yoga has been fantastic for me. One, it’s a serious workout for the flexibility-challenged such as myself. Two, I love the whole meditation aspect of it. One of my teachers is an Indian woman who has a very soothing voice and she’s always talking about nature. It’s quite incredible because she borderline hypnotizes you. I would have thought it’s ridiculous but it happens to me almost every time. After an hour of exercises, we melt into the floor. You’re lying on your back with your eyes closed and she talks about you on the ocean sand and the hot sun over your body. Literally, she mentions each body part as the “warm rays of the sun” go over them.    The center of your forehead. Along your nose. Your mouth, now. The warm rays on the center of your throat. Your right shoulder. Your right arm. Your thumb. Your ring finger. Literally, your entire damn body.

Shivasana, my favorite Yoga pose.

The only way I can describe it is I feel the sensation one gets with a great massage – every time I walk out of Yoga. It’s uncanny. AND SO UN-CAMRY. (*Kanye reference)

Another thing I’m getting into is jump rope. I took my jump rope to Spain and not having a gym or Yoga there, I finally had a chance to get serious with it. The first 2 or 3 days were frustrating because the rope keeps getting tangled up in your feet. You visualize little kids singing nursery rhymes and doing it and you wonder why you can’t manage to do it with all your focus on this one simple task. I can’t explain it but when you get it, it’s quite easy. You have to keep your eyes looking forward and just trust you’re jumping at the correct moment. When you get it a few times, you fall into a rhythm and the sound and motion of the rope are very relaxing. In that way, it’s sort of like yoga except it’s quite jarring when the rope hits your feet. I’m reminded of a friend who once told me that rowing was his favorite sport because when the oars hit the water, it was as soothing as any sport could get. When the rope is swishing by, it’s really satisfying and keep in mind I’m an absolute novice. My goal is to get to the fun stuff that boxers do such as one leg hops and all that in between stuff.

Dancing and sticking! I imagine a routine like that pulled off without a hitch will be the living end.

Yes, I’m also trying to revive usage of the expression “the living end”.

I’m very slowly getting into cooking. I tend to go for fruits and eggs quite often and have made a few cracking omelets if I don’t say so for myself. Breakfast for dinner very often. Oatmeal. I was hoping I’d be making competent dinners by now but that’s not the case at all. I can heat “pre-seasoned” things up and jazz them up with some veggies on the side but in my mind, real cooking is done from scratch and that’s not only beyond me right now but also not something I really want to delve into. Not right now. I mean, I want to want it, you know? Until then, I’m getting by with Maggi, some grilled chicken, spaghetti, fruit salads and sandwiches of all kinds. Sandwiches and me are back together again like peas and carrots. The Earl of Sandwich bestowed his gift upon us. We best use it! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandwich

Lastly, one more after effect of my time spent in Europe. Clothes.

Typical Homeless European Male

Damn, can you believe I wasn’t the sharpest dressed man on the street for the first time in my life?! People there, men and women alike, are so well-dressed. And it’s not one of those pretentious things (or maybe it is) but when everyone does it, it ups the level of design and beauty all around you and soon enough you’re thinking about buying a new jacket and a new felt hat and a new pair of shoes. I’m going full peacock from now on, feathers gonna be on display y’all.

Preening

So there you have it. Some changes have come and hopefully many more to come this year.  A guy I know once told me he was trying to be the best version of himself he could be, and I can say truthfully I am trying to achieve the same. I intend to work on other areas this year that will also fulfill other interests and make me more well-rounded. I hope to write more and more importantly, better. I plan on beginning to learn an instrument.  After a man named Valentine destroyed me in Chess in Spain, I promised myself I would improve my Chess game to the form that took me to the First Place finish in the Class 4 tournament when I was nine years old. That version of me was fit, smart and dashing! The Pierce Brosnan of the Playgrounds!

Nine year old me saying ‘Checkmate’ to my opponent in the Final

We all see ourselves one way. Some of us see ourselves exactly as we are. Some see ourselves as much worse than we really are, some see ourselves as much better.

It’s time for myself to catch up with my perception of myself.

Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee… Rumble Young Man Rumble!

That Siddharth’s So Hot Right Now.

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