Does it have to be arrogance if I’m Onan it?

It’s that time of year again. Tough Mudder is a mere five days away. I’m on the last leg of prep and those legs are predictably sore. For several months now I’ve been training hard. I’ve sworn off alcohol and bread (not through any anti-yeast sentiment, I’m just aware of how I love to overindulge in those two delectable consumables). I’ve been training hard at the gym, working through dedicated upper and lower body split days. Three times a week I’ve gone for lunchtime runs along the waterfront. It’s been sweaty and taxing, but I’ve seen tangible results.

Was all of this necessary to complete the course? Not in the least. Some of my team members last year crossed the finish line with zero training under their belts. All the hard tack I’ve been devoting each week could easily be seen as overkill. Without putting in the extra yards I could likely still zip through the event without dying halfway through. In previous years however, I’ve been thankful for the extra grit in the tank. Instead of slogging up and down the mountain, I’ve bounced through with the gusto of the Energizer Bunny on coke. It’s turned an endurance race into a celebration of my body’s capabilities. Instead of thanking the fates for my survival, I can thank my limbs, muscles, heart and mind for pulling me through each day with aplomb.

The event has become less of an annual task, and more emblematic of how I tie my own self-worth to discipline. Seeing my body change, feeling renewed energy and acknowledging the strength of my resolve brings me pride. Amongst the multitude of challenges that’re out of my control, I’m emboldened to rediscover each year that not all of them are. As someone who’s struggled with issues of body image and associated feelings of inadequacy, this provides me with fuel to see the best in myself.

At this point, five days away, it’s more important than ever to practice self-love. Masturbatory as this entry is, I mean compassion, rather than anything titillating. I’m not gonna be hitting any new peaks over the next couple of days. The benefits of pushing hard are by far outweighed by the risk of injury. For the rest of the week, I’m focusing on tapering down. Any workouts will be focused more on keeping myself limber. Maybe a short run on Wednesday. Mobility and stretching will be a priority. I’m gonna be eating well and aiming for eight hours of sleep per night. Cutting down the caffeine and quaffing down my greens. With the end in sight, it’s so important that I get there safely with respect for my body.

Feeling present in my skin has given me a vitality I treasure. I’m content when I look in the mirror and give thanks rather than seeking flaws. I feel confidence resonating through my core and that in itself is worth all of the effort. Tough Mudder may still be a few days away, but I’m happy to linger in this for as long as it lasts.

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A top notch sunny disposition.

Today was a scorcher (I use past tense because somehow the cloudless sky has grown dark and foreboding. The horizon threatens encroaching thunderstorms). I’d resolved to go for a lunchtime jog in an effort to keep active. I’m lucky enough to have access to both the Toronto waterfront and showers at work. I have very few excuses beyond but I don’t wanna. Looking out at the blazing sun I had misgivings, but stepped out the door and started stretching anyway. I took my place on the bike lane and settled into a steady pace, heat beating down from above. I noticed a figure in front of me jogging away. A shirtless cuddly looking dude. The thought popped into my head man, I wish I had the confidence to do that. I took a second and thought again I could, y’know.

Immediately I had misgivings. I’m so close to work, what if someone from work sees me without my shirt? Doesn’t that cross some kind of unprofessional line? Then again, if I’m outside the office without any visible sign of where I work, do I really treat this as being on the clock? I do it all the time in friend groups. Yeah, but those are communities where I feel safe and comfortable. This is out in public. What if I feel awkward? On the contrary, what if I don’t? What’s really stopping me here, truthfully? Some sense of self-consciousness? When I think about it, the only thing preventing me from doing it is, well, doing it.

I did it.

It felt instantly freeing, as if my shirt had more weight to it than the sweat stained cotton should’ve. A gentle breeze rolled across my body as the sun shone down. Parts of my frame that rarely saw the light felt the kiss of fresh air. My back and shoulders, the patch of skin around my armpits, my chest, my belly, all exposed to the elements. I felt a smile spread across my face as I took it all in, the long forgotten sounds of Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape pounding in my ears. My tired, aching body should’ve told me to give up, but there was something almost euphoric in that moment. The smile stuck.

At times it feels hard to be comfortable and confident in your own skin. Within a society that constantly tells you that you should be better, loving your own body is a choice. A pretty hard choice to make at that. Running in public with my skin exposed came with a certain lightness. My heavy footfalls felt like stones skipping across a pond. Deep breaths felt slight, belying the effort they took. The world took on a magic of its own. I held an appreciation for my body that spread throughout. For the muscle and sinew, bones, blood and skin. For its perseverance in everything I put it through. For the way it bounces back, showing me more love than it often gets in return. For its ability to propel me through the world day by day without fail.

Thanks, man.

A foot in the door still needs to climb eventually.

Screw the preamble. I was at my group mentorship meeting today and the general themes were limitations. What was holding us back from being where we wanted to be? Our “homework” was to watch a TED talk on why most people would never have a great career. It intimated that the vast majority have good careers in lieu of great ones. Those “lucky” enough to have great careers find their way through pursuing passion, saying yes to opportunities and forging ahead even under stormy clouds of doubt. Fear, he said, was the prime reason that truly great careers evade so many of us. It’s not a new idea, but it certainly resonated deep in my gut.

In the mentorship meeting they asked what we were afraid of. I thought about it. I’ve known that I have a debilitating fear of failure for some time. I dug deeper. Why was I afraid to fail? What did failure represent? I have constant ideas, but what stops me in my tracks? I realised that I talk myself out of opportunities all the time. Why? What is it that paralyses me? I dug deeper. When something pops into my head I think hard on it. I conceptualise what form it would take. I consider the steps it’d take to bring it to being. These pile atop one another. More considerations flood in and the pile becomes a towering monolith. A singular entity. All of the tasks combine into an overwhelming obstacle. Fear takes root and it’s too much. How would I be able to tackle all of it? I have a job. I have a social life. I’m afraid to lose precious time on a project that could fail.

Then it hit me. It wasn’t a smooth obelisk, it was a collection of steps. Yes, I’d have to climb to dizzying heights, but the process would be one step at a time. Developments don’t have to happen in an instant, otherwise they’d be called occurrences. The work would consume me, but in the mean time I wouldn’t lose everything I had, it’d fade into the background temporarily.

But still, what if it didn’t work out and it was all for naught? If putting the time and the effort in left me back at square one with nothing to show.

The mentorship facilitator said something that struck me: That while we often think we’ll end up back at square one, we rarely do. We don’t lose the lesson when we lose. I thought how fervent I was when I arrived that I needed to go out and grab opportunities. I said yes to everything because I had no other choice. In doing so, I prospered and grew. I shook myself out of stagnant habits and tried something. I’ve reached a plateau of safety. I don’t have to act out of fear and desperation. You know what though? I accomplished a bunch out of desperation and it worked out great. It didn’t happen instantly, but I got there even if I was afraid. It’s not like I have so much to lose that it’s not worth the risk reaching further.

So I did. After the meeting finished I talked to my mentor. I told him what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I asked him if there was anyone he could put me in touch with to workshop it and make it a reality. He said he’d set something up tomorrow.

What have I got to be afraid of?

If I cast far enough, shit might get reel.

Sometimes a moment of clarity will just strike you from out of nowhere. Like a bolt flung from the hands (or tentacles, let’s be real here) of a deity, an epiphany. While I was voicing yesterday, somebody from the station dropped into the studio to hang out. When I came out of the booth, she introduced herself. She asked me my background and what I wanted to do. Without skipping a beat, I replied.

“I want to make podcasts.” I said. “It’s something the opposition does, but we’re really lacking behind.” Someone else chipped in “We have them.” I nodded and replied “we do have them, but the breadth of subject matter is pretty limited, which seems weird considering the vast Intellectual Properties we have access to and our company’s push for consumer engagement. If having a social media presence is so important, why not offer them cause to spend time with us while they work? Give them even more reason to engage with our brands. It’s an intimate, personal medium. Selling the idea to consumers that we’re their friends? It’s hard to buy that kind of marketing. Why not do that?” I stopped ranting. All three people in the room were quiet, nodding.

Where the fuck did that confidence come from?

I’ve had vague ideas about professionally producing podcasts before, but haven’t given it a whole lot of serious consideration. Then all of a sudden that torrent came tumbling out of my mouth. Who would pay me to do it? Where would the funds come from? Today though, I’ve been thinking about it more. Who better than a large corporation? It’s not like they’d have to invest in infrastructure. They have the equipment, the hosting. They can handle traffic and would have umpteen ways to promote it. They have on-air talent. They have content that invites both discussion and promotion. We know that there’s a market for it, given the near ubiquity of podcasting. All it needs is someone to go to bat for it.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately in multiple areas. Aside from near constant impostor syndrome (though I assume this is a universal part of the human condition), I’ve been feeling really down on myself. For years I had a fire burning, mantra of Make it Happen running through my head. I felt indomitable and pushed forward constantly. The past few years have felt like a rut professionally and I’ve started to doubt whether or not I’m a capable person. It’s been harder to get motivated and excited about things. Self-esteem has given way to recursive negative self-talk and I’ve started to stop believing that I deserve opportunities.

This past weekend was spent in the constant company of friends. A couple of them were people I’m quite close with, but most were casual acquaintances. I had an amazing time, but one thing stuck out to me. Almost universally, people there saw me as quick witted and down for anything. They assumed I took chances and opportunities, that I was creative and hard working. Good-natured, compassionate and funny. They saw me as the kind of person I want to be, a person who boldly follows their desires and makes things happen.

I feel like I used to be him. That if circumstances align, I become him again. I realised just how much I want to be as my friends see me. I want to take risks and be okay with failing. I want to put in effort because a lesson learned is the worst outcome. I want so badly to believe in myself again.

If others do, what’s stopping me?

When employment isn’t working.

If there’s one thing I hate it’s wet socks. Your feet get all wrinkly and even the gossamer wings of a butterfly are enough to rip your soft skin to shreds. Then comes the stench. Suddenly you’re telling co-workers that you drunkenly ate a skunk whole because it’s less embarrassing than the possibility of your body being that appalling. The worst. If there are two things I hate, then job hunting gets the second slot.

It’s a constant parade of inviting your insecurities to ride shotgun on your back. For the past while, reading a job application has involved skipping over the duties straight to the qualifications. I pride myself on efficiency, so I cut right to the part where I’m not good enough in order to congratulate myself on being a failure. Ain’t no party like a pity party ’cause a pity party is another name for life. Not only does everyone still require ten years experience for entry level work, but the range of skills and expected aptitude for any job is ridiculous. Who do these people think I am? Somebody with self confidence?

An ex-girlfriend once gave me good advice re: job applications. She told me that the “requirements” for any position were a way to weed out excessive numbers of applicants, not a necessity to perform the job. Ex-employers have verified this, saying almost universally they’d rather have people they can train than people who know everything already. This way the new employee will be able to learn good habits from the boss, rather than that employer having to rid them of old unhelpful ones. Ex-bosses have also suggested that it’s risky to take overqualified people, as they could use it as a diagonal move and you’d be stuck having to employ someone new almost immediately. My ex told me that it wasn’t my job to tell them I wasn’t good enough, but to just say I could do everything and then learn to do it. You’re not lying if you’ll be able to do it by the time the start date rolls around.

So why not listen to any of this ex-cellent advise?

The sad truth is that it’s much easier to talk yourself out of something than put in effort. Heeding the call to adventure, then diving in headfirst seems like suicide if you’re sure the water will be filled with sharks. Could I do most of these jobs? Probably. Do I have proof of the skills they’re asking for? My problem is that I answer “no” instead of “not yet”. How do you get content creation experience? By creating content of course. The one thing standing between you and practice managing social media audiences and streams? BY INTERACTING WITH AUDIENCES OVER SOCIAL MEDIA.

There’s always gonna be an excuse, right? The path of least resistance is to do nothing. Being gainfully employed means that I can stay static without suffering huge consequences in the short term, but that’s a pretty limited view. Why should I need Fire underfoot or my back against the wall to get moving?

My socks aren’t even wet right now, so why the cold feet?

Fortunately I steer clear of that kind of bullocks.

At times it’s all too easy to sink into the green mire of envy. You can’t help but covet the looks, skills or sexy, sexy oxen of others. Spending so much time worrying about what others have that you forget all the glorious shit you bring to the world. It’s hard not to know that feel when society’s central message is that you’re not enough, but you should always strive to be. So for today I’m going to dig deep into self gratitude. Looking into all the things about myself that I’m thankful for. Or maybe even the things that I’m not.

I’m thankful that I look okay when I run. First and foremost, if you have the wherewithal to get out and be active, then power to you. I won’t reach as far as to say I look cool, but jeebus it could be far worse. My legs don’t splay akimbo, my arms stay by my side without flip flopping like a muppet. I have a slight angle as I move rather than being bent over or ramrod straight. I don’t glow beet red or puff like a Big Bad Wolf. I’ve somehow reached a point where I have a modicum of composure and I’m super gracious of that.

I’m thankful that I’m the least threatening seeming person alive. Just have one of those faces, y’know? I’ve never sought to intimidate people with my presence and frankly, I’d be a shit enforcer of any variety. So I’m glad that my image reinforces what’s on the inside. I’m basically a carebear made flesh. Of average stature with cartoonish features. I hate making people feel uncomfortable and I’m fortunate that it’s not one of my default settings. I’m also fine that I’d never ironically have the nickname Tiny.

I’m stoked that all of my sexual proclivities (at least the ones I’m aware of) are legal and consent based. I don’t tread lightly here. Kids and animals really don’t do it for me (even dat sexy, sexy ox) and that’s a godsend. How shitty and guilty would you feel if the activities that ignited drum fills in your heart caused misery to others? If you knew that you’d never be able to experience that which set your world alight because you felt it was fundamentally wrong? If there was this part of yourself you had to shut away in a sealed vault forever? That sounds heartbreaking, which isn’t to condone these activities whatsoever, but to point out that people have no say in what excites them. It’s a lottery for sure. I’m in a position with a loving, supportive partner who’s really open to trying things. My family and friends would be there for me if I discovered I that my sexual orientation had changed, without question. Not everyone is that lucky and I understand that’s not a privilege that people are afforded by default.

I don’t have any food allergies, which means I can be as gluttonous as I desire without medical repercussions. Well, if I ate my neighbour’s entire sexy, sexy ox in one go, my stomach would probably rupture. My lack of allergies means I can enjoy cuisine from all across the globe. I’m able to adapt to any requirements friends have at parties without being disadvantaged. I don’t need a personal food taster, plus since I’m so nonthreatening, it’s not like people are champing at the bit to assassinate me anyway.

It goes without saying that I’ve got every other privilege under the sun, which is amazing. Because of genetics, heritage and my socioeconomic environment, I’ve been able to blossom in a world unencumbered by the hardships that for many are a sad reality. I’m not gloating, I instead want to point out that I understand the number of aspects in my life that have aligned in order to mean that my life is not constant suffering. That whatever issues I face aren’t the issues that burden others. That when I complain (you know, constantly) it’s done with an understanding that a multitude of things are going my way and I’d be an asshole not to be grateful.

Plus then I wouldn’t have had access to the internet. What would the point of life be then?

I don’t think it would’ve made sense for me to be born any time before the 50s. I’m trying to think of a society I would’ve prospered in, but they all fall apart. Knowing who I am, how much I enjoy complaining and how flimsy my immune system is, I’d be ill suited to a life that existed before widespread inoculation. In medieval times I would’ve fallen for the first round of black plague, or been mowed down in the initial rain of arrows. I’m not an inherently brave person, so unless I lucked out and was born into a family of means, I’d be pretty much fucked. In the Wild West I’d no doubt contract dysentery, and in the Wild Wild West I’d stand no chance against a giant mechanical spider. I can’t see myself having excelled in the Victorian era, given my lack of concrete skills. I probably would’ve been the lackey of some merchant or an apprentice candlestick maker. The 20s through 40s were all filmed in black and white and I don’t know if my eyes would pop enough, so they’re out. In fact, if not for the age in which I was born, I think the only place for me would’ve been as a disaffected member of Gen X.

I’m being deliberately silly of course, but as I started typing my objections, I pondered how impossible it would be to predict how I’d be in any early generation. With my personality so utterly shaped by my culture (my sum of lived experiences up to this point), I’d be an entirely different person. So much of me has been sculpted from parental influences, the specific friends I’ve grown up around, my home country, my education, relationships I’ve had and (let’s be honest), the media I’ve consumed. This concept of who would I have been is erroneous from the start, because the simple answer is that I wouldn’t have have been me. I’d have been an entirely different person, a creation of my surroundings.

When I start to think about the “whys” of who I am, it wigs me out. It’s a matter of pulling at threads and seeing how far they go. I’ve changed so much even since I arrived in Toronto. For instance I was always sex positive to a point, but connections I’ve made here have led to further understanding and education of what that means, engaging in experiences I would’ve otherwise likely not had. The friendships I’ve made through the community have constantly caused me to question and restructure held beliefs. People I’ve met have introduced me to others who’ve become hugely important parts of my life. Most of which I can track back as the lasting effects of going on one particular date (of the many I’ve had in Toronto), which kick-started a chain reaction. There’s a point here where anyone could jump in and say “yes, but getting to where you are required a tacit buy-in at each new juncture”. I had to say yes at every step of the way, otherwise I likely would’ve headed down a different path. The further back I go, this only increases the massive range of who I could’ve been.

At the end of the day, picking apart how I’ve become who I am doesn’t change who I will be. Errant navel gazing doesn’t serve meaningful progress. Concurrently it’s not like the viewpoint is a total waste. Maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle. Further consideration of actions taken could help shape who I become. Which is a fine idea in theory but useless in practice. Who wants to think about things all the time?

That’s how you wind up with a project like I Have My Doubts.