Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Things DO change, don't they?

It's been too long since I've posted something. I need to stay up to date with this. Between this, and my own personal journal - I'm presently, at this very moment managing to put off ALL work and daily responsibility. Fantastic.

As I sit here, with Family Guy playing in the background, I find it funny that I can maintain some level of serious tone in my post. I guess I'm a little disappointed in my lack of posting lately. Anyways, as the title of the post goes, things have changed haven't they? In more ways than I originally thought when I first thought of the title.

Training, boxing, martial arts and fighting have all settled into a different part of my life. At least they did for the last year. Injuries, work commitments...really, a change in my own personal growth have put that part of my life in a different perspective. Training still plays an important role in my daily life. More importantly now, my relationships. Whereas at one point, all of this was bereft of any human connection, I know am connected and bonded with quite a few people in this world. One of those people has become very important to me. The more I think about it, they are all important to me now simply because I've let them in.

And my success as a fighter, a friend, a training partner and a coach has improved because of it. Would I have ever thought that way when I first started all of this? No way. I started this with the notion that I be alone, invincible and indestructable. Isn't that the path of the warrior? Isn't that what I've always felt? Is that what we see in movies? I don't know now, when I think about it. I still have that idea floating around in my heart; that this be done alone. That makes it heroic. And a lonely story. Maybe a heroic story, one that Hollywood makes movies out of so that we go home thinking how cool it would be to be that guy in that movie.

But I guess it's just me that thinks that way. Which is why I think Hollywood always puts a girl in there for the hero to end up with. That way - not so alone. Happy ending requirement. In real life, probably and usually doesn't always end up that way.

And so back to the title of the post, "Things DO change, don't they?" At this very moment, do I feel the effects or disparity as the result of any change that has occurred in my life? And if so, what was it again? Well, at this moment...right now...not so much. And what was that change again? I think it had something to do with connection - bonding with others. Relationships of all types and how I have cultivated them in recent history. That has been the main change, and like I said, at this very second, sitting here alone, I can't really tell if I see it all so clearly.

Stepping back and looking at my life now, I do. And it's good. It's different, and difficult...and easy at times. Overall, it has been good. The exposing of parts of my soul have been painful and slow to begin with, but the resulting joys of kinship with other people and unfamiliar parts of life appear a little more clearly nowadays.

A part of me thinks that's bad. Another side of me thinks its good - that it's growth. Where it all ends up or what it all turns out to be - that I can't project or worry about. Isn't that what they mean when they say to "enjoy the ride?" Even more ambitious of a statement would be to crave more change...the next growth challenge in this cliche of a ride.

We'll see how brave I am in the meantime.

Friday, May 23, 2008

My father poses a question...

"So Mark, what do you want to do with your life?"

It's not like anyone hasn't been asked this before, and probably many times by a number of people. I'm sure it's not the first time my father has asked the question. For some reason though, I can't remember the last time he asked me, and the only reason I'm writing about it is because of the way he asked me. A lot of it has to do with our relationship and how it has changed in recent years.

I have a tendency to over-think and over-analyze, and I may be doing it with this recent conversation with my dad, but his question did strike me a bit differently. I think that he is worried about me. I think he's concerned not so much about whether or not I can keep a job or pay my bills, but more so about whether or not I will discover the internal drive in my life and how I'll use that to accomplish specific career goals. I think he's worried that at 29 years old, I don't know what I want in life and how I want to live it.

Maybe it's because we both get older and older. He talks about his time "being around" getting shorter and shorter. I'm older. He looks at others my age in his world, and they probably seem more grounded, stable; they seem to move along some sort of clear and defined path. In the past he may not have accepted certain paths I may have chosen, but I think he just wants me to have a path at this point. I guess for a father there is the possibility of leaving this life with a son still lost and wandering; in his eyes still a child without fatherly guidance and experience.

He wants to help in ways he knows he can, I believe. He's said it to me. Continuing education - he would pay for me to go back to school for business or economics. Would he pay my bills and mortgage while I train to get in to the UFC? Probably not. Who knows though? This is why his question to me now causes me reflect on it more than normal. I'm all of the sudden aware of his intense care and concern as my father.

Not that my father has never loved me or cared for my well being as his child. He has worked his whole life and was married having a first son before he met my mother. He then had me and my brother. He spent our childhood working a lot as well as taking a break from raising more children. My half brother is 20 years older than me; my dad had already gone through diapers, grade school, puberty and college tuition by the time my brother and I were in middle school. His absence was felt by the both of us as we grew up. Both parents were never there to be aware of any of the psychological mini-dilemmas that went on in our heads. Kids have their own existential conundrums, and I'm realizing now that it doesn't take much to help them process and deal - if someone is around.

As a result, the both of us grew up kind of lost and aimless. Motivation and drive were there. We saw our parents in their careers and followed their examples, albeit from afar. It helped us in school and other accomplishments. But as far as discovering who we were and embracing the unique part of our selves that every human being has - it was difficult to do so without having the guide and hands of you mother and father to show you the way. So you have these kids who become teenagers and then become young men without really knowing their parents; the parents not really knowing their sons. That family dynamic, whether dysfunctional or not is what we know; there are explosive and provocative moments, both happy and sad, amidst indifference and extremely isolated personalities.

Not that the majority of the people on this earth don't feel lost and aimless at some point, but that's the road we took to get there. My father sees us as adults now and because of his sudden awareness of age, I guess he has noticed that we are still in this aimless and lost place. It's still child-like in a sense, and it ultimately is up to me and my brother to develop out of this with what capability we have. But I think it worries my father - makes him think things like, "If I had only done this with them..." He probably feels partially responsible and feels he is in position to help because of his experience and other means of assisting through people he knows, money...etc.

So he's genuinely concerned and wants to help, I think. And it's genuine. It feels like love to me when he asks this and talks about this now. To me, it is a new experience to have your father talk to you like that. It's unfamiliar, scary, saddening, and somewhat relieving all at once. All in all, I think a good thing. As far as where my path in life heads, I am still struggling and lost - but less and less these days. Like I said, as a grown adult it is truly up to me to define how I want my life to be. I welcome my dad's concern, his willingness to help in the only ways he knows how. How I will I allow all of it to play out - I don't know. If anything, the relationship with my father will only get stronger. So I know that is a goal in my life - to repair and improve those important relationships. It is worthwhile for me to do that for my own soul.

As far as working on being lost, undefined and aimless, I think that right there defines something about the type of man I am and the life I would like to lead.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lords of DC-Town


I picked it up when I was about 12 years old. My best friend at the time was a kid by the name of Chris Menges. He influenced me to pick up the thing on wheels and within days I was obsessed. We would watch each other's tricks and look for all the best places to skate in the city. We'd spend hours walking, taking the bus, the subway, looking for the perfect marble rails, pools, ramps...whatever we could use to jump off of or grind our axles on. Back in the 80's skateboarding was still socially unacceptable, and we played the roles of Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta in Lords of Dogtown, running away from the police and the disapproval of our parents.

I can remember these summer days skating around the city with my best friend as the happiest moments in my life. There was an independence that came with being able to roam freely in the city on our boards. Life was about coming up with the next trick, impressing the older guys with how crazy we were with our bodies or getting new parts and accessories for our boards. If we had any money, it was for bus fare or maybe to buy a 99 cent 2 liter that would last the whole afternoon. That 2 liter by the way, was always some generic neon colored sugar water with bubbles, and it tasted unbelievable for less than a buck. We were so physically active, that any junk food we ate (and we ate alot of it when out of the house - strict parents) probably metabolized before it had a chance to do any harm.

From the age of about 12 to 14, skating and hanging out with my friend Chris was my life, and I realize now that those years have come to define an important part of who I am today. A good deal of my behavior and thoughts are the grown up version of that 13 year old kid. This is a kid who didn't know anything about what he wanted to be when he grew up, let alone knew what he wanted as a 13 year old. School? I did well in, but really didn't care much about. Other activities? I was never really encouraged or pushed by my parents. Actually most things that parents are expected to be there for, like homework, report cards, plays, after school activities...etc, mine were busy working.

So this skateboarding thing was something. It gave a wandering, anxious, energetic and nervous boy something to get excited about and aspire to some level of success. Success in that day may have often been measured by who could jump the most steps without hurting themselves, but it was success nonetheless. And that was all I had, after what seemed like 13 years of really not knowing anything about what I wanted. An aptitude was there, and like anyone who finds that they're naturally good at something, I would wake up excited about it.

I shouldn't forget that in the midst of discovering my "talent" I had a friend in Chris. Actually, he was my very first, true friend - one in which both people in the relationship could never ever really piss each other off, no matter how ignorant and dumb a 13 year old's actions may be. Our bond was unconditional through everything. My parents weren't the fondest of Chris and his behaviors, and therefore weren't fond of his parents' job as caretakers. Looking back on some of the things they were critical of him for, I can't say I understand why I never noticed Chris' parents to be the more rightfully judgmental. I had always wanted the love and care that I saw in his home.

Chris turned me on to skating, and for that I was always grateful to him. We were rascals, not miscreants or delinquents. The extent of our trouble-making was minor trespassing and throwing water balloons at cars. Skating was looked down upon back then, and so it was unfortunate that we were probably regarded as punks. And like I said before, I carry some of that with me to this day. There's still a rebellious streak, albeit a non-harmful clown-around, adult version of that 13 year old.

More importantly, there's the loyal and loving, never-leave-you-we'll-go-down-together, partner in crime part of me that's still here. I've found that in certain situations as an adult, I've stuck with someone or remained loyal no matter what the consequence. I'm very loyal to those that I feel have given me something priceless as Chris had back then. I pride myself on maintaining that loyalty and love; a camaraderie that I've rarely experienced the way I did as a kid with Chris. I'll treasure that and keep it close to me, because of what it meant for me back then.

So skating - yeah, it used to be one of my favorite things. I don't do it anymore, and I don't have a desire to. But whatever part of my spirit that those childhood experiences opened are still with me. There's a good reason why I have the job I have, why my hobbies are what they are. For me, that kid is still there, searching for something. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't for my friend Chris, and those moments we shared as kids, but you can't bring back the past or live the life of a 13 year old when you're 28. But part of who I am today pays homage to the process that led a boy to slowly uncover a spark of the type of person he wanted to be. It pays homage to Chris, to ollies and rail-slides, hot summer afternoons at Liberty Plaza, the loyalty between 13 year old boys, and true friendship. I think any man at any age can understand what I mean, and looks back in his past for those moments of definition with satisfaction and gratitude.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Skateboards and All Things Gummi

I guess you've looked at the title and wondered, "Why skateboards and gummi bears?" I guess I in thinking of a title, I thought of two favorite things in my life and just jotted them down. I think that anyone who knew me when I was young will understand skateboards. I think that anyone who knows me now can understand the gummi bears. For those who've known me all 28 years of my life, putting the two together might make even more sense. Yes, these are two of some of my favorite things, but the reason I picked these two is because I feel they represent two periods in my life: my childhood and my recent adult life. I'll try to explain how I think the two might represent pieces of who I am, and their relative importance to me, now and then.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What are some of your favorite things?

At least that's what the title of this blog is supposed to imply. More importantly, I hope to use this blog as a way to talk about my own personal growth. I think that there are some people out there who might share some of the same experiences and maybe benefit from reading these posts. Ultimately, I hope to benefit from your feedback as well as your own experiences.

I have a feeling that everyone has moments where they feel completely alone; as if no one at that moment would ever understand the strange flow of thoughts in their head. I know I do, and often I've found the best way to get out of my head and stop the obsessive tendency to talk to myself, is to put everything down on paper. These posts will be attempts at doing just that, but in addition, I hope to find and relate to other people out there, maybe even help someone else. A simple, "I know what you mean," or "That totally happens to me," may be all I'm looking for. We'll see.

A little about me: I'm 28 years old. I work for a small startup company that I helped start here in Chicago. I've lived in Chicago for the past 7 years, first coming here to attend college, and then ended up staying for a plethora of reasons. One of them was a girl (surprised?), the other was to pursue a goal of competing in mixed martial arts competition. The girl never worked out (surprised again?), and I'm still pursuing the MMA. Just like a lot of people (I hope), I drifted a little after graduating. I didn't know what I wanted to do, let alone knew what I wanted out of life and so I took some bartending and restaurant jobs to kind of make ends meet. I ended up finally getting this job and my fight career has slowed down (but not stopped) since. As far as what I want to do next, that's part of what this blog is all about. Hopefully, I discover a little more about what is central to me along the way...