idra rage

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:55 pm by Administrator

when i’m having a bad day, i feel like idra:



greenhouse flower

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:56 pm by Administrator

i’ve been battling burn-out at work for the past eight months, and it has gotten to the point where i’ve settled into a chronically reactive, fatalistic mode. particularly over the past two months, i’ve become more and more aware of poorly i fit my work environment, despite the fact that i produce at a high level within that environment. my therapist suggests that there is some aspect of my work that is so incompatible with what i am that it is constantly enervating me. this did not strike me as a revelation. the aspect of my work that doesn’t work for me is seeing patients. the lack of fit that leads me to chronic unwellness is a fairly straightforward problem: i was never meant to be a physician.

for the last seven years, i’ve been unable to face this plain fact for one main reason. i look at maladaptation as a product of undermotivation. in other words, i have always believed that i have no legitimate reason to complain about work that is both meaningful and not overtly self-abusive. when i have felt heartache with regard to my chronic career disappointments, i have chosen to minimize those sentiments by considering them signs of weakness. my father once labeled me (and others of my generation) as a greenhouse flower; we’re spoiled brats who don’t realize how lucky we are to make money on white-collar work. we’re greenhouse flowers because we’re so thoroughly accustomed to being pampered that we have no concept of the sacrifices that most people require simply to survive.

that paradigm, which i would describe as an immigrant, survivalist outlook, has stunted my personal growth for much of my life. i’ve used journaling and ultimately my blog to battle against this paradigm and to free up some kind of psychospiritual space for the twisted, suffocated inner me. but the blogging has been merely a sublimative tool; and while it has clarified the roots of my Gen X-oriented existentialist struggle, it has not equipped me to find an alternate path in life. it takes some guts and even more passion to take the next step, which is to say that while pragmatic considerations are worth considering, there are other priorities one must consider in life when seeking real success. in some ways, i am succeeding in life; i’m discovering my giftings, i’m learning how to adapt in relationship, and i’m getting better at reframing my narrative to meet my emotional needs. but in the most fundamental way, i am still struggling with a distinct lack of success; i still have nothing that i consider my “own thing”. my career saps my strength, my professional identity is tangential to my interests, and my day-to-day living continues to be plagued by inordinate stress, constant frustration, and a profound wish for something more fulfilling.

with a wife and two kids, i’m willing to swallow (and rationalize) some level of unhappiness. i feel that i have proven that i’m not a greenhouse flower, in the personal sacrifices that i have made. i have been able to plug away for fourteen years at a vocation that i consider self-emptying if not frankly self-destructive. i’ve done enough personal assessments to understand that while i have been socialized to project myself as a highly-energetic, ambitious person, my internal reality is one which craves self-pacing and creative freedom. i have been raised and trained to be the very thing that most kills me inside. at some point, i recognize that i need to just get off of this path. i need to just jump off of this path and embark on something entirely new—something that i can call entirely my own.

i needed to write this today, because there is a part of me that is clamoring to be resurrected. i have tried the “real world” as it is described by others—the world where happiness can be manipulated, where ideals are irrelevant, and where the bottom line governs all other subjective realities. for better or worse, i cannot bear the “real world”. i hate it and everything in it. and if i keep adapting to the real world, then in ten years i will be dead or i will be so hostile that i will have nothing left of myself. i can’t relive my father’s life. i have to define success in terms that are meaningful to me. maybe money, or social standing, or relevance—maybe these things just don’t really matter to me, in the end.

i know there’s no perfect job out there for me. believing that is perfectly naive. and if i had the freedom to construct my own life and my own vocation, i would probably fail. but i figure i just have to try. i have to keep looking around. i have to keep moving. i have to keep trying new things. someday, i’ll land somewhere, i might discover what it is that i was meant for. it’s stochastic. life is all dumb luck. and whether or not we discover happiness on the way is all genetic. some people are just happy. i’m not. i’ve got to believe that there’s the one thing out there that will make me happy. i have to find that thing, or i have to die trying



Posted in Uncategorized at 10:56 pm by Administrator

for the past two years since the beta version was released, i’ve been following the pro starcraft game fairly closely. this, despite not owning the game myself. i had my reasons for not buying the game, chief among them being that i’d seen what an addiction to broodwar had done to me.

perhaps it was inevitable that i’d buy the game. one can’t follow pro replays, MLG and GSL results, and trends in gameplay for two years without feeling really connected to that e-sport community. but i might’ve waited for another year, had my therapist not outright told me about six weeks ago that i needed to consider getting back in the game. it was a bit of a shock, hearing a responsible adult advise me to get back into gaming. but i understood his rationale. from his perspective, i need an outlet for my aggression, and it’s not healthy for me to constantly suppress my need for competitive activity.

i bought the game about six weeks ago and started playing right away. not surprisingly, after all the replays i’d watched, i got a hang of the gameplay and basic tactics right away. an interesting decision i made off the bat was to play Zerg. back in the beta days, when i was testing out the game with the rest of that group, i was exclusively a Protoss player, and i was good enough at the race to play with the mid-Diamond leaguers. there was a limitation in my ability to improve with Toss though, and i think it had to do with the fact that the sheer expense of Toss units forces one’s tactics down a predictable “build-up/move-out” sort of flow. the Protoss are a very easy, powerful race to use, but they’re inflexible, and the fast-expand build orders are uniform and monotonous. six weeks ago, when i had the game in my hands, i knew that i wanted to be a different sort of player: macro-oriented, fluid, reactive, and unpredictable. the style fits my personality. it also reflects the classic strengths of the Zerg race.

on my first day, i placed into Platinum (top 25% bracket) and within a month i’d gamed enough to hit 800 (top-200 in the Platinum world). it should qualify me for Diamond (top 15%) after the season lock, but regardless i think i’m headed into that bracket eventually. the competitive side of me is absorbed with advanced placement, and i’ve got my eyes on making Masters. but when i step back, i look at the hours i’ve put in, and i wonder what the point is. i can’t be a pro gamer; though i have the brain to take my game to a high level, i fail at the execution. i’m already at a level where my APM is less than half of my average opponent’s. my in-battle unit micro is really quite bad, and the only thing that keeps me afloat is my overall tactical sense.

thus, six weeks into my Starcraft career, i find myself at a ponderous crossroads. i play for the competitive challenge, and i’m improving. but there’s no real end to achieve; there’s only time to be consumed. if there were one 3-month season annually, i could see the point of grinding it out for a rating or a ranking. but this is a year-round thing, and you have to keep playing to maintain your rank and rating. eventually, the casual gamer can’t keep up with the pack.

it does make me wonder how the pro gamers maintain their drive. at their level, i’m not even sure if the game is fun. every replay is scrutinized; sponsorship dollars ride on every game of tournament play; one misclick can be the difference between advancing in code S (the korean elite) or falling out of code A into pro gamer irrelevance. they have to train for 4-6 hours daily; their success hinges on how well they can anticipate the evolution of the game; and they inevitably fall behind if they’re not keeping close tabs on the ladder games that are setting the trends. succeeeding in pro starcraft hinges on total commitment to the game and total connectedness to all the rumors, replays, and reactions that impact the culture of the game. they say that korea is the hub of everything starcraft because it is the most wired country in the world; it is where people go to know everything at all times about everything e-sport.

it was mildly sensational news when Stephano, a “foreign” (meaning not Korean) Zerg player, announced that he was going to quit pro starcrafting to go back to school and live a “real life”. eventually, he decided to keep moving forward with his gaming career, and it’s paid dividends. he’s earned several hundred thousand dollars in the past year and has a major international following now. but i wonder if he still feels ambivalent about his gaming career. he is unusually good at a very niche activity which is fluid, requires total commitment, and can deliver inconsistent rewards. being a pro player has committed him to a life akin to a relationship with a very intense and consummately fickle love interest. i wonder if he doubts that he can stay dominant, or if he doubts that the game is worth his commitment, or if he doubts that he can keep enjoying the game for what it is.

outside of starcraft, there are very few activities that i enjoy consistently. i don’t exactly understand what it is about starcraft that i enjoy so much, and why it is that i have a hard time consistently enjoying other kinds of games and activities. no other game comes close to capturing my interest. but for twelve years, i’ve been a fan of this game and this game only. there’s a certain beauty in what these guys can do at the highest levels, and i think that if i could play it professionally then i would. i don’t have the talent though, and it makes me wonder if it’s worth playing at all.

ah, the musings one has when he loves something that he just cannot master


The Enforcer

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:55 am by Administrator

i see a strange thing evolving in my career. those who know me have begun to use me (sometimes explicitly) to argue on their behalf. sometimes, i’m brought in on a situation that i was only peripherally involved in previously. i get briefed on the details; i’m given a position statement; and then i’m thrown into the fray.

just today, i was asked by my co-director to accompany him to a government function. he’s a relatively easygoing guy, best with details, not so comfortable with conflict. i was briefed on the car ride on what was at stake in this meeting (everything) and who would be sitting opposite of us in the room. sure enough, i found myself in a situation i’ve grown accustomed to: two parties with entrenched positions, almost no room for negotiation, and my side threatening to be overlooked or given the shaft. we needed a palpable presence. so i did what i do best. i raised the temperature in the room. i used evocative and, at times, provocative language. i focused on the central actor and i made him feel uncomfortable; i made him argue with me. the point of the meeting was not to arrive at a compromise. the point of the meeting was to make it clear that we were going to fight for what we needed. we accomplished this.

but i didn’t feel good when i walked away from it. and when i reflected on multiple similar situations over the past year, i realized that i haven’t felt proud of the way i’ve treated certain people in my company. my boss even lightly touched on this during our evaluation recently. he told me that when i argue for my position, i have a way of putting people in their place. i remember one occasion more than a year ago when i grilled one particular manager in a meeting of sixty people. it was so unpleasant for him that he still refers to the experience with some chagrin. he is a nice guy. in the moment, i had to go after him. now, i think that i regret it.

i’m good at beating down other people intellectually. i enjoy a good argument. i thrive in a battle of wills, because i refuse to lose. when i advocate for others, i tap into their anger, and i make it my own. i’m best when i’m a little angry myself, angry enough to drive my words, not so angry that i lose control. these experiences have partly framed my whole attitude toward public speaking. i have to find my gut feeling; i have to hone my sense of feeling to something particular and something intense. once i have found that feeling, i am able to spontaneously conjure the very terms and metaphors that best drive my audience toward a shared experience of that feeling.

i’ve previously written about how much i have come to doubt my style of leadership on account of my excessive reliance on feelings, and on account of the confrontational, occasionally impulsive behavior that it inspires in me. i’ve written about how i’m best served when i’m paired with a cooler mind, someone whose judgment i respect. but what i’ve seen is that sometimes i’m used by partners in this mold for ends that seem right in the moment but are questionable to me in hindsight. i am becoming afraid of what happens when i allow myself to be aimed by a steadier hand, triggered by another’s intention, and unleashed on a foe that i have not chosen for myself.

this morning, i sought to advocate and to argue, not to understand. i feel beaten and disappointed by the experience.

i have felt called by God to be a “lion for His people”. i come back to that idea every now and then. i’ve previously ruminated over the idea of being a lion. a lion is not necessarily noble, proud, or strong; he is, however, invariably a presence to be reckoned with. i’ve also meditated on the concept of a people. being part of a people changes one’s self-concept; one can find transcendent meaning by incorporating himself into a people.

but the term that i struggle with today is “His”. there is no people, unless they are His people. there is no point in being the lion, unless the lion is for His domain. it matters whom i give myself to and whom i represent. if i allow myself to be a tool for others, then i’m as terrible or as good as the ones who use me. if i give myself without conscience for the mere purpose of being effective, then i may express my gift, but i’ll reap nothing good from it.

i feel sad when i read stories of retired enforcers—those men of professional hockey whose sole duty was to attack and physically punish the star players of the opposing team. enforcers are never cherished; they are rarely remembered, except by those who most loathe them; and they leave the game with scars and shame. there are enforcers who kill themselves, and though we can only conjecture why they wanted to end their lives, we can speculate that the damage to their brains and the quality of the relationships that they left behind had something to do with it.

i don’t want to be an intellectual enforcer for the rest of my life. people recognize in me an ability to argue, to persuade, to defend, and to attack without regard for self. i’ve seen myself used to punish other people and to legitimize causes or positions that i ultimately feel ambivalent about. God is asking me for whom and for what i do these things. is it for Him? is it for a people, or is it for His people?

consecrate yourself, He says, for the things that matter to me.