“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
It’s easy to procrastinate your life away. I mean, look at my last post date. It’s been months since my last update.
Or you could take a look at how I spent the past weekend: I slept in, had a late lunch, decided I wanted to spend the day writing, did some chores, played some games, watched TV, realised I’ve pissed away hours of said writing time, drank some vodka, blitzed a few online chess games, had dinner, drank more vodka, and before I knew it, the sun has set, and I’ve wasted another day.
On a piece of paper I keep hidden in my drawer are the scrawls of things I think would be neat to do before I die. One entry, circled in red, reads: Publish a novel. I wrote that down in 2010. You’d think I’d divvy up the workload into a paltry 250 words a day, maybe approach that goal like a normal person. Had I done that, I’d have written six novels by now.
But no. I spent all those years ricocheting from one hobby to the next. One moment I’m learning how to scale rocks, the next I’m looking up ‘useful Russian phrases’ and the Cyrillic script. I take an interest in stand-up comedy, then divert my creative gaze to the art of sketching. I’ve gathered enough pastimes to strike a conversation with seventy percent of the population, but lack the knowledge to discuss the topics in detail.
Where clichés are concerned, I’m the true jack of all trades, and the master of none.
Perhaps embracing minimalism is the way to go. I’ve always taken a liking to the concept, but up till now, I’ve only managed to pare down my wardrobe and belongings. Somehow, I feel like I could benefit from pruning my hobbies as well, try to focus on a couple of things I really like. The only trouble is finding out what they are, which explains why I have so much on my plate in the first place.
I long to be like Thoreau, to hunker up in a cabin and pursue my passions in quiet fervour, but I’d probably fold on the second day. The romance of the spartan lifestyle has always drew me in, but am too much of a whiner to live without a laptop.
A couple of weeks back, I was given a glimpse into the life of a modern spartan — the kushti warriors of India. These guys are live and breathe minimalism, both in the material and spiritual domains.
I met a senior wrestler named Bhushan, who wakes up at four o’clock in the morning to run five kilometres as a warm up. Then he returns to the gym and begins his conditioning regimen, consisting of 500 push-ups, squats, and sun salutations. After that, he cooks some eggs, drinks some milk, and rests before another three-hour wrestling session. That has been his life, day in day out, for the past ten odd years. And he’s happy.
I ask what drives him, and he simply replies: “To be an Olympian medalist.”
“It’s one thing to give up alcohol,” I continue, “but are pehalwans really celibate?”
Bhushan nods. “These are all distractions. I have my goals, and I focus on them.”
He’s sown the fabled ten thousand hours into the sport. Surely, he’s reached some level of mastery? I put the question forward, and he smiles.
“Wrestling is not easy,” he says. “not because it’s physical. It’s the mental state that gets me. My biggest problem is getting over my own fears. I often psych myself out before a fight, even today. That’s why I need to focus, need to keep working at it.”
All these words from a twenty-five year-old. What was I doing at that age? Probably wading in alcohol and being a master at feeling sorry for myself. Here he is, pursuing his passion despite the uncertain circumstances that come along with it: no medal during his prime, lack of money in the sport, injuries lurking at every training session.
My dreams of taking a year off work to finish a book doesn’t seem that unsound when compared to Bhushan’s reality. And yet, I keep delaying my plans, just because I feel the need to fulfil certain social expectations. Perhaps it’s true, that when it comes to pursuing our dreams, the very own person that’s stopping us is ourselves.
Bhushan goes off to wrestle with his teammates, scattering mud in his wake. I look at the him; each muscle finely tuned to the demands of his sport, every technique drilled into his very being.
In that moment, it hits me, that if someone who’s spent over a decade honing his art still has his doubts, what hope do I have of ever being content with my writing? It’s a comforting realisation, to know that the critic within will never leave.
Maybe if I give up the idea of perfection, I might actually feel less intimidated by the blank screen. And perhaps then, the scrawls on a piece of paper might turn into reality.