NON FICTION: Finding Your Suck

Man with book covering face

Photo: Hutomo Abrianto

I’m crushed under a 90kg man, beads of sweat trickling down his chin before finding their home in my eyeballs. His shoulder threatens to dislodge my jaw, and all I can breathe is chest hair. I’ve spent four minutes in this position, and I have two more to go. During times like this, I ask myself: “Why did I come to class today?”

On the other side of the coin, these are the exact moments when I find out what I’m truly made of. And I manage to surprise myself every time.

What also surprises me is how much I avoid the challenge of less-punishing situations, such as being seated near a noisy moviegoer, or someone who just can’t stop looking at their phone throughout the entire show.

Can’t-frontation

You’d think I’d say something in those situations. Just a quick whisper. Maybe they’d stop. Maybe things would escalate into a verbal war. Either way, I’d have addressed the situation.

But no. I’ll sit there and take it. I stew and wonder why people can’t be civil in public activities. I tut. Maybe I’ll throw them a quick stare. But I never confront people head on because to my scumbag brain, it might as well be a fight to the death.

From my perspective, confrontations suck. You know what else sucks? Everything. Now hear me out before you close this tab.

You suck, I suck, everything sucks

You have a job, you worry about your constant deadlines. You don’t have a job, you worry about not having money to survive. You have a child, you get sleepless nights and a truckload of responsibility. Don’t have one, and you don’t get someone to pass down your heritage and knowledge to. You buy a house… you get my point.

The trick is not avoiding suckage. It’s about finding a suck you’re willing to put up with. Because let’s face it, anything worth doing is going to involve some sort of hardship. And the hardest thing of all is to find your suck in the first place.

Finding purpose

Part of the reason why I’ve jumped from career to career is because I’ve been trying to find my suck. I want to have lived life knowing that I’ve made every effort possible to have made the best out of things. And even if I don’t manage to find my suck, I’ll still rest easy knowing that I’ve tried. That sure beats doing something I hate until I turn 60 just because it paid the bills.

Maybe that’s why I’ve stuck with jiu-jitsu for so long. It sucks every day. Most days, I’d rather drive straight home, have a beer, and veg out playing Baldur’s Gate. But I drag myself to the gym. I’m tired, warmups suck, technique drills suck, and I suck. All this before getting smashed by larger guys and going home with a new bruise or a torn ear.

Then I do it again. And again. For most of the week. For years. And I have no idea why.

I’d like to say I’ve found my suck, but it’s not something I’m actively pursuing. If jiu-jitsu were my true calling, I’d be joining the guys who train three times a day, six days a week, all-year long. To the sedentary, my training routine probably sucks. To the pros, I’m just a casual.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve yet to find my suck. In fact, I’d almost given up on finding my suck, content to just coast through life, until I decided to attend a local author’s meet-and-greet on a whim.

A turning point

With nine published novels under her belt, Jenny definitely had a thing or two to share with budding novelists. When I saw her event announcement on Facebook, I just knew I had to be there.

‘There’ would be a quaint little cafe in the quieter parts of Petaling Jaya. Seated among the rows of some 15 chairs were Jenny and another two fans. I was the third—and last—attendee. It was more intimate than I’d bargained for, but I was actually stoked at the turnout, because less people meant I could ask more.

Now don’t get me wrong. Jenny has her share of rabid fans, stalkers, and mentees hoping to pick her brain. I know because I’ve personally stalked her profile and looked up the literary events she’d attended, hosted, and spearheaded. She’s a true veteran in the industry. It’s just that her announcement was probably drowned out by Facebook’s arbitrary algorithms.

Getting schooled

So I asked my questions, and she answered. Jenny wasn’t there to sugarcoat things. The local publishing industry wasn’t doing well, authors can’t live off their royalties, and there wasn’t a huge demand for fiction in Malaysia.

Yet, there she was. Publishing novel after novel despite it all. She’d been working on her craft ever since she left her corporate job nine years ago, through both the good times and bad, and she showed no signs of stopping.

The further we went down reality-check lane, the more resolute I became. It didn’t sound easy. In fact, it sounded almost impossible for someone like me to finish a science fiction novel, let alone publish it. But the stirring in my chest confirmed it. This was it. I had found my suck.

A new beginning

It wouldn’t matter if my all my efforts turn into an unread manuscript, or if I had an entire future with an audience of three. I’d finally found something I was willing to strive for.

After all, I’d already built a solid base. Knowing the difference between an en dash and an em dash was my literary push-up, discerning between the active and passive voice  my ab crunches. Omniscient and limited narration, metres, how to properly use ellipses… I had already learned what most people would find boring, or sucky.

And it was time to take things one step further. I decided then and there that I’d go ahead and forge my own path. That was the easy part.

Now the real work begins.

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If you liked this post, keep the ball rolling! What is your suck? Share in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to drop a Like on my Facebook profile

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