Tag Archives: growing up

An Open Letter to My Little Brother (with lots of profanity)


I’m really glad you called me. It means a lot that we’re still connecting after all this time. A lot of families split apart and never realize what they could have had. You and me, we had a choice. I think we did pretty good. We’ve always done pretty good, even through the shit, you know? We have the same context, so we never had to justify ourselves. We don’t have to apologize for our language, our thoughts, or our feelings.

So, I’ll give it to you straight.

The reason you feel like you’re dying is because you are dying.

You, me, and everyone else on the planet is dying a little more with every passing second. Scared yet? Good. Because I’m scared, too.

We were brought up to believe that we have a say in our fate. We were constantly tested and expected to step up when our bodies wanted to give out. There were always eyes on us. We had someone to impress — and someone, therefore, we risked disappointing. A lot of times, for me, that was you. I pushed harder because I wanted to be there when you needed me. I got better because I knew you were watching. I knew you believed in me; and I learned to rally after fucking up because you helped me get up again, and said something stupid to make me laugh. Because of that, you are part of my identity, forever.

You and I learned to fight. We fought each other, we fought our friends, and we learned to fight our own weaknesses. We’re at our best when we push and struggle in dynamic conflict. We’re interested in learning new things and broadening our understanding. We want to get better — whatever it takes — to become stronger, bigger, faster, smarter and wiser. If we stop struggling, we die.

We die slowly at first… putting off stuff we know we’re supposed to do. Hanging out instead of finishing our projects. In time, it gets harder to catch up. The gap gets bigger and bigger. We give up what nourishes our souls for the sake of the daily grind — for the sake of what we’re told we ‘need.’ Before you know it, you don’t know who you are anymore. You don’t know what you’re after so you care more about the packaging than the prize. I know you love to fight; but there’s a difference between the pain of growing, and the pain of injury.

Giving up that thing we love — that thing that makes us happy — is self-injury. The only difference between that and a knife is that a knife will drain your blood; but giving up drains your soul. That’s what I mean when I say yes, you’re dying. I know you feel it, because I feel it too when I’m not getting my shit done.

You can’t stop. You have to keep going. The obstacles in your way are in your head. Everything you described that’s worrying you — your mom, your girlfriend, your job, your collection of books — face them. Ask your mom what you wanted to ask her. Ask your girlfriend what her path is, and let her tell you if it’s the same path as yours. None of this has to stay as it is — in fact, all of it will change. You can construct your life, and pick the people you want to keep in it. There is no reason to waste your time at work, at home, or in love with people who don’t help you become your ultimate self.

There are billions of goddamn people on the planet. We can pick who we give our time to. Again, all of it will change… you can choose, or time will choose for you.

Of course, you don’t have to make any major decisions tonight. Sit on it. Look at it. The only thing holding you back is fear. We were taught how important it is to conduct ourselves with dignity and honor, so anything less feels like we’re degrading ourselves. We’re not. I promise we’re not. Our successes and our fuck-ups are all ours; and we grow using both of them.The only reason I suggest starting now is because you’ll be so glad of it, you’ll wish you started sooner. It takes guts to grow, to walk your true path — and, oh man, it fucking hurts sometimes — but it’s always worth it. Always always always.

Just roll around a bit. You’ll be a’aight.

I love you.



Miley Cyrus, Memory and Taking Responsibility

This isn’t new.

The news has blown this way out of proportion. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera already went on a sexually-charged spree when they entered their twenties a few years ago. Disney kids grow up. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. It’s safe to say that the next tween icon will start sharing her burgeoning adulthood when she hits her twenties too.

The comments on Facebook (from people I used to party with) seemed divided into two categories.

  1. That’s offensive. My poor daughter. Shame.
  2. Slut, whore, die.

There’s a very clear separation here. It’s as though little girls must be sweet and kind, never grow up, and never experience or be expected to navigate desire. On the other side, women who exhibit sexiness or sensuality were never girls, and must have no history, family, personality or feelings. It was strange to see how readily my friends have forgotten what it was like to be/seek girls in their twenties now that they’ve got daughters. Both reactions listed above are narrow and naïve.

Girls will grow up into women, and as women, bless us all, we’ll probably enjoy sex. If I had a daughter who was a huge Cyrus fan, and she just saw the controversial VMA performance, we’d probably talk about three issues:

  1. Avant garde art, Kid Robot, and rebellion.
  2. The permanence of a public image (remember when you really embarrassed yourself? Now imagine doing that in front of millions of people, recorded. Be careful what you display because there’s no taking it back)
  3. Taking responsibility for the messages and signals you send out. Want to dress/act in a sexually provocative way? Be prepared to be hit on, decide where your boundaries are, and know that you can stick to them. Miley is a grown-up now. She’ll have to cope with the media surrounding this, and if she’s smart she’s prepared for it.

My mother suggested that shielding kids under eighteen from sex and violence is a way to avoid presenting them with choices they’re not ready for. Cyrus is not a child anymore. Expecting her to remain a child is unfair and unrealistic. A dear friend of mine also suggested that going insane isn’t healthy (he compared Lindsey Lohan with Emma Watson); but it takes all types. Some women are more reserved, and some revel in their sexuality. Life and freedom are about choice. The only thing we can do for our daughters (and our sons – they have to deal with sexuality as well!) is to remind them that as they become adults, they’ll have choices, and those choices have consequences – be it a broken heart, a hangover, jail time or (horror!) learning something about themselves and the world around them.

One such consequence is expecting the music industry – which trades heavily on adult themes — to raise your kids.

Pop music revolves around sex. The gist of most songs I’ve heard on pop stations is I love you, let’s have sex, or let’s go dancing and maybe we’ll have sex later, and finally what a horrible breakup, I hate you, I long for the freedom to find someone I would love to have sex with. Teens dream of the day they’re finally twenty-one, and, let’s face it, sex is a pretty important part of your early twenties.

The elephant in the room here is that these performances are co-created. We support musicians with our money. If you still listen to Chris Brown, knowing that he bloodied Rihanna’s nose, that’s the sort of thing I’m referring to. Remember when Justin Timberlake made good on the line I’ll have you naked by the end of this song with Janet Jackson? Why did she get all the flack, when HE ripped her cup off?

Imagine what Cyrus would have looked like if Robin Thicke had been a few feet away from her. She would have been reaching out to her fans. He co-created this situation while singing a pretty rapey song. He’s not getting any flack.

Again, I’m speaking up because the outraged cries have been “whore, slut, die” rather than “amateur, sloppy, bad performance.”

Women shouldn’t be punished for expressing sexuality. Tease her for awkwardness all you like, but the level of hatred flung at her is absurd. I don’t think it’s fair to shield girls from the possibilities their future can hold. Sex is wonderful, love is wonderful – and having the confidence to get those things on your terms is pretty awesome too.

After all that, I have to tell you I don’t listen to Cyrus’ music. I don’t follow her in pop culture. My only exposure to her before the harsh remarks cluttered my newsfeed was this interview, where she struck me as intelligent and self-aware.

Wondering what does this have to do with writing and martial arts? The broad view. Nothing happens in isolation. Consider your words, consider your actions. Consider what has come before and why.

Zanshin (残心) is the state of total awareness. It means being aware of one’s surroundings and enemies, while being prepared to react.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

― Sun Tzu