Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Extracting the Thorns

I think, after simply deciding that I wanted to be happy, one of the most practical things I learned in life when it comes to joy is just simply to pull out the thorns in your life that make you unhappy. I realized that sometimes you don’t have to put up with some of them, and the next step to find joy is simply to pluck out the things that stress you out. (Surprise! Surprise!) It sounds so simple and obvious now, but mind you, I had put up with some hardships for a long time. The reasons were usually because:
  • I felt that to keep going through the hardship meant I was strong
  • My pride prevented me from letting go
  • It had become my reality, and to let go, even if you know it’ll free you, felt very uncomfortable
  • I was punishing myself

But there is one part about extracting thorns that I’d like to expound on. I’d like to talk about relationships a bit more. It’s a topic that pulls at my heart because I’ve seen several friends of mine separate with their spouses, and it’s devastating. Of course, I’ll never know the full extent of what really happened between them, but I’ve seen how my own parents struggled, too. Let’s just say I know a lot of people who would have left their spouses for less. But my parents pushed on. I’ve seen both of them learn each other’s languages of forgiveness and love (My Dad washes my Mom’s car whenever he’s sorry. My proud Chinese father has difficulty verbalizing, “I’m sorry.”), and really find ways to mend and strengthen the relationship. The reason I’m talking about this is because you might think that when I say, pluck out the things that stress you out, and your spouse stresses you out, you’d think to leave him or her. One thing I believe that takes higher precedence than joy is love. And to pluck out the thorns in relationship is not necessarily to leave one’s partner (unless there’s physical abuse going on), but to sit down together, truly talk and seriously address the things that trigger the negative reactions in each other, and really love each other.

Of course, that entails certain compromises and decisions, but ultimately, humans react to certain stimuli, and instead of just addressing the reaction, it would be a good idea to talk it out and see what the trigger causing the reaction is. The trigger is the thorn you pull out. Not the spouse. I’ve seen how those things go in my parents’ relationship. The feelings are really seasonal. You may think you can no longer live with him or her at the moment, but a year after, you’re lovey-dovey again. Not the sweet young butterflies kind of lovey-dovey, but the mature I-worked-hard-for-this-to-work kind of love, which isn’t a bad thing. It feels a lot different. It’s a kind of love where you know the other party isn’t perfect, but you choose him or her anyway. And at the same time, you don’t take abuse, but work things with him or her to make the relationship work. It’s an I-love-you-with-my-eyes-open kind of love where you’re both in control (which, ironically, is achieved by relinquishing control). Things eventually quiet down as long as both parties decide to work things out, let go of what they think they deserve, and not give up.

Going back to stressors, one of the things that really stressed me out are the debts I needed to pay. If you have debts, what do you do? I’m sure the answer is pretty obvious, right? But for the longest time I refused to take that route, giving countless excuses to not do it. But take off the excuses, what is the simplest answer to the lack of money? Get a job.

Here were my excuses:
  • I’ve never worked in corporate before. Nobody will take me.
  • No job will be able to give me enough salary to pay what I need to in a month.
  • Everyone thinks I’m so expensive. No one is giving me a chance.

But when I had decided to get a job to get my finances in order, and called myself out on my whining, here were the truths that I knew that toppled off my very flimsy excuses:
  • I’ve never worked in corporate before. Nobody will take me. - Nobody wanted to work with your company when you started out, either. What did you do? You did cold calls. You emailed. You set meetings. You knew it would take a hundred inquiries to bag one deal. And you did it. You’ve never worked in corporate? Send out a hundred resumes then. One is bound to say yes.
  • No job will be able to give me enough salary to pay what I need to in a month. - Aim for the larger corporations, then. And one thing I learned in life is if you ask for it, someone will give it.
  • Everyone thinks I’m so expensive. No one is giving me a chance. - You are expensive. Find a company that can afford you then. And why are you waiting for a chance? Did you wait for a chance with your game company? Of course not, you broke down doors. What’s happened to you?

And so, yes. Sometimes it’s as simple as sending out those hundred resumes. One company replied. They needed a Japanese-Speaking Operations Manager. I got the salary I wanted. And my debts are slowly getting paid off with each passing month. The thorn has been plucked.

Another stressor in Manila, which I know a lot of people can relate to, is traffic. It took me two hours each morning to get to work, and another two hours in the evening to get home. What’s the solution?

I now walk ten minutes to the office from my new place.


After deciding that you’ll do what you can to find joy, the next thing to do is address the problems that stress you out or make you unhappy. More often than not, the thing that prevents us from acting on those stressors are our pride or our being comfortable in our current situation, even when we know we need to get out of it.