Category: Serious

Yesterday I was lucky enough to watch two really inspiring TED Talks – Brené Brown’s The power of vulnerability and Amanda Fucking Palmer’s The art of asking.

If you’ve read my blog post yesterday, you’ll also know that I preferred Amanda Fucking Palmer’s talk to Brené’s. Amanda Fucking Palmer talks from personal experience. She talks about her first job standing on a milk crate, dressed as a bride, asking for money in exchange for a paper flower. When strangers offered her money, she would hand them a flower and look deeply into their eyes. And her look would say, “Thank you. I see you.” And strangers would often return a look that said, “No one sees me.” And this is pretty much the point at which I teared up.

Amanda Fucking Palmer goes on to say that one day she was standing on her crate, when someone screamed at her to get a fucking job. And even though this happened years ago (she’s now a famous musician), you can tell that the memory still hurts her. She then goes on to talk about the fear of shame and why people are so reluctant to ask for money. She also talks about why people shouldn’t be forced to pay for music, but should rather willingly donate money to the cause.

Brené’s talk is a little more academic. She talks about what she’s learnt after years of research. Of course, this doesn’t mean that her presentation doesn’t have any merits. Anyway, here’s what I took away from her talk:

  • Vulnerability is necessary and should be embraced.
  • Vulnerability allows us to be authentic and to connect with others.
  • You cannot numb pain, hurt and anger. Numbing those emotions means that you’ll numb others, like happiness and love.
  • To be truly happy and to live a life of fulfilment, you need to have the courage to be imperfect and believe that you are worthy of love and belonging. To need courage to be vulnerable. You need courage to risk something with no guarantees. You need courage to say “I love you” first.
  • You also need to be compassionate – to others and yourself.
  • You need to believe that you are enough.
  • You need to practice joy and gratitude.

Anyway, if you have 30 minutes to spare (each video is about 15 minutes long) and the bandwidth, then check out their TED Talks.

Vulnerability

Rassles mentioned the Holocaust. And I was reminded of my trip to the Holocaust Memorial in Washington DC.

I don’t remember learning about the Holocaust in History class. But then again there wasn’t MUCH that I do remember about History. I remember learning about the Suez Canal, about the Six-Day War, and getting chucked out of class, along with other students. We’d forgotten to bring along their booklet on the South African constitution. This must have been in standard 7 (grade 9), 3 years after our first democratic election.

The weather was nice outside, so we didn’t mind being punished. We sat in the quad and talked smacked.

It wasn’t long after this that I dropped History. Too many dates to remember. Instead I did Geography and Physical Science. I learnt about volcanoes, adiabatic winds, earthquakes and scale. And in Physical Science? Well, I became innately familiar with boredom. While the teacher continued to waffle on about Newton’s many laws, I spent the period doodling. The only reason I’d continued to do Physical Science was that I’d been told, on numerous occasions, that I would never get a job without Physical Science. Turns out THAT was all hogwash.

Even though I’d never had any formal education on the Holocaust, or none that I can remember, I wasn’t completely oblivious to the Holocaust. My knowledge of the Holocaust could be summed up in four bullet points:

  • Hitler was an evil bastard, with a funny, little moustache.
  • Hitler hated the Jews. He tortured them. Sent them to gas chambers and concentration camps, and performed experiments on them.
  • Doctors working under Hitler’s regime sterlised the mentally and physically handicapped.
  • Anne Frank hid in an attic and kept a diary.

Given that I knew so little about the Holocaust, it is only natural that I would be completely astounded by everything I saw and read.

I remember being annoyed by the fact that we weren’t allowed to take any photographs. I remember reading “First they came” by Martin Niemoller, for the very first time. I remember being surprised by how quickly Hitler came into power. I remember how shocked I was to learn that some countries had a quota on the number of Jewish refugees they would take. The Jewish ghettos reminded me of South Africa’s Group Areas Act. The images of hair, shaved off the heads of Jewish men and women, and used to stuff mattresses. The body fat of men and women, used to create soap. And yet there is something I can’t remember. Something sitting on the edge of my memory. Something, so unbelievably cruel, that it caused me to gasp in horror. Something, that for the life of me, I cannot recall …

I’d never really understood this pride; this patriotism; this willingness to lay one’s life down for one’s country. It smacked of years of indoctrination; of being forced to recite the national anthem on a daily basis. Or so I thought. That is until I set foot in Washington DC.

 

Walking through National Mall, looking at the various monuments and memorials, it finally clicked. This was a country that commemorated its leaders, its heroes, its freedom fighters. Men and women who willing to risk it all for equality and justice. Men and women who inspired others to greatness. Think Martin Luther King Jr. Think Franklin Roosevelt. Think the veterans of World War II. And nowhere is this tribute more evident that the nation’s capital.

 

Given this, given that America is such a proud nation that honours its heroes, it’s heart breaking to see soldiers, some no older than 24, camped out on the streets as part of the Occupy Washington movement. These are boys and girls who were promised the world. Individuals who believed that if they gave their lives for their country, then they’d be treated with respect and honour. And here they were, without any prospects of a job, essentially homeless.

 

Of course, not everyone participating in the movement is a soldier. There IS the occasional crazy. In Wall Street, I saw a guy holding up a sign that proclaimed that corporate music had watered down hip hop.

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

Pumped up kicks – Foster The People (The minute I heard this song, I loved it.)

At the beginning of this year I set out five goals. I would complete the 2 Oceans half marathon in sub 2:30; publish one article in a reputable magazine; travel to another country; buy an apartment; and fall completely and utterly in love with Mr Perfect. Because you know, eternal love and destiny is something you can control. Much like your bowel movements.

I have accomplished some of these goals. Not all of them. And although some months still remain to realise the rest, I have no intention of chasing after them. Somewhere along the way my goals changed, evolved and are more running centric. 

Running goals:

  1. Complete 10km at sub 60 minutes. (At the moment my personal best stands at 63 minutes.)
  2. Complete 15km at sub 1:35. (Current PB stands at 1:36.)
  3. Complete 21km at sub 2:15. (Current PB is 2:17.)
  4. Start training for the Bay to Bay 30km race. (If I can complete this race comfortably, then I might consider training for a marathon. Pivotal word in that sentence is “might”.)  
  5. Have strong nails that don’t chip.

 

Okay fine, the last one doesn’t exactly qualify as a running goal. But have you seen my nails lately? They’re so brittle and are forever breaking. They’re a constant reminder of the fragility of life.

 

Anyhoo, lately I’ve found myself annoyed and frustrated with my lack of progress. I’m so close, I can taste it. And boy does it taste divine, like a camembert and fig pizza. And yet these goals seem improbable. I’ve run a 10km race almost every week, and my time has improved by only seconds. This might have something to do with the fact that my “training” is rather inconsistent.

 

So I’ve decided to change this. I’ve decided to work hard for the taste of success. I’ve decided to download a schedule and stick to it. I’ve decided to run harder, faster, longer and most importantly consistently. I’ve decided to chase my running goals (pun intended). I’ve decided to hold myself accountable. Success after all cannot be achieved without sacrifice.

 

Wish me luck.