I recently completed the Camino de Santiago in the north of Spain. It’s a religious pilgrimage in Spain that has starting points from all over Europe. All of the routes end in the city of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The English translation is “The way of St. James.” James was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, his tomb is underneath the cathedral in Santiago. People come from all over the world to walk the Camino. Pilgrims, anyone who walks the camino, come from all over the world to walk the camino. The reasons why one walks the Camino are as many as people in the world. This is my story.
There two popular routes of the Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances and Camino Del Norte, the latter being physically harder and less pilgrims because of the numerous elevation changes but more scenic. I choose the road less traveled for several reasons. The scenic views of the coast, my affinity to water, and the cities of the Basque Country, Bilbao and San Sebastian. The challenge of choosing a path the majority do not attempt enticed me.
The origin of the idea of walking the Camino was when I watched “The Way” with Martin sheen. Without spoiling it, is about a man who walks the Camino with his son. The story was so powerful, it affected me with the goal as soon as I finished the movie. I messaged my close friends to see if they would be interested. Nobody showed interest in the endeavor. At the time I started to teach myself Spanish and I visited Spain once already. It was a good goal for myself.
I started April 5th, 2016 when I was in the backyard of 29 Palms and my perspective on life was clearer because I didn’t have all that noise distracting me on my goals. So I decided to make an experiment and take a 30 day break from Facebook. There were times when I felt better about myself for not relying on the infinite news feed for comfort, as other do. I thought about leveling up my Spanish and how to get better. I started doing water color paintings. I’m searching for truth in myself and my art. It’s over now and I logged on. with 4 friend requests and 43 notifications. I didn’t miss anything.
I took the app off my phone and I am logged off on my computer. By taking the application off your phone it disconnects you from always being occupied with advertisements and outside noise. My friend, Kim, said it was fantasy world. A place where people share good news, travel photos, dress up pictures and good memories. Occasionally people share rants and complain about life, but all your 413 friends really don’t want to hear about that, maybe your close friends and family. I’m guilty of all those things. I post travel photos, good memories and have done a rant or two. When it comes down to it. What else could I be doing with my Fucking time!?
I’ve been teaching myself Spanish for the the past year and a half. I used a computer program called Fluenz. I finished the program last year before my second trip to Spain. I learned enough to get by and have small conversations. The process it was very slow and frustrating but very inspired to realize my progress in a foreign language. In January I realized I haven’t progressed at all since Spain. I have to increase my level of proficiency in the language. I’m currently reviewing the program, which is starting from the beginning to the end again. It helps but its not increasing my proficiency in a way that satisfies me. I got a tutor but he was too far away and too expensive for my budget. I’m researching on other tutors on Italki, a website to connect language learners. I will post my research. With teaching myself Spanish I feel like a scientist. I have to try something and if it doesn’t work I’ll have to try something else or adjust my original plan.
As I’m getting out of the military in 8 months. I have to solidify my plan as to what I will do when my life is not confined to routine. As of now. I plan on living in Barcelona, Spain for two years. There is an art school there and I plan on getting a student visa to live there longer than the 90 days allowed for US citizens. After the two years I plan to finish my illustration degree at SVA. With the GI bill I can live in NYC without too much worry of housing and costs of living in the expensive New York City. If I have any money left in the GI Bill. I’ll use it to get my Masters in a foreign country.
Facebook= a social media website where we can see the decline and progress of humanity.
I decided to take a break from Facebook. I am currently on day 4. I was in the field(military training in a tactical environment) for almost two weeks. I had this thought where what if I just stopped scrolling the infinite feed. I think it was being in the middle of the desert and seeing the bright stars shine without the light pollution of civilization.
What kind of person would I be? Do I need to post something or see what everyone else is doing/thinking, sharing? No, I don’t. I doing experiment of 30 days.
What can I accomplish without that noise? I’m interested to find out.
I read two books while I was in the field.
The Sun Also Rises- Hemingway
I didn’t like it though I did enjoy it but I didn’t like the ending. I thought the book was about Spain, which it was. I just couldn’t relate to the characters. The description of the Spanish cities was my favorite passages especially about San Sebastion. The takeaway from reading Hemingway was talking to my Chaplain about literature. He recommended many other authors and books.
The Road- McCarthy
He let me borrow The Road. I enjoyed the read but I watched the movie already so it spoiled the book. I still was glad that I read it.
It’s not a big deal. I’ve been old enough to know that it’s just day that signifies another year closer to death. That’s very morbid and pessimistic you say. That doesn’t make it any less true.
One constant that I enjoy having on my birthday is that I don’t work. There was once a time when I worked at Disneyland and I choose to work on my birthday. I thought yeah this is awesome. Work at the happiest place on earth on my birthday. Wrong. It was the fact that I was forced to be there and I couldn’t do what I wanted at a moments notice. I also carried a terrible attitude that day which may have rubbed off on the guests. I may have ruined someone else’s birthday at Disneyland because of my toxic attitude and choosing to work on my birthday. Hence why I don’t work on my birthday.
That moment stays with me whenever I think about working on my birthday. It’s best to do whatever you want and be with the people who genuinely care about you. It makes you feel better. If you have to work share a story like that with your boss and maybe they will give you a half day.
I also stopped having Facebook tell people its my birthday. No more fifty or so acquaintances writing happy birthday on my wall. When they would not say hello to me otherwise. I enjoy how it was ten years when I didn’t have Facebook in fact when more than half the world didn’t have facebook. When only your close friends and family knew about your birthday. That’s all the people who really matter.
A drawback for having my birthday in February is that its two days shy of Valentine’s Day. I don’t take this day personal. Yes, I don’t have a significant other to spend it with. Yes, it’s a day that highlights your loneliness. But it’s a day that will pass like any other day. Some people mope around being depressed but that doesn’t help anybody especially when they share on social media. So spend it wisely and work on yourself.
I went to Sam Francisco with my mother. I read some books, painted and laughed at some Calvin and Hobbes comics.
My check engine light came on. I texted a few people that I knew more about cars than me. I’m very thankful that my friend answered back fairly quickly. I spent most of Saturday working on my truck. My friend looked at my truck and heard that it was not firing on all cylinders. We drive to auto zone and I buy new spark plugs. He taught me how to change my spark plugs. That didn’t fix the problem. Next we went to change the ignition wires. We go to the near by junk yard, which was an interesting experience, to look for my ignition wire. Seeing a graveyard of disheveled cars without tires and engines created an interesting image against the desert background. After an hour we did not find the part I was looking for. We go back to auto zone and they had my ignition wires in stock. We changed my wires and that still didn’t fix my problem. I needed to continue doing errands on my Saturday so I put it on pause until today, Sunday.
Sunday. We tried about everything simple that we could do with my truck. I’m calling in the towel and I will take it to a shop tomorrow. When you lose your vehicle to malfunction, it is very stressful. I’m thinking about getting another vehicle if this proves more expensive than perceived.
My take aways from this weekend. I am thankful that I have a few friends that have knowledge on car repair. I’m very thankful those friends are willing to help me. I wish I could pay it back to them.
Why do Jiu Jitsu anymore? This question is posed to those who have been doing Jiu Jitsu for a long time, especially for those blue or purple belts. I received my purple belt about three months ago after training on Guam for three years as a blue belt. I came off a physical therapy from an ACL reconstructed surgery. I tore my ACL from a failed throw by my training partner. It was a big blow to stop, receive surgery and recover from it then keep going with the potential to injure it again. I would contemplate the “what ifs” scenarios. I was gun shy at getting back on the mats.
“I don’t want to not live, because of my fear of what could happen.”
-Riding Giants, Laird Hamilton
Top 5 reason to keep going
5. Its a perishable skill. If you have ever taken a break from Jiu-Jitsu, say a month or two, you notice that you skills, timing, flexibility, muscle memory is slightly off. Though at my level now to get back to my ability now I think it just takes 2-3 weeks of consistent practice to attain my level of where I left off. The important concept of growing as a person is keeping consistent. I’ve been taking extended breaks for most of my jiu jitsu journey. What if I kept consistent with it? Instead of taking a break for a month or two. Go once a week. It would keep your skills better than not going at all.
“We are all growing or dying, there’s no in-between.” -Tony Robbins
4. It keeps you humble. That feeling of being exhausted from trying to defend yourself competently from the relentless attacks from your partners. Sometimes you will get tapped. Sometimes a lower belt will submit you. Sometimes you don’t have enough strength to defend anymore. That feeling of defeat is a sobering one. It stays with you. It is not a good feeling. It is only a good feeling when you return from it. Redeem yourself and go back on the mats and train.
3. The ability to express yourself. Self expression is an immensely powerful tool for rehabilitation, meditation, and therapy. It is an art form though some people may not see it as such but Jiu Jitsu has the potential to be a vehicle of expression of your emotion and state of mind. If you are stressed out or concerned about life, rest assured that you can be submitted many times until you cannot think about what ails you. You can also work through it and be in place of meditation and focus that all the things the weigh you down are outside and not on the mats.
“In combative form the art of expressing the human body…to me, ultimately martial arts means honestly expressing yourself. Now it is very difficult to do.” -Bruce Lee
2. Make it Fun. Honestly if it turns into an activity you dread to go to then there is no point to do it anymore. There are ways to entertain yourself. Make a game out of it. In Jiu Jistu University, Saulo advised to try playing someone else’s guard style. That’s like doing an impression of someone. Impressions are funny when they’re dead on, they’re even awful when done bad. But still it’s fun. Play another person’s game other than your own, someone unorthodox like Nino Schembri, Eddie Bravo, or Eduardo Telles. The list can go on. There are many different styles and I don’t think enough is written about the subject.
“Sometimes I even tell my students, “Today you are going to be Pe de Pano, you are going to be Shaolin, and you are going to be Marcelo Garcia-play like that.”
-Jiu Jitsu University
1. Grind. It is a term I really learned on Guam. It means to keep going despite all things. Come to class as often as you can and put your gi on. Train hard and you will feel it in you muscle and bones. You will be tired and exhausted from training and your life. I can remember times when I was driving home and just felt at one with my body and soul. You may not see the change or feel it but when you put that kind of time and effort into something over a long period it will show results physically, mentally and spiritually.
I was stationed on Guam from March 2012 to July 2015. I did not know much about Guam. I knew it was an island in the Pacific but other than that I was completely ignorant about Guam. I received orders from Guam a month after I failed out of dive school in Chicago. I put so much energy and time into preparing for that school. When I failed out it became it a dark time in my life. Imagine gambling 2 years worth of savings and losing it all in one hand of pitch and toss. It was a sobering feeling that I felt for much of my time on that island.
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
Guam is a tropical island in the western Pacific Ocean. It is 10 hours plus greenwich mean time, which means it is roughly a day ahead of American Stateside time. It is an American territory and the official languages are English and Chamorro. The island has a rich history of colonization and war. It has beautiful beaches that can rival the any. It has an average temperature of mid 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit with a mid 70s to low 80s humidity level. Typhoons are a common occurrence that came at least twice a year. It was an interesting place to spend my late 20s.
Well I arrived on Guam very depressed and disheartened because of the unforeseen detour in my career. When you get to a new place it takes awhile to adjust. The quicker you are at adjusting the better you are at handling time away from your family. You do so by creating routine, make new friends, learn new hobbies or continue old ones. I joined Carlson Gracie Guam because it was recommended by a friend who grew up in Guam and his former instructor ran that school. There were many Jiu Jitsu schools on Guam it was highlighted on an episode of Rolled Up, which I watched before I arrived there.
I was a blue belt at the time from my former school, Oceanside Jiu Jitsu. I worked hard by training 4 times a week and competing as often as I could. I took a break from Jiu jistu soon after I got my blue belt and I had to concentrate and preparing for dive school. Guam’s Jiu Jitsu rep preceded itself from the up and coming Jiu jitsu fighters born there like Mike Carbulido, John Meno and Mike Fowler visiting and teaching there for a stint. I knew Jiu jitsu training would be hard, but I really didn’t know how hard. In fact I was afraid of my blue belt actually being taken away. Which I have seen at my previous school when a black belt was given a purple belt. Being away from my family and starting a new job I started training jiu jitsu again as a way to combat my other feelings inside.
Jiu jitsu training on Guam is Monday through Thursday 6pm to roughly 730pm. Normal warm ups consisted of shrimps, arm drags, wrestling shots, and assorted calisthenics. Head coach, Gabe Baker, ran his gym like a military platoon preparing for war especially months before a tournament. Specific guard passing drills would continue in numerous repetitions before ending warm up and a water break. After warm up we would learn two or three moves, drill and practice them. At the end of class we would do specific position drills or continue with the moves we learned that day. More often than not there was no time during class for free rolling. If you wanted to free roll you had to do that after class. There were several people that stayed after for one or two rolls. Fairly normal when compared to most schools. I earned four stripes there.
The leadership was one the main characteristic that made this experience so intense. Gabe Baker’s main job was running that Jiu Jitsu school. He put his heart and soul into running it and making the best Jiu Jitsu fighters as he possibly could. His students are an excellent product of his exceptional coaching. Many other instructors on the island still did it as a hobby and they were pursuing different careers, who can blame them Jiu Jitsu is a difficult field to do professionally. Some schools instruction wasn’t as consistent than Carlson Gracie Guam. Gabe also was an excellent coach that listened to your problems not just on the mat but off. There were many times I confided in him with the issues going on in my life. During my tenure he expanded the kid’s program and knocked down the walls and doubled the school size. As tough as he was on me I will never forget my time at Carlson Gracie Guam.
My take away from the Jiu Jitsu experience. I’m now a Purple belt though I was not promoted by Gabe but I know he mentored me to get that level. Now I’m not afraid of getting my belt taken from me anymore because I’ve gone through so much pain, suffering, injury and cauliflower. I have this idea that if you took away your belt, muscle memory, and move inventory and all you have left is your white belt and experience from your jiu jitsu time. It would only be a matter of time until you get back you original rank. In fact I bet it would take a shorter time to reach the target belt rank. Why do I believe this to be so? I know what it took to get through those belt ranks. I have the basic knowledge of the moves and system Jiu Jitsu uses. My experience has shown me that it is possible and that I have attained it once before. Therefore I can do it again.
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
The island was an incredible place to find yourself. Although I am not an advocate of doing Jiu Jitsu all day everyday. There were other things in my life that suffered when I did that. I believe one needs balance but I know Jiu Jitsu will always be there. Despite all the heartache and frustration I had in other areas in my life when I left Jiu Jitsu whenever I came back to the gym everyone was always very welcoming. I wish to return one day.
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
There was a time on Guam when I memorized the poem If by Rudyard Kipling. To this day it still gives me hope. That stoic hope one needs to get through tough times. It was this poem and my experience on Guam that gives me hope and strength for another day.
Many people make resolutions but not many people keep them. I am one of those people that will keep them. Thats the only way to become a better person. I am not trying to be a someone else. I want to be a better version of myself. Which means all the things that I am good at I want to be better. All the things that I feel are my short comings I wish to make those stronger.
Live in Barcelona, España in 2017. This has been a goal of mine for a long time. It will take a lot of planning and action for this to become a reality. There’s really nothing thats going to stop me. It will take money, visa approval, school acceptance, a grasp of the spanish language, which I am at a basic level now.
Finish the Camino de Santiago. I left the Camino in Santander, Spain. I will continue this summer from Santander to Santiago de Compostela. My goal is to finish during my 30 days work holiday. My maximum amount of time is 25 days. 5 days for travel. It will take money, logistics, more Spanish language practice, training, and a guide book. Summer 2016.
Blog every week. I want to be a better writer. I want to be a travel writer/ journalist. So I have to practice and experience life. Starting now. 52 posts.
Visit New York. This goal is fairly easy. It’s about $1,300 trip that number can probably go lower. It’s figuring out what to do.
Ragnar Relay. SoCal and Norcal. I need a team, training schedule, logistics. Easy. I’ve done this before but being the captain takes a lot of extra work that most people don’t want to do. It’s the most fun I have ever had when I was running a race.
Work on portfolio. I decided I’m going back to art school to finish my degree. I’ve done it before I can do it again.
Jiu Jitsu. I just made purple belt and I have to keep going. There may be a time I may need to defend myself and my family I will need to keep training just in case.
Keel Boat certification. ASA 106. Money, time, scheduling. I love sailing and want to learn more.
Scuba Diver Certifications. I want to learn more about diving.
Last but not least. Courage. I need to put myself out there. There’s feeling that you get when you’re so nervous you feel it in your stomach. It may be asking a girl out, doing something adventurous or just being out of your comfort zone. I haven’t had that feeling in a while.
I’ve been keeping a journal,sketchbook, diary since I was 16. There’s a stigma in American Society that classifies having a journal or diary is queer or feminine. I used to be self conscious about it. Now I don’t care anymore because I’m a better person for having kept one.
Imagine if you are a scientist and you conduct experiments. You would have to write down your hypothesis, controls and conclusions for each experiments. If you didn’t you would have the probability of repeating the same mistakes over and over without knowing how to fix them. My analogy is that your are a scientist and your experiment is your life. Yes, you will make mistakes but if you document them and review what went wrong you are likely to succeed next time.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Recently I’ve been playing the game of Chess. It’s a fun game of strategy, tactics and decision making. There is a plateau with skill level. Top level players have knowledge of notation in the game. The study the intricacies of the game by notation. They progress through note taking. Much like a scientist and his experiments. There’s a reason for strategizing your different plans. Strategize your life not one move at a time but several moves ahead.
Law 29- Plan all the way to the end.
I have been training Brazilian Jiu jitsu for several years. What helped me throughout out the years was note taking the small essential details of a specific submission or sweep. I’m also a visual learner so I would sketch out a position with instructions to help me retain it to memory. Move sets and algorithms are a new idea in the jiu jitsu community. I will continue to play around with that idea. Here is what I’ve come up so far.
I went to art school in Oakland, Ca. One of my professors, Barron Storey, a famous illustrator for his incredible journals and monumental personality. His journals inspired me and showed me that your sketchbook doesn’t have to be just drawings. It can be writings, drawings, paintings or combinations of all. Your sketchbook/ Journal is an expression of your thoughts, emotions, concerns, work, relationships, and anything else that you wish to document. Your journal is a medium that has limitless potential. Make it your own.
Many times in my life my journal has been a private place where I jot my thoughts on paper. A meditative place I used when dealing with a break up, stress from work, or anxiety from life. I believed it helped me overcome some of my life’s major obstacles. That’s why I have been doing it for so long.
The journal is private place where you can be yourself without judgement of the outside world. You are your own experiment in your hypothesis for life. Use it for strategy to plan your next chess move against your hypothetical life opponent. You can write inspirational quotes that inspire you. If you wish to understand complex ideas I found it best for me to draw it out and visualize the problem. Keeping a journal for over ten years was the constant anchor that kept me stable. If you going through some rough patches in life, try writing it down. It has definitely helped me.
I’m thirty years old at this point in my life. I’ve been at my current job for six years. I plan on making a career change in the next year. Its a big change in my life or for anybody’s life. How does one prepare for such a change? What does it mean to change careers? Why does one do this?
For the most part it is not what I expected it to be and have grown increasingly unhappy over the years. I currently work in the medical field. All you need to see is one person on their death bed to realize that life is short. I saw many people on their take in their final gasps. Its daunting and sobering to one’s morale. I worked in an Intensive Care Unit and a Multi Service Unit. I think about those patients put in comfort care or the ventilated ones whose bodies are alive but minds are gone almost everyday. I think about because it gives me drive to live my life to the best of my ability. I have coworkers, even family members, whose seen equal amount of hospital deaths that do not share my outlook. I don’t care to convince anyone of the obvious anymore. Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth.
Our lives on this earth are finite. I don’t want to spend it watching people die, prolonging the inevitable. A very dark but true statement of the practice of medicine. So what will I do? It’s a very hard thing to change careers and do the opposite of your trade. My mother is a nurse, my aunt is a nurse, and my two sisters are nurses. Medicine is in my family. The nursing field is also being dominated by filipinos. My sisters and I have been bred from a very young age that the nursing field is a stable and honorable profession. Like most nurtured first generation immigrant americans we obeyed our parents.
As I ponder my last year in this current career. I will miss the good times and the friends I’ve met along the way. Alas it is time for a new chapter which will start a new adventure.