‘The Incorrigible Optimist Club’ by Jean Michel Guenassia

Initially I had a few doubts before setting off to read this novel, I didnt know if I would enjoy it. It is a book of considerable size, translated from its original text in French and is narrated by a young self assured boy. Few aspects of which I had some ‘not so good reading experiences’ with. BUT quickly, few pages into it, this thick French novel turned out to be very interesting and consuming. 

This was due to the interesting characters, the tragedies they faced in life, the principles and ideologies they held firmly to and discussed proudly. Also, most importantly, the great structure and simplicity in storytelling. The narrator has a very natural voice, clear and simple. There was an effortless flow and my interest in the story was consistently sustained till the end. With some books, half way through, I get exhausted either by the few irritating antiques of the character, a careless twist in the plot or a dragging-on storyline. However for this book, merely reading few pages into it and I was certain that reading it was going to be a good experience, and it did turn out to be a great one, with no hitches at all. 

As soon as I was introduced to Michel and his great passion for reading, I felt that I had found a friend. He was a compulsive reader, with an admirable ability to devour books very quickly. He reads all the time; as soon as he wakes up in the morning, at meal times – including Dinner time, while walking to school and during class times – by placing the book on his lap. One of his dangerous habit was reading while walking and he credits his guardian angels for protecting him from accidents. Reading also affected his punctuality to school, the more interesting the story, the more late he got as he had to stand somewhere and properly absorb whats happening. The period when he was reading Russian novels – like Anna Karenina – earned him a couple of detentions. 

For a young person of that age he is so well read, I wish I was that well read at that age or had a friend who read like him. He has a great taste in authors and novels. This book holds a special place in my heart for welcoming me into the bigger world of literature. He has introduced me to a list of great authors I need to read, why to read them and also how to read them in general. Michel is just the coolest kid ever. He is very normal, very kind, smart, rational and an overall every other thing nice person.

Like me, Michel is miserable at maths. This strengthened my connection to him and heightened my love for the book. A lot of his friends and even his family tried very hard to get him to understand the basic concepts but the knowledge of maths always escapes him. Having these maths illiteracy discussions made me feel good, because I know that Michel is a brilliant boy but he is just not good at maths, which is okay. He managed to fix this maths problem and show good maths results to his parents by copying from his best friend Nicolas, who was brilliant at maths yet lacking in Geography, which like me, Michel excelled in. He would neatly and skillfully copy down maths homework and exams by creating few variations in his work compared to that of Nicholas’s in order to avoid suspicion of cheating. I never copied, I just failed my maths papers and that was life for me then but I am a bit maths literate now after doing an Economics and Finance Degree at University. 

Michel is of Algerian and Italian descent. His two families dont get on well with each other because of their opposing nature. His fathers side, the Marini’s, who are Italians, are happy people, they are frivolous and generous. His mothers family, the Delaunays are wealthy Algerian business people – they are more business minded and serious. His father was working for the Delaunays when he met Michel’s mother. She got pregnant with their first born – Franck – and he got recruited for the war. Four years later, after he was released from being a Prisoner of War, his parents met again and decided to marry for the sake of their firstborn Franck and few years later Michel was born. His mother is the dominant of the two parents, considering the fact that her familys wealth and business is what Michel’s family are living comfortably off. His father also works for the Delaunay’s company owning few of their shops around Paris. She is very strict on the children, she makes demands and it must happen. Michel’s father is more understanding and has a sense of humor which doesnt augur well with the parenting strategies of Michel’s mum. So that is one of the internal strugles of the family. Part of this book follows the internal family disputes within Michel’s home. 

The Incorrigible Optimist Club is a name of a club in the backroom of a cafe bar called Balto where Michel plays Babyfoot, a popular table form of Football game that Michel was exceptionally good at. He was a notorious player, a champion, sometimes he would come out victorious while playing solo against partners. These games was installed in most bars, cafes and other eateries around Paris. This particular game of Babyfoot was very popular and attracted in alot of people. While playing the Babyfoot game at a cafe bar called Balto that he notices grown men entering into a secluded room, out at the back of the bar, going in with their drinks. It was an exclusive group for adults and on further inquisition, he sneaked in and after a few sessions just standing around and observing quietly, he blended in and became part of the club. 

The members of this club comprises of Eastern European men who fled their home countries under the worst of circumstances. There is a Russian, Polish, Romanian, a Greek and a Czhech person. Due to wars and the threat of executions they escaped to France, leaving their family behind. Through the book we are introduced to each of the member of the club and their backstory, how they came to be in France. They are all very interesting people who have been through alot and also they were qualified men and well recognized in their own countries. A significant number of the characters in this novel are Russians who share great stories of their life in Russia that led to their escape. The book is also like a History lesson, but much more interesting since it is narrated from a characters point of view. There were so many new things I learned from the book which I cant write them all here. But Ill tell you about how certain photograpy experts were assigned to photoshop pictures of leaders like Stalin, concealing flaws in the picture like their tired looking eyes, crumpled or stained clothes, making them appear like heroic god like leaders that they arrogantly believe themselves to be. Also they carefully took out pictures of fugitivess or rebels from all photographs, so not only are they killed but they are also errased entirely from history. Russian history is very interesting. 

Michel spends time at the club more often, listening to them joke, debate, argue and have passionate discussions of their individual political and world views. Intense – vulgar, loud and angry – arguments was common because they all had different strong points of views but it always died down, cooled with a round of drinks. Relationships between club members never severed because they were strong together. They sort out comfort from each other, knowing that they were going through the same thing living in a foreign country and they also were escapees from their old life, almost mercilessly leaving behind everything including their family and loved ones. During the course of reading this novel, I enjoyed how very passionate this men were, how they very unique their ideologies were and how they stuck by it. I loved the fact that they discussed alot about politics and the world. They debated and they had their an opinion about everything.

But then as the novel progressed, somewhere towards the end, Michel Marini himself became tired of these men, he loathed them for their very brittle response to one of his concerns of the heart. He felt at that moment, that it was better for him to hang out with his former friends, his younger friends who didnt talk about politics and radical views of changing the world yet who lived in the present moment, enjoying it – younger boys of his age, who talked about beautiful Parisiane girls instead of Politics. So I learned that there needs to be a balance, you can not just be feeling melancholic and bitter reminiscing of the past or anxious and hot headed scheming of the perfect future. Its better that one enjoys the life that they live now, taking more time out to smell the roses. I say this often in this blog, just live, not a little, but a lot more. I loved this quote from the book, that perfectly capture what it means to trully live.

“I make the most of each day as though it were a gift. For years I worked like a lunatic, without counting the hours spent, without taking rest. For nothing. That time was given to me and I lost it.  Nowadays, I read, I sleep, I listen to concerts in the radio, I roam around Paris, I chat to people, I take siestas, I feed the cats in the neighbourhood and when I have not got enough penny left, I either get by or get myself a job. I have the bare necessities and I’ve never been so happy in my life”

– by the character Sacha Markish.

He also hung out often with Cecile, his brother Francks girlfriend. She is also an interesting character who also loved reading but not to the extreme that Michel does. She was working on her Thesis in French Literature but was contemplating a Phsychology degree. Michel was good at conversing about deep and important things unlike Franck and she liked him for that. I liked the times when they hung out, drinking hot chocolate milk and eating pastries, figuring out their maths illiteracy problems and othet life problems. Also they often run around the park in Paris and hang out taking pictures beside the special Medicis fountain. I loved that beautiful part of the story. Nothing lovey happened, they were purely friends but Michel did fall in love later on. 

What I have learned is that we human beings are molded by circumstances that we face. Peoples views, beliefs and behaviours, stems from experiences in life, especially from our formative and younger years. What may seem normal to someone, may not be to another person and what may seem atrocious and wrong to one person may seem like a justified response and act to someone else. The nature of the Russians in this book, to a Fijian like me was very unusual and at times outright rude and intolerable. I could be quick to judge a lot of the actions and ideologies of these Eastern European men but after reading their back stories I have come to a point of undertstanding them. The way they are is a sort of defense system against danger, a personal nature that ensures they continue surviving considering the environment and the former reality they have lived in. They are conditioned to be that way as a result of circumstances they have faced in life. So I feel that we should not be quick to judge but instead seek to understand. Its not easy, especially in this fast paced world but we should try to take some time out to do so. 

I loved this book, it is the perfect French novel and I would love to read more novels like it. Particularly modern French writers and also books about readers like Michel Marini. I dont know if I would meet another character as interesting as Michel. I hope to read one soon, but then Michel is a very unique one, he has a special place in my heart. I would like to learn French, so I could read this novel and other French novels in its original form and definitely travel to France, immersing myself into the French life and culture. This is a book that as soon as I finished, I wanted to start reading from the begining all over again. The author was very kind and understanding toward his characters. There were no bad people in this novel, there were just a lot of human beings, real flawed humans, who are products of circumstances and environments they were born to and the greatest evils was the war and those iconic leaders who led them. I loved this novel through and through. 

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‘A Year of Marvelous Ways’ by Sarah Winman

I had just finished reading A Year of Marvelous Ways by Sarah Winman and goodness it has to be one of the most beautifully written book I have ever read. An absolute favorite and this is the first time where my need to read more things by an author is independently based on my good experience with the authors work. It has never happened to me before. Usually, I depend on critics review of an author. My preference would based on suggestions by reviewers, critics, their popularity and credentials – the more awarded, the more respect and attention I pay to it. 
While reading this book, I felt like I finally found something that I personally preferred and enjoyed, also something that I can proudly suggest for other people to read. This book is my cup of tea and Ill drink anything made by the author whether critically acclaimed or not. Sarah Winman is great story teller. This book just oozes with sweet syrupy story telling that gentally flows through a bubling fountain. To read this book is to dip your hand in that fountain and taste something so deep and rich that makes you feel warm and sentimental. But it does not give you a sticky sensation, the only thing I believe will stick is the story in our minds – definitely for me. The book made me fall in love – with life – and made me a believer in love and magic. Its a feel good book.  

I know I am babbling on and on about how good AYoMW is , which again I assure you, it really is, and if you find the book, I highly suggest that you pick it up and read it. Okay going straight to it now – so here is a small run through of what the book is about. I am aware that spoilers are a major crime in writing book reviews or even a reading reflection, so Ill give you the basics of the book; why you might like it and also what some might find offputting in the book – which for me, a slightly snobbish reader, I actually thought made the flow of the book better. 

AYoMW is a 2nd novel by Sarah Winman after her best selling debut novel – When God Was a Rabit. I havent read her wildly succesful debut novel but AYoMW really did it for me, and I am eager to read WGWaR. She also has a new novel out, released last month titled The Tin Man. I am going to have a real good time catching up with Sarah Winman books. 

This is novel about an 89 year old lady called Marvelous Ways who has lived beside a Cornwall creek for almost all her life. She lived a remarkable life alone – an independent woman who planted, fished, cleaned, fed, dreamed, fell in love and swam by that deep and wide creek. She has this very magical presence with her and she talks alot about magic because her life has been filled with so much magic. She collected things and made a home for herself, which overtime, you could imagine it must have become something to marvel at. While reading I can smell the mustiness and feel the warmth of her caravan by the creek, filled with lovely ornaments, antique furnitures, tattered brown books, wooden jewelery boxes, dried herbs & flowers, old glass bottles, sea shells, beads and a few jewelleries on a dresser table with an old oval mirror at the foot of an old cozy bed.  

At the 89th year of her life, she found herself waiting for something which she hadnt a clue of what it was. That thing she was waiting for came in the form of a person – a young soldier damaged in spirit by the war, who was out to fulfill a promise he made to a dying soldier he met and very briefly got to speak with before he continued his journey. I have read quite a few books about the great World Wars this year and the experiences by people who fought is similar – they witness the worst and it leaves a lasting impact on them. Drake was raised by a single mum and she died when he was still young. After which of course he recruits and joins the army. 

The present day for this book is after the war, when the rebuilding is slowly taking place and life slowly returns to normal with remanants of the way still lurking about in the air. Actually Drake became more gutted and torn apart into pieces after the war when he meets a childhood sweetheart and has a very brief but intense randevouz with her. You should read the book for its juicy details. He found her years later, and she had grown into an outstandingly beautiful young woman. They caught up with each others lives and after a night together, Drake decides that they should just stay together but she disappeares very dramatically leaving him in great shock and pain. He drinks his pain and sorrows away, unconscious of where he is headed – even without a care because the guy was in so much pain, he was falling in love, he found something and so quickly he lost it. All of a sudden we find him washed up on the shores of old Miss Marvelous Ways creak. She nurtured him back to health and housed him by the boat house. When he was back in good health he continues on his journey to delivering the letter of the dying soldier. Obviously he returns back to Cornwall and thus continues the great stories. 

Marvelous Ways has some great stories, she is 89 years old and its a great treat to listen to stories of life shared by people who have lived it the longest. There is so many wisdom we can take out of it and it can also make us less impatient. I believe stories from older people can strip down life to the essential stuff for us – what matters the most in life and also it makes us take a sit, be less fidgety, anxious and be more accepting of all that comes our way. Marvelous Ways had a normal father but a perculiar mother. She lost her mum very young because of that uniqueness. She moved in with her Aunts in the city as her father went in mourning and he came for her again and on this great trip – sort of a prilgrimage where they healed and helped people on the road along the Cornwall peninsula. She learned a lot of skills which became useful to her, making her sort after by the locals later. Marvelous ways fell in love a number of times and she talks about it beautifully with Drake and the new girl – Peace, a baker who came back to town to open up her grandparents old bakery. They share stories after meals with sloe gin – the only alcahol beverage being served throughout the whole book. It aids the storytelling I bet. Their lives intertwine, you have to read the whole book to figure out how and the centre of all the magic was Marvelous Ways. They share stories of love, loss, yearning and adventures. I loved this book. 

It has a consistency about it. There wasnt a point in the book where I rolled my eyes over some thing in a book. There was a flow. It was like being rushed through a series of events that captures the beautiful essence of life. A week ago I came across a post on Instagram that highlighted the need for great character development in a novel by a Kenyan reader and I have to say that for this book, character development is strong and all the characters are very interesting, even the two who came near the end – Peace and Ned Blaney.

The bad bits, some might consider is the magical realism – magical events, superstitious beliefs and a mermaid in the book – might put some people off.  Also the missing talking points “..” to mark conversations, none of that in this book. But as we read on, we get to see how it all fits together and I believe that Sarah Winman is a genius for pulling it off effortlessly. She is a very talented story teller for being able to do what she did in this book, while taking a few risks. When I noticed these I was a bit sceptical of the book, almost never read it but to have picked it up and read it was worth it. I really enjoyed this book and I cant say enough how much I do. So yeah, I am leaving out plenty juicy details of the book but I am declaring my great enthusiasm of it. She is now one my favorite writer and this is a favorite unique book I have read so far. And that was my slightly scattish reading reflection of it. 

I am going back to my reading now. Vinaka. Moce! 

Proudly Narrate the World Around You – The World You Know 

I have collected a lot of interesting things along the way in my blogging journey. Some from writing but mostly from reading. Recenty I came upon this article shared by the WordPress team titled ‘Magic can be normal‘ by the site Hazlitt. In the article an Asian writer talks about her great joy and other thoughts on seeing a fellow Asian actor play a significant character on a Shakespeare play. She felt proud and was happy that her child could also experience the same joy years on, when an all cast Asian Shakesphere play was performed in a nearby city. The article highlighted the importance of representation in mainstream media, how it can help young peoples confidence in life. How representation can help young people of color feel normal and believe in endless possibilities – that they can be hero’s and heroines in their own lives. I urge you to read it and feel the same magic I felt while reading the article.  

Reading that article I became very inspired and it urged me to have some pride in who I am and where I come from and to proudly narrate it for the world to read it. To make my stories part of the new normal. Which is what we should all do more of. I always felt intimidated being in this blogging world, I felt like I dont have a story to tell and part of the reason is because most of the blogs that I follow are not from the region that I come from, there is vast differences in lifestyle and culture. So I felt like I couldnt be actively part of the conversation, because to be part of the conversation I would have to know what they are actually talking about. 

But I do enjoy reading other blogs, really, especially for the general universal truths they talk about which breaks down all boarders and boundaries. Two blogs I am loving at the moment is a poetry blog by Robert Okaji, and the narrative blog On BeingBut writing becomes difficult if you are literally from an island of your own where your story is in abundance but may seem unrelateable to others around the world. After reading that article by the website Hazlitt, I felt really empowered, like, oh my goodness, yasss, I have a story to tell, its all around me, my life, my everyday existance in this place in the middle of nowhere is worth telling because it is unique. No one else is telling this kinda stories from this region and I will tell it as authentically as possible – very importantly. 

I am from the Pacific Islands, South Pacific, Fiji to be more specific. I am not going to sugar coat or glamorise things and make it sound like some tourism brochure. No our life is very different from what is presented to tourists. We have a life,  a real life, just like that of people who are escaping theirs by coming for holidays in our islands. We love our tourists and are greatful for them visiting our islands and we all do work together to keep you coming back to our shores. For real. But my point is that our life, its not tropically glamorous, we do not eat from coconut shells or beatifully crafted spoons and bowls. We eat from silver spoons and plates. We dont always eat healthily, going backyard with our woven baskets to fetch vegetables and rootcrops – matter of fact Non Communicable Diseases is a major cause of concern – its at an alarming the rate. And then there is climate change which we are regarded as victims of. However I choose not to see ourselves as victims, we are victors and we will fight back by being a smarter generation, economically sustainable, growing and advancing – thats my fight. I am of the view that ‘we dont need handouts,’ we can do things by ourselves. We have universities breeding scientists and business students that will protect and propel our countries to greater heights. 

We are a beautiful places with beautiful smiles that is authentically welcoming. We also have an interesting way of life. We have our own hustles and we try to keep up and be on the same page with the rest of the world. For me I represent the dreamers from where I come from. We dream normal dreams as other young people do. We consider ourselves modern millenials pushing envelopes, creating new pathways. We aspire to be Actors, Singers, Writers, Models, Fashion Designers, Business Moguls, Influencers and so many other things that the imagination can conceive. Very importantly we have our own stories and I am a blogger who will tell a part of that story. Welcome to my side of the world. 

‘The Story of Edgar Sawtelle’ by David Wroblewski

Keeping up with a tradition of this year, which is writing a reflective piece of all the books I read, this one is for The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski which I finished recently. Its such a strenous and probably irrational commitment to make upon myself. Why am I doing this? I dont even know, I just feel the need to commit to something, and this particular commitment I feel will benefit me in some way, probably along the way, as I stride through the task. And this is not a book review, I feel I am not an expert yet thus I feel it would be fraudulent of me to take up a fine scalpel and disect a book or neither am I a seasoned reader to start rating them with Stars too. This is my book reflection, a swift drive back of my thoughts and memories through the whole reading experience of the book from begining till end. 

This book was a big one, therefore I am very, very proud of having finished that great lump of a book. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski is an American novel that was greatly praised by Stephen King, the Oprah book club, New York Times and the many other established and respected Reviewers out there. Thats what drew me to this. Plus, its titled ‘The Story of ….” which I wanted to know more of. A simple title adequate of an Essay heading by a Junior Level student, like something I would write as a title in Primary School and then my teacher would growl at me for being so clichéd and uncreative with titles. With such simplicity in titles, I always assume that great depth shall follow. Simple titles created by adults as title for serious novels is actually a good thing – its a sign of seriousness.

The cover of the book – lovely! The soft colours, the picture that captures heartland America with a huge red barn and a young boy (definitely Edgar Sawtelle) and a large fury dog – idyllic country life at its best -walking back to that big red ole barn. Its a picture of a fine evening – oooh somebody take me there. Matter of fact seeing the illustration and the well thought out, carefully constructed yet simple cover (again a sign of seriousness and depth), I saw my ticket to heartland America, part of the great reason I snatched up the book, determined to read it.

So the book starts off with a man traversing through a street in Korea searching for a particular shop … Hmm .. mysterious, where the dogs at I thought, because I read at the back cover description that it is about a family with a dog kennel. But no, hold on tight Kaliova, I thought, I knew I had to remember that bit as its going to be of great use to solving a mystery later on. This unknown man who supposedly has military background was after a particular shop and the Korean man gave him poison, how I know its poison – well the man tests it on a stray dog (maybe it was his own dog, but no that would be a heartless and weird thing to do)  and the stray dog dies. 

After that we are transported to the great Sawtelle farm. It provides a back story to how the residence got into the hands of John Sawtelle (Edgars grandfather) and also how the Dog Kennel business began. It began with Mr John Sawtelles love for dogs and his belief that dogs had unique qualities and traits so a careful breeding process needs to take place in order to create fine specimen of dogs. So every dog was a carefully scrutinised and studied and then matches were made. They had files for every dog and they had developed formulas to identify probibilities of success and failure. So therefore was no love marriages in that Kingdom especially in terms of the dogs. Also a very regimental training programme was in place for the dogs from when they are young pups till the placement day – where they are given to new owners. They take this whole Dog Breeding and Training programme to a whole new level in the sense that even after placement the dogs progress is still monitored and they are always following up with new owners. And all of this is monitored mind you. Quite incredible, its a sign of great commitment to the craft.

Edgar Sawtelle, son of Gar and Trudy Sawtelle was born after one miscarriage – a devastating blow on both the couple – hence he was a much needed blessing for the gloomy state the couple were in. He had a small disability, he was mute but he was not deaf. Before his birth a dog named Almondine had been raised as as a family pet, different from the rest of dogs in Kennel. He was a family pet and an intelligent one who became the voice for Edgar – in the sense that he would bark when Edgar was crying for help. Almondine was a close companion for Edgar from Day 1 till the end of this book. 

Everything was fine until the day that Claude Sawtelle – Edgars uncle who sold his share of the Kennel business and recruited himself in the army – came back. A very disruptive man with a hidden agenda. He was weird and smelt of trouble from that very first day we are introduced to him in that book. Forgot to mention this but its an equally important minor detail, John Sawtelle had only 2 sons – Edgars father and Claude. This Claude had something againt Edgars fathers, Gar. He was probably jealous of him but totally unwarranted as Gar stayed back and made things work and he became better at what he did, so quite distasteful that he was jealous – irrational, evil and selfish. 

I should mention how Trudy was a great match for Edgars father in terms of running the whole Kennel business. She complimented him well and excelled in arreas where Edgars father did not do well. She was good at training dogs where else he wasnt, but he was very analytical and passionate about breeding them and running the overall business, dog placements and the follow ups with new dog owners. 

Tragedy happened somewhere in the middle lf the book when Edgars father died. Things changed and even though Doctors claimed it was some fatal flaw that was totally random and had a small probability of occuring. Trudy and Edgar were left behind to run the Kennel by themselves and from the first day they were determined to show they were going to make it in order to avoid loosing it. 

Edgar uncovered a mystery to the death of his father raising great suspicion in him that his father was murdered. By grief over the new information, he is driven to act like a lunatic and the whole book just spirals downward from there. Quite intense and I just didnt like it much. I feel that alot of things couldve been prevented. The overly tragic ending couldve been prevented if things happened differently or if the adults in the book were more adult and actually cared for that desperately lonely and hurt young boy. The book is very long and oh my gerrd it was tiring. 

Out of everything in the book I liked a sub character who came later on when young Edgar was on the run with his dogs. He was a man living alone after his girlfriend breaks up with him for being too ordinary. I liked how very ordinary and practical his life was out there in a place probably considered to be the middle of nowhere. He was very laid back. He went to work in the morning and came back in the afternoon with groceries, made dinner for himself, listened to Vinyl music and then went off to sleep. There was a lot of food. Somedays he would sit out in the yard and make Barbeque and have himself beer out there in his front yard. He loved his beer. I liked that account of his life – the sense of solitary living and peace – and also how he shared it with Edgar and his dogs when they came running upon him hungry and hurt. 

I am leaving out a lot of details from the book to avoid being a spoiler for anyone else intending to read it. Overall I am not too much enthusiastic about this book. I had high expectation of it but it fell flat for me. Probably this is due to the fact that I dont relate to it in anyway and also I felt it was unrealistic and over exagerated. Books should be told from a point of honesty and I believe this book was just aspiring for greatness hence the length of it and the great drama in it. 

Again, thanks for reading. If you have read this book, how did you find the book? If you liked the book, you could help me like it too by sharing why you liked it? 

We the ​Young People: Develop our Own Vision and Consider Earning our Own Money 

I believe that money is important, as a matter of fact I will shamelessly say that it is the most important. Its all about the money! If we have no money, we dont get to eat and we are unable to pay our dues to those who matter and attain the essential things that matter. We also loose social significance – screw social significance and standards anyways – a dumb superficial thing that gives us a distorted perception of life, twisting us to contorted shapes thats aesthetically pleasing but unfulfilling.

Okay. Yes. Everybody knows that – ‘Money is the root of all evil.’ For this concern, a constant monitoring of our intention should be in place. Our life should never be governed by superficial things or the quest for it. Thats the evil part. If we are instead driven by a personal vision for the greater good we shall avoid falling into the wayside where arrogant fools fall in that selfish pursuit for money. 

A purpose driven life is important. What is your vision? What do we see lacking in the world around us? How can we improve things for this generation and the ones to come? Lets focus on that. Through all of our travails on the flimsy path towards success and happiness, that vision shall be our light that guides us and through constant effort we make it brighter and brighter and its reach eventually, wider and wider. But first we got to equip ourselves, accumulate the pieces of embers to light up that small fire within us and keep it alight. 

Money matters. Lets earn our money and spend it wisely as a mean of safety, support and growth. Get some money – clean money, hard and honestly earned money. Often its those with money who are telling us the young ones without money to stave off the need for it and instead devote our time in pursuit of a common good or a common goal for another entity that doesnt always have our best interest at heart. Its where we are made to devote our lives running around, stressed, dissatisfied, going with the flow, compromising and settling.

Through all of this, a towering cloud of confussion follows us as we make sense of our place in all of this noise. We are living just another meaningless, predetermined life, unexcited of waking up in the morning and taking for granted the greatest gift that is life. After enduring and the clouds depart, we find ourselves a part of their grander plan that is not ours – our life has been designed. But we are born free and always have the power and freedom to design it ourselves, to our own liking. 

At the outset we young people should think of how to earn money, doing not only what we are good at, but also doing what we love as a strategic and sustainable mean of getting money. I would prefer that I am engaged in something that brings me return on my time, bringing me joy and also – very importantly – getting me closer to my vision rather than fulfilling someone else’s vision.

Again I will reiterate, and I feel the great need to, that social standards and expectations are not real, yes they govern certain aspects of our lives but they are nothing more than just a common set of imagined rules with an insignificant outcome. They are simply there to stifle a persons progression and also that of society as a whole. It prevents an individual from fully expressing themselves and pursuing a life to their fullest representation. Having young people become guilt tripped and morally dictated to pursue someone elses idea of a sustainable world is unsustainable if the young one doesnt share the same vision or even have a vision for themself, without any sense of awareness of what future they are aspiring for. 

Stop pursuing a vision for others, create one for yourself and pursue that. Lets not allow ourselves to propped up as a token or be used in any other way. The most productive use of our time as young people is looking for that personal vision which we can confidently work relentlessly hard towards. 

If you see a world where flying cars is the main mode of transportation, by all means stubbornly pursue that. If you believe that your beloved hometown in the middle of nowhere will become the next Silicone valley of opportunities – for the love of your people make it happen!! If you feel you have a solution to erradicate poverty and homelessness around the world – look forward and run your own race towards that vision. We can do whatever we want, practical or impractical, new or old, rational or irrational, possible or impossible – as long as it is trully our own. So lets find our own cause and pursue that. Let us not be distracted or be fooled. Lets rise up, make ourselves some money, while confidently paving our own path in life. 

‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

Earlier this year I read the book ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed and it made me be more appreciative of my journey through life and embracing of all that is wild about it. Prior to reading the book I had watched the movie several times over, it’s a great movie, and Reese Witherspoon gave an amazing performance. Seeing the book in the shelf of our local shop that sells used books – and its the only shop that sells books in this town – I just had to grab it. 

In the book Cheryl is so generous in giving details about her life, she bared it all. She shares great details of her childhood (the broken parts and the beautiful parts), her relationships, the process of grieving for her mother, separating from her loving husband, becoming a promiscuous drug addict, loosing grip on her whole life and her journey to finding herself hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) . 

She is one of those people who pick themselves up, collect their shi## together and do something radical to find themselves. She ventured out alone – slightly unprepared and seeming a bit naive – into the great expanse of the wilderness, enduring great challenges yet pushing forward till the sweet end. I like people who do radical things to change their life; those who put themselves in a ‘challenging-have to go through it- situation’ just to see how better off they come out of it at the end of the tunnel. It can be as huge as what Cheryl did – going out hiking several thousand miles alone or just something simple like living without a phone for a few months. 

What draws me to her story and all the other stories like it; is people listening to their gut instinct and just going for it. Life throws us a puzzle set to solve, obviously a unique set for each one of us and the pieces of clues can come from random situations like seeing an image, reading a slogan, a tweet, an instagram post or from reading a book like this. What’s important is acknowledging and taking action on those little sparks of light, to follow our curiosity, take chances and daring to live to the extreme fullest. 

I am going to be re-reading the book again, it definitely deserves a re-read. I love the book and I salute all the people out there who are taking radical constructive steps to improve their life. 

Competence and Cooking

Nigella Lawson is a Food Author and a TV personality  who I adore immensely. Very often I watch her You Tube videos, whether it be her Cooking Videos where her commentary on food adds another layer of deliciousness to what shes cooking complimented by her graceful and effortless cooking skills, or her Interviews where her hands are flailing in the air during explanations and dominating the interview with her striking beauty, enthusiasms and honest explanations of her perspectives on many things in life. 

On one such interview I stumbled upon this notion which seized my attention and continued to be repeated over and over again in my head for days. Chosen as ABC’s ‘Person of the week’, Nigella talks about the importance of competence as a virtue and how it is often an undervalued one. 

Sitting poised on a stool, with a straight elegant posture and in a figure hugging purple dress Nigella talks about the importance of competence in life when asked by the interviewer of her take on self-confidence.

” … unless you are very competent, any confidence is false. It’s the notion that I can provide for my own existence and I think that arms you.” 

When she puts it that way, it makes a lot of sense and its motivational to an incompetent to become competent. Often we are so fixated on being confident people that we tend to overlook or forego having to do the necessary ground work to strengthen the foundation for that confidence. Competence is the necessary ground work that needs to be done in order to feel trully confident and sustain that level of confidence. For instance at work; it’s only when we are very competent at it that we can become confident in it. Competence is the key ingredient for confidence. 

That’s what I try to be these days – to be a competent person, to be able to do things very well or improve on key areas of my life I feel lacking. Whether that be cleanliness, neatness, time management or learning new essential skills such as cooking. With all that I do I keep that phrase – competence – in my mind. It’s sort of my theme of the moment, I try to wake up to the word every morning – my goal of the day is to be competent. 

In a day I try to get a lot of things done before I go off to bed early at around 10pm at night. For one, I do this so that I have no excuse to do anything before bedtime, keeping myself from that dreaful insomniac trap that I often walk into. Also I feel that being alive and having the energy and ability to do things, one should not take it for granted. It is a huge privilidge to be alive so with that in mind we must be enthusiastic everyday. Competence comes by easily and effortlessly when we are feeling really excited about the day and just throwing all our energy into it. 

I have just gotten into cooking lately – I have never known how to cook prior to this, I was reluctant for 2 possible reasons; fear of giving people food poisoning or just plain incompetent laziness. Just recently I decided that I am going to cook more often – I am going to become a domestic goddess like Nigella (I know, lofty glittery goals often works for me otherwise I’d just be bored). 

Challenges are there in cooking but I find that when we throw ourselves into tasks like cooking – where there is a dealine in the form of burnt food or overcooked meals – we can forget about any other external urgency but just be immersed into the activity, seized into the moment and become enthusiastic about having to produce an end result that we can be proud of. I forget that I am hungry when I start cooking but so far the end results have been at times commendable for someone who never knew how to cook before but other times the kitchen is a crime scene, investigators point at the contents in the pot and ask “What is that?”. Okay no, I am exagerating, it’s not that bad.

Cooking for me is one of my competency indicators, by cooking a lot I believe I will in time become better at it and eventually become confident in cooking. By feeding people I become a better person to those who I feed and that gives me confidence that should arm me into becoming the bestest person I envision myself to be.