I watched the Korean hit movie Parasite last weekend. Was great. There’s no secret that the movie’s got something to say about class. The characters we follow in it are likeable shitty survivors. We want them to win. The people they leech off are the clueless wealthy elite. Who don’t really do anything wrong, other than be kinda hypocritical and sheltered.

This post isn’t about the movie. But (mild spoiler warning) it does point out how oblivious and uncaring our betters can be of our dire situations. They hold their noses at the whiff, not realising what people have had to go through just to survive. What can be a home-ruining storm for us is a cancelled holiday for them.

Having said that, why would they not enclose themselves off from us? Our paparazzi chase the visibly successful like vultures and we feed on their personal lives like vampires. Perhaps they had greater fortune than some on the climb up, but you better damn well be sure they were clawed at by the crabs too. And they still won.

I came across this clip of Jay-Z speaking at a University recently too:

And it got me thinking. He says the seclusion and sacrifice is worth the opportunities he is afforded. Worth the access he is granted to certain company solely due to the success he’s achieved. Access to rooms where he feels comfortable being who he is, as a man. In his own words, “as himself”. I’m happy for him, as a fan who grew up listening to him.

The kicker is, as a long-time fan, I always felt like Jay-Z always looked a little uncomfortable in the halls of rap. In his ascent, his peak; alone and amongst his friends; as rapper, el presidente and mentor. Always. Why? Do you know what this man did for us? Did for the culture? The place he holds within it?

Jay-Z wrote The Black Album and The Blueprint and Reasonable Doubt. He has well over 10 #1 albums (I can’t be bothered to check how many) at this point. He was a King of NY: the man threw shots at Nas and took heat from Tupac. Friend to The Notorious B.I.G. and married to ‘the hottest chick in the game’. He birthed a dynasty and record label and grew a net worth of over $1B USD. The careers of Kanye West, Lil Wayne, T.I., Lupe Fiasco and untold others spin out of his own in some shape or form.

Even after accomplishing so much (which benefitted the people as much as himself)… this man still didn’t feel comfortable growing his hair out until he fully ascended us. He survived the Marcy projects, shootings, 90s rap beefs, label discord, and boardroom dramas. This motherfucker shot his own brother as a child: don’t tell me he doesn’t have ice running through his veins.

And yet. He still had to extricate himself from all the crabs… from all the parasites, before he felt comfortable enough to grow out his hair. So maybe he and his ilk might hold their noses at us from time to time. Maybe they are a little detached. I think maybe I don’t blame them so much any more.

Oh sweetest spacegirl

We thought our love to be one for the ages
that the stars themselves beat for us
that the heavens played and the angels sang
for us

The beating heart that is the universe
– time’s accordion –
contracting and expanding its pockets
little Nows in their little trajectories, present everywhere
and one of them once ours for a lifetime

Oh foolish young love

Perhaps these are the final thoughts of a dying starman being torn apart
shredded memories of a lover twisted infinitely thin
into cosmic spaghetti
Do you remember the first time we went for Italian together?

or maybe I’ve already gone beyond that black veil
how to process such a notion?
that you are inaccessible to me and I am lost to you 
forever

And I promised you the heavens
Oh foolish starcross’d love

Hugh knew exactly where he’d find Stevie when he opened the door. What he hadn’t yet figured out though was how to broach the topic with her once he did. He put his phone in his mouth as he fished around for the keys, careful to bite with his lips. Fridays he always finished work early, but purely to buy her a little time he’d decided to do additional grocery shopping. If she isn’t doing what I think she is… maybe we can cook together. Like how we used to.

He turned the key and stepped in. The thick stench of body odour and old sweat knocked him back. ‘Jesus Christ Stevie,’ Hugh said, jerking his nose away. Dropping the phone – and then the groceries as he tried to catch his phone.

He should’ve been used to it by now. The smell. But it had intensified again. This morning when Hugh had left for work, it was far worse than every other day this week. But in the space of half a day it had become more potent again. The stench growth is non-linear, he couldn’t help thinking.

‘Hey Hughie. Back so soon? Hope there wasn’t any eggs in there.’ Stevie stewed around on the couch but didn’t bother to get up.

‘Stevie. We need to talk.’ Hugh left the bag and phone where they fell.

‘Here we go again.’ To her credit, Stevie sat up now and made space for him to sit beside her. Hugh opted for the table instead, windshield wiping a forearm’s worth of mess off it first. He made sure to block her view of whatever game she was playing. He knew it would kill her.

‘Please tell me you’ve sent off an application this week. Just one.’

Silence. ‘Just tell me you’ve started one then. That you’ve found one opening and got a tab open.’ Nothing. He loaded up the laptop beside him. ‘Give me something to work with. Please.’ There were no such tabs to speak of.

Stevie rubbed the back of an arm. ‘Well. I only just woke up.’

‘And last night? Yesterday? It’s three pm, Stevie and you’ve not so much as sniffed a shower. I gave you a whole bloody week. You promised me.’

‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. I can’t seem to do anything. It’s like… it’s like my health bar won’t fill back up.’

‘It’s a soap bar you’re missing. Mum would be horrified. You’re a grown woman Stevie.’ It was too much but Hugh had held back for too long. Perhaps in being so patient and kind he’d even enabled her sloth. ‘You used to go on and on about carving poetry into stone. What happened to that girl? What happened to that fire?’

Stevie shrugged her shoulders. Her eyes cast down to the control pad on the floor. ‘I’ve been wondering that myself.’

This is how I win

The greatest bang for your buck in personal development is probably to develop your parent function, which in my case is Ne, or extroverted intuition. I always thought I used it pretty well. I use it well enough to get along with strangers in one-on-one situations. It’s exciting in small comfortable house party settings.

My siblings (who’ve been looking into MBTI typing much longer than me) originally had me pegged as an ENFP because I express my Ne-ness a LOT more around them. And then I realised they have a skewed perception of me, which is kinda interesting but whatever. I’m always trying to align schedules to pull off some new event-type activity. If I don’t, who else will? (Genuine answer: probably none of them) I just took it to be my duty as the eldest sibling. Somebody has to open up the game.

My sisters recently said they couldn’t wrap their heads around my Ne function and how it pertains to me. Moreso than reigning in my hero Fi (introverted feeling), it seems to operate in its own little disassociated bubble. And they’re… sort of not wrong. It’s like I have my general personality, and if somebody engages optimistically or indulges me, I switch into this giddy alter-ego. Like I switched up a few gears. Doing it feels powerful, and energising (and later, also exhausting). It’s me at my best. You should see me on fucking holiday man.

I’m definitely good at using it for the things I use it for. Brainstorming. Learning and theorising and understanding. Making connections. Deconstructing stuff. Making things align. And I use it a fair amount.

But I’m starting to wonder if I’m actually developing it though. Using ≠ maturing. Janna said developing your parent function is supposed to be difficult, because the orientation of the function is the opposite of your preferred hero function. But I don’t find what I currently do difficult anymore.

I need to push out more often again, out of my comfort zone. I did the first hard part in nailing myself down to a schedule. But now I need to make greater space within it for more spontaneity and new ‘new’s. Specifically in the uncomfortable ways I’ve considered but never bother with. I need to put myself out there. I need to work on public speaking. I need to compete. I need to stop stopping every time people bail on the things I want to do.

Quite frankly, I have to make my peace with the fact my loved ones don’t need to experience all the world’s interesting goodies with me. Especially when they don’t seem to appreciate the efforts or seem to need the experience as much as me. It gets tiring generating fresh enthusiasm and being shot down when the constant effort doesn’t feel like it’s ever reciprocated. And usually it’s me footing the bulk (or substantial portion) of the bill to boot.

In the same manner, I used to organise things with old groups of friends too, but I got tired of working around constant pushbacks, set-asides and excuses. So I stopped bothering, to my own detriment. Now I let others plan and I just make sure to turn up (and turn up 🔥 ).

But I digress.

The point is my Ne is dope and useful but I need to push it to mature it further. In common BJJ parlance, I have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s how I beat failure-to-launch syndrome. It’s how I push back against the shrinking comfort zone. It’s how I get a handle on risk. It’s how I win.

These are not really new year resolutions. They’re not even statements of intent at this point. More like the broad strokes that I’m using to tailor the systems and mental processes I’m slowly building. I’m quite pleased with what’s happening on most of these fronts already.

* Developing a healthier relationship with risk and money and commitment.
* Giving myself greater permission to be mean, or at least indifferent, when required.
* More deliberate practice, and deep work where needed. Fuck the amateur hour dilly-dallying.
* Complete first draft of Untitled and get some works self-published.

* Bonus: new job ples. This has been a bottleneck for too long and I should start addressing it as such.

I wrapped my sense of self and meaning around my identity as the big brother. It’s shaped who I am since I was five years old. It has been my north star and my guiding principle. It’s the outline around which I attempted to maintain my colourings.

Obviously I will always be a big brother. Obviously. But still, I’ve always kept one eye on the closing target of all my siblings reaching adulthood. When they should no longer need me. Part of me relished it; the reluctant leader who could finally relinquish control. Who had in fact been purposely loosening the reigns for years. Inviting discourse, discord, discovery.

And now I stand largely free of those old responsibilities. These young women and this young man sit around me as my peers. I offer counsel, not command.

So what next?

The slow creeping realisation that I’ve conceded the only land I’ve ever known. It’s me standing on the far shore of three comings of age, feeling washed up and suddenly finding in this some common ground with my parents.

I’ve been outshed. As I naturally should be. I feel better for it all now. Truly. But that isn’t to say it’s been easy. I opened the door to their personal truths and uncovered ugly mirrored reflections of myself. Glimpsed distortions that shouldnt be seen, perhaps. To find out you haven’t entirely been to them (for them?) who you thought you were.

What was it all for then?

I thought I did the things I did for them(!), for myself. To struggle against type and swim upstream for decades, just to see it was as likely as not to have made any discernible difference on them. I suppose it did make me a better man in the end. So there’s always that.

It’s a curious feeling to find myself in the position of fostering selfishness. Enforcing solitude. Unpeeling the co-dependency that hid in all my noble sacrifice. To realise in some ways I’ve been holding them and myself in a stranglehold, stifling our growth. Does that betray some lack of faith? I’d never considered the possibility before.

I stand haggardly on the far shore now, with these thoughts and questions to keep me company and little else. In due time they may want my assistance again in also crossing over to this side. Should I help then? Perhaps not. Is that the lesson here? To stop nudging things and instead to stay visibly afar, leading from a distance henceforth: knowledge of my safe passage ought to be enough.

I’ve learned this much at least
That you spend the entirety of your life becoming, perhaps – if you’re lucky, that is
But even so, with this particular period, or that one, clearly demarcated from the others, some of the growth is simply more than the rest; stands apart

Those moments or days, weeks, years
when you’re the molten steel in the crucible
the angry hot, liquid empty rage
and at the same time, the refashioning hammer

It takes time and craft and mastery
Self-mastery:
failures and failings both
and those fears faced openly

Chasing it all just to see if any of the new pieces fit
and when some do, you begin to beat away at the clumpen thing again
Patiently, lovingly, with dogged determination

And a thing takes shape.
A re-purposed thing.

As you can track the winds in the flight of birds, so too do I trace the hand of god in your movements
A maddeningly pure grace, simple and honest – made all the more enchanting by your very ignorance of it
Your total commitment to the task at hand, the dedication
as you go about your daily works,
springs forth vitality in your wake
Life, even, as obvious as that which shoots up
from watered soil
Radiant. Glowing.

Perhaps more men have stirred to honest prayer
by the likes of your kind
than by priest or sermon or the knowledge of certain death
whose words are dimmed in your light

Honest prayer:
supplications, enduring affirmations of joy