Self Improvement

I’ve gotten weary of self-improvement literature. I’m not sure when it happened or how; or if it’s a temporary thing (as so many times it has been in my life) or not; but if I had to read one more list of “things you can do to improve your life” I think I’ll puke.

Once a self-improvement junkie, you might say I’ve moved closer to the dark side; where once I looked up to those who shouted at those who would listen how one’s life was deficient and how one might overcome those deficiencies, I now have apathy and scepticism as my bedfellows.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still all for sugar, spice and everything nice. And despite what I said earlier, I still do love learning how I might be a better person. What I probably can’t stand is the sheer immense volumes of rubbish people write, especially when they don’t realise what they write is rubbish.

I think what’s missing in most of the self-improvement material I go through is that of humility — it sure would be nice as hell (forgive the expression) to have someone write about the self-doubt they faced, or the fact that they suspect all their hard work could be for naught (success leads to the exact same ends failure does, but let us work toward success anyway).

And  nobody ever gives chance and randomness any credit any more. Sure, tell people to work hard and let them know that by doing so they’d be more likely to succeed. Lots of people work hard and succeed. But lots of people work hard and fail, too; only thing, because they fail we don’t get to hear about them. Who’s to say working hard makes much of a difference?

Happiness — a state of mind.

It’s been a week since I completed my two-week in-camp-training (ICT) stint. For those two weeks, I complained to everyone who would listen how much I disliked it, and how I couldn’t wait for “normal” life to resume.

I can imagine how stupid I’d sound if I said now how much I missed those two weeks, and how those two weeks — no matter how maddenly frustrating and physically torturous — was actually enjoyable to a certain extent.

It is with great irony that — with my mind tuned to how I might be subjected to a different sort of torture at work tomorrow — I’m left wishing I was back at camp, where there the strong camaraderie made it all seem almost worthwhile, which is more than I can say in my work at the office.

Perhaps it is true that the grass is always greener on the other side — we are not ones to be easily satisfied with our lot — and that happiness is more a state of mind than anything external.

Who knows, but I could well be looking back on this day years down the road, thinking how wonderful it all once seemed; when the body was young and the opportunities plenty, with family and friends whom I can then only meet in dreams still around.

Back from ICT!

Just a little over a day ago, I completed my first “high-key” (two week) ICT  or “in-camp-training”. It’s been four years since I ORD’ed (i.e. left the army), so you can imagine how rusty I was in these matters. Just so you know, I’m one ICT short of most of my peers, having deferred my first due to my study commitments.

This ICT felt like a very condensed version of my two years in the army (serving my mandatory two-year national service). The days before I booked in were one of the worst I’ve had, as I constantly worried how everything was going to turn out (there were plenty of “unknowns”) — I wasn’t sure if I brought everything that I needed to bring; if I’d be with my old army mates; if the expectations of NSFs were present in the reservists; all that sort of thing.

But these fears were largely allayed from the moment I stepped into the camp and started seeing familiar faces. Friend after friend and acquaintance after acquaintance showed up and acknowledged me. People I hadn’t seen in years felt like close friends, and laughter flowed easily. The camaraderie between most of us was a pleasant surprise to me, though on hindsight having a common peeve — serving natural service — naturally brought us closer together.

The first week passed without much incident, with the highlight probably my pocketing a handsome $200 for my IPPT silver (and the realisation that I hadn’t quite lost it since I ORD’ed). The real stresses came from my civilian life — text messages related to work flowed in quite endlessly, and it was the first time in a long time that I seriously reconsidered my career options.

During the second week, we all went to Pulau Tekong for a four-day field camp. We were up against an active unit, who were using us as practice before their major exercise later this year. This field camp was ridiculously uncomfortable, with the main peeves of mine being the infinite mosquitoes/insects and the ridiculously heavy 84mm weapon I had to lug around.

The last night was especially unbearable, when we spent almost nine hours getting to our attacking objective (we started our march at midnight, and arrived for the attack at about 9am the next morning). By the time I got back to camp I was so exhausted I could hardly lift the 84 off the ground, and my body felt like it was hit by a bus, after it had been bulldozed and steamrolled.

But that’s not to say it was all that bad. It’s unbelievable how knowing that others are suffering with you, and supporting you in some way or another (like all my friends were), the pain was made that much more bearable. I really don’t know what I’d do if they were around, giving me respite from the physical and mental abuse I’d been put through.

PS: I’d also like to add that throughout the whole ICT I’d been texting and calling my fiancee, who provided me with fantastic support. I knew that if things ever got too bad, I could always rely on her to help make things more manageable again!