- Mossless -

14th September '18

There are inevitable growing pains if you want to achieve anything.

When you learn a language, the hardest part is at the beginning when you don't know anything and are just learning individual words and sentences. It's boring to learn and it's hard to stay motivated. Once you've gained the understanding of how to connect thousands of these words together in your own unique style, to compose in your own vision, then a language becomes a joyous thing.

The hardest part of exercising is always the first time.

Perhaps the novelty of exercising can provide its own joy whilst you're doing it, but that soon fades and is replaced by days of pain as your body comes to terms with what you just put it through.

The next time that you exercise though, it knows what to expect so it gets easier. The next time, easier again. Until you start to look forward to and relish the challenge of exercise.

The beginning is always the hardest though.

That's what I've been going through with programming. That beginning phase where things don't quite make sense.

Thanks to a raw determination to progress, I haven't stopped or thought about giving up, even through moments of unintelligible frustration.

However that determination has come at a cost that really got highlighted as I was clearing some space on my MacBook recently, in preparation for this bootcamp.

I was deleting some old photos from my machine, nowadays storing them just in the cloud because... well why do I need instant access to every photo that I took in 2014?

As I was clearing through my files though, I stumbled upon a couple of photos that I took, in this apartment in 2016 and was all... oh.

They were particularly vain photos where I was all... fuck, I used to be able to see my abs. What happened to them?

My view as you know, is that as a general rule (with some exceptions), the healthier you look, the healthier you are.

And being taken in my condo, I was able to replicate the exact lighting of these photos and... I used to look healthier than I do now.

I don't know if this was a recent change to my body, onset by the endless hours I've been sat at my laptop, or where it happened gradually over the last couple of years and I just didn't notice. But I instantly just told myself... that's not ok.

The only two things in this world that matter to me, as I've said ad nauseam, are health any happiness.

And you can branch-off a million different things like relationships, money, diet etc., that can contribute to either of them. But the two key things that you need to make your time on earth worthwhile, are health and happiness. And everything that I do somehow leads back to that thought.

And when I looked at this photo, and then I looked in the mirror, and then I looked back at this photo, and then back in the mirror, then back at the photo, and then into the mirror and... yeah, that's not ok.

I look noticeably less healthy now than I did two years ago.

Being determined to see your abs in the mirror again might sound like odd bootcamp preparation, but even back as a young adult at university, I always appreciated the importance of a healthy mindset.

Like many students, I was lazy. And taking a business degree, I didn't really need to work hard, because once you've learnt the basic jargon, a business degree is really just a common sense degree.

It's not like studying a science, where you have to have actual knowledge.

And so for me, cramming for three hours beforehand was sufficient to pass every exam that I took.

That would always be enough time to learn all the jargon that I'd face in the exam, and I didn't really need to know anything else.

So for me, the most important thing was to show up to the exam, well-rested and relaxed. As long as I did that, I'd just let my brain write whatever it wanted for the next couple of hours, and that was always sufficient.

You'd never catch me staying up all night before an exam, because I thought that sleep was more important.

To this day there are very few things that I place in higher stead than sleeping well, which is simply testament that in almost any situation I value a good mindset over a mind crammed and confused with knowledge.

I've said all along that more important than living in front of my laptop prior to arriving at this bootcamp, is simply making sure I arrive there of the best mind possible.

I'm also of the belief that mind and body cannot be separated. You cannot have a healthy mind without a healthy body and vice-versa.

You are one being, so trying to separate these intertwined parts always seems nonsensical to me.

Muhammad Ali once talked about having Parkinson's, and said that in his mind, he was still the same person he always was, but he'd just lost his body, and as such had lost his ability to express himself.

So for me it's of equal importance to arrive at this bootcamp of the best mind possible, but also in the best physical condition possible.

And as I looked at these photos I was just... you're doing yourself an injustice right now. You're not going into this as the best version of yourself. You have a picture of a better version of yourself in your hand right now.

Luckily in today's world, I can simply look back in time to see exactly how I was exercising two years ago. All that data's stored on my iPhone and... ah, a lot of bodyweight training, a lot of running, a bit of swimming and a bit of yoga.

I can even look back through my bodyweight app and see the exact workouts I was doing, and the number of repetitions of each exercise.

In a fairly recent podcast with Firas Zahabi, he talked about how you should rarely ever push yourself to 100% when exercising, because if you push yourself so hard that you're unable to move for the next three days, it's less beneficial than pushing yourself to 70% on each of those days.

I'm paraphrasing there, but I wish that I'd heeded those words, because in my determination to regain my fitness of 2016, I recalled the most common bodyweight workout that I used to do back then; one that I designed myself, when of a much better physical condition than I am now and... I did it.

It almost killed me, but I did it.

And now I can't move. Great.

The soreness that I suffered over the next few days didn't justify the work I put in. And this feverish determination to get myself into the best physical condition possible prior to the bootcamp, was countered by a sheer pain felt doing simple actions like standing up and sitting down.

At around the same time I gave myself some minor food poisoning. Nothing serious; not even any vomiting, but a bit of an upset stomach. I think because I used some soy beans incorrectly.

I've given myself problems with them before.

But then, as my body was too sore and broken to move, and I had a minor bout of food poisoning, do you know what'd really help?

I got the absolute mother of all ulcers on the right side of my tongue. The kind of thing where anytime I used my tongue, the pain just reverberated around the entire side of my face.

And you don't quite realise how much you use your tongue, until you feel an ungodly pain every time that you eat, speak, swallow or exist.

In fact, according to Google, a person swallows 2,000 times per day. So imagine being shot in the face 2,000 times per day. That was what this was like.

It's enough to ruin your day. But it's ok, I thought to myself, because if I can use up all my bad luck and bad decision making now, instead of during the bootcamp, then I'll take this and a Hell of a lot more suffering.

And it may sound from these opening few paragraphs, like things haven't been going well, but it's actually quite the contrary.

This all happened right around the time that I wrote the last blog.

And this ulcer cleared fairly quickly, and... I can never accept anything as being just bad luck. Everything happens for a reason, and I don't like to feel like I've done nothing to stop it happening again, so I switched toothpastes from Colgate, which I've been using for as much of my life as I can remember, to SLS-free Sensodyne.

I don't really understand what SLS is, other than it stands for 'Sodium Lauryl Sulphate' and is responsible for making your toothpaste foam. But I keep on reading bad things about it and... well it makes me feel better to think that I've done something to prevent getting an ulcer again in the future, however futile such a move actually is.

I also changed-up my diet, because what I'd been doing up to this point, was fasting for a minimum of sixteen hours everyday, followed by a maximum eight-hour eating window. And that did have advantages, but by now I'd forced by body-clock back onto a more normal schedule, and on some days was exercising as soon as I woke up.

Nothing too intense, but I'd maybe go for a 5km run in Lumphini Park.

If I hadn't stopped eating until 10pm the night before, I'd get back from this workout and be like... fuck, I've just exercised, but I still can't eat for another four hours.

That just didn't seem natural to me, and that was the whole point of this. I was experimenting with a diet that logic told me was more similar to what my ancestors would have had.

And I can imagine cavemen exerting large amounts of energy in the mornings, by going out foraging or hunting. But they'd eat at the end of it.

I can't imagine a caveman bringing all this food back to his cave and being... well I'm hungry, but my watch says I've got to wait another three hours before eating.

I still like the idea of fasting as a more natural way of eating, but this 8/16 fasting I'd been doing was too restrictive, so I instead changed it to thirteen hours of fasting, followed by eleven hours of eating.

That was almost two weeks ago now, and although I've largely kept to it, it honestly doesn't feel like I'm really following any kind of restrictions anymore.

I'll finish my dinner by about 8pm every night, and eat when I wake up the next day at 9am.

That's basically a normal diet again, void of any late-night snacking, so I'm more or less back to eating how other people would.

And then for all the pain and suffering that this first bodyweight workout put me through, once the pain had eased and my body recovered, I've felt great ever since.

I've done that exact same workout again, and it felt easier and I was barely sore the next day.

I'm going to do it again once I've finished writing today. And for however negative I started this blog, don't make the mistake of thinking that things are going badly.

Like I said, this all happened around the time I wrote the last blog; two weeks ago now.

And in the situation that I'm in now, of trying to spend several hours per day parked in front of my laptop, my Apple Watch is an absolute God-send.

Turning back on activity monitoring was a smart move, and not only am I getting hourly reminders to get up and move around, but tracking how many calories I'm burning is keeping me in line.

I've got it set to a target of 550 active calories per day.

And that's not supposed to be a hard target to reach.

If I don't leave my apartment all day, I'll still burn about 200 active calories in just moving around while cooking and showering and doing other things in my room.

Walking for an hour to go to the supermarket can burn the other 350. Going to the park and running 5km can burn the other 350. Swimming for thirty minutes can burn the other 350.

It's not supposed to be a challenge, it's just to safeguard that I am moving enough everyday. And on days that I do find myself completely glued to my laptop, I'll get on the treadmill downstairs for thirty minutes at the end of the day just to reach my target.

So I feel like I've got myself into a better place, physically. Thanks to my watch I'm not having entirely inactive days anymore. Everyday I move for at least 550 calories, and some days a lot more.

And I've been trying to think back to how I got into meditation in the first place. And if memory serves me correctly, back when I was living in China from early 2014 to mid 2015, I downloaded a yoga app.

It cost me a £1.99 one-off payment to buy this app for lifetime use.

Nowadays the same app charges a £2.79 per week subscription fee, which shows you how much the world of apps has changed over the last few years. And also, how beneficial it was to get into some of these apps on the ground-level.

Apps like my password manager and yoga app now charge extortionate subscription fees, but cannot, per AppStore rules, rob me or others who paid for them early on, of the functionality that we paid for.

So although I miss-out on a few premium features, my £1.99 that I paid back in 2014 gets me 75% of the functionality of this £2.79 per week yoga app.

And I believe that the first time that I ever tried meditation, was when on this yoga app, back in 2014/15, they included a couple of guided meditations, so I tried one one-day and was like... ooh, I like that.

So I bought a meditation app, and similarly to the yoga app, they now charge a subscription, but I got-in early, so get most of the functionality without giving them another penny.

And it went on from there, and I've been following guided meditations on and off for three of four years.

That's always how I've done it though; it's always been guided meditations, whereby you follow the instructions of what the person in the app is telling you to do.

Until just recently, I started to appreciate that, after four years of doing this, I don't need that any more.

I've practiced enough techniques over this time, that to follow a recording of someone who has no idea what's going on in my mind, is far less beneficial than to respond to exactly what my mind is doing.

And so I've started meditating with just a countdown timer and a relaxing playlist of some kind from Spotify.

But on I think everyday since I wrote the last blog, I've set aside 30 minutes to focus on my breath and my mind and to... to clear up all the mess of the day.

To make sense of everything, I guess is the best way of putting it. To organise everything in my mind in an objective manner and... I feel great, I really do.

Even though the bootcamp doesn't start until October 1st, D-day for me is September 28th, because that's when I move-out of this apartment.

I'll spend that last night in Thailand in an as yet undetermined hotel near the airport, and fly to Bali the next morning, having one day to get settled, and start the bootcamp the next day.

So for me, it's two weeks from today that this all begins. And when I think how I've been back for three weeks already, holy fuck this time is flying by.

But for as much as there is that I want to do and that I must do before then, I'm prioritising nothing over arriving there in the soundest mindset possible. And to that end, taking this thirty minutes, everyday... I can't stress enough how much good it's doing me.

In fact, I can't stress enough how much I'd love to keep up with the daily exercise and meditation for the entirety of this bootcamp and beyond, although I think reality might have a thing or two to say about that.

There were three Instagram posts from Le Wagon Bali in the last week that I thought worth mentioning:

The first was simply... isn't that a beautiful view?

To be able to look up from your laptop once in a while and see that instead of looking at a wall like you would in most schools, how nice is that?

The second was this one, where for the caption more than the photo, it put at ease the mind of someone like me, who worries endlessly about food.

It's less of a concern when I have a kitchen of my own. But at the AirBnB I've booked for the first couple of weeks in Bali, I have little more than a bed. And so to be reassured of nearby organic cafes... that helps.

But then lastly, and most importantly, was this post:

For all that I've researched about Le Wagon; about what I'll learn and be able to do by the end, I didn't actually have much idea of what my daily routine would be and...

"Everyday we start with a lesson from 9-11, then we code from 11-17 ... The day normally ends around 18.30 - 19.00."

To the best of my understanding, over these eight week I'll have every Sunday off, but only three Saturdays; we'll work on the other saturdays to compensate for it being an eight-week course instead of nine (to accommodate for Indonesian visas).

And when I look at this I think... ok, can I fit-in exercising everyday and thirty minutes of meditation everyday?

Yeah... probably not.

So I'm really trying to make the most of what time I have now. And as always seems to be the case when I have no other commitments, I manage to get my life perfect just in time for it to get destroyed.

Right now my mind is in such a good place where I'm happy to do everything I do, that I wake-up like a kid in a candy store, unsure whether to cook, code, meditate or exercise first, because I want to do all of them.

Unfortunately my honeymoon must soon end, because perhaps as soon as after writing this blog today, I'm going to start tearing-down my apartment.

So many things in here, especially work-related things, I won't ever need again so I may as well clear them out now. Give myself less to do at the very end.

But there is also a part of me... just reluctant to let it all go.

A rolling stone gathers no moss, and for the first time in more than three years, come September 28th, I'm going to be mossless.

It's not going to be the first time that I've done this to myself, and it perhaps won't be the last. But I will say that with age, each time becomes a little scarier.

The way that life is supposed to happen, is that you finish your education and start to build a life for yourself.

You have a place to live, and you slowly fill it with things that you need.

Your salary slowly increases, as does your comfort.

And at no point in this blueprint of life, does it talk about throwing it all away at intermittent intervals and starting again from scratch. Yet on approaching my mid-thirties, I'm about to do so again.

I'm about to reduce what I call mine, to nothing more than a suitcase.

That's the scary part of this.

A month ago I could talk about my job.

This is my job where I feel comfortable, where I know my role, where I forge an income.

Then I'd come home to my apartment.

A 30m² expanse of which I am the ruler.

No one may enter without my permission. I know every single corner of it backwards. It's a place where I can come and go as I please, that is private, that is safe, where I can work, where I can sleep, where I can relax, under the prying eyes of no one, requiring the permission of no one.

I can walk around inside it, I can touch the walls. It is mine.

I know that it's rented, but you get the point.

And to go from that; to reduce this 30m² expanse that I call mine, into a 15-20kg suitcase that I can't even fit into, and to have that be the only thing I call mine, it's very...

I've done it before. Like I say, the natural progression of life is to build onto your life. To have moss grow on your stone.

And where as in my twenties it was no bother to shed what little moss had accumulated, closing-in on my mid-thirties, I can't help but think... damn. Mossless again?

No job, no apartment, just a suitcase again?

As I age, each time that I do this it becomes a little scarier.

What if I do it again in another three years? And again after that?

I could enter my forties with nothing to show for my life but a suitcase.

There surely has to become a point, where I just say... ok, this is my life. This is what it is, and this is what I'll build on going forth.

I evidently haven't reached that point yet, but each time I tear myself back down to nothing, is a little scarier than the time before.

And the moment that I walk out this apartment for the last time is going to be devastating for me. Knowing that never again, will I be able to call it my home.

And maybe if I knew where I was going; if I was moving into a bigger, better apartment, where I could take all my stuff, it would soften the blow.

Nope, just a suitcase to an AirBnB in a country that I've never been to.

But alas, these are the choices that I've made.

Like I said in a previous blog, I have a vision in my mind of how my life will be.

Programming job in London, studio apartment etc.

By my calculations, this is the most likely way to turn that into a reality so... here we go.

I did also have aspirations that prior to leaving, I'd get an app onto the AppStore, but unfortunately I don't think that's going to happen.

In fact, it's been about a week since I've done any Swift.

It turned-out the bootcamp pre-course work amounted to around 40 hours, which I'd kind of underestimated. And so doing a couple of hours per day whilst learning Swift ultimately wouldn't suffice. So I instead spent the last week completing this pre-course work with varying degrees of enjoyment and understanding.

But I got it done, which completed the mandatory work I have to complete, so from here I'll probably get back to studying Swift a bit, but... I can pretty confidently say that I won't have the time to put anything in the AppStore.

And more importantly from here, is to actually get some practice on what I'm going to be learning during the bootcamp.

I can't go in there with too much knowledge. There is no disadvantage to already knowing about what I'm going to be taught, so I'll do what I can to practice the pre-course work, probably building a dummy website to practice on.

I hope my bootcamp peers are taking a similar attitude, but you know how when you learn to drive, you're taught to assume that all other drivers on the roads are idiots?

I'm taking that attitude into this bootcamp.

I hope... I truly hope that this bootcamp is filled with nineteen other people exactly like me.

That's arrogant I know, but I've often longed for a world where everyone is just like me.

No one would eat meat anymore, so there'd be no more animal suffering. No one would ever be late anywhere or with anything, and no one would ever take sick-days at work. Everyone would be well organised and clean, and responsible with their money, and there'd be no more alcohol or cigarettes. People would all exercise and eat well, and mediate everyday, and would walk or take public transport everywhere, so there'd be less pollution. And no one would care about fashion, wastage would be low because people would use things and wear things until they became unusable, and people would only ever use their phones when alone and stationary. No longer would the world have people looking at their screens while walking along, or while in the company of others.

That world would be awesome. But alas, the real world is full of "other people".

Similarly, I'd love this bootcamp to be full of clones of myself; people for whom this is a big deal, and who want to learn and spend every second of these two months, getting as much from it as possible.

Instead of expecting that though, as with driving and with life in general, I'm assuming that all my bootcamp peers will be morons so that, just like when learning to drive, I can be ready to make the best of whatever I face.

I'm working with someone who doesn't care?

Ok, how can I make the best of that?

I'm working with someone who's incompetent?

Ok, how can I make the best of that?

And when in my mind I've got both my utopian and worst-case scenario, reality will likely lie somewhere in between.

The manger of this school in Bali opened-up a so far largely-unused WhatsApp group of all the participants a week or so ago, where everyone just introduced themselves quickly.

It seems to be made-up of mostly European males which... isn't a bad thing actually.

Not wanting to stereotype too much, but if it was full of Brits or Australians flocking to Bali, I'd be a bit concerned that they'd signed-up to do a bootcamp on the side of their two months partying at the beach.

In my experience of different nationalities while travelling, continental Europeans tend to be a little more distinguished. And at least three of them are German, so I'll have some of countrymen alongside me.

But in this WhatsApp group, one person asked how long the pre-course work will take.

Someone responded to them, and this person complained how hard it was going to be to get this pre-course work done alongside their job and...

Yeah, four weeks before the bootcamp starts, and already complaining about the workload? That's not promising.

To be fair to them, not everyone can quit their job two months before the bootcamp starts like I did.

But still, I can't go into this thinking that everyone else will be as motivated as I am. I've instead just got to be prepared to compensate when they're not.

And thanks, probably in large part to this meditating I've been doing, my mind's in a very good place right now to do that.

I just wonder if I can keep it there once this bootcamp and ten hours per day staring a my laptop screen starts.

Expecting to have motivated, receptive, open peers, but instead getting hungover rich kids who're using this bootcamp as a way to get their parents to pay for their drinking holiday, would probably be the fastest way to kill my mood so... just like when driving, I'm going to assume that I'll spend eight weeks surrounded by morons.

And if that's what it is, then I'll make the best out of it. And if it's not, then it'll be a nice surprise.

All my focus though, has been on what to do prior to this bootcamp. But with so much uncertainty, I haven't really paid much attention to what I'll do afterwards.

I mean, how could I when I really don't know what I'll be coming out the other side?

How much will I know? How much will I be able to do?

One thing I have already appreciated though, is that networking is going to be far more important than in any of my previous job-hunts.

LinkedIn seems to get used a lot in this community, and hey, while I own a shirt still, I may as well update my profile.

The one problem, is that I am comfortable admitting that I'm not the most photogenic person in the world.

I probably shouldn't have rejected my dentist's offer of braces when I was a teenager, so smiling never works well for me.

Not to mention I have a storied history of falling over and landing on my face.

And so... ok, the wall of my kitchen is white. So I moved a chair into the kitchen, and set-up my phone on a pile of books on the counter to make it the right height.

I put on a shirt and... I didn't see the need to wear any trousers, so I was wearing just a shirt and boxer shorts.

And considering how unphotogenic I am, I was actually quite please with how human I was able to appear.

Ok, so now I actually have some respectable photos I can add to my various profiles and use to apply for jobs, I can throw my shirt away. I don't want to have to wear that again.

And that's really where I'm up to.

A part of me, having now finished the mandatory pre-course work, is chomping at the bit to get this bootcamp started. But then another part of me is dreading having to leave this apartment for the last time, and would quite like to stay in my current lifestyle of exercising and mediating everyday, forever.

Perhaps fortunately, my own urges don't get a say in this matter, and it'll be two weeks to the day that I'll actually move-out.

I'll presumably find the time to write another blog before I leave, but by that time my apartment will have been torn-down to a shell of the home that it is now, and my life in Bangkok dismantled sufficiently that I can leave it behind.

I'm yet to decide whether to risk trying to enter Indonesia without an outbound flight booked. But regardless, I think it highly likely I'll be flying directly to London after the bootcamp anyway. So when will I be back in Thailand again?

Perhaps never, which is a little disconcerting to say, seeing as I've called this country home for almost five years since 2012.

But aside from my ex-girlfriend here, who I will genuinely miss and be sad to say goodbye to, what reason is there for me to come back?

If you couldn't tell, a lot of what I'm writing right now, I'm fleshing-out in my head and writing down as I'm realising it. And it's almost with a sense of bewilderment that I'm writing these words.

I really am leaving this country. I really might never come back again.

I'm only now realising how ill-thought-out this is and how unprepared I really am.

I don't know what my future holds.

That terrifies me, but at the same time... if you know how your future will go; if you know how your day will go before you get up, then what is the point in doing it? What's the point in living your day if you know exactly how it's going to end?

With unknown, comes the opportunity to shape something. And I guess that's why I'm doing this.

Had I stayed in my teaching job, doing the same thing every term, living in the same apartment indefinitely... what unknown would there have been about my life?

There would have been nothing.

On some level, I guess what's drawn me to the decisions that I've made, is that now I don't know.

And that could go badly. This could go really badly.

But I actually have the chance to shape it into something good.

With unknown, comes opportunity. And I now have the opportunity to shape that unknown into something good. Into something better than what I'd have faced had I stayed in Bangkok and stayed in this job.

But that opportunity cost?

Two weeks from now I fit my life into a suitcase again.

A black-hole of fear and opportunity. That's a fun way to look at this bootcamp.