For the first twenty years of my life, I believed that character and improvement only came through hard-work and diligently doing something you hate. I learned this lesson from a variety of sources, but mostly from my all-time favorite comic: Calvin and Hobbes.
- Want a nice body? Go to the gym. Also, stop eating anything with frosting, chocolate, and oil.
- Want to get smarter? Study, all the time. Dates, parties, and “social lives” are for Liberal Arts Majors.
- Want to be able to participate in those heavy-handed political debates with disapproving family members? Spend an hour each day pouring through the New York Times or The Economist.
I’m an International Relations major, not because I particularly like reading the “international” section of the daily newspaper, but because it was the most interesting major I could find (where I saw a foreseeable future with a career). Rather than reading and rote memorization (like the Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math, and History classes – all majors I at one point tried), International Relations is more of reading twenty to fifty heavy essays or books a semester, summarizing each opinion, and then writing periodic papers about who you agree with (and why), who you disagree with (and why), and your own personal opinion about a certain subject within International Relations. I can do personal opinions.
However, I never really enjoyed my major, or my classes for that matter. But, as I learned from Calvin and Hobbes, doing something I hate was “building character.” Suffer a bit in college; get a great career later.
But then I met Ryosuke (my fiancé). He opened a whole new side of life to me.
Ryosuke is a bit of a gym freak. He has the best body I have ever seen (seriously) because he spends about an hour a day working out. Some days he runs, other days he lifts weights. He has this whole complicated system I don’t particularly care about, but I like the results. A lot. Before we started dating, I used to go to the gym with him (trying to impress him). In those days, I was miserable (because I hate working out) but also really happy (because I got to spend time with him).
While complaining to one of my friends, she said: “The only people who go the gym are the ones who don’t need to.” That got me thinking. It’s true – the majority of the people (like Ryosuke) who go to the gym on a daily basis have wonderful bodies. They don’t necessarily need to work out. So why do they?
I always thought the motivation for working out was striving for a better body. Lifting weights is the “doing something you hate / being miserable” and getting a nice body is the “builds character” from Calvin and Hobbes. From hard, grueling, and miserable works comes a concrete reward.
A couple months later, when Ryosuke and I went on vacation to Miami Beach, he complained a bit about not being able to work out. I kind of brushed it off. On the fourth day in Miami, while we were strolling along the beach, we came across a free beach gym: a fully functional gym with weights, bars, and basic workout machines, smack in the middle of the sandy beach. Ryosuke was thrilled. While I played in the water for fifteen minutes, he worked out. When he came and got me, he was absolutely glowing (not just from sweat).
That’s when it hit me. He loves working out. I always thought Ryosuke liked to work out because he loves having a terrific body, but I was wrong. Ryosuke loves working out the same way I love watching TV shows – it makes us feel good. That’s why a majority of people you see at the gym already have fantastic bodies and/or muscles. To them, working out is fun. That’s one of the things in life I will never understand.
When I’m exhausted or annoyed, I turned to TV. When Ryosuke was frustrated or annoyed, he turned to working out. To him, “doing something [he] hate[d]” wasn’t “building character,” instead doing something he loved was building character.
The revelation was astounding. I’d like to say from then on, I started looking for something I loved that I could use to build character, but I didn’t. When we returned to Ursinus, I threw myself back into studying and prepping to study abroad in Japan. In fact, I forgot all about the revelation until now.
You see, I have quite a bit of free time in Japan. To fill up my free time, I started blogging. I think it started as a way to show my friends and family all the incredible things I’m doing in Japan, and manifested by my narcissistic tendencies and my desire to explain all the neat things about Japan. Today, I finished my section for a group assignment. Feeling proud and ready to reward myself, I turned to Youtube to watch a bit of television. I couldn’t find any of my favorite shows; while I was going through my computer looking for old Firefly episodes (it’s been a while since I’ve re-watched the series), Microsoft Word popped up.
I started at the blank document for a little bit. “Well…” I thought to myself, “I can always write…”
And so I banged out a post about how I don’t understand why women in Tokyo wear high heels all the time. When I finished, I shut my computer happily and went off to make dinner, humming.
That’s when it hit me. Blogging is my “something I hate because being miserable builds character.” Blogging to me is the same as working out for Ryosuke. I thought I only blogged because I liked the final result (concrete proof my time abroad wasn’t wasted), but I realized I blog because I love writing.
I like the way words sound. I like the way my fingers feel against the keyboard. I like the way I can proudly look at a published post (sometimes reading through comments) and think “I did this.” But most of all, I love the way writing makes me think. When I blog, I do research. I climb through other people’s blogs, through new articles, through Wikipedia, and through Google, trying to find relevant information. I piece together whatever I can find, combining all the ideas into one, coherent thought, like I’m the master of my own universe.
Writing is fun.
I know Ryosuke doesn’t understand how soothing I find writing; I don’t understand how soothing he finds working out. But we support each other unconditionally, no matter what our hobby may be (and I know he prefers my writing to my watching TV).
We’ve found our “Something miserable to build character.” Go out and find yours.
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