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Spaceboy 99

Hey Ranma,

Quick question- is that Ranma as in Ranma 1/2, or a different Ranma I’m not familiar with? In the vein of Anime/Manga characters we identify with, I identify very strongly with Shirahama Kenichi from Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Kenichi (History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi or Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple).

Kenichi is defined by a total lack of talent in any and all areas. There’s nothing he excels at, and is a relentlessly bullied kid. He is frustrated by the way power is held by the strong, and declares to himself that if he ever became strong, he would use his power to defend those who can’t defend themselves, and would take care of the bad guys who everyone pretends not to notice.

He is defined, primarily, by his reluctance to back down or give up, even in the face of insurmountable odds, even when this results in negative consequences for himself, and sticks to his principles even when they lead to more trouble than they’re otherwise worth.

Despite having no talent, he doesn’t give up, and eventually manages to become strong.

I’m not saying that this is who I am, but rather who I aspire to be. He is a glorious character, flaws and all.

There’s a philosophy I ascribe to that I call ‘The Dynamite Approach’. It is based on the wisdom of Mary Cooper in an episode of The Big Bang Theory. There is an episode where she tells Sheldon that “There’s only so long you can fish before you have to throw a stick of dynamite in the water. I’m done fishin’.”

The way I apply this to my life is by understanding that there comes a certain point in any problem/situation where NOT acting, and remaining uncertain, becomes more painful than acting, even if acting leads to a less than optimal solution.

The best example I have is from what I originally started doing this for- attraction to another person. There was a time when I would very carefully dance around the other person- I’d invite them here, invite them there, chat about this, chat about that, gently, ever-so-gently, trying to broach the subject of feelings, trying to coax a sign out of them that they liked me back. I would be in agony for months, both physically and mentally (I have IBS that triggers under that kind of emotional stress). Eventually I realised that being told ‘I don’t like you’ actually hurts less than not knowing whether or not they liked me. Uncertainty is more painful than a hard truth. And so, I started throwing sticks of dynamite at my problems. When I got to the point that it hurt more to wait than be told no, I outright confessed my feelings and asked if they were reciprocated. Most of the time, it was a ‘no’, but the rejection hurt less than not knowing. At least, following the rejection, I could make other plans, direct my attentions elsewhere. Also, there is an element of ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’.

These two stories seem unrelated, but they’re really not. The key is NOT to search for and embrace the perfect solution. It is not to back down for fear of not being perfect, but rather to strive to SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Set some arbitrary limit after which you will declare something done, even if it’s less than perfect. So, for example, with art. Once you’ve done all the colouring and shading (assuming this is the last bit, I’m crap at art), give yourself a single day for corrections, then publish, release, or submit WHATEVER you’ve created, warts and all, even if you’re convinced that it’s horrible. If someone else compliments what you’ve done, but you see the flaws, endeavour to fix them next time. USE those flaws to inform what you do next. I do a lot of cooking, and I’m almost never happy with what I cook, even though other people love it. At the end of the day, though, even though I’m dissatisfied, a table full of people have full bellies. The problem is solved, even if it isn’t the best solution available. I simply use the data I gathered to improve what I make the next time. It doesn’t stop the pain, but it lets you use it. I actually have a story about this from just yesterday. I tried to make spring rolls for the first time, and just about had a panic attack when I was rolling them. I’m never going to roll them again, my other half can do that. But, when I cooked them, despite seeing everything I’d done wrong while rolling them, all but four cooked up perfectly. Four out of 20. And they were quite delicious. So now I know I can DO IT, even if I’m not PERFECT.

Doing and failing, or doing and failing to do perfectly is BETTER than never knowing. Uncertainty is ALWAYS more painful than rejection, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Believe me, I’ve been there. But I’ve also come out the other side. If you get rejected, you pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and you move on. It hurts like nothing else does, but it also stops you hankering after something you could never obtain. Certainty, even negative certainty, always hurts more than Uncertainty, because Certainty you can do something about. Uncertainty has no fixed form, no defining characteristics, and is always based on ‘might bes’, meaning you can NEVER fix it.

Much as it might not seem it, this advice even helps with job applications, at least in my case. I hate applying for jobs, because the mountain of rejected applications leaves me feeling like I’m not good enough, despite having ample reason to assume that it’s just computers automatically discarding applications, or someone else coming in who’s uniquely suited to the workplace. I always think that it’s some failing IN ME that’s cost me the opportunity (and now that I’m getting diagnosed for ADHD, maybe some of the issues WERE mine, at least when I got to the interview stage). It’s better to apply for any and every job, even ones you don’t think you’ll enjoy, even ones you think you’re un- or under-qualified for. As long as you go in honest, and don’t get the job under false pretenses, even jobs you lack the experience for can become jobs you can do. If you worry about applying to a certain job you want, because you’re afraid they’ll reject you, then you have exactly zero chance of ever getting that job. Even if they turn around and tell you ‘no’, they’re not telling you ‘no’ for ALL TIME. They’re telling you ‘no’ NOW. Take a career in illustration. They tell you ‘no’. Go away, continue drawing for a year, gradually improving, responding to feedback and criticism, improving your style, publishing EVERYTHING, then try to apply again. Keep going until they’re satisfied you CAN do it. No doors are permanently closed, you just have to try to get in at the right time, if you get me.

This has gone on for a very long time, and I’m sorry about that, but I hope that something, anything I’ve written here can help. I’ve been exactly where you are, and it damn well SUCKS. I really, truly hope that some of this helps, and I wish you the very best of luck in everything you do. If you want to talk about any of this, please just feel free to message back. I’ll get back to you ASAP.