My first day at kendo class began even before I expected it. I was planning to sign up later in the month; I didn’t have enough funds yet for the membership and monthly fees. I simply dropped by to watch and observe— until the instructor called me over to join, even if I hadn’t payed anything yet. So I did!
It was not easy. The footwork was totally different from muay thai, which I somehow got accustomed to. What looked so simple from observation was totally different when you’re actually doing the steps. Yet what struck me the most was when the headmaster stepped in: our kendo instructor made the mistake of encouraging us by saying we were doing nice on our exercises— that’s when the old Japanese guy casually stopped us, and said: “There is no nice; just correct and incorrect. There is no in-between.”
Right then and there, I knew I was in the right place.
Becoming 35 years old is not fun. I’ve been plagued with depressing and self-depreciating thoughts of existentialism, of regrets and failed dreams, mortality and worries about my own securities. Being a moody, single and introverted 35 year-old is not fun— not in a world where realistic negativity is shunned upon as pessimism and cynicism, treated like a contagious disease. I’m tired of complaining, but I’m even more tired of pretending: to be okay, to be strong, to have a life, to be happy.
So I decided to revert to my true nature: a loner.
Being a loner doesn’t mean I always enjoy being alone; fact is, there are days I sorely wish I had people to talk to, to simply hang out with. To just be real. But that’s why I choose to be alone: because finding those kind of people where you can be real is hard. Finding nice friends is easy. Finding good friends is doable, to some extent. Finding real friends, good or bad, is difficult.
People say it’s better to be nice than to be correct. But while it does make us peacekeepers of relationships, I wonder how it really turns us as a person. Sure, in a world where globalisation, relativism and political correctness is becoming the new social norm — tolerance, as well as, the unspoken rule of being inoffensive are taking over our moral bearings. Biblical principles are being twisted to make certain Christian truths near-unrecognisable. Everything can be good or bad: it’s all about your attitude, your outlook. And that is nice to hear. Until you realize that a paraphrase of that statement is an absolute lie: Nothing is absolutely good or bad. And there is nothing nice about that.
Talking with people, it’s easy to notice those who are trying to be nice, or when you’re simply trying to be nice to them. Hiding under the excuse of maintaining good relationship, we’ve come to think that disagreements, especially deeply-emotional ones, are signs of a bad relationship. Yet I’ve come to learn that criticism can be a sign of a good relationship. I’ve come to learn that even bad comments, bad insights, even an occasional honest-to-goodness expression of bitterness and resentment is a sign of a good relationship. It is when we’re too conscious of appearing to be nice, of sounding nice, of being remembered as someone nice, that we know we have a bad relationship.
I’ve come to learn that to become more honest— even when that honesty pushes people away from trying to talk or hang out with me or simply chat on social media. I’ve come to learn that saying something good or even something really bad is preferable than being fake in trying to be nice. I’d rather have someone say upfront what I did wrong, or when I’m being a jerk, or they don’t like me— than have nice fake friends. I’d rather have bad friends who I can be annoyed at for being pig-headed and are outright bad influences, than outwardly good friends who are busy trying to keep up with appearances and reputation.
The past few months had been bad. My recent birthday was bad. I look at what remains of my payday, and it’s bad. Really bad. But it’s only when I stopped lying to myself that I realized what was truly good in my life. It’s only when I stopped chasing after nice friends that I’ve come to appreciate the good ones, even the bad ones, and see God’s purpose for me in their lives. It’s only when I stopped consoling myself that I have a decent job, that I’ve decided to get out of complacency and do something more with my life than simply keep living so I can work. It’s only when I stopped telling myself everything will be okay that I started to fight again.
And it was a good weekend. I was able to catch up with some friends, exchange stories. The kendo class which I thought was impossible for me suddenly become possible, if not real. And yes, I got to meet an amazing guy (Kulas of #BecomingFilipino) in person— though I was embarrassed to disturb him more than necessary. Still, APIR! And yes, he gave me his nifty hand-weaved head band trinket— which I consider a cool belated birthday gift haha!
I don’t know if this coming week will be good or bad. I don’t know if the stories and blogs I write are good or bad. I don’t even know if I’m a good or a bad friend, a good or a bad Christian. But I’m done with being nice, in trying to be nice, to be blinded with the burden of niceness. I want to learn again to see the wrongs in order to seek what is right. I want to be more sensitive again with what needs to be fixed, in order for me to correct them— even and especially in me. I want God’s painful truth than this world’s comforting lies. I want to learn the difference between gentleness and niceness— to acknowledge both the harshness of our present reality without denying the glory that is Christ. I want to be able to say, “It was a bad day,” without losing sight of the goodness of eternity.
Yes, it was not a nice day at all. The weather was bad. I forgot to attend church today, and I guess that’s bad, too. And I’ll probably stay up until morning to work on a design project, so that’s bad for me, as well. But I will keep my eyes on Him and Him alone— He who is noble, who is right, who is pure, who is lovely, who is admirable; Him who can turn sinners into saints, who can turn a curse into a blessing, who can turn sorrow into joy, who can turn something bad into something good.
Today, despite all the bad things, has been a good day. May tonight, despite the work pressure, be a good evening as well.
Now, if only I can find something
nice bad good to eat…