As I’ve probably mentioned in a previous journal entry, I’ve had numerous lengthy discussions with my Sensei. I refer to him as such for multiple reasons. Referring back to my competitive gaming life, he is by far one of the best in this city. It’s not so much that he is ONE of the best in fighting games (most notably Street Fighter), but I tell people that he comes from the battle. The guy is a legit martial artist outside of competitive gaming. His approaches to fighting games practically parallel with some teachings he’s picked up in his many years learning martial arts. Whenever I’m looking for some major provokes on my mind, he’s one of the top people I’ll contact. In the discussion I mentioned in the last journal concerning the importance of progressing and uplifting one another by connecting with one another, there was something else he said that changed my outlook on something that often occurred throughout my life.
I’ll provide some backstory first. In the early and later times in my college career, I’ve been unemployed. Occasionally, I’d win a little tournament or get a bit of money from Mom whenever she could give some to me and my little sister. Other than that and other moments of fortune, I was broke. I figured I’d have to go home to eat after class rather than the cafe or any nearby restaurants. In the earlier times, my friends loved eating out on the weekends at spots like Applebee’s, Wild Wings, etc. I felt that I wouldn’t be able to go. Also worth noting, when I wasn’t accompanied by friends or family and wanted/needed to go somewhere, I was traveling on foot. As a matter of fact, I presently still walk to the campus on Mondays.
So what happened on those days when I’d be stranded and starving on campus waiting for the next class or just hanging with my friends? Occasionally, they’d buy something for me. As a matter of fact, the very first person to give me money for food while in college was not a friend but a stranger. It was a day in which we were all leaving the school rather late after having one of our long discussions (shaping up to be kind of a trademark of most of the people I know huh?). We got dinner at a nearby McDonald’s. Well…everyone except me. I told my friends I couldn’t get jack and decided I’d grab us a table instead. As I turned to walk away from the line, a lady standing in front of us stopped me.
“Here,” she said with this sunny grin whilst handing me five bucks.
Still a super-animated young man (still kinda am, but I’ve toned it down since hehe), I looked alarmed. However, I was able to smile and thank her. She told me she knew how difficult it is to struggle financially during college. She also encouraged me to take every step of my college career seriously. I nodded and promised to do so, as I turned back to get in the line with my friends. I wouldn’t get a job until the next year, writing and doing the layout design for the school paper. The year after, I began a seasonal temp stint at the campus bookstore. I would work the spring, fall, and summer seasons for the next two years.
Before I worked any of those jobs, my friends would cover me for food and sometimes movie tickets. I always appreciated it, but at the same time, I always felt like a freeloader. I felt like out of everyone in the group, I was the only needy one. I even expressed the sentiment of being the only lingering unemployed person among my peers to my Mom. She responded by saying, “There must be something special about you for them to do such things”. I was down in the dumps when we were talking, so naturally I didn’t pay as much attention to that statement as I should have. I would tell Sensei about this discussion and he agreed that I should have been listening better. He reminded me that no one likes a freeloader and that eventually people will no longer invest in them. When he would tell his Mom that he’s going to a tournament, she would give him money before he left.
“She does that because she’s invested in my craft,” he explained. “People are willing to invest in you if they see something special and promising within you.”
It was then that I appreciated those things my friends did for me all the more. Knowing how most of my friends dislike freeloaders and drama, it should be obvious they aren’t just going to do stuff like this for anybody. It always made me feel kinda guilty because I was brought up around people that would always give like debt collectors. You know what I mean…always wanting to be paid back. Never any charity. Now I’m not saying go all out giving freebies, but sheesh…would one really damage you? Coming up around that mentality, there would come points where I’d openly refuse to eat around friends and they would relentlessly be like “Boy…tell me what you want off this menu.”
Sensei’s words even reminded me of some things people have done for me in competitive gaming. Not having enough money to enter one of local venue Prime Time Gaming’s tournaments, one of the staff members put me in the tournament anyways. At first, I figured I had fulfilled a stipulation that allegedly claimed to give a person free entry for every 3 or 4 tournaments. However, this was early when we just started having weeklies and it was only the second one. I later on found out the staff covered my entry fee. This also happened yesterday, when I went to Warner Robins with a teammate to a tournament. I was there for support and just to catch the action. Another friend of ours showed up, much to our surprise. I told him was there for spectating, but insisted I play. I told him another reason I wasn’t entering was due to lack of funds. He marched to the counter and paid my entry fee, despite shrugging when he asked if I wanted to play.
I look back at all these things with knowing what I know now and feel so much better. In my heart and spirit, I know I’m no freeloader. Whenever someone does something for me, I always try to passionately return the favor in one way or another. It reminded me of another thing my uncle once told me:
“If you can’t pay a person back with money, do it with some sort of labor”.
My friend who paid for my tournament entry yesterday asked me to pay him back by teaching and sparring with him in Mortal Kombat X some more. That’s some paying back I’m always glad to give. I recall once after getting some awesome pay from my bookstore job, I held a pizza party to say thanks to all my friends for putting up with me for all the years before. I bought all of the pizza. I don’t even think the amount I paid for the pizza would even cover how much they’ve done for me, but they loved and appreciated it much.
My friends know of the struggles I’ve gone through with finding work after the jobs I previously had. They even sometimes remind me that its a great thing that I’m still in college rather than wasting any potential or just expecting something to pop out of the ground. Always keep a bright, vibrant spirit about yourself. Don’t get so down that you’ll miss what someone is trying to show you. Had I paid closer attention to what my Mom tried to tell me, I’d be less subconscious and more driven to be someone others would want to invest in. It’s things like this that further prove two things to me that we’ve all heard. The first being, its not always the material things that matter. The other being that, the work that you do will speak prodigiously of you.