First Kizomba class at intermediate level

Towards the end of 2019 I completed improver level Kizomba. However, I have really struggled with Kizomba beginner and improver to the point where I was unable to do over half the fundamental moves even in the cases where I knew the main steps. Although I intended to repeat the course, I gave myself the justification that I wouldn’t do it yet because I couldn’t learn well with all the other things going on (such as having similar execution struggles with salsa) as well as big non-dancing commitments. But due to an external motivation, I did end up attending my first intermediate class. It was extremely challenging but I learned so much in one extended session. Who knew that learning something harder would help me to finally be able to do the easier moves? Another thing about my struggle with Kizomba was that I had only stuck to the timings that we were taught in class, when in real-world Kizomba there aren’t any rules of rhythm or what order you can do moves. During this class I finally took the plunge and decided to break all the rules and take whatever steps I wanted against the patterns we’re taught. And I thought I would have to slowly figure out how that all works, how it is that you can control a lady’s steps if her expectations are being messed with, but for the most part it just worked because I didn’t expect it to work so I experimented with stronger signals that I didn’t know to be valid but seemed to make sense. Someone even danced with me with their eyes closed and it was one of my smoothest Kizomba dances ever, and not because I played safe; I didn’t. An embarrassing thing I get with Kizomba classes sometimes though is learning two moves in the space of an hour and then completely forgetting what one of them was right after class during the time for practice.

Social challenges: surveying

I’ve begun taking on the hardest challenge of my life which is a formidable collection of various socially challenging tasks designed to require experiencing rejection numerous times and continuously trying to overcome fear. This is a summary of results for the challenge of getting 10 strangers on the street to participate in a 5-minute interview-style survey I designed “for fun”.

I didn’t have a specific aim to get all 10 surveys in one day, but I did manage to complete it within about 2.5 hours, of which the first hour was spent passing by opportunities while internally struggling with fear. I thought this would clearly be one of the easiest challenges but perhaps won’t have been. I only managed to overcome a small fraction of my fear and I dealt with the rest of it by working around it (finding a less intimidating setup to approach potential participants). But did I make progress? I think so.

Questions and responses

When you eat a subway, do you have a preference for whether the filling is coming out on the right side or the left side as you bite it?

Two people didn’t eat subs and several assumed they had no preference (but perhaps they didn’t fully think about it). I dropped this question because I assumed all the answers would be no preference and maybe it was too quirky a question to catch the alternative answer.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

6 introverts, 2 extroverts, 2 extrovert-leaning ambiverts. Everyone knew what I was talking about.

Do you ever have an internal voice reading “out loud” in your mind when you read books? Do you ever argue with yourself in that voice in your mind?

Everyone required some time to find their answer. Everyone who had an internal narrative voice also had a head voice in general. 50/50 split.

When it comes to your favorite music do you prefer the lyrics to be perfect or the melody to be perfect?

7 preferred perfect lyrics over perfect melody, though a common disclaimer was that melody/beat matters more when dancing/clubbing and lyrics matter more for personal favorites.

If someone was clearly showing off (such as doing backflips) in public but not as part of a real performance, would you think that they’re a cringey attention-seeker or would you think “good for them”?

Everyone included “good for them” in their answer. (I think I was not emphatic enough in the way I described the scenario.) The variations included: I would find it impressive; it would be cringey if they were a teenager; my initial reaction might be cringe but then I’d think “good for them”.

Do you have a best friend?

Everyone said yes. Both couples said it was their partner.

Do you think men and women can be “just friends”?

Everyone knew what this question was about. One was a clear no, one was a “no because it gets trickier and trickier if there is ever an initial point of attraction”, one was “yes, but it gets tricky over time”, and the rest were all confident yes’s.

When was the last time you had an alcoholic drink?

In decreasing order of frequency of answers: yesterday; the day before; I don’t drink / months to decades ago.

How was 2019 for you?

In the interests of time I dropped this question a lot. All answers were short. My favorite answer: “6/10”.

How interesting did you find this survey on a scale of 1 to 10?

9 (3), 8 (2), 7 (3), 6 (2). Average 7.6. The feedback with the nines were: the questions were funny (to be asked); and “nothing is perfect”. If we divided the participants into the older half and younger half, the younger group unanimously gave higher scores than the older group.

Other interesting observations

  • Couples and people in pairs had compatible answers in all but 1-2 questions.
  • Only two participants (the couple) cut the survey short.
  • I quickly realized how important it was to say the survey would take about 5 minutes, and mentioning that seemed to be a “visible” turning point in people who’s body language was that of “I’m gonna go now”. That said, the couple maintained that body language throughout, and another pair took a few questions before having more engaged body language.
  • One couple I approached had one willing participant while the other took off and left her.
  • It took 5 sets of rejection and 7 accepts to get 10 respondents, so rejection was not the most common response for the people that I targeted. “I don’t live here” or “my English isn’t good” was a common concern.
  • In 5 out of the 7 encounters, people asked me in one way or another what the survey was about or the motivation/purpose behind it. I was surprised by the awareness as well as people being curious enough to ask. (I realized only in hindsight that the last question kind of sets that up.) 2 hugs and 2 high fives were exchanged as a consequence. I got a few compliments as well.

Highlights

  • “Yeah I have time to kill”
  • “I can see why” in response to me saying I wanted to improve my social skills with strangers.
  • While I was surveying this guy, two guys from a church approached us and asked if we would participate in their survey.

Bonus answers from a flatmate

  • He realized he always eats subway with his left hand (dominant hand) on top so with the filling coming out on the right!!! He and I were both mind blown. And I felt relieved and validated that my question wasn’t crazy after all.
  • He doesn’t have a narrative voice but can conjure one with conscious effort.
  • His favorite music often doesn’t have lyrics.
  • He would think “good on them” for the show-off but perhaps would change his attitude if he got to know them.
  • He last had alcohol 10 seconds ago.
  • 2019 was up and down but overall up.
  • He rated the survey “very interesting” on a scale of 1 to 10.

Final notes

My body felt very exhausted after that. I can’t remember the last time I felt like this.

What 2019 looked like for me

I don’t spend much time at all retrospecting, but it’s time to look at what life was like in 2019.

  • January was lonely as always, I didn’t want to bother my friends, and social groups were on hold. Trying to work enough hours was a struggle.
  • I was finding it hard to care about myself. I reached a new rock bottom, which was okay. I developed my new outlook on motivation/discipline/willpower, with the motto “If you claim to want X but haven’t taken any steps towards it and have no plans for it, then you don’t want X, otherwise you’d already have done something about it.”
  • I finally started seeing a therapist.
  • My ex pointed out three times in one meeting that I’d gotten fat. I was already intending to get personal training but this was what pushed me over the edge from “I’ll do it soon” to “I’m doing this right now.”
  • February. I proposed a toast at my workplace and shared my special bottle, just cause I felt like it. First toast ever, required the bravery to be like “let’s do this” among new colleagues but the support I received was great. I think this was the day before my birthday but I really really wanted to work on my birthday so I didn’t tell anyone about it.
  • March. By this point I had dropped out of my previous two bible study groups, partly to separate myself from student culture, and partly because I don’t feel like I fit in with how one of the groups changed. Apart from reading about a third of “The Drama of Scripture” and falling into a few rabbit holes about textual criticism and Genesis, I haven’t had much engagement with Christianity this year.
  • I really struggled to work more than 30 hours a week, I was just really undisciplined with my schedule being ultra flexible as a contractor and fatigued all the time with gym.
  • I hung out a lot with a Chinese INFP friend. We hiked every other week.
  • April. First time attending a Stag Do. Lots of fun.
  • May. Getting injured with shin splints before a race, getting dry needle therapy and luckily being able to run a shorter race (10km). Extremely satisfying run in cold rain even though I resented the limited opportunities to overtake people due to space.
  • Watched the regional The Voice of China singing competition. Absolutely brutal top 10 contest that inspired me to compete in 2020.
  • I agreed to help a Chinese ENFP student with studying for their English exam. We had a mutual crush, messy long-distance interactions, I later convinced her to give up studying for English because she was lying to herself. I overcame my fear of traveling to China and visited her in June. It was a short and disastrous romance.
  • July. I argued three days in a row with my ENTJ boss. I was really angry with him and was unafraid to lose my job. In the end I was naive about employer-employee relationships so I learned my lesson and there was no permanent harm done. I also asked for a raise and he obliged. One thing I learned that is super obvious but still a big deal: it’s easier for others to respond if you tell them exactly how you feel, as opposed to the INTP-esque approach of probing where they’re at and trying to fill them in perfectly on what they’re missing. Some people feel threatened when you ask too many questions without expressing your own side. At times I think my boss feels threatened by not understanding the way I think, but that’s not something I’ve been able to remedy nor has it been directly a problem.
  • I started working a semi-regular schedule of 37.5 hours per week. It has been hard and it feels like the physical/mental limit for me, but it is a lot more practical than working unplanned hours according to my “desire to work”.
  • I started asking friends for hugs.
  • I met an ESFJ girl who helped change my life forever. I went through the phases of: struggling to get her off my mind, avoiding her, then realizing I have to confront my feelings by getting to know her, being absolutely blown away during our first coffee chat, telling her I’m romantically interested even though it was very early, hanging out and still getting a lot from her but realizing my initial suspicions about her shallow side were founded, becoming only interested in a platonic friendship but questioning our friendship, and finally having her completely figured out and me deciding not to be friends anymore. I learned a lot from her about the ESFJ psyche.
  • Major breakthrough: ending the war and establishing peace between my head and heart, and allowing my heart to actively participate in my life.
  • “Minor” breakthrough: accepting my imperfect state, accepting that I don’t have to change despite being committed to improving myself, knowing that things will be okay and if I seek to learn I will have time to learn.
  • I tried rock climbing. I went several times but never managed to complete the easiest course due to lacking the strength to pull myself up on the inline course. I said I’d come back once I was able to do chin-ups, though only to complete the easy course, not to continue with rock climbing.
  • September. Realized I am sick of my current limited circle of friends and need to find my “tribe people”.
  • Finally took the plunge and took on my most important goal of the second half of 2019: going to a beginner’s salsa class. I have been addicted to salsa ever since.
  • Tried speed dating and loved it. Nothing came out of it but it was an awesome experience that boosted my confidence.
  • Watched a Latin dance competition and was inspired to compete in future.
  • October. First time getting drunk. No hangover though.
  • An online project I’m in charge of blew up on the internet, received a lot of attention and offers of help. As fun as the project is, and how many people want it to succeed, unfortunately I don’t really care about it anymore because I have better things to do.
  • Got into Mensa on my second test attempt. I think my colleagues were more excited than I was.
  • Attended a beginner’s hip-hop class, which was so much higher on the fear scale for me. I didn’t have time to persist but I just wanted to confront my fear. It turns out that beginners in hip hop are sooooo much more advanced than beginners in Latin dance classes.
  • After about eight months of gym I could finally do chin-ups.
  • Another item on my challenge bucket list: participating in Thrill the World, which I failed to do over 10 years ago because I convinced myself the Thriller zombie dance was too hard for me to learn. I was more resourceful, more determined, more crazy about it and I’m very proud of learning the dance and participating in full unashamed spirit (though it was my first attempt at costume makeup and it was terrible).
  • November. I went to a life-changing personal development course. In therapy, you can work on a few issues at a time, but this course addressed every issue simultaneously. I feel extremely confident now, I no longer struggle with identity, I’m a better listener, I’m at peace with my past and can enjoy living in the present, have overcome being insecure I suddenly know how to have relationships with people, and I know that I can have anything that I want. These are just a few things and there’s still more to learn and practice.
  • Began repairing dysfunctional relationships with my two sisters, brother-in-law, parents, friends, ex-friends, etc.
  • For the first time in 5 years I asked a girl for her number and got it. It turned out to be a delayed/indirect rejection but I have no regrets.
  • I was no longer afraid to go Latin social dancing. I took the plunge and found it surprisingly fun.
  • I went to and enjoyed an adult variety show, something which I may have struggled to enjoy in the past.
  • December. Traveled to a friend’s wedding reception, made absolute breakthroughs in connecting with people in unfamiliar situations.
  • I’m still scared of the non-Latin dancing at a bar scene but have gone twice.

Highlights

Some of the things I’m most proud of or happy about:

  • I made concrete efforts throughout the year to get better at smiling and not concealing myself and I feel good about it.
  • I lost over 15kg this year and reduced my body fat percentage from over 30% to about 19% thanks to calorie counting (which I thought I would never be able to do).
  • I achieved one of my two “impossible” fitness targets set at the start of the year: being able to do chin-ups. The second target was to beat my all-time running record from about 8 years ago but this has evaded me for 2019.
  • At some point I started pretending to feel confident and and yet I’m not pretending anymore even though I keep thinking I was just pretending.
  • I actually like who I am now.
  • Coming from an Otaku-like background, I have a much healthier subconscious attitude towards women than I did at the start of the year.
  • In just four months I’ve become an intermediate dancer in Salsa and Kizomba.

In summary, I fought hard in 2019 to improve myself and have results to show for it. It may not have been the happiest year, but it has undoubtedly been the year that I’ve been the most alive so far. I’ve started confronting fear after fear, and most of all my way of being has transformed.

Zankyou no Terror

Zankyou no Terror is a highly rated anime about two boys committing terrorist attacks for some unknown reason. It’s reputation is somewhat divisive when it comes to online reviews. There is no denying that this anime is quite flawed in multiple aspects (especially storyline). In spite of that, Zankyou no Terror takes you on a cute journey that you’ll enjoy if you’re willing to give up expectations and just experience what is there.

While its genres are listed as Mystery, Pscyhological, and Thriller, the latter two don’t really fit and I think it would be best described as a weak mystery.

Who I would recommend this to:

A casual anime watcher who wants to feel something but isn’t too hung-up on the what.

Who I would not recommend this to:

Anyone who thinks or hopes that this show is meant to be about terrorism after watching the first episode.

Psycho-Pass

Psycho-Pass is a popular anime within the Psychological/Sci-Fi category. In short, I recommend watching it if you like the those two genres.

Things I liked about it

  • Full of intelligent badass characters who are never cheapened by going out of character just to fulfill the plot. There aren’t many shows that maintain such consistency for so many intelligent characters.
  • The characters are actually likeable and believable, including the protagonist.
  • The plot is consistent from beginning to end, and there are numerous clues throughout the series that hint at what will unfold.
  • The series is satisfying to watch due to the consistency of the plot and character development, as well as the general setting, which allows you to be completely immersed in this fictional world from start to end.

Things that weren’t ideal

  • A downside to the consistency was that some elements of the story were slightly predictable. But this was still much more preferable than a convoluted plot or story that makes no sense.
  • Compared to other psychological thriller anime, Psycho-Pass is not as exciting (in terms of action) or thrilling (as in I need to know what happens next). Perhaps the pace is slower given that it’s 22 episodes long and the plot is quite simple overall.

Tokyo Ghoul

I binge watched Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul √A. Would I recommend it to someone else?

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the manga so my criticisms make more sense from the point of view of someone pretending the manga doesn’t exist.

Things I liked about it

  • Very binge-able, I do experience the grip of always wanting to know what’s in the next episode.
  • Time in the story progresses quite fast, not much filler, etc.
  • Definitely some badass characters or moments to admire.

Things I disliked about it

  • I hate it when authors refuse to let characters die and Tokyo Ghoul is one of the worst offenders I’ve ever seen given the way it’s presented.
  • The pacing of the series is inconsistent, especially in the last third of each season where it seems like there’s a sudden rush to finish a story which wasn’t even the one being built up before that.
  • The storytelling is inconsistent. The endings are somewhat bizarre. Very few answers are given to important parts of the story. Someone decides to take an unexpected action. Why? Dunno. Did they make the right choice? Dunno.
  • Unrealistic physics even within a fictional world. Like changing your trajectory mid-air, being able to block a whole lot of shards directed simultaneously at you with a blade that only covers part of your body.
  • I know the genres of mystery and psychological thriller are not expected to be “satisfying”, but aside from a few rare moments of brilliance, Tokyo Ghoul is overall a bit unsatisfying both during watching and after. You never quite get what you hope will happen and instead you get something that is bizarre and incomplete.

Conclusion

Tokyo Ghoul is one of the top 10 most popular anime on MAL. even though its rating is an unspectacular 7.93 at the time of writing. I would dare to speculate that its massive popularity is based on the success and popularity of the manga. Ultimately I don’t think Tokyo Ghoul the anime is good enough to be a must-watch for any genre. But in my opinion it is way less tedious than Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu which is also targeted at young adults.

A crush in salsa class

There’s no point to this “story” except that I want to share authentically and unreservedly about it. The thoughts and feelings I mention here have no meaning, they’re simply what I have experienced but don’t have to do anything about.

Over a month ago at one of my first improver salsa classes, there was a girl next to me who instantly caught my eye. Her attire was the first impression: elegant, professional, feminine and from a slightly older time. Her pretty face, default expression, styled brown hair, oceanic blue eyes, strong jawline, slim figure, and overall style all fit together to form the image of a classic everyday working beauty who has a strong sense of self. She invokes in me a sense of nostalgia that I cannot trace to anything from my actual past.

One thing I rather like about dancing is that you can build rapport with people without much talking. While I’ve had opportunities to build stronger conversational rapport based on our both being fresh out of beginner level at the time, I never attempted to take them. I just don’t talk much in class and I don’t try to make conversation if either my partner or I have the slightest hint of talking being a burden or distraction to learning. When I’m partnered with her, we initiate with deep eye contact and maintain carefree smiles but she usually seems preoccupied with struggling to drill in the move, with a mix of determination, frustration, and signs of battle written over her face and apparent in responses to misses and mistakes. She’s definitely not at the bottom of the class and yet her predominant state is one of conscious incompetence.

She almost never stays for practice after class, but the one time she did, and I was in the prime spot to ask her to dance first except she was turned away and any gesture I made would have looked like it was for the girl next to her who was facing forward and more ready to dance. So in that moment, I asked the girl next to her instead, and I think she left shortly after as it was a rare occasion where there was an excess of ladies. (The statement that there is usually a shortage of guys in Latin dancing has been the biggest lies in my experience so far. There has usually been an excess of men in beginner and improver classes. I know that in competition the number of women vastly outweighs the number of men, perhaps by more than 2 to 1 in the one I saw, so maybe in intermediate class it is also a thing. But it hasn’t been true at all in my experiences of social dancing either.)

What happened as a result of failing to grasp that rare opportunity? The girl I partnered up with instead was someone who I hadn’t figured out how to read. She wasn’t intimidating but she didn’t convey much expression and I wondered whether her smiles were purely obligatory. She has a rather “on topic” style of interaction, which is common but usually still accompanied by an extraneous greeting that she omits. Another mannerism of hers which I couldn’t decipher was her quick high five, where I would put up my hand up and she would make almost all the distance with a rapid yet gentle meeting of palms. I had always wondered if it was a “this is awkward, let’s get this over with” kind of vibe, but it doesn’t exactly explain the strong sense of haste.

Anyhow, we practiced together, and her vibe was completely different. She wasn’t shy at all, openly acknowledged her mistakes and weaknesses, was passionate, followed me even when she didn’t know the move or the mistake was mine, and asked me to demonstrate things she didn’t know. (“Show me” and “do that again” are phrases that I love to hear and an excellent indication that I’ll probably get along with someone.) There was a move I only knew my half of that I tried to figure out in terms of her footwork and teach. My directions weren’t really usable but I wasn’t embarrassed and she was cool about it. I also made mistake after mistake but kept trying regardless, which is not something I usually feel comfortable letting someone else experience. So that was a very interesting and unexpected experience that occurred as a result of not asking my crush to dance. I felt weird about not being as brave as I could at the time, but ultimately I had little attachment to the result itself.

P.S.: My crush has a boyfriend. Also it’s not a very crushy crush, so it may just be an attraction and not a crush.