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Searching for Mr Miyagi

I’m possibly the most gullible person in the world. When I was a teenager, I thought that kitchen stadium from Iron Chef was a real place and I had big dreams to visit. I forget which callous friend broke it to me but anyway, it drove me to a terrible place for a long time before I was able to move on.

The other week, I had a similar revelation. Mr Miyagi is not real. For as long as I remember, I’ve been searching for Mr Miyagi, the wise mentor whose ‘wax on wax off’ technique would surely apply outside the scope of karate. In my mind, Mr Miyagi’s techniques were like Moses’ tablets – a step by step guide to life.

Mr Miyagi is a mythical figure conjured up by artists to assuage crippling self-doubt. He is a crutch. He is a symptom. Seeking him out is a distraction to delay starting. Finding him is an excuse to fail. This revelation came at the end of a funding experience which required me to seek out a mentor. I sought high and low. Mentors cancelled on me. Alternatives were suggested. Some were more interested in free work and not so good with the mentoring part.

I’ll have to dig out a copy of the original Karate Kid to see how it all went down, but I’m pretty sure that Mr Miyagi was just a plucky old man who desperately needed his house renovated. There are probably shots of him sitting around slurping mojitos while Daniel-san painted his fence.

Searching for Mr MiyagiA rose tinted postcard of Mr Miyagi, James and me. Thanks for all the good times
(I’m the goat in the picture. James is the dove.)

For years, I’d latched on to more experienced writers, artists and filmmakers in the hopes that they could enlighten me. Sometimes, they did share some insight but when I tried to follow their advice, I’d either fail or create a poor imitation of someone else’s work. I lacked authenticity. Mr Miyagi may be able to show you how to paint the fence but inevitably, it is the fence surrounding his house that you are painting.

The good news is just as I found out that Mr Miyagi wasn’t real, I also realised that all my life there’s been a lot of wise people around giving me advice. There’s my favourite person James who just the other day advised me I couldn’t pull off ugg boots over jeans to my wonderful PhD supervisors Andi Spark and Sally Breen who are paid to be a bit more tactful. Y’all rock in your own way even though you don’t have a bandanna or beard. Perhaps, the lesson to be learnt here is that, Mr Miyagi lives on in all of us.

(James has just read this post and decided to give some advice)

J – Forcing a blog post is like forcing a poo. It just can’t be done. Let it happen in its own good time.

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