Thursday, October 8, 2015

Realignment of priorities in life

Recently I've been entertaining the thought that we live in a simulation... like the movie "The Matrix". Our lives are just a test, each individual with certain set of parameters (physical attributes, mental/emotional attributes, personalities, tendencies/potentials/ambitions, and a small degree of free will. If we're don't focus, we go on auto-pilot (pre-programmed) mode, but we have the capacity to be more aware of the autopilot mode and choose to behave differently. We each have multiple aspirations, but it's a struggle between self-discipline, wits and the autopilot mode to see if we achieve what we want to achieve.

The autopilot mode would be to either conform to the society you're born into (western, Chinese, Muslim, African, etc), and/or to conform to your base desires, such as eating too much, not exercising, drinking too much alcohol/caffeine, smoking too much, procrastination, not trying hard at achieving anything, being too greedy / selfish, etc.

As an adult, it's very easy to get into routines and weeks/years later, you realize you're straying afar from your aspirations, using while in a society-approved state, such as working a job you hate, spending all of your efforts just struggling (rather than mindfully dealing) with family/kids instead of self-actualization, drinking/medicating all the years away, etc.

For me it's working. While trying to get work done, I neglect to be social, to exercise, to eat healthy, to develop a solid social circle, to clean my home, to interact with family, etc. When I look back at my science career I have barely achieved anything. Instead I have spent years working on my bosses' not well-thought out projects, forever trouble shooting rather than making progress, reinventing crappier versions of what's already around, and being unhappy the whole time. Doesn't help that I have a defeatist attitude, unstable emotions, shitty interpersonal skills, and a pessimistic outlook.

It's time for me to realize that given my limited intelligence, it's difficult for me to achieve big leaps in science. I need to refocus and re-determine specific goals I want to achieve in life, specific experience I want to have, and realign myself towards those goals. The type of things I wanted from a younger age (stable career in science, marriage) are simply not working out.

One tendency I have is to value everybody else's opinions over my own. My mother keeps begging me to find a life partner, so I am convinced that I cannot be happy unless I do so. Totally not true. I tried really hard at my relationship and ended up making both me and the boyfriend (who fundamentally never wanted to put much work into a relationship) really unhappy.

I learned a lot from the boyfriend too. I think he is very smart and more disciplined than I am, but because he was never raised to be ambitious, he truly isn't. When he sees rich people in nice cars, wearing nice clothes and eating at fancy restaurants, he gets angry at them, at not being born into a rich family, instead of pondering what he can do (eg. switch careers, side jobs, investments etc) to achieve that wealth. It's one thing to actually not care about money and be happy with living a hippie life. In Sweden it seems like many actually desire an urban life style that require lots of money, but they have been brought up to think that they shouldn't care about money, so they don't actively try to work towards their desires. Perhaps that's why alcoholism (self-numbing) is such a problem here. I can tell he's working hard to achieve a certain routine that's accepted by his society (which is supposed to be one of the most free in the world, but instead people totally conform to a few narrow social norms). Life is full of irony.

Another of my tendencies is to avoid following the conventional way of being. Everyone here dresses in a similar way, for example leather jackets and Converse sneakers. While I love both of these fashion items and would like to own both, I've been actively avoiding them since I feel like I would be wearing a uniform. This tendency to not conform is probably the reason why I haven't been very successful at my career or social life.

I need to work out all of my tendencies, how each of them are shaping my goals or hindering me towards my goals, realign my goals, and then work towards those base on the skills that I have. I don't think I'll have a good career in academia because I really dislike kissing ass and jumping through pointless hoops to get to where I want. I have to decide what I am willing to do (compromise/sacrifice) in order to get to where I want to be. Also I have to figure out the list of things I should stop doing (eg. fulfill a boss's randomly thought up projects; do whatever an acquaintance ask of me) because they make me really unhappy.

Now that I have a clear short term goal (tabulate the list of skills I own; can obtain; cannot obtain; realign my priorities in life), I feel like my life has a purpose again :) The next little while should be fun.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A nice break from my toxic life routines

A friend visited yesterday.. I haven't met him for 10 years. Was very exciting to hear that a start-up company that he co-founded with his brother is doing extremely well and will probably go public soon. As I showed him around town, he told me the steps that they took to get the company this far. This is so rarely that I almost believe that a successful start-up by ordinary people is pure fantasy. Really happy that someone I know is succeeding with entrepreneurship, especially with a product that will be beneficial to millions of people around the world.

I also had a chance to go to a more focused clinical conference (totally not in my area) where the physicians seemed genuinely interested in improving medicine and take care of patients (which is great to hear). So I was happy that they are so friendly and care about the subject. But it seemed like they didn't really invite many research expert in the area to present at this conference. So it was a lot of people (mostly clinicians) asking questions but not a lot of people explaining current state of knowledge for this research area.

But it's really nice to step out of my toxic personal bubble to be around people who care more about their work and have more wholesome lives. I'm grateful for these opportunities.. but I really hope I can be around these kind of people regularly rather than meeting them once a decade. I need to figure out how to change my life and/or my mindset to have a more (mentally) healthy life.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Too much bullshit in my life

These days I've been thinking a lot about quitting my job and going home. My boss is grossly egotistical, delusional, and manipulative (and charming like a snake). I don't share the same values as my coworkers here. I am being regarded as a tech rather than a scholar. The guy whom I so far have regarded as my best friend treats me like crap. There is just a ton of delusion and very little compassion, wisdom, spirituality, let alone equanimity or enlightenment.

They say you are the average of those who are closest to you. Basically I have been this pessimistic chronic complainer who's always negative and unhappy about everything. This is super unhealthy. I need to get out of this social environment but I don't know how. I really want to wrap up my work so I have something to show for my time here, but the bosses and collaborators are making it very difficult. I'm looking forward to the day when I can get away from all the bullshit in my life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I have recently realised that I find many of my family members "annoying" simply because they prefer lots of external stimulations. So at a social setting, if there is silence for a few seconds, they feel the need to start a joke or make loud small talks. Conversely, they find me annoying because they find me so frighteningly quiet. I don't need constant social interactions. Moments of silence feel like blessing to me, even when I'm among friends and family.

Such incompatibility makes my family convinced that I am difficult to be around, and that it is me who must make the adjustments to fit in with society. Being introverted in my household is as bad as being gay - no offense to gay people, but my family is racist and discriminatory towards all kinds of people who don't fit in a very narrow profile of acceptable behaviour and lifestyle. My mom has openly told me many times when I grew up that she would be very upset with me if I were gay.

On the other hand, my bf finds me too loud when I get excited and start gesturing and increase my speech volume. Basically, no matter what, I am always behaving inappropriately. My goal in life is to find someone who will roughly accept me as who I am. I am willing to do the work to improve myself, but I need time and patience from others. I am tired of being incompatible with the entire world. Looking forward to a change of relationships.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


I've been binge watching Taiwanese political shows, Inside Amy Schumer, and anything about Bill Sanders. Yes I'm weird like that.

Taiwan's political scene is a total gong show. But then as I mentioned before, the KMT (current governing party) behaves like my family (the party brainwashed by grandparents and their children, and possibly the oldest of my older cousins). It's like watching a train wreck.. I should look away but it's hard to cure my obsessive compulsive binge behaviour.

Amy Schumer.. as one of the reviews described her, becomes famous by being a "female version of a jerk". The jerk archetype is typically associated with the male gender, but she succeeds in her career by unapologetically playing as asshole-type character that most women don't dare to portray. I watch her show compulsively because some of the episodes are quite creative and she seems so confident, a quality which I sorely lack.

Bill Sanders... I'm amazed how consistent he can be for such a long time, even though he has been in the government and has had to deal with the other sleazy politicians all these years. But I'm not American, I can't vote and will just have to observe from the sideline. we'll see how if America is ready for a democratic socialist president in 2016. It would be super crazy if US votes in a president who is more progressive than the Canadian and Australian prime ministers.... well, one can always dream.

None of these have anything to do with my personal life right now.  I think I've using them to escape my less than ideal life. Need a strategy to substitute video binging with something more constructive in life... I will try to work on that for the remainder of the year, I hope.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Feeling more positive

After 2.5 years in Europe, finally I am going to get some visitors. I have learned a lot over the past years. I learned that I am really bad at picking up new technical knowledge and organizing them into a coherent report. I get distracted too easily and thus am very inefficient. I am terrible at socializing and would rather hang out with the fwb than to go out and find a better boyfriend/companion. As a cynical introverted pessimist, being surrounded by other negative, cynical, pessimistic, and introverted people just make my own conditions even worse. I am learning more about how my friends are like, who to be careful for and who to be appreciative about.

Luckily these days I am feeling better about myself. I went on a full day interview which didn't actually go that well,but I am in a position where I don't have to take the job so it's good practice. I learned where my weaknesses are, so i can improve on it if i need to go on more interviews. I met up with a yoga friend couple, who were extremely hospitable, which was very much needed, having spent so long with non-warm people here. Both events were really uplifting. 

I was sort of reluctant to take up the job because I didn't think I was ready to leave Europe. But the thing is, I came here so I could travel, but I haven't been traveling nearly as much as I had hoped. The last time I traveled alone to Edinburgh, I found it to be one of the coolest cities I have ever visited but I felt so alone the whole time I was there. It never used to be an issue a few years back. I think I am at a stage in my life where friendship matters more than adventures. For most people, that is probably always the case, but For me I have really undermined my friendships my whole life. That is why I have been able to travel so much on my own and could move to a country where i didn't know a soul for work purposes. However, I don't really care to do it again, unless a really excellent opportunity arises.

At the whole day interview, everyone kept asking me what are my career plans. I could not really give a clear answer. It's because  I have never considered my career in terms of which position I want to get. I have always thought of it as to be able to work on as many cool projects as I can eat my hands on, and hope that the skills and knowledge i acquire during the project would get me my next job. I probably should have said that at the interview but I didn't dare to. Also, most conventional thinking *is* about the position: to become a professor, a director, a manager, a producer, etc. 

I have been pretty depressed for the past few years because I wasn't given the resources to learn the knowledge that I need to do a good job. I have completed 0 projects so far (although 2-3 are close to completion). I have no good friends nearby. My relationship with parents, relatives, boyfriend, bosses, colleagues, and even friends back home are very crappy. Recently I am understanding the fwb a bit better than I used to. A couple girls at work have better personalities than others. My work contract got extended last minute. I think I have a good chance of getting the job I interviewed for (being acquaintances with the guy doing the hiring makes all the difference). I really think it's the kindness of people that have uplifted me from my normal depressed self.

I have decided it is time to reevaluate the positions of all my friends and acquaintances in my head. Some I considered to be my closest friends need to be lowered in terms of dearness. Those who are warm and accepting... I need to make the effort to interact with them more. 

I am happy to be feeling more calm and content recently. The sunshine helps. Let's hope the good mood continues. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Religious organizations: critical thinking vs. sense of fulfillment

Recently, Taiwan's media is full of drama about how religious organization take advantages of massive loopholes in the Taiwanese law system to evade tax, are non-transparent about usage of public donation money, encroach on lands not meant to be developed, and perform for-profit actions even though they are registered as NGOs. 

One of the main points from all these drama is the need for the government to quickly fix the laws so they can better regulate all organized religions. However, the focus of the media seems to be that since religious organizations try to teach people to be moral, shouldn't they hold themselves with morality higher than what is required by law and provide more transparent declarations of their financial statements? So the media people acted like hounds detecting the scent of wounds and went ahead to tear apart the organizations' flaws, exposing all their amoral activities, treating major and minor flaws with equal fervour in terms of judgement.

Well, internationally, from the Catholic Church, to ISIS, we know that all large religious organizations are composed of human beings, and are therefore bound to have problems despite the moral, well-meaning teachings of all holy books. Seems to be like the only way to fix the problem *is* to pass stricter regulations, because time and time again, it has been shown that self-regulation does NOT work, whether it's the financial sector, business world, scientific field, sports, education, religious field, or the government itself.

An interesting interaction I observed, was a debate between 2 cousins over the above mentioned issue. One of them, who is a member of the Taiwanese religious organization. She is angry and saddened by all the recent public criticisms over her beloved organization, which consists of a group of volunteers for whom she has high respects and with whom she enjoys working and volunteering together.

While I'm happy for her that she finds true happiness and fulfillment in life through volunteering work at the organization, along with a group of like-minded people, it also raises several questions in my mind:

1. Because this organization performs a lot of charity work worldwide, and because it provides a platform for good-hearted people like my cousin, is it okay for the members organization to ignore the acts of tax evasion, donation embezzlement, and other amoral activities, performed by higher management of the this organization in Taiwan?

2.  The volunteer activities that my cousin perform routinely (provide free dental care periodically for the poor), in a way, demonstrates the incompetence of the local government. In other words, if she lived in a country with better social care, like one of the Scandinavian country, then her act of charity would not be needed (ie. the government would pay for her service for those who can't afford it). Would she still feel fulfilled living in such a country, or would she feel at a loss? Because, realistically, the government can provide more comprehensive service coverage than a charity organization can.

I think about it because I feel the Swedes are a bit cold, since they feel that every social issue should be the government's problem, and the Swedish government does try to tackle most of the issues, but of course not with the same kind of fervour as a charity group. I never used to think this way, but recently I begin to feel like volunteering is actually a selfish act, meant to make the volunteer feel better about themselves. Having done many types of volunteer work in Vancouver, I do feel kind of hollow that I cannot easily find an organization to volunteer for in Sweden, since I don't speak the language. Shouldn't I be happy that the people here are so well taken care of? Not exactly. I think I feel happier if I have more opportunity to help out and feel useful.

3. As an outsider observing the news reports and blog articles, there is extremely like something is really wrong with the transparency of this Taiwanese religious organization, since it does not seem to want to be honest with its members or the public. Several of those who criticize the organization have done a lot of research and provide a lot of evidence to back their claims. Many of them are also highly educated and highly accomplished people in law, politics, social service, journalism, etc. Yet the members of this organization seem to repeat the same argument over and over again to defend their organization: our organization has done so much good in this world. How dare you criticize us? How does bringing down our organization serve the world? Does it bring you peace and happiness, or just a wicked sense of satisfaction? 

I'm pretty sure through constant digging of the public, the corruption and unlawful events will be continually dug up for examination by the Taiwanese society. For me, the scarier part is the apparent blindness of the members, that criticizing the unlawful aspects of an organization does not negative all the good it provides for the society, and that more transparency is good for everyone, including the public, the donors, the government, the members, and those who receive help from the organization. One thing that is really wrong is that this organization has brainwashed its members such that no one from within the group has spoken up in agreement about the need for improved transparency.

Another issue that concerns me is that its members seem to think that peace and harmony are more important than truth and transparency. This is, I guess, a central principle of Asian societies that follow Confucius teachings. The individual is not important. The prosperity of the organization, be it family, school, company, religious group, or the nation, is more important than any of the individuals. The teachings are more dogmatic and do not encourage critical thinking. I recall an earlier interaction I had with this cousin about some family issue. Her response was for me to reflect within about myself. I tried to share with her some of my reflections, but it seemed like her message was to keep reflecting; focus on what's wrong with yourself rather than what's wrong with everyone else. Don't just keep complaining about other people. While I partially agree with this type of thinking, I disagree with turning a complete blind eye on the faults of the others.  

Sorry about the super long post. I guess my question is at what point does a virtuous teaching (self-reflection) make you less aware about what's happening around you and how easily can biased teaching make you see the world through very biased lenses? I am of course, also biased by my way of living, my upbringing, my education, and by those around me. Are we all hopelessly biased or does critical thinking still has a place in this world? Why do I have trouble communicating with pretty much every member of my family with attempted reasoning? Maybe in another 10 years I'll be able to put my thoughts into writing that is a bit more digestible by readers. For now please excuse my mental garbage dumping.