Sunday, October 12, 2014

Drifter mentality

So on my second last working day, I got a short term contract extension with another professor. For now I don't need to leave Sweden, which is good news. But at the same time, I do not know what is my next step. I applied for another job in Canada, and got positive initial response from the potential supervisor, but it's again a short term employment.

I hang out with the boy again on the weekend (I guess it's not considered as an ex-... more like a friend with benefits). It's always great fun hanging out with him, but at the end of every get together I feel a sense of profound sadness, because there is no future between us. He is sad I will leave, but has no intention of keeping me either. I actually made an attempt to see other people, but I have trouble getting excited about starting a new relationship with someone else.

The 2014 Nobel prizes were announced recently. I was very excited about the physiology and medicine prize going to neuroscience. I had the fortune to listen to Dr. Edvard Moser talk about his research last year... it was very computationally complex (him and his wife study grid cells -- cells in our brains that help us navigate around this world), to the point I had trouble understanding it. I think he is very deserving of his award, but I don't know how to get excited about my own work.

I spent an hour listening to Dr. Robert Sapolsky's Stanford lecture on depression on Youtube. It was very educational. I have no doubt I have the gene variant where repeated stressors in life increases my chances of developing depression by 30 fold. My life experience has also subjected me to "learned helpless" as mentioned in the lecture.

What can I do about my situation? I did not like not being left hanging, uncertain if I would have a job or not until the last minute, but I do like this new lab I'm in, at least for now. At the same time, if my contract does not get extended again, I feel like I want to go on a retreat or a volunteer mission rather than straight into the next job, where I have to over-stress myself learning 10 million new things again. The thing is, would a yoga retreat or volunteer trip help me? The last time I went on one I got even more depressed. It's hard to know if I should try more aggressively to control my life, or to go with the flow (my previous boss called me a "drifter"). The former approach is difficult, since I don't know exactly what I want right now. Well, I want a supportive social network (and a partner in life), but those things can't exactly be forced. I have an okay chance with finding myself a job with a longer contract, but I have not decided where I want to move to next.

Just gotta stay brave and keep trying new things I guess.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Unwanted at work

Right now I'm being passed around like a hot potato. My direct supervisor is trying to pimp me to his "buddies", ie. big bosses with money, but no one really wants to take me on for short term contract extension. I should have acted like good old conventional postdocs: instead of working hard to finish what I've been working on, I should have slowed down on my work and focused on job hunting instead, because bosses only get excited about starting projects; they don't give a rat's ass about seeing the projects get completed. Or maybe they do up to a certain time period but I have been too slow and they have lost interest.

Anyways, I'm in a pretty shitty situation right now. I recently attended a big boss's talk, which outlines grand plans for the next 3-4 years, with lots of things I can work on, but sorry, he does not want me to work on any of the tasks. I am completely disposable. Somebody else can totally do those action items.

I guess this is what mom wanted to "protect" me from all of my life. That's why she tried to find a job for me because she felt I wouldn't be able to find myself a job or to be able to to keep it. In all honesty, I feel like shit. Like I am under-educated, completely incompetent, inferior to all my colleagues, like I do not make enough contribution to "the team". I have never felt so useless in my life.. Oh wait a minute, that's how I felt during grad school too. In the long run though I think I will survive. I have some savings so I could last a few months being unemployed. I need a break anyways... sick of all the politics and schmoozing and strange priorities and random science projects that do not make sense, just because they could get support based on their reputation.

With all the crazy stuff going on in the world: wars in Ukraine, Syria, Gaza, Iraq, beheadings, Ebola in Africa, complete disregard for other people's health just to make a few bucks in Taiwan... all these just make me want to escape to somewhere with few human beings, like some remote mountain or something. People are so selfish it makes me really depressed. I don't know how to feel hopeful where people around me only care about their own families and loved ones. Everyone else can die for all they care.

I really need to go somewhere with a bit of a community sense, where people actually care a little bit about each other, even the ones who are not related to them by blood.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Feeling vibes

The vibe two weekends ago (ie. previous post) was super high, it is very hard to beat. That was a bunch of really friendly and fun loving girls. 

The vibe at work is not so good. I have one friendly colleague who has gone on parental leave, so I will feel very alienated from work from now on. At my other office with the other group, I also feel like an outsider, especially with this one colleague who always looks like she has an angry face when she's around me. We haven't spoke for almost two years. Yah, it's ridiculously bad. I notice my new colleague has a way of neutralizing whatever negativity she gives out, while I become easily angered / defensive / hurt whenever I get a splash of it. Have to say I am terribly unskilled at dealing with this type of people, but I'll know to be extremely careful not to offend ppl like this next time. Trick is to not take anything he/she says personally and do some verbal taichi (light jokes, switch topics, ignore what he/she just said) in order to not get on that person's black list. Keep a polite distance to this person. But it's too late with her, as we seem to have become arch nemesis due to some fundamental value differences. This constant negative vibe towards me Is quite unhealthy for me and I should really look for a new job the moment I finish my projects. 

I have been meeting the ex again. It really feels fantastic to spend the weekend with him, as long as I leave early enough so he can spend at least 12 hours on his own to wind down. He told me he recently met up with a friend he hasn't seen for decades, who used to be his best buddy when they were kids. They had a great time together drinking and chatting when they met up after all these years. However, he was surprised when the friend asked to stay overnight. He reluctantly agreed, but proceed to try to hint for him to leave first thing in the morning. When the friend tried to stay longer, he proceeded to actually kick him out. I guess that means I'm not alone in becoming unwelcome after x hours of hanging out with the guy, that he does not want to spend an extended period of time with 99.9% of the population, including former best buddies. however, on the down side, it means this guy has serious trouble connecting deeply with anyone. So, the sooner I end it with him and go look for a more suitable partner, the better for me, as I'm not getting any  younger. That's the logical brain speaking. The emotional brain is still deeply attached to him, wishes to take care of him and to try to "fix" him; though I highly doubt he's interested in being fixed. He seems to be quite content with the way he is. 

Which brings me to online dating. I downloaded a dating app out of curiously. i won't say which one because i don't want this blog to be linked to it. Anyways, within like 48 hours I have generated 10s of matches, which simply means we "liked" each other's photos. As I am not looking for hook ups, which is exactly what this app seems to be built for, I treat it more like a social experiment, to see what's out there and how guys who are not hermits behave these days. Surprisingly all the guys sound very polite, well educated and respectful. No "ur hot, wanna hook up?" Or "send me a photo of your boobies" types of messages so far. However, I did encounter profiles of a few guys whom I have met at other social settings, and I got recognized by some stranger's friend (you can forward the match up pictures to your buddies for approval / gossip / background check). A few ppl have asked to meet up.

I should be very excited about this (not an expired, unwanted old lady yet!) , but I am also incredibly nervous as well. In a way it feels like "cheating", even though technically I have broken up with the ex. Also, I think if the guy asks for a hook up, I could just say no. But if the guy wants an actual relationship, which is what I want as well in principle, I feel I am a bit too messed up at this point to say yes, which would be sad.

I think I may be a bit ahead of myself though. I should just agree to meet up. Chances are I won't get along with most strangers anyways, so I won't have to worry about the next step. On the off chance that someone does sweep me off my feet, it would be healthy for me to fully detach myself from the ex. It's just that I fear I will reinforce his thinking that he should never become close with anyone, which would be really terrible. I feel very conflicted.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Friendship boost

This has been one of the best weekends in a long while. I've been doing some activities with expats and met some really nice people the past couple of days. We bonded by sharing our personal experience of how difficult it has been to emotionally connect with the locals. This morning I woke up feeling nurtured and content. I have not felt like this in quite awhile, which makes me realize that 1) I've been deprived of friendship rapport for far too long, and 2) how crazy it is that my body chemicals respond so strongly to social validation. 

I have been going to expat events since I first arrived here, but it's mostly been casual socializing at pubs, restaurants, clubs, or even hikes, with only small talks and no real connections. This time I lucked out and was able to make some connections with some people by sharing how isolating we have all felt while living in this beautiful city.

I think if I had never moved here, I would have taken for granted the positive effects of friendship support that I get regularly back home. It is when this aspect is absent from my life that I notice how deprived I feel. 

I have been paying attention to feelings more recently, and I notice that I often make people feel uncomfortable. I think I talk a bit too fast, being afraid that people will stop listening to me before I finish expressing what I want to say. Sometimes I'm a bit insensitive to what might offend people or what topics are a bit too grim for small talks. Sometimes I'm so keen on getting out what I want to say I interrupt other people, or I fail to acknowledge the main point that they are trying to get across in their speaking.   

By hanging out with more non-science people, who seem to be a lot better at communication in general and at making people feel at ease, I hope to learn from them, become a better listener and communicator.

I think if/when I move again, it will the top priority that I move somewhere where it is easier to establish a social circle with friendship support. It's almost as important the soul as food and water to the body.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Never ending journey of personal growth

I made an excuse that I wanted to pick up my bike, which was still at the ex's place, to which he heartily agreed. I then mentioned that I had no idea how to ride it back to my place (truth), and he agreed to guide me back. The journey was an hour long and the route was quite confusing, so I was very grateful that he was kind enough to guide me the whole way. We ended up hanging out at a local beach, a short boat ride, and then going for delicious dinner at a nearby hip Asian restaurant. It was such a fantastic day that I felt like I was a total idiot for breaking up with him.

Except the next day it was radio silence from him again. Oh yes of course,  now I remember: this behavior is the reason that I have been feeling crazy the past year.

I think I have a better understanding of why babies + toddlers cry so often. Every new experience in the world can be so uncomfortable and stirs up so much emotions! I think if I have met a few guys like the ex earlier in my life, his behavior wouldn't be such a big deal to me. I would be able to walk away very easily. However this is brand new experience for me. Someone is super nice to me and doesn't ask for anything in return: he must be interested in having a relationship with me, right? If I return the kindness he would like me better for sure? No, sadly that's not always true.

I think I have a tendency to sink very deep into my emotions over any major or trivial incident that triggers a deep reaction/emotion in me. Today I was quite depressed for a few hours, feeling very alone and lost. Somehow I managed to snap out of it a bit later. Compared to stuff happening in the world (Israel/Gaza conflict, Ebola outbreak, Russia/Ukraine conflict, ISIS in Iraq, etc. etc.), what's happening to me is very trivial. The thing is I am alone most of the time, so all I have are my emotions and my thoughts, which can hold me down by keeping me in my bed for an entire day, or chaining me to my desks for hours while not able to complete any productive work. It is very important for me to realize this tendency so I can find ways to try to snap out of it.

The same thing is true for all the big conflicts in the world though. A few sociopathic beings want to be in control of a group of people/a particular region/an entire nation. This thought leads them to acquire influence, money and resources to achieve what they want. They achieve influence by evoking people's strong emotions such that they can't think rationally.... hence they can get these people to give up their lives for some "holy" cause.

Guess what I'm trying to understand and to express is that thoughts and emotions are two huge forces that drive human behaviors and decisions. If I lived in a jungle or on the African plain, then my mind would be occupied by how to stay away from predators and how to acquire food. If I lived in a warzone then I would be preoccupied with survival strategies and maybe how to take revenge on those who are killing my loved ones. Since I live in a peaceful part of the world, I become obsessed with relationships and securing a good job. If I didn't need to work for a living and already have a loving husband, I'd probably still find something to obsess about, like how to make the perfect cupcakes or how to dress like the Stepford wife or something.

Some people think this is sad (the ex felt that way about me). I guess it's how I was raised (must strive for career and marriage). I've been trying hard to reprogram myself, but I don't know exactly what I am supposed to reprogram into. When I was really into yoga, I was a bit turned off by how obsessed people were with achieving that next asana. The whole diet and life style change, which are meant to improve health and maintain sustainable living, became more like expensive fads only rich yogis with a lot of free time could afford. Not everyone is like this, but I've certainly met a few yogis who felt they were better than other people because they have switched to a vegetarian diet and they chant regularly for peace.

I think perhaps the external conflicts in the world in some way reflects the inner disturbances in all of us. I don't know what are the solutions, but I must keep working towards calming my inner emotional storms, by examining all my mental habits and making changes when needed. It is extremely difficult. I would say my battles with my inner daemons, while not as significant or consequential as the wars in the world right now, are just as difficult to resolve.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Realization of the day: I actually love drama!

The weather has been absolutely fantastic. 30 degrees celsius, with cool breeze, dry air but not uncomfortably dry. Almost perfect weather, really, I try to enjoy it but have only been partially successful.

I tried but couldn't work at all the past week. Every day I had my computer scripts open in front of me, but I either jump to play sudoku, 2048, or I read up on articles after articles about relationships. How to handle break ups. Rocky relationships: should I save it or end it? Pursuer-distancer relationships. On-again-off-again relationships... Are they healthy? How to choose a romantic partner. How to let go. When Enough is Enough. X way to practice self care. N signs you are dating someone emotionally unavailable. When I felt like I had absorbed adequate information from reading, I went to Youtube and found a gazillion videos on relationship issues with even more info. How to behave to not push your guy away, to make them feel safe to commit in a relationship. Why are guys typically the distancer and women the pursuer, etc.

I've been reading Zee's blogs and in this one post the description of the girlfriend sounds pretty much like me, except I am 100 times more psycho than that. I wanted more time with my ex-bf and I wanted him to say he wanted to see me asap. In Zee's case he broke up with his girl friend because he felt his freedom was being threatened. In my case my ex mentioned he had become more mentally prepared with the idea of seeing me more often, but I broke it off anyways, because he didn't express that he missed me badly.

To be honest I am an intense person and subconsciously I actually enjoy the big drama that I ultimately created during the break up. Except I wanted to do these when I was in my 20s, not now. The videos kept saying, you shouldn't waste time on emotionally unavailable men and should instead date a lot until you find the right guy, and then be super patient and employ techniques ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP on him to lure him in, make him want to settle down with you without making him scared of commitment. F*** that! Dating the wrong guys is NOT a waste of time!  I totally wanted to serially date guys who are totally not suitable for long term relationship, to experience the soul-embracing passion, followed by earth-shattering heart breaks. Learn from my own experience and mistakes which characteristics makes a guy suitable or unsuitable for long term relationship rather than being lectured by some completely rational, wisdom-filled online relationship advice videos!

Unfortunately, my mom made it her primary mission to prevent me from experiencing that by constantly lecturing me that studying is a lot more important than dating, frequently advising me how to deal with rape situations (If you ever encounter a rapist, don't struggle and just endure it. It will all be over in a few minutes and you will still be alive). I seriously had the impression that my virginity would be taken by a rapist before I got the chance to meet and get to know someone I liked. Because the world is full of rapists! Your dad could be a rapist; your uncles could be rapists. Every man has the potential of being a rapist. In my 20s she switched her propaganda to "Forget job hunting and career development. You need to to find a husband NOW and get married or you'll be single and unwanted forever after you turn 30".

Since her teachings completely clashed with what I wanted in my life, I froze with panic at the prospect of dating anyone, because I did NOT want a husband at that point. I had no idea how complicated relationships could be, and that dating someone did NOT mean the relationship would advance to the stage where both parties would want to get married (mom always bragged about how every guy who courted her wanted to marry her at the 6 month stage). Oh and, every guy could be a potential rapist!

The drama relationship I've always wanted got postponed until my mid-30s instead, at the point when I am soaked with anxiety that if this particular relationship does not work out, I am on my way to becoming an old wrinkly spinster lady who eventually dies by being eaten up by her 100 cats.

I have no idea how my mad research on relationship skills led to this blog entry. I was going to talk about our communication problems, but of course communication issues are the root cause of pretty much every break up (duh!!!).  I guess while I have been analyzing what I did wrong, what my ex did wrong, whether or not I was more wrong, etc., I realized, while formulating this blog entry, that the universe had sent me the right person for this trial run (maybe 15 years too late, but better late than never, right?). This is because I am horribly lacking in terms of relationship skills, so that if I had been dating a guy who'd make the PERFECT husband for me, I for SURE would have messed up just as badly as I did this time, and would be crying for months or maybe years, doing everything I can to try to get him back, fail miserably, and slump into severe depression.

In this case, my ex and I had lots of chemistry, but we weren't really right for each other, but I treated him as Silly Putty and tried super hard to mold him into my ideal partner. He kept pushing back and putting up resistance until I got so frustrated that I had to drop him. I have been struggling so badly because I really did a ton of things wrong in this relationship (as I learned from the articles and videos), but hey, he's not the right guy anyway. But then I really miss him because of course if I didn't like him that much I wouldn't have bothered trying so hard for so long.

The drama has been a fun ride. I just need to end my emotional turmoil now so I can fully enjoy the last week of hot summer here (I don't know for sure but I'm treating it as such), before it becomes cold and miserable again. The days are already becoming shorter and I better treasure the rest of summer. Winter is coming (Game of Thrones quote)!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seeing an ugly side of myself I've never witnessed before

So.. the break up finally happened. It was like I planted a landmine for the bf to step on. I gave a suggestion that I didn't want him to take (and didn't expect him to agree to), but surprisingly he did, although not without making some derogatory comment first. That became the straw that broke the camel's back. So I blew up and it was all over.

Never in my life have I ever expected myself to perform this kind of unacceptable manipulative behavior. If anyone ever pulled one of these stunts on me, I would totally break up the relationship or friendship and stay as far away from that crazy asshole as possible. Now I know that crazy bitch secretly lives inside of me and so there's NO escaping ever for me.

They say that one of the red signs that a relationship is not good for you is that it brings out your worst behaviors, that you don't like how you act around that person. I always took it to mean that I can't express myself fully, that I feel like I'm walking on eggshells around that person, that I lower myself by acting like I'm always trying to please that person, which was what was happening during the relationship. I was NOT expecting to become manipulative and put someone in a lose-lose situation. I didn't even know I pull such a move until after the whole situation blew up. I never thought I was capable of that, but I proved myself wrong!

The final act was a truly terrible one. Unacceptable and totally surprising. I really didn't mean for that to happen. I realize I so desperately wanted him to behave a certain way that conforms to my ideal of a good boyfriend (say he misses me and that he wants to see me very soon) that I kept dangling carrots, candies and toys at him, even ones that I didn't actually mean to show him. When he refused to behave like I wished he would, I became frustrated, humiliated,  rejected, depressed, angry, furious, I went insane, I threw it all out at him, showing him the ugliest and craziest side of me. Somehow, insanely, I still secretly wished he would ask me not to end the relationship!

He's been very uncommunicative for a long time, and finally he told me what his deal-breaker was. It totally came out of the blue and made me scratch my head in total confusion. Like... this trait is the deal breaker? Not my manipulation, my bossyness, my insecurity, my clinging, my craziness, my indecisiveness, my unpredictability, ie. the long list of weaknesses I really hate about myself? I mean, obviously he doesn't like any of those traits either, but those somehow were not the deal breakers? It really showed how little I understood him, how utterly incompatible we actually are, but also explained why we stayed together for so long. Basically, his complaint was something that I really didn't think was important. I mean, I tried to work on it a little bit, but now I hear it, seems like I could not nearly achieve the level he wants me to be at. Basically I'm fundamentally not the kind of girl friend he wishes to have. But then again if he had communicated it better earlier I would have tried a lot harder. Don't know if it would have made a difference though. In my head I felt like my requests were totally legit (spend more time together, for him to express more that he loves me and misses me), but to him these demands are probably just as foreign. He does not have any friends who act like that and never in his life has he ever wished to become that kind of guy.

It's been a crazy ride. I don't for one minute regret this relationship, but the ending was so weird (we actually both agreed we still want to remain as friends). If I hadn't ended it, I don't think he would ever initiate the break up. In my head, the relationship should keep on progressing, or it should be cut off. Either you like me and you agree to work with me to make our relation function nicely, or let me go. It wasn't until the final talk where I finally began to understand his logic.  He would have been okay with all my craziness as long he kept our meetings relatively short, with enough alone time spaced in between the meetings. It totally made no sense to me this entire time we were together, because he never communicated what he's been thinking. I guess it wasn't necessary, since he had full control of how often we met. He had the upper hand in the power struggle. I was in the dark and put up with it because I was completely being controlled by my oxytocin (the desire to attach myself to him, spatially/physically and emotionally). But of course he also hasn't been happy either, and was relieved about the break up.

Very luckily, I have a group of girl friends who behaved exactly as I wish my ideal best friends would behave - completely supportive, non-judgemental of me, not asking any harsh questions (eg. "Did you do anything wrong on your part"), and totally on my side, saying all the kind words I wish to hear. I love these ladies to death. I don't know what I did to deserve these friends, and not sure how I could have survived the traumatic emotional roller coaster ride without them.

On the other hand, it also makes me wonder: am I just a total control freak, subconsciously aiming to build a social network of friends, family, lover and work colleagues who would behave as close as possible to a certain ideal I wish them to be? Is this what everybody else does as well, only accepting new people who think and behave the way they expect into their social circles, and try to keep out the ones who behave too far from expectations?

I'd like to think I'm more open minded than that, but I guess when it comes to really close partners/friendship, we would all like them to share some common fundamental values with us, along with some superficial expected behaviors. That's an important lesson I learned from this experience.