Sunday, December 7, 2014

Where do I fit in this world?

How does an introvert, somewhat ADD girl who works too slowly, gets distracted easily, has terrible social skills/communication skills, who tends to dislike most people fit in this world?

My contract is ending again. I feel like I'm perpetually worried about where to go next. In trying to understand myself, I have learn that I am disorganized, too idealistic and therefore not very good at putting ideas into concrete results. Hence I'm terrible at writing project proposals as well as making a manuscript. I am terrible at dealing with people. Seems like I don't get along with 90% of whoever I encounter. The 10% I do get along with are probably the most easy going and socially intelligent people in the world, which means they get along with 99.9% of the world's population.

I took up a technical job because I thought I could just hide behind my desk and just churn out good work + make a living out of it. But it turns out I am too inefficient. So far I haven't had a position where I am really good at what I do. Now I don't think I am stupid (low on EQ and Social Intelligence, but not IQ), but I probably aimed too high in terms of the type of job I think I can do.

I still think science is the right type of job for me. Unfortunately the current system does not allow people with my kind personality to stay in the field. Grad schools keep pumping out PhDs, who are eager to work for peanuts for a few years under professors as postdocs. Because of this, there is no reason to keep experienced scientist in your lab, because the salary goes up. Also, because of the funding structure, every job is temporary. I'm at an age where I want to settle down but I have no idea which country will allow me to stay for long term.

In addition, to survive in the research field, every professor is making their lab members work on 5 projects at once. I know the logical thing to do is to focus on one project at a time, but since I spent 6 years working on only one project, right now I have no idea how to juggle 5 at once. I am constantly stressed out, have no time to cook and exercise. This is really a terrible situation.

I really think I could use a retreat, but right now I'm using my vacation to visit family, which is more stressful than relaxing. My mother still doesn't get that I don't like her planning my life. It's her thing to force her offerings (presents, food, money, planning activities) on other people, regardless of whether they want it or not. You might think that, what's wrong with free things? Why would anyone decline free stuff? Well, nothing in life is ever free, even if it's offered by your own mom. Basically she wants you to be her slave if you dare to accept her presents. She would tell everybody how much she has given you. She would expect you to do favors for her at a time that's totally inconvenient for you. Sometimes she offers you something that is more a burden for you than a present. But she still counts it as that you owe her a favour. I'd much rather have my freedom than take her offerings.

Anyways, I need to find myself another job that would not make me want to pull out all my hair and cry about not being able to deliver. And I'm tired of moving around. Question is where should I go next. I'm too busy to do any serious job hunting. Perhaps over Christmas time.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Regrets and non-regrets

I don't regret moving to Sweden... I've learned so much about cultural diversity, human nature, and about myself while I have been here.

I don't regret doing a PhD, although I do regret doing it at the lab I was at (missed out on so much technical knowledge + breadth of the field, plus it was too long of non-productivity that made me sink into depression).

I don't regret meeting my ex-bf / current fwb, although I need a lot of strength + courage to move on to the next guy. There's a high probability I may never find anyone who is kind, honest, loyal, intelligent, comes from a healthy/loving family, and who wants to grow old with me.

I regret not being brave enough to start to date earlier (too cowardly to put myself out there and make myself vulnerable).

I deeply regret not leaving home sooner. I regret not figuring out sooner my family + extended family  are totally dysfunctional and have no sympathy for other people.

I regret not going away for college... I stuck with my acquaintances from high school out of comfort and barely made any new friends during undergrad.

I don't regret learning martial arts + yoga, and having encountered a lot of brilliantly smart and disciplined people during the journeys.

I regret being too cautious / chicken in general for so long. This has to do with how I was raised though.

I don't regret not having children, even as my friends and colleagues are popping out babies left, right and center. It was my own conscious choice rather than life circumstances. I do regret being single for so long. That was not a choice, but a consequence of being so scared of the world.

I regret having invested most of my life efforts and attention on homework assignment / studying for tests and not nearly enough efforts on building relationship / observing how society behaves.

I don't regret not becoming a medical doctor. I prefer doing research (ie. detective and investigative work).

I regret allowing my mom decide how my life should be.

I regret purposely dressing down and making myself as plain as possible for so many years, due to my mother's fear that there are rapists everywhere. It's not just about the superficial aspect of looking good. It's about building self-confidence, developing a sense of self-worth, feeling safe while residing in safe countries, and carrying an air of dignity to gain respect and trust from others.

I don't regret taking a taichi class, although I'm still not certain if I want to continue it next year.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

New apartment, new job... feeling unsettled

I have moved to a new apartment, finished the last travels of this year (at least until Christmas), so I'm hoping to settle down soon. Except my contract only lasts until March.

Taking a hard look at at my life,  it seems like my tendency is to force myself to do something difficult and miserable, hoping to have, in exchange, a better life with better choices down the road. The problem is, if I pick a wrong approach to deal with people or to do a task, then it doesn't matter how hard I push myself, how much time I spend on a project, at the end of the journey, I for sure won't end up where I want to be.

So now I no longer have a roommate. I kind of miss the social interaction, but actually I can only stand socializing with her for about 10 minutes, then her negativity starts to get to me. My fwb can stand me for about 24-36 hours, then I become too chatty/annoying for him.

I think like my roommate, I may never find someone who doesn't get sick of me after hanging out with me for extended periods of time. But I still have to try to look for one. It's difficult though, as fwb behaves like a superb bf when we get together, helping me move, cooking me breakfast, etc. One day I'll be strong enough to leave him and not cry every single day. But that day is not today.

The contract deadline looming, I need to apply for more jobs. Except I seem to end up applying for jobs I don't want that badly, and then I don't know what I should to do at the interview. All will work out in the end I guess.

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.