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 don't actively fight our pre-programming, we go on an auto-pilot 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.


  1. If I may, please allow me to make a couple of suggestions. I'm 63 years old and have pretty much gone through a lot of what you're experiencing. It's not limited intelligence that's holding back your scientific career but lack of focus and ambition. If you were really turned on by some scientific problem, you'd probably be on fire and wouldn't stop unless you found a way to do it. If it's just a job, as it was with me, it's just a job, and you little to offer that's special. It's also perhaps lack of opportunity. Most scientists, even the most intelligent, are spending their careers going up blind alleys. You only hear about the ones that ended up on a fruitful path of investigation. I was laid off in 1995, I don't know of anyone in my age group that didn't have some major disruption in their career and is still doing what they used to do in their early career. A couple got academic jobs, most are now underemployed, like me. It's the nature of science/technology work these days. Partly there are too many of us, I face too much competition from other ex-scientists in what I do, they're all over the place. I'd say find something you're good at and like doing that has relatively few people doing it, or at least there's some demand, that you can do on your own. Not easy I know.
    As for your people/relationship problems, you're like me there too, something common in scientists. I've never been in Sweden - always wanted to see it - but the conformity you describe would be hell on earth to me. I can't stand people like that. If you're an outsider and don't fit, it's to your credit, believe me. And there is a natural mating urge, but it's all in the body. The only reason to have a long term relationship is to have kids, or you met someone where you're truly compatible. That's a lot rarer than you think. There are some people who are really not suited to that life, so I'd say let go, if it happens it happens, if it doesn't, maybe you're not missing so much, especially if, as I suspect, your freedom matters to you.
    You're not the loser you apparently think you are. Just someone who realizes she's an individual and not a cog in a machine. Take it from someone who knows, that machine only leads to misery. Just my 2 cents.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Anonymous. You're right in that my core problem lies in lack of focus and ambition. I was a bit harsh on Sweden. Conformity happens everywhere, and usually one does not even realize he/she has been conforming to the way people in the neighbourhood think, live, dress unless one has moved to another city/state/country. Some expats have no problem settling down here and making friends. I just have to find an environment where me and my idiosyncrasies have a place to survive.