A Dreamless Sleep

 

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Isolations – Felicia Chiao

 

The past few weeks I haven’t been able to write, at least not for this blog. Work, homework, work, global pandemic, and more work have kept me from being able to sit down and put words on the page, to spread my thoughts across digital space in any meaningful way.

So what has happened in the course of several weeks deep into a quarantine?

Me sitting at my dining room table, on my computer, having to act as if the world wasn’t falling apart. Seeing fewer and fewer people as the streets become barren, all except those people delivering those much-needed packages to our mandatory hermits. The quiet returning to the city as the people stay situated in their homes. A silent panic that is not communicated in case it may carry the disease along with it. I’ve been watching the world pass by from that chair, day and night as I slowly lose sleep over all the work I’ve been saddled with. Spending my days in a with my eyes burning with no dreams to be found.

I can’t avoid the reality of my situation, but in the same way, I also can’t fully process it. The world is happening but it doesn’t totally fee,l like anything is really moving. Like a world in stasis, waiting for someone to call out surprise, just kidding, it was all just a ruse. But it’s not, none of it is, it’s not some illusion that will be ripped away with time. No, this is real, the damages are real, the people are real, the hurt is real.

I’ve been sitting here, staring at this screen, counting the pixels as the clock strikes 4 and 5am, knowing I should be sleeping but knowing I just can’t. It’s these dreamless nights that I’ve been experiencing because I have not time for dreaming. Life is going too fast and too slow all at once. Nothing is moving but I am still drowning in the work and the things going on. Coming up for air whenever I can but swallowing water just the same. People are scared and for good reason. Not just for themselves but for their family. It hurts, just for me but the people I know, not able to hug or to mend, not able to console or to grieve. It’s not just breaking apart society, it’s breaking apart community and thats the hardest part.

We fight hard against these waves that will keep us away from one another. Soon enough it will all be just a piece, of history we will tell our children. But here I am, at home, for another day, wishing for the world outside, knowing always it can kill me, just a little bit more efficiently this time around.

 

A Partially Quantified Life: (Hawthorne) Effecting Myself

 

The journey of self-improvement leads me to this, a task is given then expanded, accountability beyond refutability, what I have begun to do is track, and quantify as many moments of my life as possible.

In the 20th century, with psychology in its infancy so much wanted to be learned about the world and the workforce. Factories and manual labor were at an all-time high and factory owners and managers wanted to boost the efficiency of their workers to maximize the bottom line. Thus began a series of studies to monitor and record how much time it took for workers to complete certain tasks in telephone equipment production facilities. A strange thing occurred though, as the workers were being recorded by these new researchers their productivity went up. Initially thought to be the result of changes in the lighting conditions but when the researchers left so did this new boost in productivity. By simply recording what the workers were doing they become more productive. This was phenomenon was eventually named the Hawthorne Effect.

XXX years late I found myself speaking with my mentor about productivity. The conversation started as he wanted me to start tracking how much time a week I spend working on research as a mechanism to ramp up the productivity in the lab. Now through my struggles as of late it donned on me that I could even take this a step further.  I could track my whole life and how I spend my time to see where my inefficiencies are and why it seems that I can spend hours at work but never get done as much as I would like. Where were these distractions coming from, what was keeping me from fulfilling my purpose? Was I really doing as much as I thought I was doing in the first place?

Information is my tool, my mechanism for work and play but without data, I have no place to start and nothing to learn. I think we all feel that way, we seek out patterns in ourselves and others to understand our world and figure out what makes us happy (or at least figure out what keeps us from hurting). It’s in the investigation of those patterns that we come to a certain truth of which way to live optimally.  I’ve heard about life tracking before but never took the step to actually step into the void and allow myself to see the potentially uncomfortable truth about my life. I’ve been told doing this is akin to eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that I will become aware myself and the unsettling prospect of hours of my life I’ve been wasting. Of course, that is a bit hyperbolic but imagine the insight about these ugly moments of our lives we spend letting us by, making ourselves accountable to them. Those moments we spend scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter knowing full well that we shouldn’t be. Taking all those moments we take to watch, read, work, and play and putting them on a calendar for everyone to see.

These might be extreme measures in some regard as it requires a lot of extra effort to continue to plug away the activities in my life as they are happening but for the potential results I can put up with the extra unease and effort. My hope is that I can be both the researcher and worker in this situation, watching over myself so that I too can increase my productivity. See where I have time and where I don’t.  It will be a learning process but it’s the step I need to take to understand where I can be better. It’s another gaze into the mirror but one I hope will do me some good.

In A Search For Optimal.

 

 

I keep searching for this imaginary space where all work will get done, and distraction won’t follow. I look for this place, but as most fantasy, it lives in my mind away from any tangible space or time to fall back on. Knowing it’s ephemeral nature doesn’t prevent me from superstitiously try to align the stars to make miracles happen and work to get done. The thing about miracles is that most of the time, they require a lot of work and dedication for them to happen. Most of the time they don’t wait for the opportune moment, we work, and then they happen. The problem is, I waiting for a miracle to work.

It’s not a lack of tools or instruments. I have all the technology I need to run an army, truth be told, even if given the network of people I still wouldn’t get work done as I would like.  There is something to it, a piece I am missing, or at least that’s what I tell myself to keep validating the distractions I experience.  There is a simplicity to staying on task, a quiet I can’t seem to find. As I ease myself into doing one thing, a myriad of different tasks pop into my mind like a sea of red notifications on my phone.

It’s just to easy to avoid or be distracted. Too easy to take myself away from what I am doing because what I am doing is hard and distraction is easy. It’s easy to just pick up my phone an run away to some far off place where there is a lot less work and a lot fewer things to worry about.

It might be a crisis on decision, the ambiguity of what I should accomplish first as the tidal wave of ToDo’s crash down over my head and wash over me like hail on a cold winter’s day. It’s this threat of indecisions that drives the desire not to do anything at all. To continue to meander about, unable to accomplish the things I want to accomplish because I don’t have a plan or a means to understand the problem to begin with.

I need those quiet spaces for my mind to process all of which is going on. Problem being is that my mind continues to wander endlessly, intent on capturing all it can and never let it go. Like a net full of water and fish, one unable to distinguish between the two.

I know these are small problems in the grand scheme of things, but it plagues me because my body and mind are not working in the way I would like, disregarding my needs to favor of what is easy. It’s back to basics. Do the simple thing and maintain it. Cut down my problem into manageable bites.  I know how to recover from this, it’s just that it’s taken so long to realize it has been happening in the first place.

Progress sometimes is two steps forward and one step back. As long as I keep moving forward everything should turn out okay in the end.

 

Home (Bitter)Sweet Home

3 weeks, I was given 3 weeks to make good all on all the things I left behind. So for those few precious weeks, I haven’t stopped, not even for a moment, trying to jam in all that I can so that by the time I return home to DC, I feel full enough to make it those next several months without all their presence. From the moment I touched down, I have kept moving, to the point of tire, to the point that my eyes burn and my head’s gone fuzzy, sprinting, trying reach, touch, and hold onto anything and everything I have so longingly missed in my days across this vast land. It’s my days, counting them down like the New Years’ clock, moving desperately to try to hold off that zero-hour tic before the clock resets and, I start again.

I only have a limited time left here, cobbling together all that I can do, filling days with people, and unfortunately not a lot of work. Each day moving so quickly that it feels as if days are racing to the end along with me. A feeling emerged that this trip is both too long and too short.  That I am always counting down the moments, knowing that there is not enough time to settle myself, especially with no room to return to or a familiar place to lay my head. It’s been trying, both emotionally and physically, though I hope to find solace and closure within it. Ending the strife and getting the answers regardless of how hard it might be to hear them.

All in all, I am happy to be home but I just never realized how hard it could be to return. I’m battling time and emotions, but it’s a learning process, doing something that I have never done before. Never time will be easier as progress is made, and routine is established.

Soon I will go back to my home in DC. Reiterating that I have no problems with where I live now, in some ways I rather do like the space. It’s been hard, though, transition, as leaving the familiar, is no easy task.  Even then, I recognize that part of me was left here, under the grey and clouded sky of Los Angeles, a part left unresolved and wanting.  That’s what I am here to clear up so that when I go back I feel like it will be different, easier. The space will be more familiar as more who I am transitions with me. I am not starting from scratch anymore, I have friends and spaces I know to belong. More of me will go, and less will stay, but that’s life, and it keeps moving along with me.

For now, I will keep racing the clock, filling my time and making the most of the moments I have while I’m here no matter how hard they may become.

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 

At The Sight Of A Familiar Face

 

 

I… didn’t know how all this change would affect me, living so far from home, in a new place that, though it is growing on me, can be hard at times.  I think that’s why Thanksgiving was such a catalytic moment, both for my past and for my future.  It highlighted what could be and wasn’t, what should be, and what isn’t, how I am and who I thought I was.

Writing about this reminds me of a lesson I had long ago, one about the brain. You see, human beings are born with a special area in our brain devoted exclusively to identifying other faces. Lighting up beautifully when we see someone who is familiar, familiar eyes, nose, and mouth. Just as with anything we have been conditioned to, seeing a face can bring all these emotions to the forefront of our minds.  An inescapable subconscious reaction built upon years of experience and circumstance, so that when seeing it, emotions bloom into beasts and flowers beyond our control.

It was the happiness then of when I saw my family and friend who had all descended upon this weird stateless place for a visit. One connected to a weird set of circumstances where we all had reason to be at the same place at the same time. To see each other, to see the city, and refresh ourselves with something warm and familiar. A relief in this place that has had me going non-stop since I touched down, relief at the sight of a face, and all those worries melted away. Change is inevitable, and as the moments’ tick by fate plays it’s hand, after which it falls upon us to cope with there changes, adapt to this new world we find ourselves, sometimes surrounded by people and in others devoid of them. Either way, as circumstances presented themselves we ended up here together, and I can say that life would be a lot harder if that wasn’t true. It made me happy to see them, it made me remember who I am, and how this place sometimes makes me forget that. I was only a couple short days, but I appreciated them with all my heart. Though it marked a change in my life for my favorite holiday, it doesn’t mean that the change was bad, it just means that it’s something new.

We hold these new moments with the old which come together with a create a life.

Now as to why I might be mentioning this now of all times since it’s a lot closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving. This is because, in the last several weeks, I have been counting the days until I get to my home again, the one I left several months ago and seen since. A place filled to the plethora of familiar faces that I am excited to see. The relief of the return, even if just for a short while, will heal those wounds and worried faces, so when I come back, I can be strong once again.

I know it will be hard all around, but I’m ready. I am getting to understand the value of it all, piece by piece. I might be a fool because sometimes I have to go through hell to learn lessons, but I’m growing wiser with each passing day.

A Degree of Discordant Disorganization

 

 

You know the celebration and recognition of having written this blog consistently for the last 5 years should be a joyous one. One that comes with a sense of accomplishment to it, as that would mean for the last 260 weeks I have posted at least once a week. It’s though a bit bittersweet, as I am happy about the accomplishment but saddened by the inability to write the last week. This perfect streak of Saturdays was broken because of a lack of time and energy to write for such an integral thing in my life. My life has been getting busier but not in a good way, one that I know will pay off in the end, but I am finding the difficulty with the amount of work I have to do now, but that’s what I signed up for, and that’s what I will see through to the end. I can’t blame that for all of it though, part of me can’t keep it all together, all the things I need to do.  I am doing so much more work than I need to for the sake of moving forward. My life feels messy and undisciplined, disorderly, to say the least, so it’s time to start picking up the pieces once again.

It’s the pieces, broken and scatted like the shards of window from my car on that fateful night. One of those things I lost were the habits and discipline that I had built up for many years. One I learned and built up through the fires of frustration. Without that pilot light and the time to build that spark, all I am left are smoldering coals of once was that raging fire.

I want it to return, with me going through those all those motions trying to maintain that streak I previously had. It’s that tire that stands between me and it, that need to keep pushing forward through these unsettled months haven’t allowed me to catch my breath, and find that part of my soul I feel like I am missing.

The work keeps stacking, and I will get through it, but the difficulty I have with it directly relates to my ability to build those habits into this trying time. I may not have the moments, but I have the will to change. A will built into knowing if I can accomplish this, then I can continue stepping towards that dream I so dearly want, but without it, I will flounder and fall short of what my heart sets me out to do.

A Tense Stretch

 

 

There are sometimes when you can’t catch a break. That the world requires much from you, and you just can’t seem to give it all it needs.  I’ve found myself here, looking at the horizon both with for tomorrow to come but also dreading the loss of today. Here where my body tenses up with stress, not knowing where I should go.

I intend to keep this post short, having broken my streak in writing because of work and a conference, I need to return to the other tasks laid out for me.  I just find it so hard to do anything, the list of things to do has grown so large that each subsequent item makes my whole body feel as if it’s pushing hard against gravity. A feeling as if the world itself is turning in on me and attempting to make me implode. It’s then that I stall, feel like I can’t do it all, and that is when I know I must act. Must beat these feelings back.

This list has been made worse by life, needing me to take moments away from work. Though it’s my lack of strength to blame, I can’t help feeling like comfort has genuinely become my enemy.  I enjoy it, those moments away, but they make looking back at the multitude that lays before me all the worse. So there I sit, basking in that comfort, ruminating in that stress, building it up to this vicious monster it doesn’t need to be. It’s as large as my fears and as tough as my imagination, how can I defeat something like that? Piece by piece.

I just need to keep moving forward, keep working towards my goal, working to outrun these feelings because soon enough, I will get to a point where I can manage. If not now, I will grow strong enough eventually to make it, but for now, I have to keep moving. Whittling away at it until there is nothing more but rock and rubble. Even the mountains become rocks and rubble when coming in contact with the wind and the sea.

My tense body needs some stretching, my mind needs a break, but I have to keep on working to make it to the end of where I want to be. This tension will end, and I will be stronger for it, but to get there will be harder than I would hope. For now, I will end, knowing that with this, I have done one more thing that I had hoped to do. Good luck out there, we all have our monsters to fight, but as long as we are resilient and accept help, no beast can beat us.

 

 

In Beautiful Discordant Colors

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Regardless of much introspection we do, we will always miss things, things when made obvious make everything start to make sense.

It was a small observation a visiting professor made, a question about the words that I use, which made me think about my life here. It’s a simple us and them problem, words delineating those lines which I feel in my hearts. Their use can be so deliberate and at the same time, sub-conscious that your ticks and mannerisms become tells for something greater. It might not seem substantial when referring to a building on campus as “their” building, but when you know a little bit more about the way we use our words, it can mean a whole lot.

The second lab I was ever apart of was back in my undergrad did just that. They studied words in the context of relationships. How couples speaking to each other became the basis for determining the quality and connection those two people had. It was based on a long literature about word use and how depending on the circumstance can be a good indicator of your feelings. You might think this is obvious, of course, words would be a good indicator for how we are doing, what other way can we so easily express ourselves to another human being other than words.

Then my question is to you, what words are the most telling?

Are they the ones that are positively covered in emotional content, words like love, heartache, sadness, and misery. Sure these words are telling, but they never give you the full picture because by the time you get to them it’s already become clear something may be amiss. No, it’s theses simple words we use on a regular basis that expose us. Us and Them, Ours and Theirs, Me and We.

It’s simple then, among the things I am struggling with is the identity as a student here at this school.  My school. I don’t yet feel like it’s mine. It’s this feeling of being apart as if this place is a collage of many colors, and in adding my own, it becomes discordant. That my piece just doesn’t fit as I don’t know where it is to fit.  It’s being surrounded by people and coated in a kind of personal silence.

I’m trying, I really am. It’s hard not to miss my friends and that place I felt like I belonged. These places haven’t come to me easily, and so maybe I am feeling the burden of being away from it. What price do I have to pay to take place need from me to feel like my own?  What piece of me do I need to give it to save myself from this isolation?  It would be so much easier I didn’t need other people, need that substantial connection. That’s not how we work though, all my wishing will get me nothing except a painful absence in my chest.

It’s a slow and arduous process, so different than what I knew before. I think about this, deliberate as to where my role is in the lives of those people around me. Do I forsake myself to fit in, or do I endure and hope tomorrow shines anew? Is it I who am the strange one?

Things will get better as long as we work for it. I have to believe that or else I would lose hope and give into that despair that waits for me to fall at any given moment.

Will I Get Fat If I Eat Chocolates In My Dreams

You know I have been dreading to write this post, not because It would be especially hard to write but because I knew it would be wouldn’t be on the day I had intended on writing it. It’s been a long few weeks with a lot of classes and work that has taken me away from these essential extracurriculars. This writing is more than an exercise to me now; it’s a way to realign myself and capture my thoughts relegated to the time at which I had them. I feel bad when I don’t post, hence why I left this post blank for a while, as a means of a place holder, to give me no excuse not to write as it would tarnish the consistency of the blog. A work left undone that can only be rectified by finishing it. That being said, the inspiration for this post has come out of the collective struggle of those around me, whose of whom I love and hope the best for.


It’s the spirit of change that brings wanton heartache.  The long nights of unease and restlessness propagate this feeling of not knowing where I belong.  It’s in this realization that most places in this world believe that after a certain age, you are not to be taken care of anymore. Perhaps it’s the truth, that through all this supposed hand holding I am soft to the quality of needing other people, a reluctant truth I fight so hard against. No man is an island, so be it as it may, regardless of whether or not I feel strong enough to go it on my own that with other people, I will prosper.

But it was just so easy last time, a great fortune that with its absence, I feel unprepared. It’s left a hunger, one that has gone for the most part unsatiated in this new world of mine.  This is no fault of the place I find myself but more so the barrier of entry required to be given accessed the sweet social nector that is needed to sustain me is higher than I remember. Walls built in my mind that make reaching out and touching the tangable all the harder. Life is effortful so the experiences I have in it is in large part my responsibility, but the factors for my success are not as easily obtainable this time around.

I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I wasn’t able to lean on the relationships, I have cultivated over my lifetime. Talking with familiar faces and hearing nostalgic voices makes me feel that maybe, just maybe I can do this. It has restored me some semblance of normalcy, allowing me to get to work. To be all I can be.  I can tell you how humbling it is to realize how fragile we are, that eventually we will be weathered away to nothing if we don’t allow find protection in the raging storm.  I found a place to rest my head and find my bearings, only taking months of trying to find that balance, knowing full well how easy it would be tip me over and watch me fall.

That’s why it makes me so sad to see the suffering of my friends. Those of whom have embarked on their own journey outside my reach. I cannot cure all the ills of the world for the people I care about but to see them suffering from afar plagues me. Though I love the encroaching presence of technology’s ability to free us from the need of other people’s help, we have lost something though it, that ability to fulfill that human need to connect. Pushing it away like chocolate on a diet, we try to go through our lives seeing the indifference of our personal universes and proclaiming god to be dead the world to be terrible.  Quietness becomes that enemy when a few months prior, it was a trusted friend.   We find then, in introspection, we must be weak because of our inability to cope with this change. Weakness for needing other people. I dare say, that is not weakness, that is human. It is a calling out there that in your heart you want to connect, want to believe, and part of something more.

I tell you, you are not alone in this. You are not the only one feeling that way. We are not the first ones, we won’t be the last ones but together, it gets easier.  We are all hurting, struggling with this transition into a new world, separate from everything we’ve known, and that’s okay, it’s expected.  What we can do, by knowing this we is fight for ourselves, fight to reach out and build a foundation for ourselves and place to weather the storm.

If we need it, we need not wait to get it, we have to get out there and reach for it. We need to act against those little thoughts that tell us not to, that tells us that it’s bothersome to others. We have so many people that have chosen to be in our lives because they want to be.  Worrying about whether or not you should is like wondering if you will get fat by eating chocolate in your dreams, without action, it’s meaningless, who cares what those little thoughts say, what matters is you will be okay and we are all in this together.

Aimless

 

 

There has been this growing feeling of unease inside me, these past couple months have felt different than all those years before.  Something has shifted, aside from the accident and the mourning, it feels like something is missing.  This precious fuel source that drove me wild with want and need after all these years seemed to just dissipate after the accident.  Like ease or contentment has made me run on empty, slowed down my gears, made it feel like the tin man whose run out of oil, frozen. I had started to believe it was all because of these changes, but I realize there is something more going on.

Like a person in a field told to throw a ball at a target he can’t see, how can you possibly move forward in a meaningful way if you don’t know where you’re going? I realized recently that I’ve spent so much time on the goal of getting into a Ph.D. program that now that I am there, I have felt a bit aimless. I mean other than the small goals I have what else is driving me forward?

I need to reassess where I am and what I am doing. I have other wants and dreams, but they are much less clear to me. Like my desire to become a professor at a university and do research, but what type of university and where? Or how I want my life to look like after these five short and long years.

With no clear direction, how can I shoot for what I want?

I’ve spent time meditating over this, this idea of what I want and need out of life.  I asked the world to give me something reflect on, to show me the path and listened. Through my experiences, I was given the answer I was looking for.

First, I listened to a man speak about teaching, with much wonder and zeal.  He spoke of giving kids a chance to learn, believing in their ability to become greater than what they initially thought. That resonated with me, gave me a piece of that want I was so looking for.

Second I found myself to words of those around me speaking out about all these opportunities to work beyond the walls of research and educations. The ability to have rhythm and rhyme set by a schedule every day of the week.  These words tied knots in my stomach making me realize that a least, for now, it was not for me.

Lastly, I found myself talking so pleasantly with others about all these questions we still have left in the world, and I become excited and energized about the possibility of answering them. Finding those truths that will enlighten those who need them has always been the thing that empowers me most.

In the end, I did not come away with a clear goal but at least an idea of what I want.

I want to work in academia, researching people and technology. I want to get the chance to teach the next generation and give my passion for the subject to all those who listen. I want to be able to live life flexibly, throwing myself into my project with no time or place needed to contain me.

I wrote smaller goals to myself in place I will always be reminded, knowing full well things will change as time goes on, but for now I have a direction. A target. A place that all the world wants me to go.