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.

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.

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.

And So It Begins – The Golden Boy, Now Stateless

Just as a digression before I begin. A few years ago (when I was going through the Ph.D. interview process for the first time) there was a prospect of me moving to Dallas to attend school.  Though this opportunity didn’t end up bearing fruit there was a beautiful thought of being able to name a series of blog posts – The Golden Body in The Lone Star State – which other than being descriptive of both where I’ve been (growing up in California, and it being the Golden State) and where I was going (Texas is the Lone Star State) would have been a catchy title for process of moving away from home and being in a lonely state of mind.  Though reality ultimately it turned out for the better I did hope that wherever state I ended up in had a nice nickname to make a catch title. Low and behold I went to the one place in the United States that doesn’t have a state nickname… because it’s not a state at all, Washington D.C.  Maybe it was the world’s way of telling me that I need to try a bit harder on the naming scheme, but as it stands now, I’m Stateless.


 

 

I’ve been here for almost a month now, trying to find a home in a new place. Transforming these open spaces into homelike traces wanting so much to find where I belong.

All new things take time, the question is how much time should I take.  It’s easy of course when you have a place you’ve established, it’s easy when the reality is that you are only so far away. Everything is so new, and so different but walks around with the false facsimile of something familiar. You know, it’s a lot of effort to have the chance to find where I could possible stand. It has caused me to lay awake at night, unable to find a comfortable place to lay my head, yearning so much for what I’ve known. There is no break from that reality for me, I am here, and they are there. With thousands of miles of land between us, there is no illusion like there is with the sea, that you might just be there on the other side of the waves. Though we can edge that distance, the truth is that you or I can’t cross it completely.

It’s trying to find that place that is comfortable, which is hard for someone who at times doesn’t even like his own skin.  It was easier last time, I had a group of people that I was thrust into on an extremely regular basis, a community already established, and a community of many who wanted to connect just as much as I. Joined by as shared vision brought on by this beautifully temporary space, connecting not only in dream but in heart.

I didn’t need to prove anything to them, I came in with a much-warranted humility that I need to start from scratch. Start building up from where I was, though experiences not learned. I think my two years have given me a slight complex about wanting to show I’ve learned, to prove that I know, and to know that I am respected.  Respect takes time, it’s not handed out like candy but built like cake. Layer by layer. It’s partially because I’m scared that I use this knowledge to defend myself, to make it seem like I am competent and confident when in reality, I don’t know what the next step it. I’m shaking inside, retreating into my head, thankfully I’ve made friends there since last time, so it isn’t too detrimental.

It’s lonesome, though. I thrive when I am known, and here nobody knows me. I can’t say it’s all that bad, people are friendly here, living their lives to the fullest. Going from place to place with a mission and purpose, and all I’m trying to do is find where I fit in all this. Of course, if I would stop thinking and just do, then I would eliminate most of my troubles. If I were to reach out, and make reality what I want it to be, then I wouldn’t have this problem.  I need not regress to this shy person I was before, the one who didn’t know up from down and didn’t understand anyone including himself. Maybe it’s premature for all this talk now, but it’s hard not to the I’ve awake at night wondering where everyone else in the world is.

It’s a bit troubling, but I have to be resilient to myself. Now is the perfect time to become who I want to be and stand firm who I have been.  It’s that belief in myself that I need to renew and learn to power forward. If I am true to myself, then people will naturally gather. There will be some bumps on the road, but this is an excellent chance to reaffirm what I know and grow even more.

I can’t say it’s been easy, but who really want life to be easy. It’s too dull that way anyways.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Would If I Could

 

“The clouds are beautiful,” I think to myself looking up at that soft blue sky outside my window.  The moment though is brief as my brain can only resist the urge to work for so long before the guilt sets in. It’s sad to me that no matter what I do, I never capture these serene scenes for long enough. My mind prevents loitering on anything for too long, wanting to move on or delve deeper, so the appreciation of a moment is only that, a moment before I find myself moving my personal perpetual motion machine once again.

If it isn’t apparent at this point, I will state it plainly – I am terrible at resting – lingering only long enough for my brain to process and move on to the next thing.  I even tested last night with now avail, listening to some soft music in the darkness of my room only to find I was restless. Even with nothing to do but stare at the ceiling, my brain won’t just stop.  Instead though the desire to try and put a pause on my mind, I end up being filled with the meta-thought, “I just need to relax now.” That’s why sometimes I appreciate those things that make me lose myself for a moment. Those events or objects that have an incredible implicit draw to them that I can’t help but be swayed by their influence. The ones where I lose hours without realizing. Maybe what I need is someone to bash me over the head every so often to let me sit still for a while. Even then though I am sure, I would feel guilty after waking up.

After my accident, I made friends with the thoughts, working in tandem towards a speedy recovery. The thing is, if you thought I was talkative, you should hear my brain. It prattles on nonstop about everything.  It keeps me on task, and remembering all the details but even when I am supposed to stop thinking it keeps going. Maybe that’s just me and how I am built, but it makes me wonder if that is at all healthy. It can’t be good for it to keep running all day nonstop. Though I am sure it has the stamina of a marathon runner at this point, it doesn’t change the fact that it shouldn’t be running marathons all day.

Either way, soon I will be thrown into the thick of it again, working day and night for my dream.  With all this work, I hope I have enough time to stop and rest so that I may not become burnt out from all this effort. Sometimes I wish that my brain would take a break, not for me, but for itself.

 

March Towards Matriculation: Eight March – Behind The Starting Line

 

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Before Light by げみ

 

It’s not lost on me that a week from now I’m going to be in a new place, surrounded by new people, starting a new stage of my life. It’s surreal, how my supposed to understand and react to this thing I’ve never done before. As time slips the issue of not being able to see or respond the coming changes is mounting.

So let me try to be as honest as possible. Explain how I’m feeling to the best of my ability. A lot is going on in my head, too much, so much so yet it feels like I’m running around without it, frantically trying to find my way without knowing where exactly that is. I don’t know how to feel, what to do, going through the motions and yet nothing seems real, just a whole lot of effort for what I hope will pan out.

Is this is what adult life is like?  The part that of experience most people say is terrible. I realize that being an adult is being made to do things that really I don’t want to do, making me confront things I don’t want to feel, and experience things I want to avoid. It’s effortful, and not a fun effort, just effort for efforts sake. It’s just so confusing, navigating the halls and structures set by men and women I never knew.

It’s hard because I want to be a beacon that lights the way for others. Show how it’s very possible to follow through without issue or at least with a certain sense of grace. I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. I’m making it up as I go. There are worries manifesting, leaving my mind at ease but my soul in torment.

I have these two incredible forces pushing and pulling. One of them being my past, this part of my life that I feel is going so well and in some parts don’t want to leave also hasn’t given me enough closure to say “I’ve done enough.” The second, the future, this amazing thing that has never happened yet. The alure makes me want to keep it as perfect as possible as long as possible because the possibility of everything that could happen will happen is exciting. These two forces with swirling around, like a hurricane with me sitting in the middle waiting to be consumed by the rain.

It’s going to hurt, and of course, I’m scared. If possible, I would want to bring everyone with me. Unfortunately, that’s not how this works, one has to leave to come home. I do, though, find solace in the great stories of old, where great men and women who go to long journeys facing the rising of the unknown of monsters, mayhem, mysteries, magic. Without stepping beyond the where comfort, I could never return with stories of my own. My life would just be a story about someone who never left, never went out into the world, and never knew what life had to offer. For me, it was inevitable. I was going to leave at some point, I knew in my heart of hearts down to my very soul. All I can do is brave the storm, and be honest and open to the change along the way

By the time next week rolls around, who knows, maybe I will feel different.

March Towards Matriculation: Seventh March – Numbered Steps

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Numbered days and long nights, I push forward trying to squeeze in what I can into these finite moments before I leave. Things are real now, wanting me to act soon, start to pack away the memory of these two years I’ve accumulated that have manifested themselves into physical objects on my desk.  I don’t know where to start, not because I haven’t moved before but my heart wishes that I could pack up things up so subtly that I don’t even notice the boxes piling up in my room.

I delay, find a distraction, like a child foolheartedly trying to keep their parents from knowing its time for them to go to bed. Time will come eventually and me shying away from this only takes away from the time I could utilize for other things. I keep a careful watch on the time because it seems to be sprinting from me, losing minutes, hours, and even days to the ever-increasing current that is my departure.

I’ve been busy, making my steps count in a way that both tires me out and uplifts me at the same time. I’ve been fortunate in having the opportunity to see those around me with their busy lives take the time to meet with me to send me off with a fond farewell.  It’s hard to try to synthesize all that needs to be said for closure. It feels like when you have your favorite meal in front of you, knowing full well you won’t be eating it for a while,  so bite after bite you try to savor the taste of hoping it sticks with you and fills that craving you might have in the future.

I don’t think it makes me sad to think about these things, it’s more just a reality. I am leaving to grasp the opportunity which I had been working towards for a while. I think what I’m most troubling is that I fear that with me leaving I will be as warm handprint on a cold rainy window, doom to fade into memory until there is nothing left.

Heat And No Sleep

So much is going on, tasks, work, all the things culminating in my eventual departure to the east coast, I seem frozen in all this heat, hoping to slowly to melt away and feel whole again.

I’ve come upon this tire, one I can’t seem to shake with any matter of sleep or rest.  Part of me knows that it’s not all physical. I am coming against these feelings that I am not dealing with.  It just seems like it’s too much, that if I put them off for a bit longer than maybe I can stretch time into infinity and leave behind these feelings that I need to face. That’s the thing with finite things, as you get closer to the end of them we try to save each piece we have, using them so sparingly that by the time we run out we have become so satisfied with so little. Time kind of feels like the end of the bottle, sipping where I used to gulp, savoring the drops as they hit my tongue hoping to go that I won’t get thirsty again.

It’s in this heat that perpetuates this feeling of stiffness, a desire not to move or do anything. Just to rest quietly in the shade waiting for the world to turn and the cool weather to come but I feel this aching like a sword in my brain keeping me from really finding a comfortable place to rest my head.

I have less than a month left now but so much to do. Falling by the wayside are things I wish could have happened once summer began but time and life have sung a different tune moving me away from what I have so fervently agreed to because of a desire built on wishes made before the heat had come. I will find my peace, the cool that will bring me back to where I want to be but for now all I wish for is to lay down and wait for the breeze to come.

March Toward Matriculation: Sixth March – A Call For Closure

 

When faced with the dramatic inevitability of monumental change, the necessity for closure becomes tied directly to the ticking of the clock. Life’s scale becomes a tangible, finite figure asking for motion or silence, telling you that whatever happens is in some way, locking itself into a certain state of being. Not that life works that way, but it feels like there is a sort of stasis, a checkpoint reached. It’s when the world takes a picture to capture a moment, a being of self that can look back readily without provocation and not wonder but know where we were during that period of time. Life has an inevitability of change, but as moments pass and memories are made comes the realization that opportunities are fleeting and those we hope but wait to capture fly beyond our reach. It’s then our responsibility to capture these moments when the opportunity arises or forgo them forever coping with the unquenchable curiosity of a question that lives in our hearts.

It’s in this change that I am looking back on the memories that I’ve had, the moments that have shaped my existence with the realization that the things I haven’t done have shaped me just as much as the things I have. I’d like to say that I’ve lived without regret, but that would be untrue in some ways, living without them is so hard, especially when learning to live a proper life. It takes courage and tenacity to do so, traits only tempered in the memories that can so scar us like a moment not captured. Regret may not be the right word, as I have come to terms with these moments, having realized that they are essential to my very present being. No, it’s more like reflecting on an old scar or wound, wondering then if it is possible for them to heal fully without losing what they represent.

Maybe it’s a sense of nostalgia, one that is tugging so tightly against my heartstrings hoping that things would change and wondering where all those moments went. I have found myself dreaming about that time machine that we all envision, one that lets us go back to moments in our lives allowing us to relive them, retry them with the memories and lessons we have learned since then.  To go back to a time with the self that knows better, or at least is stronger than the person we were. We would see anything different with the power of perspective gained from a hard-fought self-awareness? Would we allow ourselves to go farther, stretch out longer, or perhaps utter those words unspoken?

Like an old friend, I walk with these moments in a comfortable silence knowing that though life has passed, and there are somethings lost, there is more ahead than there is behind me. A journey is only as sweet as the challenges we experience needing these bumps and bruises to mark our growth. What hero could ever return home triumphant without overcoming something?  I look back so I can look forward, knowing I will change.  I hold these little questions in my heart, filling it up so that there is already too much in there to let these moments pass me by again.

In the end with Coping or Closure, when given the choice it’s always better to do something than nothing at all.

March Toward Matriculation: Fourth March – Busied Steps On A Windward Path

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It always happens, when the time finally frees up all of a sudden I get busier than before.  Maybe it’s a miscalculation on my part with the amount of work that I’m doing, but Summer and Winter seem to be those times of the year where everything starts to move again.

The problem being it’s a lot like triage, where I have to figure out where the priority should be and what I should be working on any given day. Like trudging through snow, every step is labored, and all I wish I could do is sit down with a sweet drink and relax for a little while.
Progress is slow, but progress is still progress. I mean not to put off anyone, but this is what I get for being so involved, people rely on you to get stuff done. People keep telling I should take a break and disconnect for a while. That’s not my destiny, though, nor should it be.  Work is part of who I am, regardless of what I am doing at least I am doing something.  There is a fear though that with all this marching that I am going to burn out before I even make it. I don’t know honestly, I haven’t really burned out before, but I’ve gotten that nagging feeling where my muscles become tense my brain grows dull from the lack of extracurricular stimulation.

I don’t know if I can reasonably disconnect, it’s been such a long time since I’ve done so. I presume it would take a lot to distract me from the comings and goings of the world back home with unfounded anxiety burrowing into my brain causing me to become preoccupied with things I can’t even control.

Right now the days might be getting longer, but they feel like they’re all too short.  It’s only a couple months away from me being gone in some far off place that is more indifferent to my arrival, and yet I still feel like in the thick of home still drawing me in.

I wonder when these bonds will loosen, it could be when I start to finish things, and perhaps that’s why I’m having such a hard time doing so.