Project 14 – Day 14: My Worldview

Day 14 is the last day of this project that has spanned nearly 3/4 of a year. These are generally the underlying principles that I use to govern everything I do; everything else until this point has been trying to figure this one out.

So… the last blog post was a doozy, but this one is going to be even harder. Still, I want to try and get this right, even though done is better than perfect.

Everything I’ve written until this point has been to figure this one out. I want to understand how I view the world, what my biases are, what my core beliefs are, and what I can do to move forward. To avoid cognitive dissonance, I want a framework with which to judge my actions and keep myself accountable, and to be able to compare my actions and beliefs with my world view, and ensure they’re consistent. If they’re not, I want to be able to decide whether my action, my beliefs or world view needs to change.

This would be easier to write to my little sister or my future children, because for them, I’d want to be better than I am. However, at 20, when my little sister is half my age and children are not even conceived (and won’t be for a while), I’d be missing so much more of life before I wrote them one of these letters; I just don’t feel knowledgeable enough to write it and not feel like a fraud. I hope if they do ever read it, though, they think about it and maybe take some uncut gem of wisdom from it. Instead, I’ll write it to my younger self, when I was just starting high school. While I may not know life well enough to give  my future children or my little sister advice, I certainly know myself well enough to know that I really could’ve used it. So without any more ado…

Dear younger me,

This is your older self, writing with all the wisdom that hindsight gives (which might admittedly not be very much, but it’s more than you have now).

Congratulations! You just finished middle school, and those were two hard years. High school will be a lot easier, but University will be much harder, especially if you continue the way you’re headed now. I’m proud of you, for fighting depression and ridicule and never forgetting how to laugh. I’m proud for truly enjoying what you were learning, and stretching your own pedagogical wings. I’m proud of you for everything you’ve done until this point in your life.

Now put it away.

Why? Because you’re arrogant. At 14, you think you understand the world, and you think you have it all figured out. Your world view is as solid as the Berlin Wall on August 13th, 1961, and as arbitrary as if you’d posted all of the newspapers of the world on that wall and blown paint at them, then chosen whichever opinions were the most colourful. You believe that you’re naturally brilliant, that you work hard, that you’re naturally adept at math. You believe in feminism, but you’re uncomfortable with LGBT rights, you’re vaguely uncomfortable with lack of real female role models in the books you read and the media you see, and you never blink at subtle sexism and patriarchal condescension, even though that’s what affects you more; you’re too blinded by the red you see when people tell you you can’t do math because you’re a girl that you’re not offended when everyone expresses their surprise that a girl has received top honours in a math contest (but you’re Asian, so that explains it). You’re racist, not in the you dislike any race kind of way, but you’ve just spent your whole life with smart Asian kids, and so you assume that even though there are exceptions, smart Asian kids are normal, and everyone else is… well, normal (Heads up: The smartest guy you will ever meet is white, and it will take him to knock you on your ass about your racial prejudices. But that doesn’t come for a long time). I could keep going.

You’re not a bad person, you’re just ignorant. And it will take you a while and years of cognitive dissonance and growth to move past these biases, and maybe in the end they still crawl like bugs in your subconscious at times. So, in the interests of speeding that up and saving myself years of confusion, here’s a new world view for you. Accept your opinions as just that, opinions, and not a solid paradigm to which you should build your world view.

First of all, nothing is certain. That scares you, because you like certain (I still do like probabilistically certain). You have to just do the best you can with the information you have, and then adjust accordingly when you have new information. I understand, you want to be a corporate lawyer when you grow up. You’re so convinced you will become one. You have the grades for it (as much as you can have good grades in middle school), all of your friends say you’d be good at it, and wonder of wonders, your parents also approve. But understanding more about law, who you are, and what you like doing, you’ll come to understand that it isn’t law that draws you, it’s the ability to wield power, tackle real challenges and make real solutions. Law’s still on the table, but, now, so is Finance, Actuarial Science, and Tech Development, and whatever else you might prove suited to down the road.

The corollary to this is garbage in, garbage out. You need to constantly learn so you can always reevaluate what you’ve done and thought and adjust accordingly. You can’t just ignore facts; they’re still there, even if you hide under your blanket, bring a flashlight, and enough batteries, water, food, and books to survive the apocalypse. You would’ve never considered the deeper nuances of paternalism until you explored your ideas further, nor would you have accepted that women are not always the injured party (just a large percentage of the time), that taking advantage of gendered stereotypes are wrong unless you had them thrust in your face. You can’t just accept information that proves you right, either; you have to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. There’s no point in ignoring the fact that you love math and sometimes abhor boring research where you don’t understand some words; it might mean you’d be a terrible lawyer, even if you believe otherwise. Yes, your opinions will become long and complex and unwieldy, but life is long and complex and unwieldy, so deal with it.

You also need to accept that sometimes you will screw up despite you doing your best, because you don’t have all the information. Don’t be paralysed by this; instead, take it as a license to make mistakes and learn from them. Done is better than perfect. I wish you’d taken more time to properly practice your piano, instead of dodging the practice time because you sounded like a sugar high chinchilla scuttering across the keyboard of chopstick stilts. There aren’t a whole lot of things you don’t believe you can fail, but I wish you’d done some other things, if only you weren’t too afraid to fail.

Your ability comes from hard work, not because you’re naturally gifted. I have bad news; four years after you get perfect in a math contest, you’ll go on to do terribly on the last, most important one. Why? Because you haven’t studied, you’ve done the bare minimum in Math class, and while you’re still not doing poorly, you haven’t put the hours and hours and hours of practice that you did in grade 8. You attributed to natural ability what is actually the result of reams of finished math sheets, millions of pages written, read, and thrown away, and hours of thinking. Don’t also forget that you also come from privilege. your parents can afford to pay for you to learn what you want and do what you want. You were born in a relatively advantageous society and you grew up in one of the richest, fairest countries in the world. You are beneficiary of millenia of collective learning and discovery. Nothing you can do is natural except your ability to make it seem so.

I think by accident, you do get one thing right about Politics: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a good thing. And yet you still miss the mark on it. You least like section 1: the reasonable limitations clause. You used to complain that the charter said it could restrict your rights and freedoms before it told you what it’s rights and freedoms are. It’s actually the best part of the whole thing, because it allows people with conflicting rights and freedoms to coexist. Reasonable Limitations are a good thing, and whether or not their reasonable needs to be examined on a case to case basis (Look, the law even did the thinking for you on how to judge reasonableness). For example, everyone is free to have their own opinions, beliefs, desires, dislikes, and thoughts. Their freedom to act and express and impose their opinions on others is a whole other matter.

Finally, everyone has a different paradigm. You’re naive and sheltered, and fourteen when it comes down to it. You think everyone thinks like you, and you think everyone does good your way,  has the same standards and mores, and if they don’t, they’re stupid or wrong. But differences of opinions is the price we pay for not being a hive mind, and by understanding that, you’ll have a huge advantage. Better yet, learn to understand other people’s paradigm, and the world will make a lot more sense. Learn what other people consider good and bad, what their biases are, what their motives are, how to earn their respect, and what they value. Better yet, learn your own paradigm first. Paradigms are the key to ruling the world (I know you want to, I still do).

I already know what your story looks like many years down the road. It’s not bad, and I don’t know that these lessons would’ve helped you much; you had to learn these the hard way; I’m still not done learning and relearning these lessons. Still, I wish I could somehow take the different in experience and thinking between you and me that’s fermented over the years, and remove the bitter tears and acrid pain and sour disappointments to distill it into a liqueur of knowledge and experience. I don’t know what it’d taste like though; probably still bitter and acrid and sour, and you’re too young to drink anyway.

With love,

Terra

So, in writing to myself, I think my world view has clarified itself. It wasn’t easy; it reminds me of a chapter in Thee Writing Life by Annie Dillard, where she talks about vision and how the writer is a different person by the end. I feel old writing this, but I’m really too young; I guess the advantage of youth is plenty of time to refine and understand, whereas the advantage of age is a great store of experience already.

In a few succinct heuristics:

  1. Nothing is certain
  2. Garbage in, garbage out
  3. Done is better than perfect
  4. Nothing you can do is natural
  5. Reasonable Limitations are a good thing
  6. Paradigms are the keys of the world

Fourteen days of writing and a life time of thinking, reduced to six points. Maybe it’s too simple. Then again, maybe it’s not.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.

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Project 14 – Day 12+1: My Beliefs

Day Twelve plus One is about why this day is numbered day 12+1.

So for the previous few days, I’ve had a blog post loaded and ready to fire off to the unsuspecting masses every day, but I’m struggling to write the last two. I did take the weekend off and enjoy being a tourist in my own town, but for the most part, I’ve experience a slight writers block; let’s call it a “half-brick on the path of the bicycle of [blogging]” (redacted from Terry Prachett).

It’s not really writers brick about what to write. I’ll tell you about my superstitions, my political beliefs, religious beliefs, and why I’m a feminist. It’s only I’m hesitant to put these down in words. My beliefs will change with my experiences, and while I think they’re mostly formed today (some more than others), I don’t want to fall into the trap of becoming complacent. I don’t want to grow comfortable with the superiority of my beliefs, and not realize that they don’t reflect the changing reality or my changing identity. Probabilistically, these beliefs (except potentially my political ones) won’t change, because they reflect my much more static world view (More about that tomorrow). Still, if this project is meant to help me see myself clearer and establish a starting point of my adulthood, I suppose I should write it all down, good, bad, and ignorant, even if it will make me cringe rereading it. It’s not like none of my other posts don’t.

My political beliefs are the most likely to change. In the days of Mulroney and the old Conservative party, I probably would’ve supported and voted for them. Let me just clear one thing up for those who may not know:  the political right in Canada is still left of the political left in the US (most of the time). Canada was the fourth country to legalize gay marriage, we don’t have laws criminalizing abortion outside of high medical professional standards, universal healthcare and pretty even public funding of schools is a given, and we have a rigorous and pretty good Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Of course we’re not perfect; Canada’s continued human rights concerns include uneven public funding for religious schools, and we have a checkered record in the past that includes Chinese head tax, Aboriginal Residential schools, and Japanese and Ukrainian internment during the World Wars. That being said, a lot of the liberal societal issues being debated and opposed in the US (like obamacare, same-sex marriage, and abortions) seem to be ridiculous to us because those debates are over in Canada (for now).

That being said, I might’ve been a Mulroney supporter because I do believe in lower taxes and I do believe that free trade is a good thing. I don’t always agree with the substance of Liberal or NDP spending (our two left wing parties) because I think sometimes they promise the world and don’t find a way to pay for it, or their priorities don’t line up with mine.

However, now, I am, emphatically, not a Conservative party supporter. Absolutely, positive, no-way-in-hell, you-couldn’t-pay-me-to-vote-for-them-and-anyways-that’s-illegal not a conservative. I do not support the Harper Government (as they rebranded themselves in 2011) at all, and I wouldn’t vote conservative even if I liked the candidate (which I don’t) because then the party would get money and potentially another sycophant.

I have a whole laundry list of reasons why, and I’ll post it later, but it essentially boils down to I think Stephen Harper’s government has a power complex where Canadian Citizens work for the government’s benefit, and not the other way around. I don’t trust his foreign policy (Under his reign, Canada lost much of it’s international clout), I don’t trust his scientific or environmental policy (The mismanagement of the closure of libraries, StatsCan, and quietly drawing out of treaties), I don’t trust his social policy, I don’t think he has any respect for the core legal institutions of Canadian government, and I really don’t trust his commitment to transparency and accountability.

Despite how much they like to tout it, I also don’t trust his economic policies. I think most of them have been gimmicky, like eliminating the penny and reducing GST, and while his government has had a few good ones, like tuition rebates and TFSAs, I think that the Harper Government (as he prefers to be known by) is too easy to take credit for things that weren’t his doing (like the lack of a MBS meltdown in Canada) and too quick to gloss over the icky numbers (like the cost of the F-35 planes). I also don’t think his cut taxes policy is any freaking good. As much as we all like to think cutting taxes equals more growth, it really doesn’t. It’s a nice idea because we’d all like to pay less taxes, but I really like John Green’s sentiment on why we pay for public schools even if we don’t have a kid in the system: “I pay for your schools because I want you to grow up and make my life better.” Same thing with taxes. We pay taxes so everyone has healthcare, a good justice system, national defense, and generally a good country. To me, it doesn’t make any sense to compete internationally with lower corporate taxes either: any business student knows that competing on price in the long run doesn’t help margins, whereas competing on value is. To me, that means investing in good infrastructure, having a competitive, but not necessarily bargain basement tax rate, reducing employer costs by having a robust healthcare system, and having a highly educated, very skilled workforce that not only make good employees, but good consumers. Tax cuts to companies or tax cuts that don’t benefit the middle class, like Cap-gain tax cuts, don’t trickle down; instead, they increase inequality, and don’t increase spending.

I don’t deny that Harper has done some good, the Tax Free Savings Accounts, Tuition rebates, and ensuring liquidity during the financial crisis being some examples. However, in my eyes, that means he hasn’t roasted the country, he’s only started the bonfire and spun the spit; the things he’s done wrong far outweigh the things he’s done right. I have no idea who I’m going to vote for instead. While I’m more in line with liberal ideology, I think Trudeau doesn’t seem to have the political acumen or the ability to return Canada to prominence on the international stage. I don’t agree with some NDP initiatives, and I don’t think either party knows how they’re going to pay for the things they’re touting. When it comes time for election, I will be following the races very, very closely. But I know for sure, I’m at least ABC (Anybody But the Conservatives).

Another reason I really don’t like the Conservatives is because I am a feminist. I’m not a bra-burning, man-hating feminist any more than your average Christian is a Westboro-Baptist Church member, but I am a feminist. I believe that, while we’ve made huge strides forwards in confront overt sexism, benign sexism and a patriarchal society are still problems.

I don’t believe that we’ve reached equality when rape culture is still a thing; men are still ashamed to come forward because being raped “doesn’t happen to men” and rape is more a PR problem than a crime.  I don’t believe that we’ve reach equality when people are still punished for contradicting gender roles; Girls are afraid to be assertive lest they be perceived as bossy and boys are afraid to cry lest they be perceived as unmanly.  I don’t believe we’ve reached equality until we equally value parenthood and employment; paternity leave is still not a thing men will take, professional women are “mommy-tracked” because face-time matters more than results, and stay-at-home parents and professional mothers are equally reviled for not devoting enough time to their kids or not working hard enough. I don’t believe pay equity is achieved until women and their employers both expect a female employee to negotiate as hard as a male employee would for the same position, and we no longer get paid 19 cents less an hour. I don’t believe we’ve reached equality until all families are valued, not just the dad-bread winner, stay-at-home mom one. I don’t believe we’ve reached equality until women aren’t just mothers and daughters in political discourse, they are voters and Canadians with a voice and equal concerns.

I could keep going (and probably will in a future blog post), but that’s the gist of it. I don’t think Stephen Harper’s government has done anything to support any of my concerns. They replaced a carefully negotiated universal daycare system that would’ve benefited dual earning households and single parents with a paltry $100 tax credit, which low income families who earn so little they don’t pay tax can’t take advantage of. They cut a lot of funding for women’s groups when they first came into power, and changed the rules so that organizations that provide services, like abuse shelters, can’t also do advocacy work (because obviously organizations that see the harmful effects of domestic abuse shelters shouldn’t be allowed to advocate for the victims. Obviously). They excluded abortion from their foreign maternal health funding. Perhaps, most egregiously to me, they cut the Court Challenges program, which provided funding for ordinary Canadians to go after their charter rights in court, as part of a program to “trim the fat.” Because it’s wasteful for average Canadians, not the only the ones who have the means and are thus probably not disenfranchised, to hold their government accountable to the underlying rules of Canadian democracy. Obviously. The CCP issue isn’t that simple, of course; the group became less and less transparent as to who received funding, but the transparency problem should’ve been addressed; the whole program shouldn’t’ve been scrapped. It’s a really troubling trend in the way the Harper Government rules.

As I said before, these are my beliefs now. I’d like to see them change, and I do welcome evidence and proof and logical arguments otherwise. I do tend to ignore people who just say “You’re a big fat liar” or “You’re a leftist schill” or “What a bitch” because let’s be serious, as an overly outspoken girl most of my life, I’ve heard it all before. Show me trends, evidence backed argument, and numbers, and I might agree with you and shift my opinion or I might argue further about your methodology. But I do welcome discourse and logical dissenting opinions, preferably polite ones, but not necessarily because I do understand that these are politically loaded statements. I’m still looking for more things Stephen Harper has done right (Done, not said).

Whew. Okay. Now for a less contentious issue: religion!

I currently identify as an agnostic; I wasn’t exactly an atheist, God just never was a thing in our home. My parents were both raised on Confucian ideals, and they disagreed on communism ideology, so they basically just raised me in the “Do right for the sake of doing right” manner, and religion and God and higher powers were just never part of the conversation or the reason. Agnostic is generally defined as the belief that the existence of God is unknowable, which pretty much sums up my belief in God.  I try to live my life according to the golden rule: I try to treat others with dignity, respect and kindness if possible, as I’d like to be treated with dignity and respect and kindness if possible. It doesn’t always work out; I have a short temper, I tend to rely on heuristics and become arrogant, and I have little tolerance for what I perceive as idiocy. I’m no where near perfect, but I will try and keep trying to the best of my ability, and I think that’s all any God can ask. I developed my own moral compass and world view by thinking, and trial and error (It wasn’t always pretty; I’ve done things I’m not proud of).

I’ve recently started attending a Christian church, which might seem a bit strange, but I’ve done it for several main reasons, none of which is my boyfriend. My brother figure actually started me down the road.  I guess my core reason is because I happen to agree with several (but not all) of the core moral tenets of Christianity, and it’s nice to have that community and positive crowd reinforcement. Plus, I’m curious. After all, even if the existence of God is unknowable, he or she might still exist. I still have rather uncomfortable disagreements with the theology and dogma of the Christian Faith, but the church I attend is fairly accepting and welcoming.  I guess in the parable of the prodigal son, I am the neighbour peering at the window, wanting to join into their celebration. We’ll see how I feel during the uncomfortable family dinners afterwards, though. We’ll see if I ever convert or stop identifying as agnostic; this is an experiment I’m conducting with eyes wide open.

It feels kind of weird to talk about my superstitions in the same article I talk about religion and politics, because it’s really trivial. I’m not putting them on the same order of magnitude, but I’m taking a snapshot of my mind, I guess, and this is one of the kookier parts for a logical, analytical, mathematically minded person. I’m really not sure why, but I don’t step on cracks, I don’t break mirrors, I never say good luck to an actor, I lift my feet every time I cross railroads, I throw spilled salt over my shoulder, black cats make me shiver, and I really, really don’t like the number 12+1. As a mathematician, I know it’s irrational, but I’m mildly triskaidekaphobic. I get really twitchy on that day of every month, the year after 2012 was not a good one for me, and I’m really glad we only have 12 months.

Is it totally irrational? Yup. Am I going to fix it? No. It’s not doing me or anyone else any harm right now, and sure I don’t like the day after the twelve day of the month, but all that makes me is a little bit more wary. I don’t notice it when it comes up in math problems, and it’s not like I’ll take mathematical short cuts to avoid it. If it does become a problem, I’ll have to conquer it, but for now, I just view it as a harmless bit of irrationality to balance everything else out. I only have so much willpower to change habits, and that’s not one of my priorities.

I guess that’s the underlying theme to all my beliefs; if they’re proved wrong or faulty or insufficient, or if circumstances change, I will change my beliefs. My feminist beliefs shifted until I started reading some of the more rational issues that people bring up, like women taking advantage of gendered beliefs in dating and divorce proceedings, and changed my opinion on that. I’m not a black and white person, I am a “hey look at all the pretty colours!” kind of person (at least I like to think so, although something will inevitably come to force me to adjust my opinion). I don’t think there’s any valor hanging on to a stupid opinion, because I think getting closer to the truth and being accurate is more important than not looking stupid, and I don’t see any point in ignoring good evidence. Now do I get to decide whether or not an belief is wrong or faulty or insufficient, whether it needs to be changed, and what’s good evidence? When it comes to my beliefs, of course I do; they’re my beliefs.

Maybe that’s why I’ve written everything in huge blocks of text: people are less likely to thoroughly read them, and I’m still leery being so open about everything I believe in. Then again, it wouldn’t be the only too frank or too personal post on this blog.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.

Project 14 – Day 12: My Personality

Day Twelve is me trying to balance being honest about my personality and how I act with trying not to be pre-fired.

When I turned 20, I thought a lot of this one quote from the Anne of Green Gables series, where Anne talks about turning 20 too.

“… by the time I was twenty my character would be formed, for good or evil. I don’t feel that it’s what it should be. It’s full of flaws.”

“So’s everybody’s,” said Aunt Jamesina cheerfully. “Mine’s cracked in a hundred places. Your Miss Stacy likely meant that when you are twenty your character would have got its permanent bent in one direction or ‘tother, and would go on developing in that line. Don’t worry over it, Anne. Do your duty by God and your neighbor and yourself, and have a good time.”

Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Now, I once went in to interview for a teaching assistant position, and one of the first questions they asked was, “How would your family and friends describe you, in three words, and why?” Now, me being a really smart and incredibly sleep deprived person, I put together this great answer in about two seconds:

“Brilliant, a leader, and pig-headed”

And it only went downhill from there. I didn’t get that job.

That three phrase summary isn’t exactly wrong. I make a point of trying to keep my fingers on the pulse of everything, which involves some mental twister, and I like learning. I’ve also never been very good at that silly trick 50s charm school pamphlets advise for getting boys, which is pretending not to know anything so they can explain it all and feel “manly” and “smart”, since I have no patience for people getting things wrong. I like leadership and tend to reach for it, and I think I’m getting better at it. Pig-headed… well, it was honest. I am determined, and once I’ve made up my mind, it’s hard to change it. That’s not always a good thing.

Of course, boiling down something as complex as a human personality down into three words is a gross over-simplification. There were definitely three other words I probably should’ve chosen for my interview that still describe my personality, but so I actually would seem like a good candidate to guide a bunch of impressionable first years through one of their core classes.

In four words, I’m an ENFJ, which is no surprise to any one who knows me and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators, and I have been since the first time I took this test in middle school. You can read more about it here and take your own MBTI test here if you’re interested, but the gist of it is that ENFJ are Extrovert, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Judging, which pretty much nails me… kind of. Hey, even if four words are a whole word more than three words, it’s still dramatically oversimplifying something complex. ENFJs are, apparently, the generous pedagogues of the world, who are adept at social manipulation, high-minded idealism, dynamicism, and juggling a lot of projects. I think most people would agree that describes me… kind of.

I feel like I could go on and on about my personality, but I’ll keep it succinct by giving a 20 item list and limit myself to one quip each so I don’t ramble. So in no particular order, me in 20 items:

  1. I’m at least an extroverted ambivert. While I have moments where I like to hole up and knit and read a book for seven hours, I usually like being around people; it’s how I recharge.
  2. I am also sometimes socially awkward. Just because a child likes kittens doesn’t mean that child cannot also be allergic to cats. It sucks to be that child, but it does happen. In a similar vein, I am a shy extrovert. I love having friends, but I sometimes am so excessively awkward or overbearing or… me, that I have a hard time making them.
  3. I have an opinion on everything. I think I’ve pushed so hard to finish this blog because I want to go on long rants about everything. Look forward to it!
  4. I will alter my opinion if someone gives me good enough reason. It’s up to me whether the reason is good enough; it is my opinion after all.
  5. I tend to err on the side of bluntly honest. It could be bad (witness the “Brilliant, a leader, and pig-headed”), but I also can admit when I’m wrong, so it balances
  6. I’m curious. I will ask all kinds of questions bordering on the offensive, I will try to learn everything, and I will try everything, limited only by time, opportunity, and my student budget.
  7. But I make my judgements quickly. I threw up once when I ate mushrooms when I was four and decided I didn’t like them. 16 years later, I still don’t eat them.
  8. I have no patience. I move fast, and I deal with the rest of the world not catching up me by doing something else. Sometimes this is good and productive, sometimes… it is not.
  9. I’m sensitive. That’s where the name of my blog comes from: I got so riled up over one injustice or another, one of my older, jaded coworkers told me one day, I would duck my head and let everything go by. This blog was to meant to help me balance between jaded and naive, I suppose, and always hold my head high.
  10. I’m artistic and creative. I have doubts about my talents, but life is more fun when you make something out of nothing.
  11. I love learning. There’s just not enough time to learn all the fascinating things in the world.
  12. I can be really, really insecure. I guess you can probably tell that from all the disclaimers I make in these statements… I’ve written more about the imposter syndrome here.
  13. I’m superstitious. I’ll write more about it tomorrow, but I’m triskadekaphobic, amongst other things.
  14. Yet I try to be rational and logical. I’m not always successful, but I like it when things follow reason and logic. I guess that’s why I like programming so much; it’s very rule-driven, but you can be incredibly creative with it and yet the result is always the same, unlike writing, where the result means different things to different people.
  15. I like teamwork, and leading teams if I’m suitable for the task. It works with my extroversion: life is more fun with more people, but only if they’re working together to get something done and if they need a kick in the rear to get moving, I will give it.
  16. I am a feminist. I don’t hate men and I don’t burn my bras, but I do believe that society has some very deep prejudices against women that are just illogical, because we’re under utilizing half our population, and I believe it’s most dangerous when we believe we’ve conquered these prejudices, especially when we haven’t.
  17. I’m protective of my friends. Some of their boyfriends find out the hard way 🙂
  18. I am ambitious. I’ve dreamed of being lots of things in my life (See day 3) , and my latest professional goal is to move into senior management of a company I believe in. But we’ll see.
  19. I am a planner and a detailist. I’ve talked about planning being a weakness of mine, but at the same time, it’s comforting and just prudent to have a plan. I also tend to drive people batty with my love of details.
  20. I can be really arrogant. It’s strange, combining insecurity and arrogance, but I take my arrogance for granted instead of wearing it like a garish cape. It takes an honest friend, or some fortunate happenstance to knock me back on my ass and teach me otherwise, for which I will be forever grateful.

This may not exactly be a comprehensive list; I’m sure there’s more about myself that I haven’t mentioned, and I’m sure my friends and my enemies  and the people who just read these blog posts will have different opinions of me. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ll have a different opinion of myself some other day. But for now, it’s interesting to see all facets of my personality that work together, and the facets that contradict each other.

Now, here’s hoping I haven’t pre-fired myself from any future job.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.

 

 

Project 14 – Day 11: Emotions

Day Eleven gives you a perspective on the weird workings of my mind, and why I believe orange is the colour of love.

I have a love-hate relationship with my emotions. Most of the time, I love my capacity to feel strongly about things – to laugh ecstatically, to triumph proudly, to empathize deeply, to be blissfully happy, and to love with all my heart. But with that ability comes the price I have to pay, on occasion: I can shed bitter tears, feel failure keenly, take on other peoples’ pain, be miserably unhappy, and feel a loss with all my heart. It’s exhilarating, exhausting, and bewildering, all at the same time, so in the time honoured tradition of humanity, I’ve come up with a theory to make sense of it all.

For those of you who have read my posts about my hobbies, you’ll know I spend a lot of time with art. My theory of emotions actually very much follows the Paint Colour wheel theory, and I have a lot of fun matching emotional states to painting – Art History happens to be another hobby.

Like many theories that try to create a framework for things we don’t understand, it’s imperfect, like the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave that mimic something too bright to describe properly.  And yes, emotions are just biochemical reactions in the brain or something or other, if you want to be technical about it, but in that case, humans are just slightly organized bags of dirty water, too, aren’t they? So suspend your disbelief, incredulity, and all your preconceived notions about emotions, life, and everything, and follow this slightly organized bag of dirty water down this mental garden path.

This is my emotional colour wheel.

Happiness is yellow, the ability to smile, to laugh, and to enjoy what little and big pleasures life offers you. It colours the sunshine moments of little pleasures, like playing in the school yard during recess or running your fingers through a loved one’s hair. It colours the golden moments of triumphal delights, like fighting back a demon, achieving a goal, or even just waking up in the morning. It colours the lemony moments of sweet laughter and tart humour, with your friends, your family, the world, and yourself.

Sadness is blue, the ability to miss and mourn and cry for the things that have been and have gone or have might have been. It colours the teal moments of missing someone, when your heart aches like a summer rain, constantly and lastingly, but not unbearably. It colours the navy moments of grief, when your heart screams and cries in a thunderstorm of pain. It colours the azure moments that remind us that we are human, because a yellow sun only shines so brightly in a blue sky.

Passion is red, the ability to react and feel on instinct. It colours the scarlet moments of embarrassment, when you’re overwhelmed by the heat of humiliation and shame. It colours the crimson moments of surprise, when life takes a turn you weren’t expecting. It colours the maroon moments of shock, when life sweeps you along even though you want to stand still.

Nostalgia is green, the ability to remember, reflect and recall the past. It’s always a balance between happiness and sadness, between yellow and blue, because while painful memories are coloured aquamarine, that they’re past gives it a tinge of sunshine. Sentimentality is always a little chartreuse, because those happy days are over. Yet I think the best nostalgia is lime green, because we shouldn’t be sad that it’s over, just grateful that it happened.

Anger is purple, the passion spurred by feeling that something is wrong. Sometimes that heady red-violet rage is instinctual and violent, like a flash fire, sparked by sadness but accelerated by passion. Sometimes that phlox fury burns long and bright, driven equally by grief that something is wrong and a burning desire to fix it. But I think most anger is a bruise purple grudge, sustained by melancholy, but liable to spark at any time.

And love is orange, the ability to open your heart to others and enjoy the happiness and stand the vulnerability that comes from a very human place. Lust, the irreverent, heedless, terra-cotta rush, is passion chasing the promise of happiness and maybe not finding it. Affection mellowed with time and experience is as constant and cheerful as the peachy dawn. But I think the best love is deep mandarin, equal parts happiness and passion, sometimes tart but sweeter with age, but always deep and abiding.

Opposing colours contrast each other, and similar colours complement each other. I’d paint hate a dark purple, confused, driven by grief and passion and closest to anger. Even though both emotions contain passion, placing the two beside each other make both stand out and pop. All these emotions mix; the results can be glorious or hideous. just like sadness and love can mix beautifully like a graceful sable, it can also become a ghastly mess. We also feel in degrees, strongly about somethings, pastel-like in others, we layer emotions, one on top of the other for some kind of cheerful chaos. White is our blank canvas, but it is rarely white. It carries washes from previous emotions, because no one can ever scrub their emotional palette clean. Likewise, our black, our inability to sort out what we feel, is often not truly black; it is tinged with anger or sadness or love or passion, and maybe sometimes all the colours, like a rainbow in an oil-spill.

It’s not a perfect theory, but I think it’s pretty good. A person’s emotions, even more than an artist’s style, evolve quick and in all kinds of directions. It’s not a linear, forward evolution either. Our evolution moves in n-dimensions, where n is as many different iterations and directions that human maturity can take. While that number might be measurable, quantifiable some day, it’s effectively infinity. If, when I first started writing this post nearly a long time ago, when I felt the impetus to start blogging and came up with this theory, you’d asked me  to paint you a picture of my emotions, it’d look like a Mondrian without the yellow – blocks of sadness and passion, demarcated by times when I didn’t feel anything or  felt too much to understand. If you asked me now to paint that same picture, I’d take a copy of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” and spatter bright mandarin paint all over it.

I guess new modern art is in emotions.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.

Project 14 – Day 9: My Habits

Day Nine is about all the things I normally do – or rather, the things I don’t normally do.

So when I sat down to write this post,  it didn’t take me very long to realize that…. I don’t have any habits or daily structure.

The only concrete parts of my schedule that stay the same from day to day are the bits that depend on other people – I’m out the door by 6:45 am because that’s when my ride has to leave. I eat dinner at 7:30 because that’s when every one else eats. But besides that? I don’t really have daily habits, things I do every day at a set time. Sure, I brush my teeth and wash my face morning and evening, but that’s not even at a set time, and more often than not a bare minimum for general cleanliness.

Thinking back, it seems kind of ridiculous. How does someone like me, someone who plans and tries to squeeze every minute out of her day, not have habits? I think in tree structures and cause and effect! My favourite site is Lifehacker, because it provides all these awesome life hacks ad efficiency boosting tips. Yet I don’t have any daily structure.

But then I started to think more in depth about my day, and realize that I do, in a looser way. I try to keep certain priorities in the front of my mind, like that big project at work, or my latest creative project, and then I divide my day into three different types of chunks: working chunks, creativity/relaxation chunks, and mundane, dammit-I-need-to-get-this done chunks. So in the morning it’s mostly mundane stuff, but on my commute I make a point of doing something creative or thought provoking. I’ll work through the day, and come home to enjoy a nice long chunk of time to be creative; right now, it means working on my beading while I listen to an audiobook, but could be knitting, writing, or organizing my 6500+ ebook collection. While this is generally a good framework approach, it does have its problems. I find sometimes that I neglect to carve out a chunk of time to get some necessary work done.

Other than that, I don’t really have much by way of daily habits. I’d like to, though. Making good actions a habit saves your willpower for the more important decisions in life. The problem for me has been a varied and unsettled schedule that changes every four months, but I think that’s just an excuse (hah! whack-a-demon!). I think there are some that I want to develop that are flexible enough that I should get on that.

I’d like to adopt a skincare routine, and learn how to put on makeup, and hit the gym. I’d like to carve out a solid 30 minutes each day for important stuff, like whatever I put on my urgent list. I’d like to carve out another five minutes for meditation and 20 for yoga at night. I’d like to get better at journalling. I feel like my daily schedule is an empty shopping basket, browsing aisle and aisles of habits to pick and choose which ones I really want. Of course, when I decide on which habits I want, I’ll have to develop them, which in itself is a long and grueling progress. Maybe if online shopping was so tedious, people would end up buying less.

I have other habits that aren’t quite daily habits, some of which I like and some of which I don’t like. Unlike daily habits which generally happen in the pattern of some day, these ones have different triggers, or none at all.

I’m the type of person who takes notes on everything. Every time I finish a book, when I watch something that interests me, when I find something inspiring or a new word, when I have an especially strong personal opinion, I write it down. I’m also messy; my little sister makes me buy her new notebooks because practically every binder, every piece of paper in our house has some kind of note scrawled in it, the shadow of some bygone light bulb, and we find those pieces everywhere. Thanks to cloud apps like simplenote, I’ve recently been able to keep all those notes, lists, ideas, and thoughts in some coherent archive, and thus I have everything I’ve thought for the past little while at my finger tips. It’s a little disconcerting, actually, but also really cool. All these little snowflake ideas that pop into my mind actually sometimes snowball into something really neat.

Another habit of mine is to put my hair up when I get super serious about something, or I need to concentrate. This is kind of a hold over from my days playing competitive trivia, as whenever I really had to concentrate, I strip down to my tank top, take off my jewellery, and tie my hair back. The idea is that I’d minimize my distractions and not hinder my reaction time – whether this actually worked is debatable, but it’s a psychological cue that tells my brain to kick into high gear. I don’t take off my jewellery and jackets any more though, especially not in the work place.

One thing I don’t do that I really should is that I’m really bad at keeping in touch with people. My mom will call me and complain that I haven’t called for two weeks, and I won’t be able to remember the last time I called. I’m spotty at messaging or keeping in contact with even my nearest and dearest friends (I’m sorry guys! I don’t love you any less, I promise, and thank you for putting up with me).  I’m terribly selfish, in that I get totally wrapped up with what my immediate priorities are, but forget that my friends and family are amongst my long-term priorities, and that’s something I will change.

So, this entry has been considerably lighter than my previous few, and I think that’s okay. Yet at the same time, I don’t think it was any less important, because our habits form something like 80% of our actions, so by extension, don’t they form 80% of who we are?

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.

Project 14 – Day 10: My Likes and Dislikes

Day Ten is perhaps my most challenging thought experiment yet, because it’s so banal.

Being a very opinionated person, I didn’t think I’d have any trouble writing this post, but when I sat down to actually write, I felt kind of lost.

What do I like and dislike? It’s hard for me to say that I “like” feminism, and “dislike” Stephen Harper’s government right now, because like and dislike are too mild to describe my feelings either way. The other problem with saying that I like and dislike stuff is that it’s very situational. I like snow, but only during the holiday season, or when I feel playful and want to go outside to catch snowflakes on my eyelashes or go skiing or outside when I’m inside and have heating. I don’t like snow in the middle of April or when I don’t want snow.

If I did one of those little blurbs in magazines, mine would look like the following:

Favourite Colour: Blush Champagne

Least Favourite Colour: Puce – it should be reserved for cranky old ladies or avant-garde fashion bloggers who can actually pull it off.

Favourite Food: My mom’s cooking

Least Favourite Food: Mushrooms make me barf

Favourite Flower: Coral Roses, Peonies, and the flower I’m named after

Least Favourite Flower: Skunk roses? Do those count? They also bring back the smell of pleather school bus seats that are too hot to touch.

Favourite Books: Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, Flashboys by Michael Lewis… (read more here. I really should talk more about this some day)

Least Favourite Books: The ENTIRE Twilight series. Any author who decides that pitching yourself off a cliff to feel something after your boyfriend ditches you is a good idea should try it herself first.

And on and on… You get the point. It’s rather inane, isn’t it? If this project is about self-reflection and introspective, using a day like this would be a waste of words, because there wouldn’t be much thought there.

Today wasn’t a total waste, though. Writing everything before made me remember blog post that I read before by Dominique Tiu, the very talented blogger behind Konnichiwear. In response to “What do you live for?”, she said:

 

“I do live for a lot of things and for a lot of people… but I guess it would be apt to say that I live for moments. Pure, genuine, and raw moments–be it good or bad. … “

– Dominique Tiu, “Old Black & White Fashion”

I think I form my likes and dislikes following the same philosophy: I like and dislike moments, and like or dislike things based on what moments and memories have defined them. For example, my favourite colour is blush champagne, which is a shade of light gold that has hints of pink. While it might seem strange I’m very specific about this shade: it was was my Freesky colour and the colour of my prom dress. As trivial as it sounds, Freesky was the first game where I really made friends across the globe, and it was one of my first comprehensive lessons in leadership, while my prom dress represented hours of agonizing, shopping, and fun, and it made me feel like a billion shiny bucks that very fun night. I could keep going, and tell the story of how I grew into gold and how it symbolizes feeling comfortable and confident in my own skin, but what it essentially boils down is that moments associated with blush champagne have always signified luxury, confidence, beauty and fun, which is as good a reason as any to have a favourite colour.

Things I mainly associate with good moments, such as friends with happy moments, art and my mom’s cooking with peaceful moments, writing and reading the news with thoughtful moments, and school with proud moments, I like. Things I mainly associate with bad moments, such as lines with boring moments, arguments and fights with sad or angry moments, and performing in public with embarrassing moments, I don’t like. It’s a pretty simple paradigm, but, now that I think of it, incredibly powerful.

Things – and moments – don’t always neatly fall into “like” and “dislike” categories. For example, I can dislike a person or thing, but still recognize some moments as good ones. Also, if I really dislike something that I have to do, like public speaking or commuting, I can take control of my likes and dislikes by deliberately building good moments to associate with them. I actually enjoy commuting in the morning now because it gives me time to catch up on the news or proofread a blog post; I’m turning a boring moment into a peaceful one.

So what started out as a fairly boring and banal post turned into a pretty valuable thought experiment. While, like most people, I’d like to think that I control my likes and dislikes, as I grow older and more experienced, I start becoming more set in my ways. That’s not always a bad thing – having stuck my hand in the fire, I’m not about to go try it again to see if it still burns. However, when those likes or dislikes are actively getting in the way of moving forward with life, like my dislike of public speaking, I do need to take control and reverse it.

I guess this would make writing this post a good, thoughtful moment.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.

Project 14 – Day 8: My Demons

Day Eight is about what’s holding me back, and the many Mephistopheleses whispering at my ears.

So far, I’ve written a lot about what’s been propelling me forward, so this blog post is a bit different. This blog post is about what’s holding me back. Now, surprisingly, writing this post really will be a journey in self discovery,  because these demons aren’t something I’ve really given names and tried to identify before.  So, join me, and forgive me for the jumbled and slightly incoherent mess it might turn out to be.

I’ve identified three broad categories of demons that are holding  me back: Fear, Guilt, and Excuses. I’m sure there are many more, but this is an easy way to start identifying and putting faces to the unknown demons that plague me. I’m afraid of failure and embarrassment, I feel guilty because I feel like an imposter and because I’m not perfect, and my excuses give me a reason not to do anything. My hope is by recognizing them when they rear their ugly heads, I can cut those heads off and move on with my life.

I’m afraid of a lot of things, but not all those things paralyse me. I’m afraid that the terrible Conservative government in power will permanently screw up my country, I’m afraid that if there really is a new normal in investments, I won’t have a pension to fall back on when I’m 65 because all current actuarial assumptions are wrong. I’m afraid of bugs suddenly appearing where I don’t want them to, I’m afraid of getting attacked or raped in a dark alley, I’m afraid of that creak on the staircase when I’m home alone. But those fears don’t keep me from living my day-to-day life and pursuing my dreams. The fears that do affect my day to day life and my dreams are simple: I’m afraid of failing, and I’m afraid of being embarrassed.

Neither the fear of failure nor the fear of embarrassment are very unique debilitating fears. As children, we learn to not raise our hands lest we give the wrong answer. We learn not to say very much so we don’t get laughed at on the playground. We learn to keep things private so no one can throw them in our face. We learn that  the easiest way to avoid failure is to never try. The American dream is fueled by not only a desire to do better,  but a fear that not becoming successful, not becoming rich and powerful, is failing to be American.

Now, I have a very strange relationship with these fears. It’s only after I’ve done something that I’m struck with the possibility of failure, of embarrassment. I think part of the reason I haven’t been writing these posts as quickly as I’d like to is because I’m embarrassed that I’ve revealed emotions that are so viscerally human, and I’m terrified they’ll come back to haunt me in the very conservative industry I work in. So I haven’t written because I’m scared of what other self incriminating things I’ll say. It’s a pattern that I seem to perpetuate: I start things, but I’m too afraid to finish them.

I can confront these fears, though, by outlining the worst that could happen, and my contingency plans in that case. I’ve confronted my idea of failure by redefining what failure is, and I’ve dealt with my fear of embarrassment on this blog by reminding myself of the core idea of this blog, that I’ll always be able to hold my head up high, means that I should only write things I can stand by. There’s always a back up plan, like privacy settings, but in the end, it’s easier to deal and conquer those fears once they’re not unknown any more. And look! I’m writing again!

I recently Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” which purports not to be a feminist manifesto, but it rings too true for me to read it as anything but. One thing that she did say really hit home with me is that women are often plagued with guilt. Now, I’m sure men are too, but women disproportionately suffer from what’s called the Imposter syndrome, a fear that someone will come along and realize that you’re not actually qualified or not actually that smart. No matter how hard you work or how much you prove yourself, there’s this gnawing guilt that you should stop right now and give your opportunity, your place to someone more worthy than you, someone who’s not a fraud.

When she gave that monster who leered at me through all the open doors in my life a name, I had this epiphany. The more people told me that I was sharp, capable, and intelligent, the more I felt my incompetence weigh on me like a dirty little secret. My insecurity became the one thing I absolutely, positively had to hide, lest someone see it and throw me out of my academic program, my job, my identity. Yet I’m the only one who can do that. I’m the only one that can sabotage myself enough to drop out of school, misstep so badly I get fired, and throw away my identity as a smart, capable woman. Trying to get rid of this demon is like playing eternal whack-a-mole, but all I need is a big enough hammer.

The other eternal nagging guilt that I feel is guilt for not living up to expectations. I didn’t get into Harvard, I didn’t get that top level scholarship, I wasn’t that involved in my little sister’s early childhood, and I was wishy-washy and am not working towards a J.D., only two bachelor’s degrees. Now, don’t get me wrong, being able to self reflect, to look back and say I should’ve been more involved in my little sister’s childhood, my marks could’ve been better, and maybe I gave up on the J.D. too early is not a bad thing. That retrospection becomes an unproductive, guilty demon that I have to fight when I spend too long trying to atone for the past and not enough time just learning from it, and moving on. By buying my little sister little girl toys when she’s on the cusp of puberty and needs a sympathetic shoulder more, by castigating myself over bad grades in the past and not working hard in my present classes – that’s when it becomes counterproductive. And again, the easiest way to combat it is to recognize that what I’m doing is atoning, not learning, so that I shift my thinking towards the present, and the future, instead of the past.

The last demon that I’ve identified, and perhaps the most insidious one, are the excuses I find it so easy to make. Every one does it (look! I did it again!): I tell myself that I am too busy, that I’m not the only one, that I’m too tired, too whatever, and I do what’s easy instead of what’s right. I find that I did what’s easy, and tell myself another excuse so it sits better with me, until I forget it. And then when I forget it and rediscover it, I keep telling myself excuses in some kind of infinite loop that never ends up with me doing what’s right, what I should’ve done in the first place.

This is the hardest demon to recognize, because I am a notorious planner. I make plans, I start things, I come up with all kinds of castles in the air, only to have them to crumble on me. My hard drive is a graveyard of started stories and outlines, and I have about sixty million lists: To-do urgently, to-do in a month, things I want to learn, artistic bucket lists, personal bucket lists, professional bucket lists – It all comes down to the same thing: whatever I set out to do, I haven’t done. I might have a perfect plan for world domination in my simplenotes somewhere or other, but I’ll never actually conquer it. Potential is nothing without action. To find this demon of excuses, I have to channel Mad-Eye Moody: “Constant Vigilence!” I have to do when I think of planning, that “Done is better than perfect” (Sheryl Sandberg, again. That book is really good).

Now, for some people reading this, all these demon allusions seem rather heavy handed and forced. It’s just an internal struggle, after all. But you know what? If every time I catch myself feeling afraid or guilty, or making an excuse, I imagine myself dragging a pathetic, cringing little creature out of the shadows  and thoroughly enjoy smashing it to pieces, if that coping mechanism helps me get past those fears, guilty feelings and excuses? It’s worth sounding like a deranged fifteenth century priest.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.