Saturday, April 30, 2016

Decisions, decisions

Sunrise at Ocean City
One of the most gratifying things about being a gainfully employed adult is being able to make your own decisions. Yet the things that can cause the most anxiety are some of these same decisions. If you’re miserable at work but think it might get better (when?), do you want to try to wait it out and see what happens, or plan your escape? What is your escape plan? Can you see a future with your significant other? Does he see a future with you? How long do you wait to see if this “together” future ever comes into existence? You realize you and your dear friend are drifting apart, partly because you’re both going through rough patches in life but she dismisses the severity of your present distresses. How do you approach that situation? Is it better to say nothing at all and hope the resentment will dissolve in future happier times?

With age, these decisions become more serious, the responsibilities greater, and the stakes higher. Wanting to make the most prudent decisions for your desired career trajectory. Not wanting your significant other to become the “one that got away.” Treading that delicate balance with your nearest and dearest. It’s like that psychology study that showed that people are happier with the choices they make if there were fewer options to choose from to begin with. With choices abound, how do we know we made the very best decision that will give rise to the best outcome?

These decisions are rarely so black-and-white if you’re entrenched in these situations. People who claim all the wisdom in the world to tell you the right way to live your life are, frankly, delusional and clearly have an inflated opinion of their own judgment. There often is no way to know a priori if something is absolutely the right decision to make, and no one’s judgment is infallible.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Counting down

I never take selfies but I couldn't resist this adorable Snapchat filter!
2 weeks + 1 day until I finish my journey here in Charlottesville and move on to some exciting new things.

In the meantime, I’m trying to subsist entirely on food I already have in the freezer and cupboards so I can reduce the amount of stuff I’ll necessarily have to move back to Northern Virginia with me.

I’m looking forward to the day I don’t have to hear my downstairs neighbors (the ones with the crying dogs) slam their front door shut several times a day.

My bedroom mirror lies to me. I left it leaning against a couch for too long and now it’s convex (the most unflattering of mirror configurations). As a result, the mirror adds 7 pounds to my frame and I’m never quittttte sure what I look like when I leave the apartment. After many months wearing leggings on the daily (#studentlife), I will need to return to the days of wearing proper bottoms.

Why are potential subleasers so rude? A girl I corresponded with for a few days asked for more photos of my apartment, and then requested an in-person visit at a time of her choosing and then completely stood me up without explanation!

Living alone is so underrated. I’m going to miss these quiet weekends and evenings ...

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Miss independent

Baby Jane
One of my professors noted earlier this semester that one of the wonders of parenthood is watching your children blossom. She said that if you allow your kids to chart their own destiny, they can develop themselves personally and professionally in brilliant ways that you could never have imagined or planned for them. So, if you force a particular path on them, you will never experience that kind of surprising wonder for yourself. Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg argued the same for children’s intellectual and moral development:

If you want your kids to learn about the physical world, let them play with cups and water; don’t lecture them about the conservation of volume. And if you want your kids to learn about the social world, let them play with other kids and resolve disputes; don’t lecture them about the Ten Commandments. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t force them to obey God or their teachers or you. That will only freeze them at the conventional level [which comprise the fourth and fifth of a six-stage progression of children’s reasoning about the social world].(The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt, p. 10).

One would hope that once you have raised a child to a certain age that you would have faith that all the lessons you, society, and years of schooling and life experiences have instilled in them will take root, and that they could theoretically navigate life independently without requiring too much intervention unless, of course, there is a real threat of imminent harm or danger.

If only that were the case for me.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Nurturing friendships

My college roommates and me in Reston Town Center, April 2013
The authors of NutureShock write that the best predictor of how loving a child will be to his future sibling is how well he treats his best friend. That is because unlike family – with whom you are bound for life, willingly or not – friends can and likely will abandon you if you treat them poorly, whereas siblings can eschew manners and sensitivity to one’s feelings with reckless abandon. Having and nurturing satisfying non-familial friendships and relationships is a fundamental priority for so many people as social beings. Even more, having and cultivating healthy, meaningful relationships – especially outside your immediate family – is a sign of emotional maturity.

Through all the challenges inherent to being a yuppie and specific for my life circumstances in particular, I realized that the most true and worthwhile friendships are those in which each party gains mutual benefit, and walks away from these interactions – no matter how infrequently these encounters are, if the friendships are long-distance – feeling even better about themselves than when they had entered. These are friends who will add you to their nightly prayers if you’re having a particularly hard time in life, will listen to you without judgment if you’re facing a difficult dilemma about your significant other, or attend to your stream of consciousness as you describe how you’ve found yourself in a career funk. These are not the people who will exploit your shortcomings and weaknesses, gossip about you, or manipulate every opportunity to show how mightily superior they are to you. After all, those most likely to gossip about or diminish their friends’ legitimate achievements are the most insecure.

I’m lucky to have five of six very close friends who embrace me for who I am, and who I can confide in. Between working full-time, dabbling in school, and having a long daily commute, there is limited free time to spend with people, so why spend it among those who are undeserving of your friendship?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Snapchats Lately

Things will be pretty busy for the next six weeks or so, which means posts will be a little sparse for a while, but here are some of my recent Snapchats to tide you over until my next post :)

Easter selfie

This research paper has got me like ...
GORGEOUS view of the Rotunda during a cloudless sunset
"Pomp and Circumstance" was playing as I walked to class this morning :)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Life lately

Throwback to 2011 at Carter Mountain

I feel that ominous tickle in my throat: allergy season is upon us. Despite being a terrible city for spring allergy sufferers (all the pollen-emitting trees!!), Charlottesville is stunning in the spring. The warm weather brings with it the usual crowds of prospective (or recently admitted) students and their parents to Grounds, which is so fun to see ... It makes me feel really nostalgic! The crowds seem to really enjoy the food trucks over by the Amphitheater :). I love seeing the Days on the Lawn groupings in front of Old Cabell Hall* on my way to class in the mornings. And I saw CavPup for the first time on Monday! 

After quite a busy last week, here is a catch-up post of sorts ...:

Notable quotes:
  • Wise words from my former coworker's late father: "People may be able to take things from you but they cannot take your pride. Be true to yourself, be good to yourself. Don't belittle yourself. Other people will do that for you and they do not need your help."

Things I learned:
  • Helium is mined, and is therefore a limited resource. Something to think about the next time you buy a bunch of balloons for a party, I think.
  • Professors are paid for only 9 months out of the year -- just like teachers! -- unless they get a research grant during the summer time or teach summer school

Embarrassing thing that happened to me:

  • I'm greatly amused by one of my engineering professors' conceptual analogies to Italian foods like a salami (differential unit of volume), slice of cheese (representative slice of a sphere), and "spaghetti noodle" (a fibrous protein).

*The Days on the Lawn opening reception is traditionally held on the Lawn-facing Rotunda steps, but the U.Va landmark is undergoing a facelift at the moment :)

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Photo of me in Blacksburg before hopping back in the car for the return trip

It’s a universally known fact among my close friends and family that I drive like a grandma. In fact, my dad likes to joke that I am a nervous chicken when it comes to driving, in stark contrast to my younger brother who drives like a daredevil. I have major driving PTSD because I was involved in a car accident that totaled both cars back when I was in middle school and have been nervous about cars ever since – even as a passenger or pedestrian. This means I often walk briskly or run across the street even at crosswalks, both to avoid becoming road kill and because nobody ever wants to be that person who takes their good ol’ time, obliviously crossing the street completely unaware or unconcerned about cars trying to speed through before the traffic light turns red.

My dad took a year-long break from giving me driving lessons when I was in high school because I was so afraid behind the wheel that he was fearful for his own safety as I frightfully inched the car at 20 miles an hour through my quiet middle-school parking lot and neighborhood, learning the basics of making right and left turns. So, after college when I accepted a job an hour’s drive away from home, I think we were all a little worried. But I needed the daily practice, and in about six months’ time making that hour-long journey each way, I was comfortable enough to change lanes once or twice a week, sometimes mustering enough courage to pass a slow, right-lane driver. A year after that, I was brave enough to conquer Route 66 during the morning commute. Three and a half years after starting that job, I inexplicably volunteered to pick up my brother from Blacksburg, Virginia, a town in the middle of nowhere – twice the longest journey I had ever driven from home. That was an expedition that tested my bravery as my sweaty hands clutched the steering wheel, hoping the cliff views – much too uncomfortably close to my right-lane situation – would soon be out of sight so I could relax my tense muscles. Even I can’t believe my parents let me do that.

Very seldom would I ever volunteer to drive anywhere, but if I do it’s for one of two reasons: 1) because I don’t trust the other passenger to transport me anywhere safely, or 2) because I recognize the opportunity as one for which I need to push myself out of my proverbial comfort zone. After all, driving and navigating highways are facts of life, and fears I need to conquer. It’s just like tackling that tough new work project that secretly intimidates the crap out of you, or making that big career leap that will lead to better long-term prospects.

After all:

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William G.T. Shedd.