November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment
hey guys – sorry for the late post! to make up for the delay, ive provided you with a long juicy post that will have your minds spinning for better or for worse. you can be the judge. yay??
my mind has been a bit preoccupied as of late (with exactly what im not sure). today, i was going to start my day all shiny and fresh. go to a morning yoga class, submit some job applications, start a new book, go to my favorite bakery to buy my mom some delicious bread, get caffeinated and write a blog post about flirting for you guys, and so on. butterflies and rainbows and warm fluffy pancakes. but, as you guys probably know all too well, sometimes days dont go as planned.
todays just been an oddball.
I. the oddball stressors:
-i got in a semi-argument/discussion with a close friend of mine and i realized that finding people that can completely understand one another is really hard (and then i was thinking wow if my friend of 10+ years doesnt understand me, how the hell am i going to find a boyfriend that can do it in less time).
-my korean visa extension may not be approved so i might go to guam for a day to renew it (which isnt necessarily bad, but it seems a bit needlessly expensive)
-im confused about my moms health bc some say she may be on the brink of death but then others say its manageable and when i see her she looks fine and she says shes okay too (though i guess i should know by now that my mom has a history of saying shes okay when shes not). im just confused. its frustrating because i dont really know whats going on (no one really does, even the doctors) so i cant make a decision on wether i should stay longer in korea or not. how do you make a decision without accurate facts?!?!?
-north korea shot some artillery on a south korean island and i dont know enough about border politics to clearly state the implications but it just scares me.
-and this is kind of old news (by that i mean a week old) but i was the victim of debit card fraud – people in london and minneapolis somehow managed to spend $1000 from my account (even though the card physically never left korea and i dont even have $1000 in my account! imagine my shock when i found out i had a steeply negative balance. sad). thankfully, my bank and another company and i were able to sort things out and i got my money back. but even though i got my money back, it made me really really sad to know that there are people out there would take advantage of others and steal from others like that. i mean, i intellectually knew it existed and that made me sad too but experiencing it is a whole different level that just made me really really sad for the world for some reason. i really want to trust the world. but maybe thats too butterflies and rainbows :(
II. the journey of oddball stress relievers:
-contemplated eating all the contents of the fridge but decided i was too lazy.
-contemplated buying chocolate at the local 7-11 but decided i was too lazy.
-blasted kanye and pretended im some sort of pro dancer. which im not. but thats okay.
-download the latest gossip girl episode only to find out the file was corrupted >.<
-turned to one of my favorite childhood movies, american beauty, for comfort. ended up fastforwarding the whole thing. i was surprised to realize that the movie i once felt so deeply for lost its shine. what was once a beautiful portrayal of torture and mundanity now just looks like a whole bunch of rich white people living depressing lives and painstakingly running around with blinders on (and for those of you who are racially sensitive, im not saying ‘rich white people’ to be offensive. i mean it literally: the characters are rich, white, and people).
-contemplated going on with my day as planned and submit some resumes but really wasnt in the mood to promote myself
-put some pants on and took a bus downtown
-passed by a piercing store
-went to the bakery and bought some bread that reminded me of home (walnut cranberry french loaves. soft wheat covered with a shell both chewy and crunchy).
-started heading home but then found myself drawn back to that piercing parlor to get an impromptu piercing.
-walking. started contemplating the personality psychology of people who are heavily tattooed and pierced. then started contemplating the personality psychology of those who are not. then started wondering why i have this weird inner good girl/bad girl dichotomy sometimes. then saw a coffee shop and it was game over.
-got caffeinated while sitting at an outdoor table. stared at passerby while reveling in the crisp air, clean sunlight, gaga blasting from across the street, a dull throb of pain from my right lobe, and the resulting rush of endorphins.
-entered a giant underground shopping complex
-looked through nail polish awkwardly while a saleslady wouldnt leave my side no matter how many times i told her i didnt need her service. AHHH KOREAN SALESPEOPLE GET OUT OF MY FACE.
-acted like i didnt understand korean while taking some pictures of shoes. the man came up to me and said ‘youre not allowed to take pictures’ in korean and i put my camera down and gave him a blank happy clueless face and it worked. sweet.
-painted my nails.
-wished i had a boyfriend so i can make him paint the nails on my right hand
-decided to finally write the blog post about flirting/physical attraction ive been wanting to for some time.
-ended up writing this mess instead.
III. super oddball conclusions:
1. sometimes days dont go as planned
2. we have interesting reactions to stress. or, well, maybe you dont. but i think you do. and i think i do too. i think we all do.
you do, i do, we all do!! doo doo!
anyways. at this point id like to request that unless you’re actually interested in a crazy theory about stress and relief, skip over to point #3. seriously. its not worth it if you’re not interested.
think about the times when you’ve been stressed. or had to face an imminent situation that makes you feel uncomfortable inside. what do you do to relieve that tension? our brains, which are built to avoid pain and seek happiness, drive us to do a lot of things to compensate for this excess of stress. some people eat junk food. some people exercise. some have sex. some shop (retail therapy anyone?). others sing, talk, or pray. some guys i know punch walls or throw cell phones across the room. others play video games all night. a lot of people get drunk.
this is actually a pretty cool and useful system if you think about it. but before i start, i just want to state a disclaimer: im no professional psychologist or neuroscientist (yet?), and the following statements are inferences from what ive learned about psychology, neural reward systems, and personal experience/introspection. please dont come to me 10 months from now with a lawsuit for false advertisement or whatever obscure legal term you could classify this under. now, moving along to the fun part…
…think of your brain that holds a delicate balance that favors one side, the ‘happy’ side, over the alternative, ‘stressed,’ side. now imagine all the events in your life are weights. stressor A (e.g., mom sick) weighs a ton while stressor B (e.g., annoying salespeople) is about an ounce. anything can be a stressor – you have your basic biological ones like hunger, thirst, sexual urges, etc, and your more abstract ones like a missed bus, an angry friend, or boring coworkers. And let’s say these stressors have corresponding ‘relievers’ – e.g., reliever A = mom healthy, reliever B = shopping in peace, reliever X = eating, drinking water, seducing a hottie, being just in time, a happy friend, interesting coworkers, etc. It would make sense for stressor A to be relieved by its corresponding reliever A right? wrong. the brain seems to use similar enough reward systems so that even two completely unrelated events can compensate for one another.
In other words, the emotional turmoil you feel from stressor A can be relieved by B, even when they have nothing to do with each other. What does a tough day at work have to do with drinking alcohol? What does being heartbroken have to do with singing songs about it? What does my sick mom have to do with my new ear piercing? Nothing much really – except for the fact that each pair of unrelated events share a similar enough emotional currency so that one can balance out the other.
this is all great, especially if you think about all the events that stress us out on a daily basis. for example, shaq missing a free throw makes me stressed. now, the ideal solution for this would be for me to will shaq to haul his giant wrists in the exact angle he needs to make that ball go swoosh so we can win the freaking game (okay, i admit, this shaq example is a bit outdated since he clearly is not in the lakers anymore but bear with me). but clearly that isnt possible for two reasons: 1. the free throw he missed is in the past, and going back in time to undo the past is kind of impossible (and by kind of i mean very), and 2. i, as a spectator with no visible connection to shaq’s basketball skills, have no control over shaq’s free throw percentage. so, there is a slim-to-none chance that i can relieve the tension I feel from stressor A (Shaq misses free throw) with the corresponding reliever A (Shaq goes back in time and makes that same free throw) because reliever A is impossible until time travel machines become a viable source of travel.
luckily, our brain has a clever way to bypass this. the reward systems are flexible enough so that i can relieve my stress from shaqs misses by yelling at the television screen (reliever B) or taking a sip of beer (reliever C) or, if i get lucky, shaq making his next free throw (reliever D).
how shitty would life be if this werent the case? if our brains were so that the unhappiness caused by stressor A can ONLY be relieved by a reliever A that turned out to be impossible or uncontrollable, all of us would have a large accumulation of stressors that could never be relieved. we’d be walking around like dysfunctionally unhappy zombies, miserable and emotionally imprisoned by the irreplaceable past and uncontrollable present.
but not all of life is uncontrollable (unless youre a determinist). we can all maintain some sort of illusion of control to some extent over our thoughts and actions. you choose strawberry over chocolate. Obama over McCain. coke over pepsi. studying over partying. partying over studying. finance over management. NY over LA. and so on. so what happens to the stressor/reliever dynamic during events that you DO have control over?
because heres the catch: if we cancel out stressor A with reliever B, what we do to relieve our stress doesnt mean we’re facing the core issue. that is a major caveat. back to the shaq example. when he misses a free throw, my attempt to relieve the resulting stress by sipping beer or yelling at the television screen will not change shaq’s free throw skills. similarly, running will do nothing to raise a poor exam grade, smoking won’t extend a deadline, and eating chocolate doesn’t change the fact that you’ve been shot down. the only thing that has happened is that your personal emotional stress levels may have decreased.
this system of temporary emotional relief straddles a fine line between beneficial and dangerous. we all need to let loose once in a while and let ourselves go, be it via running, smoking, singing, or staring at the ceiling. stress relief sessions are extremely valuable to maintain emotional balance yet just as easy to (unconsciously) take advantage of. because the fact is that relief feels good. and we like things that feel good. our brains like it too. it makes us happy.
but what happens when we we constantly abuse these temporary reliefs to avoid facing the core issue at hand? we can use relievers B, C, D, E, F, all the way through Z and never face the big giant stress of A. but why should we? why face the real, more difficult problem of relieving A when we can feel instantly better by shopping, smoking, or getting lost in the internet? but thats just the thing. these are temporary reliefs and don’t serve as a remedy to the core issue. and i guess that’s okay too – whats so wrong with that strategy? everyone ends up living through life anyways right?
but i dont know. it kinda bothers me. we dont want to face the core issues just because its hard. because it means we have to be brave. it means we have to look deep. to dare to push out of our comfort zone. to welcome change and uncertainty. and who wants to do that? it sounds so much more appealing to buy pieces of strategically cut fabric to add to our already accumulating pieces of fabric, to inhale chemicals, and to stare into a screen that emits a bunch of light. or does it?
3. did any of that even make sense?!? sometimes i feel like i cant even follow my own self. or maybe everyone knew all this already. i dunno. that was a lot of words to say that temporary stress relief is awesome, but we have to face the underlying issues if we want to be truly happy.
4. hrm. so much for that entry about flirting and physical attraction. giant, giant tangent.
5. i hope my entry didnt stress you out. let me try to relieve that by ending on a happy note:
November 1, 2010 § 3 Comments
exiting the daejeon subway station
…and I get as far as typing in http://www.monster.com or logging into my alma mater’s job listings. I blankly stare at the screen for some time. Then I realize that I’m starting my job search and I start to panic and then exit the screen or conveniently decide that I need to clean the room/eat a snack/catch up on TV/stare at the ceiling/insert-other-mindnumbing-task-here. It really is like jumping into a pool of cold water. You know you want to do it, but you’re impulsively bathed with dread and repulsion at the thought of the initial contact between your barenaked skin and the freezing water.
I don’t know about you, but I’m the type that stares at the water for a while to mentally prepare myself (or in some cases, psych myself out), then dip the toe in, absorb the shocking cold and wait until my foot acclimates to the temperature. Then I step down painfully slow with the pinpricking sensation crawling up my exposed legs. The hairs all over my body are sticking straight up as my lower half is completely submerged and at that point I might as well just plunge myself in and get it over with but then again, I kinda wade there, bottom half adjusted to the cold, top half anxious with anticipation of the inevitable next step. its almost masochistic. And when I’m sick of psyching myself out I eventually, suddenly, without much hesitation, drop my body like a dead weight until every inch of my skin and every pore on my head is completely underwater. There’s no time to reflect on the sudden movement. You just feel the quick shock of cold overcome your body as you hold your breath, fighting the urge to run back to the warm hot tub, until your nerves start numbing themselves to the drop in temperature.
Wow okay how did I get from job search to my last incident at the sauna? meh. the mind wanders. anyways, back to the original story: eventually I’m browsing through the job listings and there are SO MANY FREAKING OPTIONS. consulting? marketing? government? research? design? agriculture? food? intern? full time? part time? experience? benefits? salary? waaaatt?? but sometimes a job description sparks my interest and I look deeper and it seems decent but then I start wanting to get distracted again. EVERY STEP IS SUCH A DRAG. maybe I have a major Peter Pan complex and I just don’t want to face the reality of finding a job and what that implies. But I’ve had jobs before. This one is definitely different. It’s The First Job Out of College. the First Job Out of College does to me what the name ‘Voldemort’ does to the wizardry community in Harry Potter. I shudder at the ominous thought and its unknown implications. and. the FJOC seems to set an unsettling momentum/direction for the rest of your life. but maybe that’s only the case if you approach it as such. but I’m still scared. what if halfway through my career I realize ‘shit this isn’t what I want?’
I have a huge fear of being unhappy in the future and being unable to turn back, being too late, or too stuck or tied down to start over or make up for lost time. but not too many people seemed concerned about this when applying for jobs. or at least, they weren’t as debilitated by the prospects like I was. my fear seemed quite blown out of proportion and irrational even to me, and I never understood how my peers could just, you know, look for a job and go. just like that. right out of college. a part of me was envious (damn, I wish I could just grow some balls and face ‘the real world’), and a part of me was baffled (wtf, are these people even thinking about what they are getting themselves into?).
so why am I so scared of being stuck and unhappy? 1) because I’ve heard time and time again that once you start working, its hard to start over or go back to school or redeem yourself from the daily grind that you swore you’d quit once you have enough money to do what you really want (hopefully this turns out to be untrue), and 2) because I’ve been unhappy before, and it sucked. I know what it’s like to unhappy with yourself and unfulfilled even though everyone else’s mom thinks you’re a star child. I know what its like to hate yourself so much that you need to hide behind a false sense of achievement to hide the fact that you’re completely miserable and lonely inside. that was my childhood. that was my adolescence. and as a budding adult, that is not what I want for my future self. although I cant say I’m completely happy right now, I’m definitely on a better path – one in which I’m learning to give love, receive love, and to be comfortable with being nice to myself once in a while. in fact, I’m realizing that I should be nice to myself more often.
I always thought I was scared of the world. but now that I think about it, I’m more scared of myself. I’m scared of how I react to the world. my own competitiveness, my own self-destructive OCD focus on unattainable perfection almost debilitated me in the past and I’m scared of the self-defeatist attitude and daunting sense of utter failure that comes hand-in-hand with unrealistic black-and-white expectations. I don’t want to go there, and I’m scared that that part of me will return once I enter the workforce. I’ve spent so much of my life being unhappy that the mere thought of being in close proximity to my hometown makes me nauseous. I guess that explains my weird aversion to settling down in Los Angeles. but I guess now that I’ve identified my fears I can help myself balance it and transform it into a healthy force.
I know who I was in the past, and therefore, who I don’t want to be. I know I was unhappy. that’s not to say I don’t have pleasant memories from my past – if anything, I’m even more grateful for the few happy moments I can recall. but then again, my unhappiness and self-hatred is what drove me to excel. so I cant say I’m not proud of what I’ve accomplished because I went through a hell of a lot to be where I am today. but I also cant say my motivations for doing so were mentally sound. I have to figure out a way to push myself to succeed with love instead of hate, with gratitude instead of bitterness, and with a desire to run towards my potential rather than a desperate need to run away from myself. I’m not exactly sure how – thats what I’m trying to figure out. but one thing I do know is that I refuse to be miserable again. It’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of energy. It’s a waste of a life.
…but things are easier said than done. so if you see me complaining or ungrateful or unhappy or whatnot, please do me a favor and snap me back :)
hrm. this entry kinda went off into a more serious direction than I intended it to. I thought I was going to write some amusing anecdote about how I suck at finding a job and then it turned all heebie-jeebie hoo-rah roar. hm. Like I said, the mind wanders.
anyways. go lakers. and apparently the giants too? im not too sure whats going on with them but every other fb notice is about the giants. im gonna guess world series?
also. theres a mosquito in my room and im scared to go to sleep because its going to suck the life out of me.
and. i have a book recommendation if you want a sensible and unpretentious explanations to our recent financial crisis, globalization/international trade, human capital, etc or are just curious about why things are the way they are: naked economics by Charle Wheelan. the author is the fun economics professor you never had and explains economic concepts using real world examples highlighting why they matter to you instead of droning on about mindnumbingly repetitive problem sets (can you tell im a bit bitter about my econ 101 experience?).
im a big fan of his message about globalization at the end: just because i win doesnt mean you lose. i win some and you win some. so lets all work together and be happy (i mightve added in that last bit)
and. if youve made it this far, thanks for reading! ^^
oh and look what i found on the streets (literally):
the italian flag! yum. i miss myself some pasta.