Innocence

December 1, 2020

For most of my life, I always believed that everyone, regardless of their point of view, was coming from a good place. I believed that people could only continue to promote their views and actions if they believed that they were the right thing to do for the betterment of society and humanity. Everyone believed in their cause. The world is complicated, and while we all mostly just want to live our lives in peace, because of limited resources we have to make compromises and come up with solutions to keep things going. And of course everyone comes up with somewhat different solutions, that sometimes clashes. Differences in world view, which are better or worse depending on your point of view, value set, and expectations.

Of course there have always been a handful of people who promote actions that seem completely counter to any possible moral value set. These are the deviants, and are easy to identify and filter out. The trolls on the internet. The cult leaders. Criminals. And then the people who were born without the capability of discerning what is right and wrong, unable to feel guilt, unable to consider how other people feel. Of course those people cannot be held at fault for their actions. But they were easy to identify. And they don’t have major impact on the world as a whole. World War II was in the past. The problem was fixed. We have systems to prevent such issues now. Geneva convention. United Nations. We are an enlightened society.

That’s what I believed.

I think there was a clear period of time in 2016 when it slowly became more and more clear that my views were wrong. I still hold my earlier beliefs about most people. Regardless of your religion or political leaning, most people believe these things because they believe this is the right way to all that is right and good. But it has slowly become more and more clear to me that there are some bad players out there that are consciously doing bad things and spreading falsehoods for the sake of personal financial gain or power. And it has slowly become more and more clear to me that many people succumb to these dark holes of misinformation and conspiracies. It turns out it’s not that easy for most people to identify these things as wrong. And even with evidence, it’s difficult for many people to let go of the beliefs. Bad players tricking us from the outside. Our brains tricking us from the inside. And these bad players can have a massive influence on how everything goes.

I still think that most people touting these views are simply victims. It’s not their fault. And they usually have some really good reasons for listening to these bad players, and some really good reasons for wanting to believe them. They mean well. But they are victims. And continuing to follow these bad players is bad for them in the short term and bad for all of us in the long term. It hinders progress. Hurts good people. Wastes time, money, and resources. Wastes lives.

But it’s scary to think that we really haven’t learned our lessons from World War II. The safeguards in place aren’t fool proof. And people are so very susceptible to being led astray.

I miss the times before 2015 when I was innocent to all of this. When the world was a simpler and safer place.

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Remember

November 11, 2019

Now, more than ever in our lifetimes, it is critical to take the time to really remember the meaning of Remembrance Day, and the sacrifices our ancestors have made to protect our freedom. At a time when cities around the world are struggling with political unrest, xenophobia, authoritarian regimes, and populism. At a time when people are taking on inflammatory causes after falling victim to intentionally misleading information. At a time when people are distrusting evidence and science. At a time when people are choosing personal wealth over the well-being of humanity and the planet. We need to remind ourselves of how fortunate we have been to have lived through a period of such peace and prosperity. We need to remind ourselves that we must not allow ourselves to fall back into darker times. Lest we forget.

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Power

October 29, 2019

Lately, with all the crazy uprisings and stalemates and shady events going on throughout the world, I have become more and more pessimistic about the overall goal of any political leaning of any group in power or close to power.

I learned in school, and used to think, that there were multiple ways to manage a society. Left leaning, right leaning, democratic, autocratic… But what the recent events have made me start to believe is that none of those people in power, or with a chance for power, have any real desire to make life better for humanity. No real desire to protect the planet. No real desire to minimize suffering. No real desire for what the common person really wants day to day. Throughout the world, all common people really want is to have a stable, safe life. Basic necessities of food, water, shelter, health, well-being.

Whatever it is that our world leaders are telling us they think or want, the only real goal for these people in power is POWER. Whether power is obtained by force, lies, or distractions, the goal is POWER, and there is no real drive to make things better for anyone else. And any semblance of wanting things to be better for people are only to get them to (1) vote for them or (2) not throw society into massive disarray in a way that will limit their power.

So, if there is social disarray that doesn’t make them lose power, they will basically ignore it while pretending to not ignore it so that people will (1) vote for them or (2) not throw society into massive disarray in a way that will limit their power.

People who actually care about other people become activists, health care workers, public safety workers, municipal leaders. People who advance further into higher positions of power and success? By and large, they are just people who want higher positions of power and success, and will convince people of anything to get there.

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Erosion

March 8, 2019

Our education system is such that we never spend more than a few years in one place for most of our formative years. The longest I spent at one institution was elementary school - seven years from kindergarten through grade 6. For someone who goes through a lot of education, this extends into the mid-30s. So for my entire adult life, I’ve never been in one place more than 5 years. As a result, it was a little daunting to come into my “grown-up” job expecting that this be for the rest of my career. I know most jobs don’t have such perks, and most adults don’t end up doing this, but here I am. It’s been 6.5 years since I took this job, and I’m acutely feeling how this is the longest I’ve been somewhere in a long time.

In my first few years, things were really great. I was so happy to be here. I remember this. This was my dream job, and I was doing well in the role. My commute was negligible. My personal life thriving. Things were going well.

But over the years, there has been an erosion. My personal life is still going well. My commute is more irritating, but still much better than most. I appreciate that. But there has been erosion at work. Not to the point of wanting to leave, but enough to set off warning bells for a need for something to change.

The previous post is part of it. People at work not celebrating my life milestones, and then going ahead to celebrate everyone else’s milestones, just keeps reminding me over and over how much work doesn’t care about me as a person. Salaries have been basically stagnant all these years, and at one point actually decreased, and so considering inflation, I’m not being remunerated any better than when I joined. Possibly worse. (OK just calculated on a salary inflation calculator, and definitely worse.) Considering the steady increase in price for absolutely everything, this is a measurable way where I can once again be reminded how work doesn’t care about me as a person. And more recently, the process is in motion to tear down the building where my office is, and build a new one. They already know the new building won’t have enough space for everyone. So instead of thinking how they can increase the amount of space, they are thinking of how they can get away with not giving people offices.

So not only do they not care about my life outside of work, how much I’m being remunerated for the work I do, but also whether or not I will want to be at work. They do, however, remember to insist on jumping through a multitude of hurdles from various levels of administration to prove that I’m still doing enough work. Several times a year. So much so that I feel like I’m filling out forms in different formats saying the same information about what work I’ve done. And then they come back and tell me I’m “meeting expectations” or maybe scoring at whatever percentile compared to everyone else. Like it’s some kind of ultimate privilege to sacrifice my life, time, and happiness to measuring up to their predefined metrics.

All these different components have eroded my work satisfaction over the years. Someone recently pointed out to me that career angst is common in this stage of my life. Maybe if I was near retirement, I wouldn’t care, because the end was in sight. Maybe if I’m still starry eyed from getting the job at all, I wouldn’t care, because it all would seem so great still. So I suppose my mid-career stage does have some role to play. But only because I’m still in a place where all these indecencies still matter to me. And from where I am, I can’t see how to make this better.

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Not appreciated

September 24, 2018

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much I am (or am not) appreciated at work. Forever, I have made a point to try to help people feel appreciated. Getting everyone to sign birthday cards, for example, maybe little parties. But as I’ve spent more time here, realizing that nobody is arranging anything for me in return, I’ve found myself spending less and less time doing that kind of thing. And even feeling bitter when anyone gets things organized for them.

I think this really came to a head when I had a milestone birthday and there was not even a peep at work about it. I even got an unusual call to go to talk to someone about something on the Friday before the day, making me wonder if it was their way of starting a surprise party. But it was a genuine request to talk to someone about something. At that point, I did make it known to my boss that this was disappointing. At the time, other people explained that my milestone 40th birthday “wasn’t that important”, vs. other people’s 50ths or 60ths or 65ths. Which I think is total bullshit, since everyone knows 40th birthday is the midlife crisis point. From the point of view of needing approval in the workplace, it’s really the biggest one.

The fallout to that is that everyone was asked to contribute a significant sum of money to a pot for celebrations. Of course I was part of the donors. So now we have stuff. 40th birthdays. Pre-wedding celebrations. Pre-baby celebrations. Someone recently got a really nice necklace for their 40th. Theoretically, I’m happy this is now happening. But at the same time, I have more and more, “wait a minute!” moments, when I’m being reminded that nobody did jack shit for my wedding or my baby. (OK not entirely true, since I did get a really nice bouquet of flowers sent to my house after I had the baby.)

But it still burns. Because I got nothing. But now I have to give and give and give, and act happy about it. And I don’t feel like that. Because it keeps reminding me how nobody showed me appreciation in those ways. Despite my biggest life milestones in the last few years, there’s actually been no celebrations whatsoever for me. And now there are no more milestones for me for another decade. Maybe everyone will forget about doing stuff for people again by then.

So it makes me feel indignant. And it also makes me wonder what I’m doing, compared to those other people, that make me less likeable. What drives people to NOT want to organize stuff for me? What drives people to not think, “Oh hey, you know what she would really like? A little celebration! And I like her enough to bother!” Which makes me sad.

More than titles and pay and accomplishments, I really just want to be liked. I’m certainly not the most outgoing, but I also don’t think I’m a total social dunce. I also don’t think I’m generally a bad person. At least I always try to do the right thing. I help people when I can. And yeah, I just really want to be liked. We spend so much of our waking lives and mental energies on work. It’s a nice thing when work decides to send over a little appreciation.

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Bandwidth

October 17, 2017

I’ve been pondering lately about how overwhelming it is to follow the news. So many terrible things happening around the world. Multiple debilitating category 5 hurricanes, and the resulting troubles in the Caribbean. Northern California wild fires. Earthquakes in Mexico. Bombing in Mogadishu. Syria. North Korea. Political unrest in Catalunya. Flooding. Droughts. NAFTA negotiations. American politics. Mass shooting in Las Vegas. Global warming. Melting glaciers. Extinction. It seems that every day, something else terrible happens. Each time I click on Facebook, Google News, or Twitter. Each time I turn on the TV. Or walk by a newsstand. So many thoughts that there isn’t any bandwidth to think. So many prayers that there isn’t enough time to pray. And if nuclear tragedy is going to befall the world at any moment, does anything I do even matter? Does it matter that I’ve taught my child how to be patient, or the difference between “up” and “down”? Does it matter if I can research a way to decrease injury by 5 %? Increase outcomes by 5 points? Even though people tell me what I do is important, it all seems so trivial.

We’ve been watching through Star Trek TNG episodes. And it strikes me how every episode involves some terrible thing that might kill everyone on board at any moment, and yet people still can prioritize the little life events. The Borg may be on their way in an hour, but by golly Captain Picard must pause to officiate a wedding first. How do you continue to live your life, when the world is crumbling around you?

Recently I also read about an interview with a centenarian, where she discussed the secret to longevity. A centenarian certainly has lived through world horrors. Both World Wars, for example. And it’s always very simple. Keep active, eat well, sleep well. Like the secret to being happy is not trying to stay abreast with world events.

What is right?

Knowing about the world events and trying to bias the world toward the better? For example, knowing about the dangers of plastics in the oceans can indeed help us make better day-to-day choices. Knowing about current cultural and world issues helps us be more compassionate to our fellow human beings. Each positive step counts.

But on the other hand, trying to keep up with events, in a time when horrible things seem to happen in rapid succession, overwhelms the senses. There are so many factors. So much nuance. It can leave you without emotional endurance to do anything. It’s paralyzing.

Facebook is a big part of the problem. A platform that was once a medium to share about your life - where you went to eat, where you’re traveling, what your kids are up to - is now a place where people share links to articles about some social injustice or some other tragedy. People arguing their political stance. Stuff you’d never had learned about someone in the past. I’d gotten used to going to Facebook to see how my friends were doing. But now, I have to sift through politics and world events, facts and opinions, truths and exagerations, filtered through the eyes of my friends, and echoed until it drowns out everything else. Do I need to watch every person who decides to dump ice water on their heads? Or read about each person who decides to post “Me too” on their feed? Or change their profile pic to have a border in support of whatever thing is trending? Is it going to make me a better person, or just more exhausted?

Google News is another problem. The more you click on a topic, the more of that topic it presents you. A trivial example: these days every small thing about Zelda BOTW ends up on my newsfeed. And it’ll keep showing up because I will keep clicking on them. But the same is happening with other things. Google News thinks I want to read about US politics? North Korea? Tragedies? Here’s more tragedies. Here’s more analysis on these tragedies. It’s not a balanced presentation of the news, the way picking up a newspaper used to be.

Anyway, I’ve ranted about the state of news before. But this barrage of “news” is making me consider more and more about whether it is better to know about everything and be paralyzed by it. Or, knowing there isn’t anything I can do to fix these situations, save my mental bandwidth for my own life. Because I know I would be a happier and more productive human being if I did.

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Embattled

July 17, 2017

Lately I find myself easily embattled. Just waiting for 35 minutes for a bus that is apparently 22 minutes away, for instance. I miss walking 5 minutes to work. The office being so hot and humid. Every little thing that would previously just bug me a little, can throw me over the edge. I’m so tired. Fatigued. I remember how I would have reacted to stuff a 1-2 years ago, and it wasn’t like this. Nothing is particularly bad. I know that. Doesn’t make it easier to handle.

Also I feel like 90% of my job is waiting for people to do their job. Trying to find a nice way to remind them without them feeling like I’m nagging. And then when something does come back, it comes back with a million more problems.

I’m so tired. Can’t stuff just run smoothly?

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I hate my birthday

June 23, 2017

I hate my birthday. Ever since I was little, my dad didn’t like having other people in the house making a mess. So I would have my birthday at other people’s houses. Maybe my uncle’s place, or best friend’s place, or another friend’s place. It always felt like borrowed birthdays. It was also after school let out in the summer, which meant I didn’t get the requisite classmate celebration. At work, apparently people in my job class don’t get celebrated. (Incidentally, we’re also the only job class where our salary has stagnated year on year, and recently got decreased. No inflation adjustments here!) Every other job class gets celebrated, but ours. Give money to celebrate everyone else’s birthday! But nobody will even acknowledge yours. So I’ve always hated my birthday. Partly expectations? Hopes? That people will care?

This year I need to spend my birthday celebrating my baby’s birthday. I don’t want him to hate his birthday the way I hate mine, so I want it to be a big deal. Good for him. But for me, it just adds insult on injury. Here I am, at a big milestone birthday. And not only does nobody care, but now I need to focus everyone on his day. For the rest of my life, this will be his day. I want it that way. But it sucks so much for me.

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No clean slate

June 15, 2017

Lately I’ve been feeling very meh. There’s so much focus on postpartum depression, and although there was moodiness after delivery, it was overshadowed by the sleep deprivation and life overhaul. Turns out there’s also an association between breastfeeding weaning and depression. It makes sense. After delivery, your estrogen and progesterone levels tank, so that’s a biggie. But with weaning, your prolactin and oxytocin levels tank. So all those biological feelings of well-being and love? Crash. I wonder if this is less well known because so many moms either just formula feed their babies, or wean pretty early. So all the mood changes get lumped into post-partum depression.

So there’s the weaning. But there’s also just fatigue from everything else. Sleep deprivation from one reason or another. Sometimes it’s work. Once in a while, baby decides he needs to not be sleeping, either re-testing out boundaries or actually having good reasons like missing family members who are away for work or vacation. Sometimes it’s the dog, who for whatever reason decides that night she needs to freak the fuck out, or pace around nervously, or whatever. Sometimes it’s the rain on the skylights. Sometimes it’s a stray spam phone call at an ungodly hour. Whatever it is, it adds up. Then there’s work. At first it was catch-up work from maternity leave. Oh, and mommy brain, which is definitely real. Holy fuck, mommy brain sucks. A few times I’ve found myself so sure that something is the case, and turns out to be entirely wrong. Those little baby cells in my brain are wreaking havoc with my memory. Also trying to juggle everything. 5-8pm is just the most stressful time of day. Trying to get out from work, then standing at the bus station at the mercy of whatever stupid reason the bus, which theoretically runs every 10-15 minutes during rush hour, doesn’t show up for 40 minutes. Trying to make dinner, and now trying to make food for baby that won’t result in him choking to death. Or raspberrying it all back into my face. (No pureed peas. That’s the lesson from this.) Trying to make dinner not too close to baby’s bedtime. Trying to find time to call my mother. Not knowing if baby will bite my boob off at the next feeding. Not knowing if baby will fall asleep tonight on time (which thankfully is 90% of the time), or cry and cry until you let him stay up another hour. I think the unpredictability of the bus (despite GPS apps that tell you when they think a bus will arrive) results in the most stress. Sometimes you end up losing half an hour sitting around. 30 minutes out of a stressful 3 hour window is a lot.

And turns out there’s one more thing. Something I’ve mused about before. Most of my life until now has been parcelled out into 3-6 year blocks. The longest block was elementary school! Once the block is over, you get to celebrate, and throw out all details and start afresh. It’s been now 5 years since the last major transition to this city and this job. I know a lot happened during this time, major life milestones. But everything happens overlapping now. Stuff just builds up now.

I find myself looking to Facebook or Google News regularly trying to find something to celebrate. It’s as useful as when I used to check the pantry when I was lonely. You don’t find a friend in a pantry. And you don’t find good news in The News. If it isn’t some natural disaster, it’s a terror attack. People dying from one thing or another. Fires, explosions, violence, bloodshed. Racism, xenophobia, politicizing, sensationalizing. There’s nothing to celebrate there.

So stuff just builds up. And there’s no quintessential moment anymore where the slate is wiped clean. No graduation and moving on. No grand plans to look forward to in excitement and anticipation. Just more and more responsibilities. More and more hurdles. Overlapping and competing deadlines. And crappy news from all over the world.

So some of it’s hormonal. But a lot of it is just built up crap.

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Forgiven shambles

April 17, 2017

Lately I’ve been feeling like humanity is going to destroy ourselves either quickly by blowing ourselves up because of some pointless conflict, or exhaust our planet slightly more slowly by not taking known problems seriously. Perhaps the urgency of my angst is due to now having a child.

Turns out our generation has been blessed to have the opportunity to grow up in one of the safest and most peaceful times in human history. World Wars over, cold war ending, globalization and easy international travel. Safe to travel in most of the world. Some wars and conflicts here and there, but honestly not much to complain about between 1970-2000, a major blip after that, but honestly also pretty awesome from 2002-2016. Some conflicts, but so remote from ourselves that it was easy to brush off.

But it’s been degrading. The rich are richer, everyone else is poorer. Power concentrating in the hands of a few. Xenophobia. Terrorism. Seemingly random attacks on places that we have grown up accepting as safe. And now I’m starting to see how tenuous our peace is. How stupid reasons could tip us so quickly into the abyss. Don’t take me wrong, I think there is way more good in the world than evil. The way I see it though, is that the good guys by and large don’t make it into places of power. It’s hard to get there, and it’s much easier to lie and cheat your way there. So greed for power, greed for wealth, pride… these characteristics win out.  You end up with people in charge who don’t actually care about the people they’re in charge of. Only insomuch as their vote or momentary support when it matters. Other than that, who cares, as long as there is more power now. More money now. More pride now. During this election cycle, because the next is someone else’s problem. Truth doesn’t matter. Values don’t matter. Choices don’t end up being made that are actually better for anyone in the long run.

Because of humanity’s inability to come together to do what is right for humanity, I worry about our future. And perhaps have the least practice in how to deal with it compared to generations past.

In the season of Easter we celebrate our forgiven sins. Perhaps Jesus did come and forgive us. That’s great, thanks. But we’ll still go ahead and make a mess of everything. A pile of forgiven shambles.

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