For the past 30 years, I was putting enormous amounts of effort to become someone else. I was too this. Too that. Too impatient. Too tolerant. Too emotional. Too serious. Too much initiative. Too little initiative.
I don't think anyone really wanted me to be literally someone else instead, but if you ask the 6-year old me being told that I was too short-tempered, the 9-year old me being told that I had to say something funny for appeasement purposes, the 13-year old me being told that I wasn't attractive because I didn't look happy enough, the 18-year old me being told that I shouldn't pursue a career in fine arts because I won't make money, the 26-year old me being told that "I had too much initiative" in my first full-time job, and the 30-year old me being told that "I just had to toughen up" in my second job (where it got psychologically unsafe to me to the point where I wished I never woke up in the morning when I went to bed, every night), over time we all heard the message loud and clear: they didn't want me there - they wanted someone who had characteristics that were simply not mine.
The aspirations I wrote back in 2018 felt true to me at the time, but looking back, I was trying to become my mentor (who actually built and fixed organizations, and I still think it is a great thing to do - just, not actually my cup of tea). The following statement is much more aligned with myself: I live to make the world a better place by giving the gift of self-reliance and well-being to others, by transferring functional knowledge through various media: developing instruction manuals, making improvements in graphic/web/UI design, and creating illustrations/diagrams/storyboards.
It took me 30 years to finally accept myself for who I am, and to decide to become a better version of myself instead of becoming someone else. So if this rings a bell for you ("I've been bending myself into a pretzel for far too long") or if you feel like you're in the dark trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do, it is worth spending the time now to get to know yourself better - your interests, preferences, passions, values, what you are willing to spend your life on.
How have you been? How are you feeling?
For the past few months, I've been working on improving habits such as remembering to have a few mindful moments every day. I think these habits are good for mending the mental "wounds" I acquire throughout the day from negative emotions, i.e. ninja stars (if you do not know what I mean by the ninja stars analogy, check out the "Kittens and Ninja Stars" post or even better yet, go to the source and watch the video). About a month ago, I decided that it is the appropriate time for me to figure out if there is a way to dodge some of the ninja stars so that I don't get wounded in the first place. In stress management I think they call them "triggering events" or something but I'm using the ninja stars terminology because I don't get to use the word ninja star that often, and I personally feel like the word "trigger" is a word that is too strong for me to use in this context.
This post is LONG, and will cover the following:
I (finally) started playing the game Celeste recently, and completed Chapter 8 (haven't done the B and C-sides yet).
Since this post does address the main story, if you have not played this game and you wish to avoid spoilers, do not read past this point! (Play it first!)
A few months ago, I read StrengthsFinder 2.0 (in conjunction with other books like The Pathfinder... which I'm still working on. That book is massive!) in an attempt to examine myself in more detail. I didn't take the assessment at the time because I borrowed this book. Based on reading the description of each strength, I predicted that I would have the following as my top 5 themes:
Several days ago, I finally took the assessment. The results were:
Rank 5: INTELLECTION
This is how the intellection theme manifests in my thoughts and behavior:
Rank 4: DISCIPLINE
This is how the discipline theme manifests in my thoughts and behavior:
Rank 3: RESPONSIBILITY
This is how the responsibility theme manifests in my thoughts and behavior:
Rank 2: LEARNER
This is how the learner theme manifests in my thoughts and behavior:
Rank 1: EMPATHY
Something that I didn't even consider as a strength made it in as the top strength (!). After mulling over it for a while, things started to make sense: most of the things I mention below come so naturally to me to the point where I don't notice it. If there was anything I do notice about myself, it was because the strength was working against me (so I thought I had flaws).
After doing this exercise (which took me several days), I can say these two things: First, I think I know myself a bit better than I did before - I found a new way to consolidate/categorize my thoughts and behaviors. Second, I feel much more okay with myself than I did before. Throughout childhood and into adulthood and working life, I felt like I was constantly encouraged to contort myself into funky pretzel shapes to fit into unrealistic norms or environments that I naturally am not compatible with. I felt like there was always something wrong with me that I had to fix or hide.
I think I can let all of that go now :)
A few weeks ago, I was on vacation... thinking about what makes a vacation a vacation.
I don't know what it's like for you, but lately I've been running into a bunch of articles that say something along the lines of: "The secret to a happy life is to treat your weekends not just as 'days you don't work' but more like a 'vacation'!" which got me thinking a bit.
I haven't had a really nice vacation in a while.
Not too long ago, I've been on vacation where my phone would not stop buzzing (unfortunately my work didn't have a work phone vs. personal phone distinction so all the work texts came to my personal cellphone. And this was during my 5th year anniversary trip with my partner). It was frightening to even imagine the number of work message notifications on my phone. More recently, I've been on vacation where the fear of missing out kicked in and I was frightened for almost the entire time - despite the fact that there was not a ton of work accumulating while I was gone.
So when I think of "vacation" my mind defaults to: "Oh, you mean that dread?"
What made me look forward to the holidays before I started dreading them?
I decided to jot down a list of things that bring me joy (and this will continue to grow as I remember more things and discover things that I like):
Did your vacation turn into something to dread before? What brings you joy?
I have been on a journey of healing since late 2018. Six months later, I think I can say that I have made progress (yay!). There is one thing that I improved over the first six months of 2019 - forgiving myself and others.
Believe it or not, I was a professional grudge holder in my childhood. Every time I felt wronged by my parents or friends or even strangers, I would hold onto that resentment for years. And every time I felt I wronged myself - by failing to be perfect - I would also hold onto that as well. That was my habit for the past 20 years or so, and I am starting to break out of it. I am starting to genuinely believe the following statement:
I am doing what I can with the information I have at the time.
I understand that the information I have is usually incomplete. It can be completely wrong. As a result, I can make mistakes not necessarily due to bad judgement but because the premises I believed in were simply not true. In the past six months, I realized that I have beaten myself up enough (isn't 20 years enough?) and that I have better things to do now - to be kind to others (most notably, the 400 students I advise as part of my current job).
My message to current students: for many, university is often the place where you discover your interests that you've never even thought about before, and totally different from what you initially thought you would do. (Once upon a time, I was a biology major. I thought I was going into biochemistry. Instead I discovered the Cognitive Systems Program at UBC and ended up transferring into UBC to major in COGS.) You may find yourself thinking, "I should have known I wanted to do X instead of Y - then I could have taken courses that count towards getting a degree in X instead of Y". It is easy and tempting to beat yourself up, but be kind. You were using your best judgement. You still are.
You are doing what you can with the information you have at the time.
As some of you may know, one of the hats I wear is the Academic-Advising-at-a-University hat. And the most frequently asked question I get is about careers (perhaps because I am the Advisor of an undergraduate program that is liminal in nature): Where do alumni tend to go? What can I do with my major? After having this career conversation with various individuals and thinking about this topic in my sleep for many nights, I thought I'd write down my very general (i.e. non-major-specific) thoughts on the matter. DISCLAIMER: the following thoughts are my own!
This may be relevant for you if you're unsure about the whole how-to-go-about-figuring-out-your-career thing. If you're up for reading the rest, get yourself in a comfy position on the couch and make sure you have your favorite beverage (and/or snacks) in hand... because it is long! :)
Disclaimer #2: I ain't got no Master's degree or PhD so for those who would like to know the details about what it's like to pursue graduate studies you'll need to talk to the experts (i.e. graduate students) - I ain't one.
Coating with sugar and ruffling the feathers: signs that will make you think twice before accepting that job offer
Other than catching how "off" the job offer sounds, there are other signs that might indicate that something may be awry about the prospective employer or your prospective boss.
COATING THE PROBLEMS WITH SUGAR
If you get a chance to talk to someone at the company you got a job offer from, and if they say something that sounds like the following, you might want to flag those statements and further analyze (and try to get a second or even a third opinion if you can):
RUFFLING THE FEATHERS
The other place to look for signs is X (your prospective supervisor). If they consistently exhibit the following behaviors, you might want to think twice before committing to work for that person:
Oftentimes I get questions about what resources are available for finding yourself (and your calling). I recommend the following books, not in any particular order - they give you frameworks to think about yourself in different ways and to get valuable information out of yourself.
Recently I was asked the following question: If you could redo everything post-graduation over again, what would you have done differently?
My short answer would be: I would have said NO a lot more.
I recognize that student life is stressful - you constantly get judged. Although marks are not everything, they cannot be trivialized either because they could matter for some things (e.g. getting into a program, getting into graduate school). You get tested on things all the time, and chances are you won't get perfect marks. Although that is an indicator that you can learn more and improve, it is easy for us to beat ourselves up if we don't do well on an assignment or an exam. So if you've been in that judging environment for 4 or more years, it may take a toll on your self-esteem.
As a fresh graduate, my self-esteem was so low from facing uncertainty and rejection that I was willing to do more than I was actually willing to do. I fell for the short-term gains (mostly money) instead of the long-term impact.
Let's say you get a job offer after applying for many jobs. It can be very tempting to just pounce on it - maybe because you've been rejected so many times before and you really wanted this position. But before you make the leap, make sure your gut isn't telling you that something is off at the time you get the offer. If your gut says something is awry, DO NOT IGNORE IT. Stop and listen carefully before you make a decision. Here are a couple of examples:
Lastly - if you are in circumstances where you still need to say yes although you know that something is off, know what your limits are and start planning for your next move before your mental and physical health starts declining.
I'm Candice and I doodle with the intensity of the doomguy.