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:
May 2020 update! Although some restrictions have been slightly lifted where I live, life continues to be very different compared to pre-COVID-19 years.
At work, preparing for September 2020 (and January 2021) at university is an order of magnitude more laborious compared to previous years. Outside of work, my choir rehearsals and concerts were cancelled until further notice, and in the language school I volunteer for we are examining different scenarios regarding how to re-open the school. I also got married towards the end of last year, and was planning on having a reception this July, but we're postponing that too.
I've been actively thinking and journaling about emotions. It is easy for negative emotions to creep up during these trying times, but not all negative emotions are useful. So I'm investigating ways to dodge them... more on this in my next post.
Before I close out, I must mention this: While I worry about back-to-school season and weddings and stuff, I do not have to worry about how to interact with the police so that I do not get murdered on the spot. It is absurd and unfair that I can go about my normal life - eat breakfast, get groceries, go on walks, play video games - while George Floyd, and so many others, cannot. Black lives matter, and I have not done enough to be an ally so I decided to work towards it. I am educating myself and putting my money where my mouth is. I started by visiting here: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co
It is tempting to focus on the future and TODO's, but I thought today I will focus on celebrating the difficult things that I have managed to accomplish over the last half year - breaking out of bad habits and building good ones.
First and foremost, I am proud to say that I am not a nail biter anymore. I cannot remember when I started (childhood amnesia). I was able to stop once in the early 2000's, and another time at around 2017, but I went into relapse both times. I noticed that the my nail biting probability increases when I am 1) stressed out, 2) but not consciously aware of said mental state, so I decided to tackle both problems - being more mentally aware and acknowledging that I am feeling distressed, and also to get rid of the sources of distress as much as I can. Most recently, I made the decision to stop in November 2019, and so far so good.
It dawned on me that a source of distress could be something as simple as a cup of home brewed coffee in the morning. My body is small so it doesn't take that much caffeine to get me going... and for it to be overwhelming. So in February 2020 I cut down my caffeine consumption to 1/2 cup instead of a cup.
MORE HOT WATER
After getting a cold earlier this year and drinking hot water almost continuously, I realized that I like drinking hot (well, warm) water. So I decided to keep drinking hot water at least a few times a day. Feels nice and warm. I am hoping this helps with my digestion and blood circulation.
MORE MINDFUL MOMENTS
I dedicated March 2020 to the 30-day mindfulness challenge and I have acquired a mini-meditation habit (5 sets of controlled breathing and being aware of body posture) where I can spend a few minutes to get out of my head and back into my body.
LESS OBSESSION OVER CHECKING
I started to cut back on social media usage and obsessive email checking. This is a difficult habit to break out of because in my current job and in all of my previous jobs, emails are >80% of what I do since all my roles are/were communicative ones. Recently, when I decided to clear my browsing history, cache, cookies, passwords, etc. I decided to NOT save my credentials on my browser when I log in to social media, and I make a point to log out / close the window when I finish using something. This acts as a filter - if I need to send or post something that is important enough, I will log in to do that specific thing. But if I don't have anything important to do (and I'd just do mindless scrolling as a result), I won't bother spending the time logging in. I'm several days in on this, and I think I'm checking significantly less than I used to.
Here's to forming more good habits!
I decided to take advantage of a service offered through my work: Mindwell-U’s “30-Day Mindfulness Challenge.” It is based on the idea of “Tak[ing] 5” (details here): https://www.mindwellu.com/take-5 and each day I need to watch a short video and do mini-reflections (in addition to taking 5 at least once… ideally 5 times or more). I participated in the challenge from March 3 to April 1, 2020.
By the end of the 30 days, I would’ve taken 5 approximately 90 times (roughly 3 times a day). I started the 30-day mindfulness challenge at a very unique time (when COVID-19 turned into a global pandemic), and so my conclusion as to whether the mindfulness challenge worked is somewhat wishy-washy: I’m feeling uneasy overall, but I might be feeling way worse if I didn’t do the mindfulness exercises every day.
Action items for the future (which may or may not evolve into my next DK30, we’ll see):
Some reflections on the 30-Day Mindfulness Challenge at large:
I thought I'd write something during the month of March 2020 so that there exists a record that I am doing fine (for now at least) during the strange times we're in.
I work at a university, and so the impact of COVID-19 did not hit me on a personal level until Friday March 13, when the university made the decision to shift all their in-person classes to online classes in support of physical distancing.
I saw extraordinarily rapid changes on the week of March 16:
Monday (March 16): "Classes are online but the university is still open so employees are still expected to come to work."
Friday (March 20): "We are locking the buildings at end of day today and you must obtain approval to access the building."
(I didn't get yoinked out of my office though. I had started working from home for physical distancing reasons since March 9 because I had a minor cold I didn't want to infect anyone with.)
The week of March 23 was about dealing with the consequences of physical distancing and the sudden (and probably jarring) transition to online learning. I'm sure there were numerous conversations among faculty members regarding final exams and projects (the current academic term ends at the beginning of April). As a staff member of the university, I was involved in numerous conversations regarding a MAJOR grading policy change (or an exception granted for this term only) that was announced on March 23. We had to have answers ready for all the "what are the implications?" questions by the end of March 26. Although that week was full of uncertainty (and if you know me you know that I dislike uncertainty!), but I appreciate the university's adaptive response to the pandemic. Everyone is flustered, but that is normal behavior considering how big of a crisis we're facing.
I will also mention that important decisions had to be made very quickly at the language school I volunteer at as vice chair. That was a mentally exhausting process but I am pleased with the outcome.
From a personal perspective, I am doing okay so far. Since March 3, I was participating in a "30-day mindfulness challenge" offered through my work (in a nutshell: remembering to do 5 sets of 5 controlled breaths for 30 days: https://www.mindwellu.com/take-5). The final day of the challenge is tomorrow, and I feel lucky to have started the mindfulness challenge right as COVID-19 was turning into something unfathomable worldwide. (I think I am appreciating meals more... which feels kind of silly to say, but that's something you usually do 3 times a day. It can add up.) I plan to write a more detailed review of the 30-day mindfulness challenge at a later date.
I must admit - with all the information (and misinformation) about the COVID-19 pandemic coming constantly from different directions regardless of being online or offline (the news, social media, family and friends), there's a sense of unrest everywhere I go and I find it very difficult to concentrate and get things done. It feels like it costs 10x as much energy to accomplish anything. I believe that part of that unrest might be coming from the uncertainty ("when will it end?") and a mourning of an era (like what the HBR article "That Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief" says) - one day we'll meet up with each other again in person but the world will not be the same as before. There is no going back, and we don't know where we're going.
As I head off to bed, I hope that more people staying home, washing their hands frequently, wearing masks to prevent spread, etc. will result in killing off a whole bunch of other lethal virus strains.
I thought I'd write some thoughts on the DayKnight 30-day Project Challenge (DK30). After 30 days, I made 5 illustrations (which exceeds my minimum goal of 4).
This was my first DK30, and I think it was a success. Overall, I was able to predict that I will produce somewhere between 4 and 6 illustrations based on the target days I planned to spend each week. But I dramatically underestimated how many hours I would spend PER TARGET DAY. I probably spent 2x-3x as much time to complete an illustration because I would deviate from the initial draft so much. In weeks 3 and 4 my attention was split between two projects (I got invited into helping out on a different DK30 project) so that was an additional challenge.
Most importantly though, the illustrations did seem to bring back memories for the DayKnights who watched the source videos and/or streams, and did pique interest of the DayKnights who haven't watched Day's musings. And last but not least... Day himself saw my illustrations WOOHOOOOO!!! (huge fan moment haha)
(Originally posted on the DK30 project page)
The final illustration for the Winter 2020 Day Knight 30-Project Challenge is from "Emotions as Kittens and Ninja-stars."
How many "kittens" and "ninja-stars" do you encounter every day? I think I'm probably a half-and-half person, but I used to feel like I had way more ninja-stars because I wasn't acknowledging the kittens enough. So these days, while attempting to dodge the ninja-stars, I am making a point of REALLY petting the kittens when they do appear. And I think it is working.
(Originally posted on the DK30 project page)
"Anxiety" was a topic that hit very close to home so I decided to draw it as a tribute.
Making this turned out to be more challenging than expected - after finishing my initial draft, my final design ended up deviating quite a lot from it so it took an extra day for me to complete. It took a while for me to settle on how to visualize the ruminating thoughts (in the form of thought bubbles that look like dark clouds). I am satisfied with how it turned out - especially when the thoughts turn into more vicious ones and become spiky and explode-y.
(Originally posted on the DK30 project page)
Second drawing for week 2, featuring a clip from "Being Relentlessly Positive." Ruminating negative thoughts is a bad habit of mine, and most of the time... simply turning my attention to someone else and focusing on helping them out is all I need to get out of my own head.
I'm Candice and I doodle with the intensity of the doomguy.