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Life is too short to put things off

I am not into new year’s resolutions. I never needed this kind of stimulus to make changes in my life. Whenever something feels not right, I try to change it as soon as I get the courage and summon the power of will to do so.

This year somehow something did not feel exactly right. In particular, I was in this job, which I enjoyed but was getting a bit bored at. I had a steep learning curve at the beginning but things had begun to taper off. Given that this is my first industry job, and coming from an environment where you always want to learn more, there is always something else, some new skill and technique to add to your arsenal, I decided I was too young, and was at too early a stage at my career, to become that comfortable. So, I made a switch. And unlike the first time when I looked for a job (you can read about my experiences which were anything but a walk in the park here), this time things worked out quote smoothly.

Then the next thing I really wanted and needed to do was to take a month off between assignments. Most people will do that after high school or college. But after high school I had no money to travel, nor after undergrad and grad school. After completing my PhD, from my new job they wanted me to immediately start working. So I split my vacations between going back home and stealing a weekend here and there. But that’s it. No where super exciting. Nowhere you need shots to go to. And when if not now? After all, what to do with some draining savings if not invest them in life experiences?

It is an overused cliché, but life is indeed too short to postpone what you want to do. A completely different life could be only a decision away. And a few steps out of your comfort zone.

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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Holidays, Life, Uncategorized

 

Putting 2016 behind

As the bad news keep on pouring on us on a daily basis, many of us – I bet – are eager to put the year behind. I am not one who is very fascinated or excited with the coming of any new year (partly because January and February are such bleak months, they tend to get me a little depressed). Therefore, I never do New Year’s resolutions, never draw lines and make countdowns when the year comes to an end. But given the many bad things happened to humanity in the past year, it made me ponder how well I fared.

It has been not such a bad year for me personally. I did have a number of firsts and a number of achievements. The biggest is perhaps that I defended and obtained my PhD diploma, something I was working on in the past 3 years of my life. I wish back then I felt a speck of pride or joy, but well… I am and will be reaping the fruits of it in the future, I hope.

I moved out of the apartment I was sharing with other people in the past 4 years to an independent, grown-up space of my own. I got to decorate it the way  it seemed fit to me, I painted it and bought the furniture I wanted to have in it.

I was doing well in my job and in my relationship. I learned a lot at my job, and was happy to be adding value to an important real-life problem. My relationship also moved on to the next level and I shared many happy moments and invaluable experiences with my significant other.

I did some travelling and exploring. When it comes to travelling, my notion is that it can never be enough, but I am always satisfied if at least I have visited some place I had never seen before (and re-visited some other beloved places).

I have also been enriched in life experiences. I sort of overcame my fear of roller coasters, I saw some amazing operas, I attended a concert of Coldplay (and Coldplay and U2 were the dream!), needed to become comfortable riding a motorcycle, learned how to paint and assemble furniture, completed (yet another :P) course in Dutch (so allegedly, now I am supposed to be good at it), for the first time ate at a Michelin-star restaurant, climbed mountains, read more than 30 books, had another academic paper accepted to a good journal, and overall, will finish the year feeling a bit enriched, older and wiser than at its beginning. And in my book, the past years have not been all that eventful..

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2016 in new year, Uncategorized

 

Moving in a grown up apartment for the first time on your own

After first living with my parents until I moved abroad to do my grad studies, then living in student dorms, and sharing an apartment with other people for a few years, a moment came when I could not take it anymore. I just couldn’t be woken up by noises on the street in the relatively noisy neighborhood I used to live in, by flatmates you don’t have the same schedule as me, or spending hours on cleaning other people’s mess. I was just done.

Now, when it comes to housing in Amsterdam, one should always keep one thing in mind : it is a cruel, grueling, making-you-want-to-give-up-the-will-to-live process. And I struggled with it. For  a couple of months, I visited apartments in nice and not so nice neighborhoods, I took time off from work, took days off, sent endless applications forms, collected documents and documents, and then some more documents. I tried, visited apartments, submitted forms and waited for months. And then, I was lucky to get an apartment I really wanted in a new and very residential part of the town.

Very often when you rent an apartment via an agency, the apartment is completely empty, often needing serious renovation.I liked the apartment I am currently living in because it needed a bit less of the hassle. I ‘only’ had to paint it and lay a floor in the bedroom.

And the work only started from there. Little did I know how much I little informed i was about renovations, hooking up appliances to the electricity and making grownup decisions such as what pieces of furniture to buy for which room. But fortunately, they either offer a service for everything, or if you cannot afford it, there is always a helpful friend or your boyfriend who can help you for you.

Not only the limitations of my knowledge and, sometimes purely physical power, were a limitation. I was also short on time. I had only a few weeks to move out from my old  flat, set everything in place in the new one (enough so to make it livable), alongside my full time job in another city. For a while I had to forget what it felt like sleeping without an alarm clock, free time on the weekend, and in general having time for things as simple as doing sports. Now, I didn’t do everything absolutely alone. My boyfriend was helping as much as he could, but as it happened, he could not be there as much as I needed him. Friends also helped me. But mostly I was struggling, suffering and bruising on my own.

The awesome part though is that you might be suffering on your own but you end up going where you want to go, and you end up creating the cozy little place in which you feel absolutely comfortable. And it is all up to you, not having parents, friends, landlords, or partners setting it up instead.

And I cannot describe the pure joy of simply sleeping to your own needs and desires, or having just a little peace and comfort after a busy day at work. Just a quiet place where you can be on your own, all by yourself, undisturbed and perfectly at ease. Then relax with a cup of tea or wine and indulge in a guilty-pleasure type of a habit (mine is TV series).

But even I cannot deny that it also feels pretty great when someone is waiting for you in the quiet little place to come back home.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Feeling at home, Uncategorized

 

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How it feels to get a PhD

As someone who was a part of the academic world for a few years, it would happen that every now and then a diligent colleague or a friend would manage to defend their dissertation and get their longed-for PhD. Strangely, every now and then when I’d attend such events, I’d feel the formality and importance of it all. A side note, in the Netherlands PhD defenses are super formal. You have the committee all dressed in their garments, grilling you with allegedly tough questions for an hour in an open event for everyone at the university to attend, if they wish so. They address you with ‘dear candidate’ and you respond back with ‘highly (or very) esteemed opponent’.

The whole formality of the event does not contribute towards a stress-free and pleasant experience. But it does, however, make the event feel like a big deal. It is not just an ordinary day, you are after all this time, getting your title!

After the committee has made their decision to give you the title, you receive your diploma, with a red wax stamp on it, in a big tube-like container. Then your supervisor gives a small speech about you, which is supposed to contain a few anecdotes and a little bit of praise.

Usually such ceremonies move me. I am always able to sympathize with the candidate, admire their hard work and perseverance, and have always been a little bit dreamy, wishing one day, soon enough, I would be able to defend my own dissertation as well. Hell, I am not ashamed to admit I get goosebumps and a little teary every so often.

All until it was my time to defend. Stress aside, I felt mostly numb. None of the pride and emotions I expected to feel. I did not get goosebumps, I did not get misty-eyed. In a nutshell, it did not feel like a big deal. Maybe because I did not make a big fuss out of it. People sometimes have all their families attending, starting from distant cousins to their sister’s recent casual fling, all kind of friends —  from distant childhood to their recent drinking buddies. I had no family in the audience, only my boyfriend, a few people from the department, some of my PhD colleagues, and 2 of the colleagues in my recent job. There were people who said would make it to the ceremony, people I considered good and close friends, but who were not there. Perhaps this took away from the significance of the event for me, at least a little bit. Perhaps I just could not realize what was going on, or subconsciously had decided to toughen myself up so that I will not start weeping like an idiot the moment I get the longed for red-waxed diploma. Perhaps. Perhaps the reward was not in the ceremony itself and getting the degree. Or maybe the rewards came all in little phases. First you submit your thesis to the committee. Then they say yes. And you print the book. The moment you receive a box of books at your home having your name on the cover is in itself quite uplifting.

Or perhaps the joy doesn’t just hit you at once. Maybe the work itself, the grueling hours, late nights and weekends you spent on it and putting it all behind is the prize itself. The self-discipline, dedication and motivation  are a morale training like no other.

Or maybe all the literature I read about aspirations and their effect on our well-being was right after all. Some suggest that your own status not per se your is not what matters for your happiness but your state relative to that of others. And if you win a lottery, for example, you quickly adjust to the new fortune and soon enough aspirations kick in and you want more. You can imagine that someone driven enough to pursue a PhD would still be ruled by ambition. There is this very much ‘meh’ moment after you graduate. Especially if you quit academia and know that this is going to be the highest degree you will ever get.

Perhaps. Or perhaps I still need a few more days for the joy to kick in. In the meantime, I am still waiting.

 

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in PhD life, Uncategorized

 

What it is that really makes me happy

Months ago I had a post, in which I declared my intention to use my latest passion (and currently occupation) to crack down the secret the happiness (see it here). So, I collected some data about myself for a couple of months (I admit I was not persistent enough with it) and all the little things that might affect my well-being on that day. I analysed these data now, after finding some time, and *drumroll* here are the ffindings.

Details I recorded included how well physically I felt during the day, what was the weather like, how productive I was in my job, what kind of sports I did during that day (if any), what type of socializing activities took place, even things I had for breakfast and lunch (I admit I did not vary too much).

The sample was perhaps a non-typical period in my life as I was in the process of looking for a job, and job rejections or positive news on that front did play a role in my happiness level. I rated my own happiness in the morning and in the evening and in my analysis, I looked at both factor individually, as well as their difference. And yes, everything is super biased as technically there is only me in the sample. However, I was mining for some interesting patterns about factors that might be correlated with my happiness. So, sadly the findings do not apply to you or some average, representative population. Or perhaps there might be some coincidences. Overall some expected, some less expected things emerged from my little experiment.

  1. If I woke up in a bad mood, it was likely to be persistent during the day.
  2. Things such as self-rated health, health-related complaints, and even monthly hormonal fluctuations seemed to matter a lot for me (obviously, the healthier, the happier I felt).
  3. As to be expected, if I received bad news in my job search, this made me grumpier, but if the news were good, it would more than compensate any bad news I might have received on the same day.
  4. Doing any kind of sports increased my happiness (the sport activities were mostly running, or if the weather was bad, spinning and some exercises at home). Interestingly, the number of kilometers I ran is negatively associated with how happy I was in the end of the day. So, on a subconscious level I am lazy, I guess (or my body feels better if I don’t overdo it).
  5. If I did any sort of fun activity with other people/ socializing, I’d be happier. However, if the contact was mostly online (say, to some friends who live back home or moved abroad), the sign was negative. What explains this could be that if I am less happy, I might be more likely to reach out to some close friends with whom I communicate mostly online.
  6. Shockingly, the number of drinks I had in a day decreased my happiness in the end of the day. Again, this could be due to the fact that I seldom drink alone, so if this was the case, I perhaps felt gloomy and hoped the drink to cheer me up (we all do it sometimes, don’t judge). I will know better for the future and stay away from the wine and run for the chocolate instead.
  7. Recently I realized how important sleep can be. And the data confirm that if I had nice, long sleep during the night and woke up on my own (uninterrupted by noises and the alarm clock), I felt happier.
  8. As I expected, the hotter the weather was, the less happy I was (I cannot tolerate heat in general).
  9. And inexplicably, somehow omelette or French toast for breakfast make me really happy, but oatmeal or a smoothie really sad. This one is still a mystery to me.

Oh, I guess I should have given a dork alert earlier into this column 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

As I Began to Love Myself

For a while now, I have admired the wisdom and art of living of Charlie Chaplin. I recently stumbled upon this poem, which he read to a group of friends on this 70th birthday. For me personally, it comes very timely. I never do New Year’s resolutions, I make my resolutions throughout the whole year instead. But if there is one thing I need to promise myself, it is to take care of myself more, to love me more, to stick to my own perceptions of who I am and what the world it, and to protect my determination and innocence from everything that might diminish it.

Here is the beautiful poem. I hope anyone who is reading this will also appreicate it.

As I Began to Love Myself – Self Love Poem by Charlie Chaplin

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering
are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.
Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody As I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time
was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this
person was me.Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life,
and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow.
Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance,
I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens
at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm.
Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit steeling my own time,
and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.
Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do
and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in
my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for
my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew
me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude
a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since
I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worry
about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where EVERYTHING
is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me
and it can make me sick. But As I connected it to my heart, my
mind became a valuable ally.Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems
with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing
new worlds are born. Today I know THAT IS “LIFE”!

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2016 in Love for oneself, Uncategorized

 

2015: My Review

As wordpress helpfully fed me with statistics about the status and activity on my blog in the past year, I couldn’t help but ponder about what has happened in 2015, what I managed to achieve and what not.

Overall, it has been a year which started with some personal, soul-wrenching difficulties, but ended well. All in all, I found a new passion and drive in life, completed an online degree in it and found a job in that field. I completed my PhD, which was successfully accepted for a defence by the committee. I travelled to a few new countries I had never been to before, I tried new things, met new friendly and kind people, ate new food and sipped some sweet, delicious drinks as the sun was warming up my skin and my toes were buried in the sand. I went to concerts of bands I dreamt of seeing live and got tickets to some equally exciting upcoming ones. I discovered I have acquired a taste for classical music, opera and all kinds of cultural activities. I have grown up in a way, became more open-minded and less judgmental, which is something I am proud of. I have progressed in building myself towards the person I want to be, and I have managed to nurture and grow relationships that I find meaningful. I am closer to my family, and I have covered some important milestones in my relationship that have brought us closer together.

I did read many books although compared to last year when I logged 50, this year the number is closer to 25. I did not return to my marathon shape and with my busy schedule, I have decreased my running to only 2 times a week. But as long as I can still run a half-marathon without falling apart in the meantime, I am not worried. I did not always have the time to socialize as much as I would have liked to. I did not always find the time for all of my friends, but it was a sacrifice I had to make because I was working hard on my goals. And it seems I have become an optimist 🙂 So, overall, I can look back and see 2015 as a good year.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Uncategorized