Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Imposter syndrome at work

Having grown up poor and seeing how both parents work low-wage, labor-heavy jobs just to provide, I’ve been imbued with a sense that you earn your money by working hard - physically hard, that is. If you’re not constantly doing something during work hours, then you are definitely not earning that paycheck. That mentality have served me well in my younger years as it’s all about the hustle and doing the most in order to standout amongst a crowd. Now that I’m decently established in my current job, the inherited thinking from my parents causes a bit of internal conflict.

My job is mainly to help people when they need technical assistance with technology in a classroom. If an instructor have trouble plugging a Macbook Pro into the ceiling projector, I am his Huckleberry. As is the tendency of this kind of work, some days we get an endless amount of phone calls, and others there’s nary a troubleshoot to be had. It’s on those less busy days where I am sat waiting for the next call that the feelings of an imposter and not fully-deserving of my salary, creeps in.

I can’t seem to reconcile my upbringing with the fact I mostly get paid for my knowledge and expertise, and only a small portion is for actual physical work. Indeed this is what a typical white-collar job looks like, and I guess my blue-collar childhood carries some residual effects on whether or not I think myself worthy of such a role. That’s my unique sort of imposter syndrome: am I doing enough to deserve this job? I constantly ask myself this.

Indeed I’ve achieved the hopes of my parents, to not have to trade physical labor for a meager salary, and I am profoundly grateful for it. However, sometimes that gratitude can corrupt itself into an adverse sense of fear that it can all be taken away in short order. So I work hard justify my position, and mentally stress about my competence level. I’m sure in a perverse way that thinking has helped me get to the place I am today, but looking forwards I really could do without with the unnecessary stress.

At some point I need to be confident in what I can do and not worry about the tangible amounts in I am doing. It’s simply the nature of the work.

Indeed it does, writing-on-the-bathroom-wall guy.

Right in the feels

Yesterday I was introduced to this interesting article about busyness, within which the following is quoted:

This busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness. Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly, or trivial, or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked every hour of the day. All this noise, and rush, and stress seem contrived to cover up some fear at the center of our lives.

This hit me right in the gut.

I’m not super obsessed with being busy, but I do try to keep productive whenever I can. Whenever I’m idle it feel as if I’m wasting this one life I’ve got, so I keep to a tight schedule and try to maximize the learning opportunities. Indeed I’m that asshole who can’t understand people’s infatuation with watching television; those mindless hours are better spent on more creative endeavors, or self improvement. On such occasions I grab a book instead, or edit photographs.

But it’s easy to get trapped into a productivity hamster wheel, where I’m singularly focused on finishing a task as quickly as possible, and moving on to the next. I don’t get satisfaction for the day until the list is finished, which on reflection is not the healthiest thing to do, because I’m completely negating the joy that comes from the process. If life becomes just a series of checkmarks, then you’re forever looking towards the next item to mark off. I keep busy because I’m afraid the music will stop.

Because when the music stops, I die.

My busyness is absolutely a sort of existential reassurance, not as a hedge against emptiness, but rather a hedge against my fear of mortality. Since my youth I’ve had difficulty accepting that all of this is finite, and someday I won’t be walking on this earth. Worse still is the feeling that I won’t know what happens afterwards, an eternal sleep from which there’s no awakening. That final threshold of human life have always had a scary hold onto my psyche, even to this day as a full-fledged adult. The continued practice of stoicism and the acceptance of death sometimes isn’t enough to hold back the demons.

Being busy, does; so I keep at it, but reading that passage above completely pierced through the facade. I’m afraid of death, yet I’m mindlessly barreling through it without stopping to feel alive in the present. That’s not okay. Instead of using busyness as a blanket to hide away the darkness, I need to steer into the slide and confront the pangs of fear whenever it materializes.

Not to say I shall become be slothful and lazy (my default mode, actually), but rather to slow down and really focus on what’s at hand, rather than what’s coming up next. Also, it’s perfectly okay to take a break, and have frivolous moments - especially if it’s spent with family or friends.

Here today, gone tomorrow.

A man and his castle

When I was in my twenties, I was completely into the urban city life. Having grown up in one, I love the density, the hustle and bustle, and how accessible everything is. Living in secluded suburbia was just about the dullest thing imaginable; there would only be the house, and nothing else. Give me the city, and the all of the lights.

Presently in my thirties, and properly “adulting”, my perspective on that has been changing. These days, peace and quiet is what I’m after, and ultimately a castle to call my own. I don’t want to hear the busy sidewalks and too many cars driving by; I don’t want to fight with the crowds and wade the troubles parking; I don’t want to pay the high tax for living in one of the most expensive cities on the planet.

I want open spaces, and dead silence.

I want the proverbial cottage at the countryside.

Too crazy of a dream? Perhaps. The immediate and biggest concern is what the heck am I to do for money. I refuse to be amongst the masses who live far away from the urban core, yet still commute for hours every day back into the city for work. That’s a significant amount of precious time to be squandered on the road, even in these modern times of endless podcasts and super intelligent cruise-control.

But those people do the commute slog for a reason: the city has almost all the jobs. It wouldn’t be so prosperous and constantly full of new developments otherwise. No doubt they’d all rather work much closer to home, but deep in the heart of suburbia or rural counties, there are no high paying jobs.

For me, the solution to that problem is the Internet, in the way of digital freelancing, or join a company that will allow work from home. With the cost of living ‘out in the sticks’ immensely less than metropolises, I wouldn’t even need to be earning as much as I do now for it to be sustainable. Besides, aside from cars (admittedly a big one), I’m not in the least materialistic about anything; I don’t need a huge salary to be absolutely content.

It’s definitely something to ponder about. I certainly cannot afford a house in or anywhere near San Francisco, so if I really want a place for myself – can’t live with the parents forever, no matter how Asian I am – I think I’ll have to get out from this city.

Exit stage center.

First of the year

Greetings! It’s indeed 2019 isn’t it? I know what you’re thinking: “Healy, it’s almost February already; where in the heck have you been?”

Well, I’ve been tremendously sick.

I returned from my annual trip back home to China on the 12th all ready to get back into my regularly scheduled programming, but on that same day I caught the worse cold/mild flu I’ve had in many, many years. It felt hopelessly endless as I woke up everyday to the same wretched feeling, without any signs of improvement. It was one for the long haul and it’s not until this, the last week of January that I’ve finally shaken off the majority of the ills and feeling completely myself again.

Nothing like a proper span of being sick to have you realize you’ve been taking your good health for granted. The utter lack of energy to do absolutely anything; being crushingly tired just from the hours at work (I wasn’t going to take two weeks off from work after having already taken two weeks off prior for vacation); and not being able to get a wink of good sleep, compounded by the crushing jet-lag. It has not been the greatest of starts to my 2019 on our side of the Pacific.

A silver-lining to the prolonged cold was that it provided me with some precious perspective as I planned out how to tackle life in this new year. I think I’m going to try for less structure: work is work, nothing to change there, but outside of the job I shall try to be less stringent with my hobbies and tasks and to simply go with the flow.

The strict scheduling and timeliness was adding a level of stress I didn’t realize existed until I got sick this past two weeks and all of that structure got put away. An ideal came back into my purview: enjoyment. Having unceremoniously tossed away the burdens of needing to do this and that for the day, I found myself greatly enjoying the time spent just doing whatever came to mind. It’s not about skirting responsibilities, but rather not letting them consume me.

Work itself is stressful enough as is, no need for my time away from it be equally taxing. So that’s what I am going to focus on these next few months; some days I may indeed accomplish reading non-fiction for an hour, and other days I may not, and that’s completely okay. Being at peace and being in the present moment is what’s most important.

Nevertheless, the show must go on, and I’ve got tons of photographs from the China trip to sort through, and there’s also the matter of the GT3…

But this… does put a smile to my face.

But this… does put a smile to my face.

It's my birthday

You know, once you’ve crossed the line pass 30 years of age, it’s not so bad. All the anxiety and dread that came before that, however artificially drummed up they may be, simply goes away.

At least it did for me.

I am turning 31 today, and honestly I nearly forgotten about it if not for kind relatives wishing me a good one on the messaging apps. I’ve been so focused on my learning and tasks that it was too easy to forget about milestones like this, especially when its significance is far from that of the 30th birthday.

Today is just another day, really.

Indeed I am supremely grateful for yet another year on this earth, and I think this coming one will be the best yet, mostly because the fourth Avengers movie will be released. Isn’t that the whole point: to improve and get better year by year? For sure there are downs to go with the ups but as long as it’s a net positive at the end, then it’s a good year.

It’s about the long game, and the powers of compounding.

I can say I’m truly at a good place right now, though I did spend a large portion of 30 trying to find the right groove to fit into. I wouldn’t categorize it as anything tumultuous; I merely wanted to find something to latch onto in the coming few years. Steady as I was in my studies and work (and immensely gratefully so), I needed some sort of grand project to put my time and creativity into (not to mention, money).

And I found it in one of my very first loves: cars. Earlier this year I sold my Miata and went car-less, and somewhat paradoxically it rekindled my interesting in the automobile. Something about taking things for granted and having it stripped from you to realize it. These days I really miss having a car to mess around with, to go places and indulge in my other hobby of photography.

So I spent the latter half of 30 implementing severe austerity in order to save money for an 911, and I’m oh so very close to pulling the trigger. The calendar will have to turn over to 2019 before that happens, though.

In the meantime it’s simply day by day. It’s great to be alive, and I’m thankfully to have done it for 31 years. Cheers to many more to come.

People watching is one of my favorite sports.

People watching is one of my favorite sports.

Return from Thanksgiving

And we are back!

It’s been slightly less than two weeks of unadulterated break time, and I am delighted to report I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. I had originally planned to take the entire Thanksgiving week off from work, but due to the calamitous wildfires up in Paradise and all the smoggy air that permeated to us here in San Francisco - a solid week of hazardous conditions, campus (where I work) has been completely shutdown since the 14th.

A sort of forced vacation, if you will; I didn’t even have to utilize any of my precious paid-time-off accruements. That said it’s somewhat difficult to enjoy such good fortune while people are dead and thousands are displaced due to the fires. Again, if you haven’t donated to our neighbors in their time of unfathomable need, please do so.

So what did I do during the fortuitous time off? Nothing ordinary. I purposely stopped my normal schedules of reading and studying, and instead enforced an extended period of mindless entertainment. It was not without some struggle: I’ve been so indoctrinated to always be learning and improving that the notion of not doing any of that was a shock to the system. Many times in the past week while watching yet another car video on Youtube, I would suddenly get the urge to be productive and think “perhaps I should pick up the book and read for an hour’.

But I successfully fought it: not one page of book was read during the great respite. As “useless” and “waste of time” as it may be to binge watch the latest series of Wheeler Dealers, the time spent away from my normal routine (including not going to work) was ultimately beneficial. I relish my job immensely, and count myself lucky to be in a position to do it, but even so, a hiatus from the monotony is absolutely critical. Europe has got it correct in that regard: countries there take the whole month of August off.

The important thing a break provides is perspective, and being able to detach from the regular situation. During the time off while enjoying the slew of non-productive activities, I regained appreciation for the usual work I get to do, and gratitude for the life I am currently living. Countless others aren’t able to simply paid to stay home for a few weeks; that thought alone is humbling enough.

So I’ve returned, refreshed, and ready to attack. At least for the next four weeks until it’s time for Christmas break again. I do love this time of the year.

My primary position during Thanksgiving week.

My primary position during Thanksgiving week.

The million dollars test

If you’re suddenly a million dollar richer (or whatever sum that would free you from your current place of employ), what would you then be doing everyday? 

That would your passion. 

If I were to be gifted a million dollars, I’d buy a car and get on the road. I’d take photographs wherever I go, and write about it on this website. Monetization will come from said writing and photography, plus perhaps posting videos on Youtube. 

That doesn’t sound like it would need a million dollars; if anything I can go do that right now. So why don’t I? What makes the additional million dollars so special if it’s financial value isn’t necessarily required to chase my passion? 

These are good questions. 

Quitting our day-job to follow our passion is a highly risky move, at least in our minds. The extra million dollars provides the safety cushion that eliminates the perceived risk. If the passion project fails, there’s the bundle of money to fall back on. 

Great outcomes come from taking great risks. What if we didn’t wait for the cash windfall and just set off anyways? Because let’s not delude ourselves: the million dollars won’t ever come, and each of us will have to contend with forsaking our passion for the comforts of a regular job. 

I grapple with that quandary almost everyday. 

Are you getting on or off?

Are you getting on or off?