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.

I need a break from work

I’m very much looking forward to Thanksgiving, partly because I’m taking the entire week off from work. In requesting the time off from my supervisor, I realize it has been since the beginning of January I’ve actually taken vacation. It wasn’t that I did not have enough accrued time to take, it’s just that without anywhere specific to travel to - and saving up money for the next car - there was no reason to get away from work. Simply keep stacking up the time and save it for a later date.

But I’ve come to the realization that even a periodic staycation at home is a great positive towards well-being and absolutely crucial. I didn’t even know I can get burned out from work; I love my job and it’s the best thing to happen to me career wise, but going nearly a full year without a solid break turns out to be not the best of ideas. It’s good to switch out of the daily grind and routine for some mindless, unscheduled fun.

Whenever I return from traveling I always get renewed energy and enthusiasm towards work. The change in perspective for that week or two away keeps me grounded and grateful to have a career that enables me to take time off to travel to beautiful far-flung places. I think of the many people in jobs who don’t get vacation time or if they do aren’t paid for the days away. How lucky am I? Therefore when I go back to work I make sure to earn this privilege through my performance.

So what’s on the docket for Thanksgiving week? A bit of Fall cleaning is probably in order, given the state of things continually stacking up in my room. I will be attending the San Francisco International Auto Show for the first time in two years (travel plans prevented me from going, coincidently), and I’m excited to look at some new cars in close scrutiny. My brother is headed off to LA so I might commandeer his MK7.5 Golf GTI and finally get round to writing a review for it.

Most of all there will be lots of Red Dead Redemption 2 action in front of the television. I’ve purposely (and painfully) held off playing the critically-acclaimed title everyone is crazy over until I’ve got a large immutable chunk of free time. Thanksgiving week shall be that.

Not a break from work but rather a break during work.

Not a break from work but rather a break during work.

I'm learning AutoCad?

I’ve been tasked at work to learn AutoCad software, which is wonderful because I am always up for learning a new skills. AutoCad has been around forever, and in my youth days of P2P and illegal software (statute of limitations have certain ran out, right?) AutoCad was amongst a group of absurdly expensive software (like Maya, 3D Studio Max) that we as teens hardly knew how to use but was incredibly fun to say: yup, I’ve downloaded software worth multiple thousands of dollars. 

As proper functioning adults we of course pay for software (hello, Adobe; hope you’re enjoying my monthly payments) and upon research the purchase price of AutoCad is indeed astronomical:  $1,680 per year. Obviously my work would cover that no issues but keep in mind heavy 3D design work is not our milieu; I’m being directed to learn AutoCad so we can easily draw classroom floor-plans and blueprints. We are not using the software to make any money, which in a normal design firm would suitably justify the hefty entry price. 

Another peculiarity I ran into is that the best version of AutoCad (some would say the only version to get) is the one that runs on Windows PC. That’s a problem because at work I am issued a Macbook Pro. You may say I can run Windows software using Boot Camp but that sounds super unwieldy and someone (not me) would have to pay for the license. There’s an AutoCad for Mac but if the PC version is de facto standard then that’s the one to learn.   

What are the chances work will furnish me a PC on top of the Macbook Pro I already have? 

There’s also the matter of performance. AutoCad rightfully gobbles up lots of computing power and to run it with any modicum of smoothness requires a dedicated graphics card. I had thought about bringing in my Surface Pro 4 from home to do the job but unfortunately it’s only got onboard Intel graphics (notoriously not very good). How dare Microsoft call it a ‘Pro’ level machine. 

If all of this sounds to you like my work haven’t thought it through in what’s exactly required to learn/run AutoCad, well I’m thinking that too. Perhaps that's part of the directive in me gathering the information and making the necessary requests. We shall see.    

You definitely do not need portrait mode to blur stuff out using the iPhone camera. 

You definitely do not need portrait mode to blur stuff out using the iPhone camera. 

The perfect bus timing

Today after the work was one of those scarce and magical occasions where the bus came right as I arrived to the waiting area. Then at the transfer point the second bus also came right as I alighted the first one. I got home in record time, nearly as fast as it did driving.  

So I've been doing the commute via public transport thing for nearly two weeks now, and I've got to say it's been going really smoothly. I'm lucky that while the bus can get crowded sometimes, it isn't the insanity that one of my friends have to deal with in which daily his bus is so full he's usually squeezed-in right next to the exit doors. If I had to deal with that everyday I would've never sold my car. 

Indeed taking the bus have increased my total commute time by half hour to an hour, which is not ideal, though I claw back the lost productivity by tightening up my social media usage when I am at home. As soon as I get home from work I immediately attack the rest of my daily to-do list, where before when I drove I'd spend way too much time browsing twitter before I get a move on. 

A big positive in using public transportation is that I listen through so many useful podcasts - in peace. Not needing to concentrate on driving stuck in traffic and avoiding idiot drivers frees my mind and calms me down. I honestly don't mind the extra time it takes to get to work because I arrive with a better mental state, rather than still pissed off the asshole in the Nissan Altima cut me off. 

It's almost always an Altima. 

To the back of the bus. 

To the back of the bus. 

Productivity hack: daily checklist

Keeping a daily checklist of enriching must-do items is a good tactic to keep motivated and not waste time. Especially if you posit the list as I do: something to complete before the fun and mindless things like watching Youtube shows. Like doing homework before play or eating broccoli before dessert, putting the hard stuff first and have something sweet at the end is highly conducive to good productivity. 

For example my daily checklist consists of the following: 

  • Read whatever book I'm currently on for one hour.
  • Study Korean for at least two hours.
  • Practice driving in Gran Turismo Sport for half an hour.
  • Write something on the blog. 

As you can see the tasks all revolve around learning and self-improvement. I believe it's crucial to do such activities so to avoid regression as a person. I do them everyday (and on the seventh day I rest). 

Indeed it's simple and short but checking things off on a list is a great mental framework to keep me focused and not stray to frivolous time-sucks like social media. I can do leisure stuff only after I've finished the tasks for today, so I'd better get moving quickly on the work if I want to spend a decent amount of time enjoying the latest Star Wars fandom wars on twitter.

The San Francisco outsiders imagine it to be. 

The San Francisco outsiders imagine it to be. 

Not be a slave to time

How do I not end up being a slave to time? It governs nearly everything that we do. Most of us have to get to work and get off work during a set certain amount of time, don't we? To acquiesce to that we have to get up at a certain time, and also schedule other ancillaries (like meals) around it. Everything becomes super coordinated and regimented, which I think is how we can sometimes burn out (even if we love the job, as I do).

We love the weekend not only because we don't have to work, but also we don't have to look at the damn clock anymore to see what we've got to do. 

Then again, weren't humans evolved this way? Before the invention of the 24 hour clock, people looked to the sun - perhaps the oldest times-keeping device of all - for directives on when to work and when to eat. But life was much, much simpler back then; these day we've got all sorts of freedoms to play with. 

Our regular weekday is highly regimented, and on weekends we rebel on that notion, which makes it really difficult to get back into it come the following Monday. We flip-flop between the two different flows and it takes more effort to get back into strictness than the other way around. 

Set work schedules aren't going anywhere for most us: only the daring few would venture out into entrepreneurship/freelancing thus able to set their own time. For the rest, it's the grind: waking up everyday not motivated by what I desire to do but what I must do. Feel like snoozing for a half hour, get in work late, but feeling more refreshed? Nope, can't do that because work rules dictate I must be there at the certain hour mark. 

Outside of work (and sleep, really, because for me sleeping consistently at the same time is a tremendous boost) I'm trying to be less strict with my time, even though like most everyone I'm trying to cram in as much itinerary as possible, be it binge watching a Netflix show for you, or studying a third language for me. The point isn't to do less, but in doing stuff I try to follow my body clock than the actual clock. I let my intuition/feeling inform me when I'm done or I should move on to something else. 

Turns out I've been conditioned so much to the real clock that my body clock isn't all that far from it, but I definitely do feel better when I'm following my natural impulses rather than some artificial limit. 

It's always a work-in-progress. 

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