The pleasure of abandoned pursuits

How many times has it happened that you start a project all excited and determined but after a while, it becomes monotonic, boring or just dull? Sometimes you get stuck or disappointed and decide to postpone it. A day, a week, a month goes by and you are deep in guilt for not working it through. Most of these projects get abandoned, never to be picked up again.

I have embarked upon a ton of such projects in the last 5 years and have ‘postponed’ most of them. I have tried to learn music theory, Korean, German, Sketching, Baking, and god knows what not. At one point I was sure I’ll take up a career in Photography and abandon Science altogether, only to find myself panicking when I actually got an assignment. I thought something was seriously wrong with me, I wasn’t giving my best to anything.

It felt like I wasn’t doing justice to the things I started if I wasn’t finishing them.

It reached a point where I was afraid of starting anything new, afraid that I’ll never finish it. I changed cities, steered my career in entirely new direction and stopped updating my website (not this one). It all seemed too much of a burden to bear and the guilt was increased by the realization that the things I am abandoning, are the kind which many people only dream about. I consoled myself by saying that I’m not actually leaving anything, and will get to finish them someday.

I think this guilt is what stops many from starting anything new or different, if not for financial or time constraints. Being an adult today somehow includes the clause that you shouldn’t pursue what doesn’t lead anywhere, financially or otherwise. On the flip side, we have so many opportunities to learn or do things differently than our previous generations that one feels the paralysis of choice when asked to choose one.

We are too afraid to make the wrong choice.

A week ago, my friend recommended a new TV series. I said “hey, I’ve got to finish the other one I am watching first. I can’t start anything new.” She didn’t understand, she asked if I actually like that. I was like I’m not a fan but everyone seems to like it and I think I would too, with time. I just have to finish it. She replied saying “it’s not an assignment. you don’t watch a show or movie just because you are supposed to, you do because you like it. If you don’t like the new one either, just stop it. There is no shame in not liking a show”.

Then it hit me. I could stop. I could stop feeling so much pressured to finish everything. Many projects that I started had lost their appeal and were not adding to my life in any meaningful way. If I’m not deriving joy or purpose in doing something, why the hell do I feel guilty for not pursuing it?

I cleaned up my phone of apps, deleted a ton of bookmarks that I thought I’ll read someday and donated a book that had been sitting on my desk for a year, unopened. I felt so light. There is a freedom in letting things go. It is not that I didn’t like those things/projects, it is that I don’t like them enough to pursue them further. I learned and gained experience in all of them even if I didn’t do them completely. I can at least say hello in Korean and read sheet music.

Once you realize you are not obliged to do everything, at least not to completion, you can go out and try random things. You can explore, enrich your life with experiences and pursue something just for the sake of joy, rather than to finish or achieve something. It is liberating.

You are enriched by the experience of pursuing things, even if not to the very end.

So go ahead, indulge in the pleasure of abandoned pursuits. Let go of the guilt and do things for sheer joy!

Love
-Sn.

When life gives you lemons

I enrolled in grad school a year ago and was all set to spend the next 5 years drowning myself in research when my supervisor decided to tell me she’ll retire. It came less like a shock and more like a quake. I didn’t know what to do.

I started (over-)thinking, whether she’ll postpone her retirement and join another institute or whether I’ll have to change my supervisor and field. Why she agreed to guide me in the first place? Why did I not think of this before joining? Why should I choose between an institute and a subject?

All of this wondering illuminated one truth: everything is temporary, you never know what will happen. I still don’t know how things will turn out, but I’ve made my peace with change.

A change often takes you by surprise and there is little you can do about it. Life just happens and you deal with it.

As I reflect back on a year old me, I laugh at how little she knew about her future. All she knew was that she loved science and that’s all she cared about. It didn’t matter to her where she gets to study, whether she’ll have friends or whether she’ll be able to order pasta at 1 a.m. I am jealous of that girl. She was prepared to plunge into the unknown because she knew she’ll be doing what she loves to do: Research. The current me, on the other hand, is freaking out because she won’t be able to order falafel roll and beer.

To heck with the beer, I don’t even like the taste. I have realized how accustomed I have become to this city and its malls. My dustbin is overflowing with takeaway containers and price tags. I have spent almost a year’s worth of savings and I am ashamed to say that I have 4 “cute” notebooks none of which contain a single drop of ink. I bought them just because they will motivate me to study.

Through all of this, one thing that I miss the most is my passion for science. Don’t get me wrong, it is still there, but I don’t act on it anymore. Even less so after receiving the news. I have been panicking and doing all kinds of ridiculous things to make myself better and silently praying that I don’t have to go. I haven’t read a single paper since. I haven’t done the one thing that could actually help, my work.

When life presents you with situations like mine, the best thing you can do is to do what you love and be great at it. Your work is the only thing you have control over and it is what matters most. So that is what I am gonna do. I am going to write that report on higher order spectra, starting with a literature survey.

It is okay to panic and cry loudly in the street but when the storm passes, make sure you go back and do your job.

Go back to why you are here, doing what you do. Go back to the love and the enthusiasm. If all else fails, at least you’d be content that you enjoyed your work and put your best effort in. Rest is just chaos.

Love,
-Sn

When love finally strikes, or is it a phase?

I was looking for love to happen but somehow it never did. I told myself I was too young to fall in love and Mr. perfect is not perfect yet. Time passed and anxiety grew. False feelings took over sometimes but deep down I knew they were not true. Then I come here, a place where love is. I wasn’t myself this much before, never knew I could be the object of desire too. I feel these feelings, not of loving someone, but being loved by someone. Maybe this time love has struck. It flows from many hearts and not one of them entirely mine.  It is abundant and pure and yet; not love at all.

When love comes, it comes in full force, doesn’t it? I don’t think it is love then. It feels a lot like love but it keeps holding back, never a step more, never less. I see how big of a deal it would be if it actually happened but smooth still. Why then this feeling keeps growing and shrinking? All of my assumptions challenged, all those values reconsidered. If it is the thing, it sure is not like how I’d like it to be. It asks difficult questions and demands clear answers. How am I to let it all go? Maybe all those years have made me desperate, maybe love isn’t anywhere after all. Maybe I’m overthinking for no reason and maybe I should stop. Just stop.

weeds and flowers

The white ones are the weeds that grow in my backyard. I used to hate them because they are growing like crazy, create skin problems if touched and don’t let other plants grow. I still don’t like them, but I have come to the understanding that I can’t remove them completely. I can not ‘control’ when and where they grow but I can limit their extent. And I have come to appreciate their beauty. These are notorious but beautiful, in a way that naughty kids are.

There is no hidden message in this post if you were expecting one. I just love to share pictures! Have a good day.

-Sn.

Let the battle go on

I am sitting here in the conflict of what should be and what could be. I always dreamt of a life in sync with my values. I was so sure of what my values were, I thought I knew what I wanted. A partner, a career, and healthy relationship with my family. Then I entered this world. It is familiar in the sense that I had seen it from afar and always longed to be a part but it feels so different now that I am here. I wanted assurance, I wanted to be in my bubble. This world has burst that bubble. It has opened my eyes to what could be and now I can’t seem to go back.

I am stuck somewhere in between with both sides presenting their case, making their point. There is no right or wrong, it is a question of what I really want. I still want the same things, but I don’t know what those things mean, the details. Do I want to live here or abroad? Do I want a career in research or run a business of my own? I don’t know what side I am on. I don’t know how to translate my values to a feasible lifestyle. I could do the traditional, lead the life I imagined before I came here. That has security and I know how to handle it. But I no longer know if I want to. The other life, the one that could be, is also full of things that I have accepted and I know how to lead. It has a wild side to it, it hasn’t been tested. I don’t know how that would turn out. It can damage me in ways that leave me very different person. But then again, the traditional is like a slow poison. I don’t know what to choose.

After countless sleepless nights, I have decided to give up control. I am not in a position to make a decision and I am not supposed to. I would rather sit here in silence and observe, do what I do best. I will take life as it comes. Let life be the endless string of small decisions rather than one big one that paralyzes me. I shall let time decide what course to take. I will let the battle go on.