WWAD– What Would Amal Do?

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amal-alamuddinSince she emerged as the ultra smart, ultra accomplished and ultra beautiful girlfriend of George Clooney, Amal Alamuddin has drawn the admiration and envy of many around the world. She possesses the kind of allure of otherworldly women– something remarkable and untouchable. I would place her in a category with the late Carolyn Bessette or maybe the late Princess Diana: a feminine delicateness paired with a strength that when you realize it’s there, surprises you but also enhances the total beauty of the package.

When I first heard the gossip of George Clooney dating and then deciding to marry Amal, one of the first things that I locked onto was a single attribute: her age. When she met (not too sure about when she married) George Clooney, she was 36 which is just a bit older than I am today. And it made me wonder: how could such a beautiful and accomplished woman still be single at 36? How could a woman like Amal still be on the market?

Since moving to SF, well and really off-and-on since returning to the Bay Area after graduate school, I have been kind of, sort of dating. I’ve had a live online profile for the past couple of years and here and there I’ll take a look at popular dating apps or feel the impulse to do more on dating sites than just leave my profile running. More recently, I’ve realized that I have little excuse not to date and in theory, should be aggressively doing so (I’m getting older as we breathe and speak). My friends exhort that I should be more proactive. And I know things aren’t just magically going to work themselves out.

But as other single people will admit: dating is terrible. Unless you have the benefit of a significant other from school or some other personal connection, it’s really a painful and awful experience and one that sinks you deeper into the doldrums of your singleness.

More recently, I have realized that I am the point where I’m less desirable to guys, not because of where I am in my life or how I look (because I look remarkably good, I think, for my age). But merely and simply because of my age. My age and what it implies about what I expect when dating a guy. My age and what it implies about the pace that I expect to date and marry. My age and what it implies about who I am.

It’s frustrating because I can see some of my friends telling me that I waited too long. Which I think is a bit unfair considering I had graduate school and other disruptions adding bumps to my life road. But regardless– there’s a growing twinge in me that maybe I focused on the wrong things and maybe I wasted time. And then there’s that most painful twinge that maybe it just won’t happen– not in time for children and not in time that the happy relationship will have been a majority of how I spend my life.

I have a good handfull of single friends: all of us reasonably attractive, accomplished, smart, in good jobs. And as each of us voices struggles over the inability to find a sound and solid mate, I can’t help but think: what the fuck? How can all of us live in cities, have social lives, be out in the world doing our life things– how can it not happen? The economics of supply and demand work in our favor: just look at any online dating site or app. There are a TON of single people– the inventory is high, the demand is high. How can this NOT happen– not just for us but for the whole lot of single people contained within these digital confines?

And then I think about beautiful Amal. Still single at 34… 35… 36… I wonder: did Amal ever sit at home wondering if it (love, a sound relationship, finding *the one*) would happen? Did Amal’s friends and family ever tsktsk and wonder/worry, “Why is Amal still single? Such a lovely, smart and talented girl– why is she still alone?” Did Amal ever go through bouts of self-analysis, where she wondered whether her years of academics and then challenges of being a top human rights barrister distracted her from the time and energy she should have been pouring into finding a man? Did Amal ever create an online profile? Did Amal ever go to a bar with friends in the hopes that maybe she would bump into an equally accomplished single man who is mature and financially and professionally settled?

Of course not– Amal is much too wonderful for all that.

I am, admittedly, no Amal. I’m not exquisitely beautiful like Amal, nor am I dressed head to toe in designer fashions. I am not a top barrister known throughout the world for my intelligence and eloquence. No no– I don’t have any self delusions that I am even a small fraction of all that which is Amal Alamuddin Clooney.

But hey– I’m no pile of doody either.

So I guess that’s it for tonight’s post. I’m feeling frustrated though admittedly I haven’t been through the wringer enough to feel the full terrible force that is dating. But it sucks when the experience is paired with the fear of what might never be. Does it push you ahead? Does it make you stand still in a sad, painful panic?

What would Amal do? Just move forward with her glamorous and important life and expect that it will all work out?

What if we aspired to contentedness?

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contentmentThis has been somewhat of a trying week. I thought Monday was a holiday and spent the day at the park and also reading a book. I later realized it wasn’t and that I should have been at work– oops! Then work has been toughish. Not too bad but I also tend to think I have a high threshold for stress so even super stressful things don’t tend to shake me. We had an event on Thursday where the PPT deck wasn’t finished until 7:45 am. Then the projects after it. So a lot was accomplished this week.

I’ve also been having some recurring stomach issues. I am on antibiotics for some acne that I can’t quite shake. I am guessing that that is the cause of the stomach problems. And generally speaking, for this reason, I haven’t been very active this week– generally choosing to come home after work or work from home when I can.

But despite these things, I had a really good week. Like, I feel really calm and feel a sense of subtle satisfaction right now. Part of it I think is because I had a really good weekend last week. I got to do a long run. I had dinner with friends. Then I had Chinese New Year lunch with friends which turned into a full day of walking through San Francisco. Then Monday, admittedly I kind of played hookie. But I was able to check out the Japanese Tea Garden and read in the sun. It was really nice.

And things at work remain hectic and imperfect. But I completed work that I was proud of. I supported a teammate on his project today and he thanked me for working so hard. I tried to socialize with my teammates on Thursday. Small victories.

I went through a period in my life where I was always looking ahead to the next thing. I was trying to get a better job. I was studying for the admission test to grad school. I was prepping for grad school then looking for a job. It was always go go go, full of ups and down, happiness and sadness. Just a lot of excitement to the vibrations of life.

And then more recently, everything has settled down. And it feels strange but kind of good not to have the erratic highs and lows of before. But the challenge, I suppose now, is anchoring high and maintain a smooth, satisfying life. It’s not happiness– that’s a high. And it’s not sadness– that’s a low.

I guess I would describe it as angling for contentedness. The word creeped into my head without me knowing the exact definition of it, so I looked it up. Contentedness is “the feeling experienced when one’s wishes are met.” It’s that state where everything is ok enough. And I am realizing through all the goal setting and reaching from my 20s, I am now hitting a stride where I just need have balance between little victories and bright spots. And maybe, just maybe, this is enough to keep me happy enough in my life.

So that’s it for today’s post. Looking forward to hopefully a relaxing weekend.

Battling the bulge

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omg_weightI don’t have anything major or pressing to write about today but I figured I would write about something that I noticed and talked to a friend about yesterday. So life thus far has been good– I’m trying to keep a lot of things balanced and moving forward. Financially, I try to balance eating out and making meals for myself. Physically, I try to go on runs here and there and actually just realized that they do free yoga in Golden Gate Park on Saturdays so am excited to start doing that too.

I’m a pretty naturally thin person but I have noticed that lately my body has not been as taut as usual. Some of it is probably the fact that I’m getting older. It’s a known thing that metabolism slows down as you age and I’m assuming I’m getting to that point where stuff just settles differently. Some of it, admittedly, is diet. I have really been getting into soups lately and many recipes call for a lot of cream. Add to that eating out, like the pub food I inhaled last night. So in addition to biology, there’s the choices that we make every day that impact our health in addition to our beauty.

I know I’m not saying anything new or unknown. We all know that we should eat right, exercise, be cautious about alcohol and other bodily contaminants. But I also think that as you get into your 30s and later, you start hearing the extreme stories of crazy health issues that cropped up in the lives of those who never saw it coming. My friend recently told me that within a week, he had heard of stories of a couple of seemingly healthy late 20s/early 30s friends and acquaintances pass away unexpectedly (and not from an accident like an auto accident). In grad school, one student’s wife (late 20s) was diagnosed with breast cancer. A few years ago, a former colleague learned he had a brain tumor around the same time that his second child was born. And recently, it was disclosed that a colleague, I think in his mid 20s, was diagnosed with cancer as well.

This post isn’t meant to be a scare tactic and I realize that it’s a big jump to start the post about carrying some extra weight and segueing into cancer. But I guess my point is, your 20s are blissful and most of us live in this bacchanalian state of drinking and eating crap, getting no sleep and living on fumes. And I think that’s ok– there’s a time and a place for everything and why not do it when your body is strong enough to withstand it all?

But I also do think my friends and I are moving into the phase of our lives where it’s not nearly so easy. We see the bulges on our bodies, the wrinkles and age spots on our faces and the aches and pains of aging and we realize: ok, shit, I gotta do something different. And then we hear the stories of our people from our cohorts experiencing the unimaginable and it’s a huge wakeup call.

Incidentally– something happens in your late 20s where it seems like everywhere you turn, someone has cancer. When I was around 26 or 27, there was a period where my dad and grandma had cancer and when I opened up and talked to people, I realized that every other person seemed to have a mom, a dad, a close relative who had been touched by it as well. And then you get older and the danger has creeped closer when someone like you, exactly like you in age and lifestyle, is struggling with major illness and you realize the invincibility of youth is no match to nature and biology. It’s so effing scary.

And for anyone who is young and reading this: go do what you need to do to live a fulfilled life but if you can get a headstart on building good and healthy habits in the meantime, definitely do that. (I would start by wearing sunscreen everyday. It’s the biggest regret from my 20s.)

I don’t think this post is sad. But I think it’s truthful and I think it’s universal. I recently had a talk with my facialist who was in her 40s and had beautiful skin and we talked about the challenges of aging. She said that she felt better in her 40s than she ever had– that she felt that things did get better. And I agreed that my 30s were less volatile than my 20s and therefore better in many ways. We talked about how things realistically are tougher as you age. But we also concluded that anytime people are faced with challenges, the progressive human response is to make changes to ensure the likelihood of success. We talked about how the challenges of aging have pushed us to be more focused and to prioritize on things that make a difference, like diet, lifestyle choices and things like that. And with priorities comes focus and more simplicity which is a happy improvement.

I liked this analysis and conclusion and I think it’s how I would end this blog post. That it– life– gets harder as you get older. But for that reason, you get smarter, you get stronger in your resolve and how you go about making choices. And with this work comes the outcomes that, though easier before, are harder earned and therefore more meaningful later.

Happy President’s Day weekend!

First step

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Close up of barefoot woman climbing stone stairsI wanted to give an update on my feelings from my last post. I had a one on one with my manager late last week. She opened up the conversation asking me how I was doing and I answered (unenthusiastically) “Ok.” Then she asked me to share more and I came clean about feeling generally unhappy at work but not because of the work itself. I gave structured feedback on things that I’ve tried, things I have struggled with and things that either need to change or that will eventually drive me to look for work elsewhere. It’s a risk to be that honest with your manager and I stepped cautiously, positioning each thing as not a complaint but as an area of challenge where I am failing to be successful. My manager reiterated that I am an asset to the team and I think will be helping to either make things better or at the very least be aware that I’m struggling and check in with me along the way. It was the best that I could hope for from the conversation and I’m happy that I was honest.

In this and other aspects of life, I’m struck by how much everything is a challenge that requires small steps and patience. I don’t think the work situation will change overnight. And to be honest, it might not change at all and it might be the confirmation that I need to seek out employment elsewhere. But with all things in life where you come to a realization that something must change, it all starts with a moment of honesty followed by baby steps towards something better.

The same day that I had that conversation with my manager, I also dropped off a bag of old clothes to ThredUp, which is an online marketplace for used clothing. As I’ve written before, I have a ton of stuff– the product of having been loose with consumption habits in the past and feeling the need to hold onto those items out of guilt and hope (that someday I would use these things). Having moved a bunch of times since leaving for and returning from grad school, I’ve found the stuff burdensome and I’ve started on a process of slowly purging clothes and shoes and purses from my wardrobe. It’s a slow process but one that came from a realization that this stuff just needs to go. I sent in a bag in December and I was pretty happy with the experience so I just sent in another bag of clothes. This might be unique to my situation but I feel a sense of pride with each package that leaves my home– that I’m slowly but surely on the road to minimizing the amount of stuff that I have. I am already planning for a third bag, showing that it does get easier and you can be successful, starting with a commitment and small steps.

I guess that’s it from me. Just a status check that I’m working at things that are challenges in my life. But I’m trying to take small steps and work through these problems.

Happy weekend, everyone!

What makes a community?

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communityI’ve been thinking about the concept of community a lot lately, because of different things that I am going through or have heard about in my life. So I’m going to base today’s post about community: how one is created, why it changes, what happens when you want it but it’s inaccessible.

So one of the catalysts to this self-reflective analysis is my worklife. While work has been busy and I have been really proud of the things I have been able to accomplish and provide to my team, I haven’t really been feeling the vibe of my current employer. When I first started, I knew that it would take time to get to know people and feel comfortable. But it’s now approaching 6 months and I don’t think it’s happening. I feel like a shell of myself at work and I don’t feel like the “real” me is coming out. For a long time, I’ve been trying to get to know people and be more social. I’m an introvert so it’s hard for me. But it’s been challenging.

I’m far enough along in my career to know that you don’t leave a job just because you don’t feel like a part of the crew. Being a Billy No-Mates is not reason to seek a new job. But I also know that I derive a lot of my energy from being around the excitement of others. So I know that this is an environment that I find enervating, not energizing, and I feel like it is decreasing my impact and my satisfaction.

My come-to-Jesus moment, I think, happened last week. For three days in a row, I spent time with ex-coworkers. And while I know that it took time for those relationships to grow and development, I can remember fond memories in the road to growing those friendships. And I know that these things (these “friendship buds”) do not exist at my current workplace. After this, I have been feeling calmer (?) but I think it’s because in a way, I know inside I am giving up. I am no longer trying to figure out what I could/should be doing differently or why it’s not happening. I think I am coming to the realization it’s just not and now I need to communicate my struggles and possibly think about what other choices I should consider.

I also think about community because I have been hearing from multiple people that the social dynamic at my former employer have changed and perhaps for the worse. That’s a judgment call and one honestly I don’t have a right to make. But I saw a bunch of my excolleagues from that company for happy hour (we’ve all since left the company except for one). And we all really like one another. We talk about happy things and care about each other. It’s a really happy community that I’m glad to be a part of. It’s disappointing to hear that some negative habits have creeped into the existing company, namely some gossiping and trash talking and can never help build a true community. It’s made me sad to hear people remark about these negative developments.

So in light of these things, I have been wondering what build community– be it in your living space, in the academic environment or at work. What brings people together? Why does it sometimes happen so well and sometimes not so much? And what are things I can do in my life to build community or try to be a part of it?

When I think about my excoworkers, one thing that emerges is an alpha-person who drives community. It’s the friendly person, the one who is nice and wholesome and good. That person has always been inviting and connecting and tried to get people to get to know and like one another. They take the risk of getting to know you and as the new person you feel so appreciative of the effort. When I think about the gossiping that is happening at my ex-workplace, the same is true. But in this case the alpha-person is not hoping to create and connect. They are looking to tear down and selfishly extract value for personal benefit at the expense of others. I think this is one thing that either creates or destroys community.

A sidenote on this is finding realms of similarity versus focusing on differentiators. In community, you find ways that you are similar to one another. Inherently, you’re going to be different. But if you can buoy conversation and relationships to things that you can share, community forms. When you divide and focus on specific things, it’s tough for community to form. Because people know that they don’t belong and it’s really hard to jump into something without the semblance of a soft landing.

So I guess that’s it for this post. I think I rambled a lot but this is a front of mind thing for me these days. I have been struggling to find a constructive way to discuss this with my manager– what I am lacking in my current situation that makes it difficult for me to feel satisfied in my role. I like the work but this other half is pulling me down and I feel like I’m expending a lot of energy to break the surface (which often I do not). I confided in a colleague today about my feelings and I created this metaphor for him: I feel at work like how parents who stay in a loveless marriage feel: operating out of obligation and guilt but nevertheless not having a very happy time. I need to find a way to make this better.