16 Things I Learned in 2016

Remember how I learned something in 2013, 2014, 2015? Well guess what–I did it again.

  1. “Doing it all” is kind of an overrated goal. “Doing some of it really well at a reasonable pace, and also having time to sleep, socialize, and be a person” is kind of an underrated one.
  2. Being interested in the ideas behind a field is different than enjoying the daily practice of it. Both are important if you want to be happy doing it.
    • Personally, I encounter this tension whenever I find an area of academic research super important and compelling, but realize that sitting alone in a library or in front of a computer all day makes me want to smash things. Ideally, I’d like to find ways to engage with ideas I’m interested in through practices I enjoy.
  3. Don’t trust people who always say it’s gonna be okay—it’s statistically unlikely. (Cheerleaders have a pretty bad accuracy record. So do some pollitical pundits.)
  4. Lots of people manage to have impressive careers without actually doing their jobs very well. My working theory is that whoever is mediocre the loudest and most confidently wins.
    • Or in the long-term, maybe whoever sticks around the longest wins.
  5. There is a such thing as trying too hard.
  6. Dealing with uncertainty is a skill. One that I’m going to need next year on several levels.
    • I did a lot of improv this semester, including a 15 minute piece of semistructured group improvisation on stage. In the process, I got pretty used to not knowing what situation I’m going to find myself in, but knowing that I can rely on the tools and skills I’ve developed to deal with it. And if I’m out of ideas, sometimes the best choice is to stop and look to the people around me.
  7. Ironic understatement is one of the overlooked love languages.
  8. Lots of companies/organizations project a positive/progressive image, but if you take a look at their internal practices, you might get a different picture.
  9. You know how some people gain so much academic knowledge but loose the ability to use common sense or talk in straightforward language? Or some dancers gain so much technical and performance training but loose the ability to walk naturally or dance at a party? Especially as I’m coming out of school, my goal is to make sure that whatever new/fancy/advanced skills I gain are supplementing, not replacing, whatever I had before.
  10. Half of knowing how to have a good conversation is knowing how to listen.
  11. Theories and frameworks can be useful ways to organize and understand reality. But if reality isn’t fitting your theory, you should probably rethink the theory, not the reality.
  12. People are always interpreting what they learn–news, history, other people–through the lens of narratives they already know. Sometimes that makes us ignore the people and events that don’t fit the pre-established narratives.
    • And if your reality doesn’t fit the dominant narrative, it’s a good opportunity to get an alternative narrative out into the world.
  13. One way to deal with feeling misunderstood is to get better at explaining yourself.
  14. Multiple famous/cool people died this year, but there are also lots of cool people still alive. We can appreciate those people too.
  15. Most things described as “it’s complicated” and “it’s a long story” can actually be summed up in one sentence.
  16. It’s been three years, and I’m still not sure what this blog is about.
Advertisements

15 Things I Learned in 2015

Well, since I made lists for 2013 and 2014, I guess I should make another one for this year (or at least everything since my last semester-ly list).

  1. A one-month trial of Microsoft Office can last forever if you never restart your computer.
  2. Cooking sounds a lot more appealing at the beginning of the semester.
  3. Don’t underestimate how much people can change (in all the best and worst ways).
  4. Don’t underestimate how much the world can change (in all the best and worst ways).
  5. Professional success is sometimes more about making friends than being the “best.” I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.
  6. You don’t have to be everything that you admire in other people.
  7. I need prioritize taking care of my body or this “young and invincible” thing is gonna run out fast (i.e. sleep and adequate warm-ups are not optional).
  8. Yoga is awesome.
  9. Perceiving things categorically (starting with sounds and colors) is neurologically efficient, but that doesn’t mean it reflects reality.
  10. Those who don’t learn history are destined to make up their own version of it.
  11. The person grading your paper actually does want you to do well–it’s so much easier and less of a downer to grade.
  12. Things which may actually be a contest to see who avoids quitting the longest: dance, blogging.
  13. If you can make five-year-olds learn something, adults are a breeze.
  14. If you want to see our society’s sexist and racist assumptions spelled out without the usual coding or denial, listen to kids. And sometimes presidential candidates.
  15. Comedy is really a nuanced, powerful, and generally underrated art. No joke.

Happy New Year y’all! Have fun and don’t make too many resolutions!

You Know That Feeling?

You know that feeling when the season changes? When you’re exhausted and unhappy about being awake at 8 AM until you step outside and taste the bright, breezy, and thoroughly not freezing air. And you just start feeling things. Like hope and relief and excitement bubbling under your skin cells. You also feel your fingers, because they’re not frozen numb. So with your circulation unimpeded, you stop walking so fast and just stand there to think. And you think it’s funny how you feel so different now, even though nothing is really different. Except the weather. 

And then the memories come. Every spring in your lifetime comes flooding back. Well some of them flood–the rest drip, or trickle or ooze–but it’s hard to make the distinction when you’re trying to stay afloat in the cumulative puddle. There’s some scattered images and sound bites, but mostly sensations tickling your body and head. The close touch of people you may never see again (and those you no longer want to). The warmth of places that used to be home. The pulse of old dreams. And you start to smile and cry and laugh all at the same time so that your face looks really weird and people around you wonder what’s wrong with you (and you think that’s actually a really good question). And you think it’s funny how you feel all the same things now, even though nothing is the same. Except the weather.

You know that feeling? Maybe not.

The Beauty of Subways

Everyone’s going places. Different places. Fast. But once you step on the subway, you have no choice but to stand still, in the midst of all that motion. And for a while, the speed of your life is out of your control. Usually you have no phone service, so you’re forced to really be alone–with the car-full of strangers around you, that is.

And those strangers are everyone: a little sample slice of all of the people in the world that you will never actually meet. There are people in dress pants and skinny jeans and saggy jeans and yoga pants and people who aren’t wearing much at all. You overhear conversations in every language. You overhear bits of conversations about stocks and drugs and literature, and bits of conversations that you can’t seem to fit into any context, but you wonder the possibilities for the rest of the ride.

Sometimes you end up squished up against these other people’s bodies, but you can still be strangers in this intimacy. Sometimes you end up having conversations with people, but it’s not an expectation–no obligatory small talk.

Because besides not caring, everyone has accepted that they will never see these people again. The odds of you all stepping on to the same car on the same train at the same time were minuscule, and after the subway doors open in a few minutes, this same mix of people will probably never exist again.

But that’s okay. You step off the train with just a little taste of everyone’s humanity. And you get on with life.