Friday, May 18, 2012

Would You Date Yourself?

Think about it for a moment.

OK, done?

Most of the time, I would say no. It's not that I always believe myself to be undateable (although that does cross my mind often). It is because I know some people who share certain characteristics with me, and I can't stand them in others.

Obviously this is a slightly skewed premise to begin with. You do not need a clone of yourself around (unless you are really, really narcissistic). Also, most dating advice seems to be look for a complimentary partner*. Find someone who is similar and shares your outlook and interests, but different enough to bring out the best in you.

However, I still think it is a useful self-evaluation tool. For example, look around your room. How clean is it? If you walked into a prospective person's room and it looked like yours, would you be impressed or repulsed? Or what about some of your idiosyncrasies? I tend to think I am right and am not afraid to say so. But, bringing down the "this is truth" hammer doesn't make for very good conversation. How willing are you to share your internal feelings? The list goes on.

Again, this is a very, very poor metric overall. Studies have shown that while we are decent at pointing out our own failures and weaknesses we are horrible at figuring out our strengths. Overall, most people can rate their looks close to what others would. However, on average, we tend to rate ourselves just a tad lower than others do. Similarly, too often we might get hung up on all the minor failures we've had without noticing the great accomplishments others see. Plus, as the saying goes, you don't have to find the perfect person. You just have to find the one person who says "yes" (and that can put up with your problems).

On the flip side, if you wouldn't date you, what makes you think many others want to either!

This brings up the question "if I think I am inadequate dating material, should I be trying to date?" This doesn't just apply to dating; being "good enough" before you can do X is a very common theme. For many things, it is a legitimate barrier. You don't want to run a marathon without executing a half-marathon first (or having an epic trainer). You probably shouldn't get married without dating first. There are many things in life you should train up to a certain level of competency before attempting. But for others they are merely excuses. For example, you might stink at cooking now, but that doesn't mean you can't learn by doing more cooking. Or, just because you can't run non-stop a mile now doesn't mean you shouldn't start running to get in shape. Which one does dating fall in to? Not sure. Plus, I feel it depends on the person. If it would cause serious problems (you're healing from something), don't do it. On the flip side, don't wait until you're the perfect dateable badass before going out there.

So, if you wouldn't date yourself, the next question is why? And, can you do anything about it? Sitting in a corner waiting for the one to come around who will accept you "for who you are" is a waste of time. That assumes you are perfect as you are, and I'm fairly sure none of us are perfect. If you can identify what the major turn-offs are and remedy them, then you are on your way to becoming a better person. As a byproduct, a more dateable person.

As a caveat, this does NOT mean becoming a totally different person. Molding yourself into someone-you-are-not is possible, but not recommended. I am saying you should look to becoming the best person you can be. Being all that you are. Not becoming someone new. Of course, you can broaden your horizons. Staying in your comfort zone is a great way to stay stagnant, try new things! You might even enjoy them and find a new hobby. But do not change the core of who you are. Just improve the person you are.

So, would you date yourself?

* Some claim this advice is a byproduct of a more "traditional" household where the members would specialize. One would handle one part (income), one would handle the other (domestics) freeing up both to achieve better results in their respective domains. However, society is (possible?) shifting to households not being as specialized, and therefore a shift in marriages being less about specializations in productivity and more about shared experiences. Still, personally I'd rather not marry a clone of myself, but food for thought about the whole "opposites attract" notion.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Things My Mom Taught Me

Ah, Mother's Day Weekend. The time in the spring where we reflect on those who carried us around for nine months and went through excruciating pain to make us. And yet, for some reason, for all that grief we caused and cramping and back pain and really bad fashion, they loved us. They saw potential in us. They looked at a random clump of cells and said "you are a person and you are mine." In honor of those saints, here are a few things I was taught by my mom that impacted my life.

* Start tough, you can relax later. This was a very important piece of advice given to me when I became Section Leader in Band. Fundamentally it illustrates how it is easier to let things become loose than it is to tighten them up later. It holds true in so many things. Easier to let grades crash than to fight back to a higher score. Easy to let you body atrophy than to beat it into shape and maintain it. The fundamental law of entropy and discipline in your life. Bonus points for this one since it kept the section running smoothly, in no small part because every day I'd debrief my mom on what happened that day and she'd offer helpful thoughts.

* Put away what you take out. Hurrah for the basic childhood lessons. Like all good childhood rules, this continues to be true today, just in ways you may not expect. It is the secret to keeping a clean home. Since everything is always put away, you no longer have a large pile of junk to put away. AMAZING! Plus, it applies to other things in life. For example, understanding what a mutex is. Or, always telling someone when you are done with something so they can use it again. Since I shed that skin on the ground or got junk on the counter, it's my job to deal with it! Break out the vacuum!

* The world isn't black and white. You don't know how many times I was told this growing up. And for the longest time I didn't get it. World seemed pretty black and white to me. Laws seemed to regulate actions and social norms. Certain things were (vegetables) and others were not (lightsabers). Plus, almost everyone at school hated me. Simple. Took me a long time to figure this one out, and I'm still learning where along the color spectrum certain things lie for me.

* It's OK as long as you try your hardest. I think I've mentioned this before, but my parents did not expect me to get straight As for the sake of straight As. They expected me to get straight As because I was capable of getting straight As. It is a subtle, but important distinction. In all things I was expected to do my best. Even if that best wasn't the best possible. This lead to a lot of car rides to a variety of activities, just to give exposure and to try it out. You don't like baseball? OK. You are done with taking lessons? OK. Of course, there were times they knew I could do better, and encouraged me to break through what I thought were limitations. But at the same time I experienced leniency when merited. This same guiding principle runs the majority of my life even today.

* Food is Delicious. OK, that is probably self-explanatory to everyone. But seriously, my mom is pretty darn good at cooking. And not just cooking a recipe. Recipes are starting points for her. Sure we have a base recipe for lasagna, but that doesn't mean we don't end up with a spicy variety, or spinach variety, or whatever. This variety of different foods, plus the range of ethnic food we ate, was pretty neat. And some of that knowledge trickled down to me. So, sure I have recipes, but I know they are just starting points. The variety of food has also come in handy. I have no qualms about eating most anything. There are certain things I prefer not to eat, but I'm at home in all kinds of settings.

* Family is important. Again, this should be a no-brainer for most people. Still, looking back at the things that were given up to provide a loving home and to let us excel is quite astounding. Extra hours plugged into late night projects, the constant shuttling of me and my siblings, the hour every day of cooking dinner and late at night packing lunches. That isn't to say she didn't have fun either. But a serious amount of time and energy went into making our family work as a family. Plus, it didn't end at the household. We made sure to make time for other members of our family. And for family friends and their families. Even if things didn't always go smoothly, family was important and so we worked it out. Most of the time.

* It's not about things. This is a compound one. First, we were able to have fun with not much. The only video games I owned were a GameBoy and the computer. And I didn't have access to all the games on either. So instead I busied myself with other things. Books. Music. Sports. I had a pre-paid cellphone, and since it only charged if you were connected for more than around eight seconds, I could give my mom a pager code when we were done after school and it wouldn't cost us a cent. We lived without cable (oh the horrors). At the end of the day, you don't need things to have fun. Sure we would spend money on things, but those were important. Family vacations. Musical instruments when we reached the limits of our old ones. Good food. We didn't need to surround ourselves with the latest car or hippest whatever fad of the 90s was in vogue. And even if we did, we managed our own funds and did it efficiently. At the end of the day, the real invest was in people. Investing in social events. Investing in skills. Not investing in the transitory.

* Flexibility. More often than not, things don't go as planned. Sure you should have a very good plan (my mom's planning for parties is pretty intense. She developed a handbook for how to run banquets for organizations with timelines and contacts and everything), but leave room for changes. Allow for others to get in the way and make mistakes. Accommodate the crazy demands of the crazies, to an extent. When you fall flat on your face, smile and keep going. You can try to predict everything, but the unexpected will happen, so just roll with it.

This list could obviously keep going, but I think you get the point. Much of what I know and do today is thanks to my mom. <3

Friday, May 4, 2012

On My Mind: Duality

Preface: this was the post I mentioned previously. I'm too busy to finish polishing a new one, so enjoy this instead.

This title prefix indicates this is something that's 1) on my mind and 2) I want to randomly spew about. As a result, these will tend to be lower quality than a more structured, well-thought out post. It may also delve into weird parts of my mind. You've been warned.

So, duality. There are very, very few things in this world that do not have two sides to them. In my infinite wisdom stupidity I have trained myself to always acknowledge the other side and hold them as plausible. As a result, I tend to get paralyzed by being caught between them.

For example, think about the poor. On one hand, many poor are there because of the systems in place to make their lives easier. They are relatively comfortable and have figured out ways to get their necessities and see no reason to get out of their situation. Alternatively, they got themselves into this situation by substance abuse or poor decisions. Under these circumstances, one might feel justified in not helping them. They should learn to stand under their own strength! After all, they won't get better if we just coddle them. However, many are also there due to bad circumstances. The system conspires to take away their opportunities. Perhaps they made a few early bad decisions but are now reformed. Or maybe with the right system in place and the right opportunity they can succeed, they just need someone to believe in them and give them a helping hand.

Both of these stances are correct, in some form or fashion. As a result arguments fly left and right about what to do. Which side you feel is stronger speaks volumes about your priorities, character, and outlook on life.

This doesn't just apply to policy though. On one hand, I'd like to be an expert programmer and engineer wunderkind. All the literature says to become this, I should work really hard. Take up outside projects. Learn as much as you can at all times. There is no speed limit! On the other hand, I'd like to have a quiet life. I have other frivolous interests that take time. I enjoy killing time with other people. And at times I am just burned out. If I was too stuck in the first mindset, I would chastise myself for the breaks thinking about all the lost productivity. If I was too stuck in the second, I would never grow and only try to fill my own comfortable needs first without stepping out and growing as an individual. You don't get better by just doing what you are already capable of.

It is this duality. The mixture of me being quiet and letting others say their mind while screaming inside to say what I want. The oddity of saying what I think so emphatically I shut down the opposition and regret not hearing their thoughts. The cacophony of playing Devil's Advocate to show someone the flaws in their argument without ever getting around to saying what I really think. The madness of holding conflicting concepts in my life in balance with fear that if I pick the wrong one and go after it wholeheartedly I'll regret it some day in the future. The agony of burning out and hating myself for doing so.

That is what has been on my mind.