Goodbye 24000 minutes!

I know that in the final days I didn’t post much, but it’s done! I finished this project and it was the starting point that I needed to get to better things and more ambitious goals. Read more about what I accomplished at my new project/blog http://vowstoself.wordpress.com/ and learn more about the new approach that I am using to manage everything that I created in my life over the last year.

Thank you to those who followed me, I hope you stop by my new website, it promises to be more interactive and more reflective than this initial experiment.

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We don’t know

We usually don’t now, the first time that we meet a person, how important he/she will become to us. Most of us don’t know that that friend of a friend with whom we shared a laugh over a drink, that stranger we spoke to all night on the plane, or the person we sat next to and smiled at during class will become a best friend, lover, or husband.

I’ve been in this situation before, where I meet someone and feel an almost instant connection to them. Beyond the physical attraction which makes it all the more exciting, I enjoy this person. I like the expression on his face, I am amazed at what he says and how much we agree, and I want to ask him right away, “Have a drink with me. Give me half an hour. Let’s talk, and I’ll show you why you should be in love with me.”

It is rare that I meet people that I feel a connection with instantly. I don’t like very many people, I feel uncomfortable or bewildered in most social situations. Half the time, I have no idea what people are saying, why this is so exciting or fascinating to them, and another quarter of the time, I can’t believe how stupid and irritating they can be. Another eight, I simply find boring or uninteresting. That leaves me with a fine sliver of people I am interested in. Call me contrarian, it’s something I’m learning to accept about myself.

I tell you this so that you understand how exciting and special it is when I have a fleeting connection with someone. It becomes a fixation and I very quickly become infatuated with this stranger who comes to symbolize a whole fantasy world of possibility. We’ll meet again, accidentally. He’ll find me fascinating too, and admire the color of my eyes, or my style. We’ll kiss, fall in love, be real partner and go on adventures together.

And how disappointing it is, when, so often nothing comes of it. Usually, I never see the person again. And I’m usually left wondering whether I should have said something or been more expressive of my interest.

The problem is, when you like such a small percentage of people, the chances of finding someone who returns your curiosity and interest are slim. I wonder, often, whether the “signs” I am seeing are nothing more than wishful thinking, and so I hold back, feign interest in my phone or book, and refuse to meet his eyes again.

Perhaps it’s for the best. Perhaps, I’m just sparing myself embarrassment and disappointment. And yet I wonder whether those are things that I so badly need to be spared from. More importantly, I wonder if I’ve missed out on getting engaged or married, or just having an intense, whimsical relationship with someone because I am so restrained. I don’t know. We don’t know.

There is such a thing as the “friend zone”

The friend zone. We’ve all heard of it by now. It’s used to describe a relationship in which one of two “friends” has romantic and/or sexual feelings for the other person, but knows or suspects that his/her friend does not reciprocate said feelings. Up until recently, I just thought it was a slightly annoying expression used by people who were unhappy with the current state of their relationship(s) and were too needy, whiny and desperate to get out of a friendship that obviously wasn’t satisfying. Annoying, but harmless.

Recently, the friend zone became a feminist issue. I saw several blogs and articles describing it as a sexist term used by men who felt that they were owed sex from their female friends, owed sex for being “nice”, and were bitter because they were realizing that their entitlement was misplaced. I can see how the use of the expression can be interpreted in such way: sometimes when so-called “nice” guys are complaining about how kind, wonderful, and generous they have been to a female friend, it can seem as if the only reason they even approached her was because they were attracted to her, and the only reason they were nice at all was to have a chance to sleep with her. It can seem this way, but I’m not convinced. I think that there genuinely is a “friend zone” and that these guys are not being sexist: they are just being human, and displaying some of the weaknesses that come with it.

First of all, few people try to sneakily become friends with someone with the intention of turning the friendship into a relationship. It’s 2014, and people generally feel free to begin friendships with people of both sexes, with whoever they feel drawn to. Attraction may be an underlying factor, but I think that most of the time, it might be just below the surface of one’s awareness in the beginning. I have been friends with quite a few men who I did not think I was attracted to at all in the beginning. I was drawn to something about them, but I would not have called it a physical attraction. I think that people gradually become attracted or realize they have been attracted all along.

Second, I don’t think that the “friend zone” is so hard to interpret. It’s just a colorful way of saying that the other person only sees you as a friend. I think that all the frustration that people complaining about the friend zone express is not so much the result of feeling “entitled” to sex or a relationship, but the inevitable sense of rejection one feelings when someone we are attracted to doesn’t feel the same. Often, the two friends have a lot in common or share many important values; this is what leads them to have such a great friendship. I know that in male-female friendships, people often talk about dating, relationships, and their ideal partner. I think that frequently, the person who has feelings has observed what they other person says he/she wants and thinks that he/she has many of those qualities. I think it’s difficult to accept that while you may possess many of the qualities the other person desires, you are not physically attractive in his/her eyes.

Even though we all need to learn to deal with not being able to appeal to everyone, and even though becoming frustrated and ranting is a bad reaction, I can understand why these people feel rejected and annoyed. By the way, it’s not just guys who experience the “friend zone”. We have heard a lot about guys in the friend zone, but It also happens to girls, including yours truly. I have been in the friend zone once. It was really frustrating because I got along really well this person, knew we had a lot in common and I had many qualities (intelligence, style, wit) that he said he was looking for in a girlfriend. I also knew that he would never ask me out because I wasn’t his type: his type was gorgeous, skinny model. It was frustrating because this guy would never admit that looks were at the top of the list of things he was looking for and that he wouldn’t consider anyone who didn’t have perfect hair, a slender and tight body, complete with a stunning face. I get it: people are entitled to their preferences. I have my own which are just as superficial. But in the moment, you do feel the sting of rejection. Like I said, it makes it worse when you feel that the person won’t be honest about his/her preferences.

So no, I do not think that the friend zone is a sexist construction of faux-nice-guys’ imaginations that they wield as a weapon to guilt women into sex. I think that it’s a symptom of the frustration that results from imbalanced friendships, in which one person sees it as completely platonic and the other wishes there could be more.

Student Evaluations

My student evaluations are in. Not very surprising but I am reminded once more of how much it matters to be likeable. I received above average scores on most measures (intellectually stimulating, organized, interested in teaching) but by scores were surprisingly low when it came to “helpfulness” and “created a learning atmosphere”. My overall score was lower than what I am accustomed to as it is usually significantly above average.

Part of the problem is that this was a new course for me, one that combined content and foreign language skill development. I came across as having very high expectations and being very critical. Looking back, I think I could have been more understanding of some students’ struggles with language, spent a bit of time reviewing grammar and presenting more vocab, and maybe been a little less severe in some of my feedback.

I think the bigger problem though, was that many students did not like me. I don’t mean “me”, on a personal level, but my teaching persona. I came across as intelligent and passionate, definitely competent despite my age, but also unapproachable and intimidating. I forgot that students are people and when you deal with people, being competent matters less than having charm. I have been so focused on perfecting my teaching and creating detailed lessons that I forgot Spring 2012.

I had an amazing rapport with my 2012 class. I had decided that semester to be an amazing teacher and to radiate positivity. I had recently watched a video of myself teaching and realized I looked unhappy when I had a neutral expression. After that, I made an effort to smile a lot more than usual, appear energetic and always remain calm but enthusiastic no matter what happened during the lesson. It worked. I had a near perfect score that term and several comments about how I always came to class happy and was extremely likeable. There was not a single negative comment and I know objectively that I am a better teacher than I was that Spring. In my efforts to be professional, to come across as good enough to be a professor, to look competent, I forgot to be a person, smile, and show my students that I am happy to be there and want badly to help them.

I’m not suggesting that teaching should be all about being popular or charming. I think the trick is to be incredibly competent while still retaining that kind, open and positive demeanor that students respond to and feel comfortable with.

When I teach summer, I will:
1) Implement a goal-setting plan and weekly progress form for students to evaluate their own performance
2) revise how I grade participation
3) offer my own French conversation/culture table during the summer since it is not offered typically
4) Keep a positive attitude and look outwardly calm and happy, no matter how I am really feeling
5) continue making great lessons and having high (but attainable) standards

What we record and why we share

Hello readers. I am home, on the island of Mauritius. The journey home was long and arduous but I made it. I have already been spoiled by my mum and am relishing the tropical weather, cool breeze drifting in through the windows and the freshness that bed linens only seem to have in hot countries.

I have thought carefully about what I want to do this summer, and in particular, during the first part of my holiday, the six weeks at home. I have three main projects:
1) recording everything I do here and taking photos of the food I eat, places I see, people I am with.
2) work a documentary about Mauritius
3) create a new family album

I reflected on why I wanted to undertake these projects and what it meant in terms of sharing. For the first question – why? – it is simple. I want to record everything because memory is fallible. I know I had a wonderful time here last summer but I can’t remember most of it – the details are lost, whole days are blurred and that’s sad. I want to be able to go back to my journal and photos and even if they don’t trigger memories, I will have more of a sense of what happened. And proof that it really did happen. It’s so easy to forget and then wonder what was real and what you have embellished. For my second project, I was inspired by a class I took and want to present my perspective on Mauritius. My final project stems from a desire to have more family pictures and albums – all I have are the old ones and I think we have lost many years by not photographing special moments.

The privacy/sharing issue took more thought. What goes on my blog? What goes on Facebook? Should anything be online? I decided that the first project is very personal so the journal will be handwritten and the photos kept to myself. I may occasionally post an excerpt from my journal here and add some of the photos to Facebook but most will be mine only. The documentary of Mauritius will be made public on a separate blog and I hope to use it to apply for a grant and enter it into a contest. I might most some of the raw material but for the most part, only the final edited product will be shown on a professional blog. Finally, the album is also personal so I will only share it with my family and closest friends, perhaps posting a few I of the best shots to Facebook.

I know that I want to limit my time online and particularly on Facebook while I’m here. My main purpose here is to be with my family, work on my projects, play the piano and enjoy time off. Therefore, I have told myself that I will not post my holiday photos until this is over. Editing, uploading, curating – they all take time away from the holiday itself. I have also realized that it can come across as attention seeking and show-off-y to post every single picture as soon as it’s taken. It’s also not very intriguing since people always know what you’re doing and where you are.

I will continue this blog with my usual short documentary posts. For the next 6 weeks, “work” = photography projects, piano, writing.

60%: Making choices or saying no to wine

I learned something this morning when I had to wake up to get to a 7:30 volunteer shift I had signed up for, after only 6 hours of sleep and a department party that included several glasses of wine.

I got to my shift (5 minutes late) but felt rushed, annoyed and exhausted. I got to come home and collect myself after that, and sleep a bit more but I realized it could all have been avoided. I was supposed to stay out only 1-2 hours last night. Instead, I spent about 4-5 hours drinking and eating at a fun party because I wanted to believe we can have it all.

Well we can’t have it all. At least, not all at once. There are times when some things that are important to you will take priority and that’s something to deal with. Because when you say yes to everything, give into the desire to be excessive, it hurts the people and projects you have given your word to.

I am so sick of being pressured to achieve some kind of work/life balance. it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t even make sense. Not all the areas of your life require equal attention at all times. Successful people are willing to be unbalanced when one area is in need of more work than others. I am starting to think that what causes people distress isn’t the so-called imbalance but the social pressure to maintain the illusion of balance.

And I should have said no to the wine. I can’t really do more than one glass without suffering the consequences, being a woman of Indian descent in he mid-twenties.

So say no to the wine, yes to imbalance, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.

50%: Life has changed

Life has changed for the better since January when this idea first came to mind. In January, I was completely out of shape, frequently depressed, often lonely and always full of self-doubt and negative, anxious thoughts. No, I have not become a skinny, confident goddess or social magnet in this short time, but when I look at a typical day now, compared to then, it is very different.

My calendar is always full, with a mix of projects, papers, interviews/job opportunities and social events. I see a variety of people and do various volunteering/fun events during the week and I almost always have plans on a Friday or Saturday. In fact, I find myself having to turn down invitations sometimes just to keep a somewhat balanced schedule. I exercise regularly and crave the sweat and ache that comes with a serious session of weight-lifting or running on the treadmill. I feel as competitive as I did as my 17-year-old self who believed she was amazing and was going to be “somebody”. I’m currently running a 12-13 minute mile (ugh) and get annoyed with myself. I want to get my pace down to 10 min/mile, especially by the time half-marathon comes round in October. I’m going for a run outside next week, with my friend, and running a 5k next weekend.

Yes, life has changed. For the better.

40%: How do you put aside feelings of rejection?

Close female friendships can sometimes be more painful than relationships when they go wrong, start to fizzle out, or end. I’ve had relationships before that came to sudden and dramatic ends, others that faded quietly as we grew apart due to distance or years, and some that never officially changed yet were deeply different, less strong and far less fulfilling than they once were. I find these endings harder to deal with than the end of romantic relationships because our culture places the “forever and ever” expectation on friendships more so than on romantic relationships. I think most people accept that many romantic relationships won’t work out, that many people will grow out of  love, but we don’t expect friendships to expire. And yet they do, alarmingly often.

I had written earlier this month about some of the emotions I’m struggling with in one friendship. Every time I log onto Facebook, it’s like a punch in the gut, because there are photos of this friend with whom I was really close just last semester, out with another mutual friend all the time, to places I’ve not been invited. I talked to her about this earlier this year and she assured me that nothing was wrong, nothing had changed and that her schedule just lined up with our other friend’s. But I don’t believe it. She makes excuses about not having time to see me – yet she has time to see this girl several times a week, during her free time. And for the schedule? My schedule is very open/flexible, but she wouldn’t know, because she never bothered to find out. What’s so difficult about texting? Calling? Even though we don’t see each other on campus everyday, that’s not an excuse not to take any initiative to make plans. I even feel she was kind of lukewarm to me at the event I organized this week. I feel the distance between us growing and I resent her for it because I feel that she isn’t being honest with me. I hate it when people won’t say how they really feel, despite it being obvious that something has changed and despite being asked privately about it.

So, what to do when you’re trying to stay positive, achieve your goals and be happy? It’s a really damper on motivation and a sense of well-being when someone you consider a true friend gradually becomes colder towards you and involves you less and less in her life. I’ve made the mistake of really dwelling on these feelings in the past, crying a lot, feeling disappointed, victimized and resentful towards everyone. I can’t let myself do that this time. I have limited time and so much still to build in my life. I think that the thing to remember here is that the people in our lives, even those we consider our closest friends and truest lovers are only with us temporarily, and that it is foolish to count on them as the main source of happiness. They are one aspect of happiness, an important one, but I think that it is naïve to have expectations of life-long friendships. Having these ideals is what makes the reality so painful. I believe in passionate, enriching and joyful friendships – but like all things, we should expect that they will last for a limited time only. There will be other people. There will be other friends, other boyfriends, other husbands even.

At this 40% mark in my journey, I feel like I’ve made good progress towards rebuilding my feelings of motivation and already had some mini-achievements. This was the easing in phase, re-adjusting to being motivated after a long slumber. Now is the time to work hard and have sharp focus, not to be bogged down by something so fleeting. We make our happiness. I am really starting to believe that. When I was feeling sorry for myself when I saw the photos, I remembered – I can’t blame her for the fact that she is out with people having fun and I am sitting here feeling shitty and looking at them, feeling left out. I could have scheduled to be at a race today, I could have had lunch with other people, I could have gone on a date. I made the decision not to plan other things and this was the result.

 

Earning it: The Month of Discipline

I’ve done pretty well in the last 30 or so days, gradually incorporating exercise into my life again, being somewhat disciplined and being more active socially and professionally. Last night, I went to a much-awaited event that I had planned with friends. It was extremely fun as I liked all the people I had invited and feel comfortable with them. We dressed up, went to a nice place, ate, drank, laughed, it was good. But, it was a bit of a let-down. In my mind, I had envisioned it as the culmination of all my efforts after three months of very hard work. I’ve been working, but it hasn’t yet been 100 days or even close, and I’ve haven’t been living a truly disciplined lifestyle. I’ve been indulgent with myself – exercising but not as much as I once did, eating whatever I want (not particularly healthy), shopping, not working as much as I need to. So this month, I want to go extra crazy with my goals and be insanely disciplined. That means going a little longer and harder with the exercise, transitioning to a diet that eliminates sugar and is very low in carbs, being focused on my work and Boo Radley events, being clean (in every way), sleeping well, staying calmer, and being less self-indulgent.

When I have an end-of-semester night out at the end of next month, I want to feel I’ve really earned it and wear a strapless dress.

Gratitude Post

Days where I feel really happy and everything seems to go smoothly are rare. I call these charmed days.

When I’m lucky enough to experience one of these, I try to note down all the great things that happened:

1) It’s a wonderfully sunny days, and not windy

2) The film round table was cancelled. I’m happy, even though I shouldn’t be, because the paper I was supposed to submit wasn’t ready. I’ve been putting it off because it’s not a topic I want to revisit and it was making me really stressed, hanging over my head. No need to spend any more time worrying about it!

3) Had a good conversation with my Dad late last night

4) I got the teaching facilitator position I interviewed for last month! I was so happy to get the e-mail last week. I am excited.

5) I got feedback on my interview for exec board. I was happy to hear they thought I was a great candidate and that the reasons why I wasn’t chosen were what I suspected: I’m brand new/don’t have a lot of experience/haven’t had time to form relationships with the new members. Also, they were worried about whether time would be an issue since I am a PhD student, a teacher, and already a member of a couple of boards.

6) I managed to make it to a Boo Radley event today. This means that I’ve met the minimum requirement of 8! I am a true Boo.

7) Got to have lunch with a Boo. Delicious food and I’m excited to get to know different members better.

8) I got a new dress today. White lace top with a mint green chiffon skirt. It’s gorgeous and looks like Spring.