Today, I lean in…. (#leanin)

It has been sooooooooo long! What have I been up to? Catching up on House of Cards, of course! Did ANYONE watch episode 1 of Season 2?!?!??! Let me just say. Wow. What else has been happening? I suppose just work, bonding with my friends that I have made over the previous 1.5+ years of living in the metropolitan area of the capital of USA, continuing to keep in touch with the lovely -arkies (what would I ever do without them?). Oh yeah, and I’ve enrolled myself into a linear algebra course at the community college near me.

IT FEELS SO GOOD TO BE BACK IN A CLASS… with my textbook, my notebooks, writing utensils, backpack, and my brain. Hahaha, the things you thought you’d never miss like homework, quizzes, exams, annoying classmates (just kidding). It has made two of my otherwise Netflix/Breadcrumbs-in-bed-on-pj’s-weeknights a little more eventful. My experience over the past 3 or 4 weeks has reminded me of Sheryl Sandberg‘s Lean In (check out Charkie‘s Booktalk #3).

I remember sitting through a couple of classes with a classmate next to me continuously commenting how how to solve the example problems that the professor was going through. In my mind, I was pretty sure that he was wrong, but was unsure about how much “pretty” that entailed. I found that more than a couple of times, I just shrugged and said maybe or “ummm… I’m not sure.” I also found that if I did solve something with MATLAB or in my line-filled notebook paper, he’d be quick to jump to the conclusion that I was wrong. I also also found than more often than not (let’s say 99.99999% of the times), he was wrong and I was actually right.

I came back and discussed this with my friends and had that deja vu sensation. No wonder! I’d read about similar tales in Sandberg’s book! I’m fully capable of learning the material taught in class, however, why was I lacking the confidence that my classmate of mine had so readily stored in him? Interesting – I have indeed been holding myself back

Last night, my professor made a mistake on the board. I scanned through his calculations again to check again. I found myself starting to address this quietly to the classmate next to me. However, I realized that I’d never #leanin fully, so instead of leaning in towards my classmate, I leaned towards the front of the classroom and spoke with as much confidence I could muster. I was indeed right. My professor thanked me politely.

I know this is a small small event that does not directly address larger gender gap issues…So what if he got the sign wrong? However, for us to fully achieve our full potential, we’ve got to dig deeper into those inner layers of the onion. I realized that I had been holding myself back. Have you ever had such a moment? What are you #leanin thoughts? Let’s, as Sandberg calls for us to do, change the conversation from what women can’t do to what we can do. 🙂

And now I #leanin to my spicy buffalo chicken sandwich....

And now I #leanin to my spicy buffalo chicken sandwich at work….

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Today, I took an emotional intelligence test.

The NY Times reports that people who read literary fiction tend to score higher on emotional intelligence tests. Take the test! I posted a 34, but I have a confession – I hardly ever read fiction.

Check it out: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/well-quiz-the-mind-behind-the-eyes/?src=me&_r=2&.

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Today, I consider the Takeaway: 5 Things I Learned this Summer

1. “I’m not psychotic, it’s the side effects of my medications” takes on new meaning inside a psychiatric ward.
Although the summer months were filled with food, family, friends, and general fun frenzy, my main goal in July was the completion of my nursing practice, a required summer clinical rotation to expose us to patient care.  The speciality and location were up to us, as long as it took place in a teaching hospital, and I was fortunate to find a spot in a psychiatry department in Frankfurt. I hoped to get a better feel for the field of psychiatry, as well as glimpse what the health care system in Germany is like.

I learned the names of medications and how to take a psychiatric history, but what I will remember most are the interactions I had with patients, one of whom said the above quote to me. I didn’t know whether to believe her at that stage of her treatment because she seemed so … normal, and yet, the psychiatrists said otherwise. Discussions with the doctors and nurses gave me new appreciation for the subtlety of diagnosing and treating psychiatric diseases.  Sometimes, the patients were clearly and acutely ill; more often, their mental illness was made manifest by social dysfunction. I’m interested in exploring other branches of medicine, but psychiatry is such a rich field that I can’t wait to be part of in some professional capacity.

(Arkie recently pointed me to this article about the stigma of mental illness)

2. No Internet = no problem
Well, that’s not exactly true, since I did have some limited Internet and it was a bit of a problem. Still, since my apartment in Frankfurt didn’t include wifi (something I hadn’t considered asking about first, lesson 2b), Gail and I made due with a computer internet USB stick that had us frugally counting megabytes. I checked my email “only” twice a day and didn’t video chat with anyone for the entirety of my stay. Having gotten so used to Google hangouts/Skype/FaceTime over the past year, it was nice to realize that they weren’t the sine qua non of my long-distance relationships. By the end of the five weeks, we weren’t itching for the Internet at all!

I think I’ve lapsed, but at least I know it can be done?!

3. Watch your wallet!
I was pick pocketed for the first (hopefully last!) time this summer. Very luckily, I ended up getting everything back because I noticed the theft right after it happened (strange circumstances). In that initial moment of shock and panic, the loss felt like such a violation. Since then, I’ve been more attentive!

4. Fan mail exposes the illusion of separateness
Simon van Booy is one of my absolute favorite contemporary writers, as the -arkies and other friends can tell you. His literary style is ideal for poetry lovers who prefer prose, with incisive metaphors and characters that make me stop in awe of life formulated with such insight.

His novel The Illusion of Separateness was one of my most anticipated reads of the summer, and in preparation, I reread his previous novel (that deserves a whole blog post. Note to self) and a collection of his short stories. I’m a fan, ok?!?!
illusion-of-separateness1

In June, I e-mailed SvB about how much I appreciated one of his characters in particular, generally fulfilling all stereotypes of zealous fan mail. Less than a week later, HE WROTE BACK!! It was short, but personalized and kind, and definitely a highlight of my summer.

I’d say that the primary lesson from this was to read SvB’s works. 🙂
Secondly — even more so than countless cold emails or statistics about the rise of social media — I realized how powerfully connected we are these days. Whom to reach out to next…?

5. Sometimes, there’s no going back
I visited Hong Kong for the first time this summer, the place where my mother was raised. She hadn’t been back since she emigrated 40 years ago; her HK was the one before the massive boom in Asia, prior to the Handover of HK to China from Britain for that matter. Even as she cited those changes as reasons for staying away, it was hard for me to understand why she wouldn’t want to return to her former home. Now, I’m not sure we really saw her home anyway, or if that’s even possible anymore. The HK I got to know was a packed modern city with impressive skyscrapers packed like tetris shapes, bustling with people constantly on their electronic devices. It’s hard to imagine that almost none of that was present when she lived there. It was unsettling to put myself in her position: my hometown still looks pretty much like it did when I was growing up; Budapest, like much of Europe, has me accustomed to ubiquitous centuries-old buildings and structures, even if they house modern operations. The past is inherent and recognizable in my environments. However, her apartment building no longer exists; we went to her school and university, but they look totally different now, too.

The places I have left might not see such drastic change in the coming decades (or maybe they will, who knows?!), but if/when I do go back, maybe all I can hope to recognize is a memory.

My mom instantly recognized the hibiscus near the HKU campus, but not those newly erected high-rises in the background.

My mom instantly recognized the hibiscus near the HKU campus, but not those newly erected high-rises in the background.

Today, I’m leaving on a jet plane

… not sure when I’ll be back again, but I hope it will be soon. All my bags are not packed and I’m not ready to go either, but there we have it.

I’ve prepared some music and reading to distract me from the cramped quarters and stale cabin air.  What do you like to do during flights? Sometimes, I watch the in-flight shows and movies provided, but I prefer to come with entertainment of my own. Here’s what I have ready for today:


Garrison Starr’s appropriately titled album, The Girl That Killed September (2007) from Noisetrade, a site with music from tons of great independent artists. Starr’s 2012 album Amateur was one of my favorites from last year. Check her out if you like Brandi Carlile with a little more pop.

 

 

CuckoosCallingCover
This classic detective mystery only came to my attention when Robert Galbraith was revealed to be a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling.  Obviously, you’ve all read the Harry Potter series, otherwise we wouldn’t be friends (kidding, mostly).  The Casual Vacancy was great, too. I wish I could have stumbled upon it with less bias to have been part of the experiment.

If you’re in the U.S., have a happy Labor Day!

Today, I am regrouping.

Charkie is trying to brainwash us into swooning over Simon van Booy (it’s really not that hard, though) so I’m listening to his radio interview as I write this post. His new book is called The Illusion of Separateness. Plug of the day.

Anyway, this weekend was a good one (and it seems the other arkies had good weekends too!) I got to see a friend that has just spent the year traveling around the whole world–11 countries in 11 months–and it was great to talk to her and another good friend about culture and culture shock and race, religion, ethics, etc across the world. And we talked about the usual stuff like weddings and babies and whatever else it is 20-somethings are talking about these days. I haven’t sat down for a good chat in a while (with the exception of talking to jarkie on the train last weekend) so this was really nice. And we went to this place called Cocoa Cinnamon in Durham which sells stuff like drinking chocolate and other things people flock for. I had the Middle Eastern Iced Coffee. After the lovely afternoon, I went to visit another friend who has just come back from Atlanta and I slept over. Her adorable almost-4-years-old nephew was an endless source of energy and we all stayed up pretty late. I can’t do these late nights anymore, y’all. I’m getting too old for them!

Now, as my title suggests, I am beginning the process of regrouping. Remember that job interview I mentioned a couple weeks ago? Well, even though the interview went really well, I didn’t get the job. I was kinda bummed but I guess I’m in the “everything happens for a reason” camp and I need to positively look forward to what is coming in the future instead of dwelling on what has gone in the past.

*Side note: I get these “morning mantra/thought of the day” emails and today’s quote is from Michael Jordan.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed.”

I’ll take that to heart. Onward and upward I go!

(back to svb) I wish my separateness was just an illusion. I’m in the phase of missing people now. I mean, I always miss people but most times, I just put it out of my mind. But there have been so many nostalgic moments in the past few weeks…perhaps I’m still in the stage of life where my happy memories are still accompanied by longing to go back there. But does that ever go away? Hmmm…

Have a good day, all! I hope you find yourselves in positive spaces today 🙂

p.s. if anyone is interested, and I know you are, Chelsea won their first game of the season with B-E-A-UTIFUL goals by Oscar and Lampsy. Madrid also won, making this a rather successful weekend all around!

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Booktalk #3: Learning to Lean In

I recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and have since been expounding its virtues. Just yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend about it (shout-out to Vv!), so I’m all talked out for the moment.

In a nutshell, it’s a manifesto for women who are trying to find and advance their foothold in the workplace; it’s also a reflection on society’s biases, and what we ourselves do that holds us back.

The origins of the book come from Sandberg’s 2010 TED talk, in which she discusses some of the same points. It’s recommended reading/viewing for anyone who, in Sandberg’s words, believes that “a truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes”.

Booktalk #2: Rereading an Old Favorite

As a book lover, I’m ashamed to admit that I rarely REread books, even my favorites. This extends to movies and TV shows, too, no matter how much I love them. There are just too many books and too little time to backtrack!

I’ve made an exception for Lois Lowry’s The Giver, though, a book that shocked my elementary-school-self the first time I read it more than ten years ago. I remember the school librarian giving it to me, warning me that I was a bit young for its utopian/dystopian themes  (not in so many words), but of course it hardly gave me pause.

That initial reading made such an impression on me, that I forgot until writing this entry that my 7th grade English class also studied the book. The first time, I felt it; the second time, I understood it. This time, I’m enjoying it.

I won’t give anything away about the plot — of course, I’d like you all to READ IT!!  Although some of the story’s details are a bit hazy, and the writing is more simplistic than I remember, it’s remarkable how much of it has remained with me after all these years, like memories buried just under the surface of my consciousness. It’s a book that just keeps on giving*.

*Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.