June 13, 2020

Reflect: Summer Week 4

Reflect: Summer Week 4

What did I accomplish?

I completed my literature review! Finally- after three weeks of arduous research, writing and re-writing. I produced a draft that I’m proud of. I can’t wait for the feedback so I know what still needs improvement. I’ve gotten better at taking literature notes too, making it more of a breeze when it boils down to actual writing.

I’m having some trouble deciding how to spend my weekends. I’d like to stay clear of work, but so much of my leisure has become work-related too. For example, I am trying to write and draw about AMR in my own time for this blog. My Laidlaw research project- also revolves around AMR. I also read leisurely, but share some of my learnings in these reflection pieces. I wanted to go through my Pocket list to catch up with the happenings of the world, but just couldn’t find the heart to do so. This was because doing that involved surfing the net to clarify whatever I didn’t know, and I was afraid of falling victim to shallow work again. This must change though, I need to catch up with whatever’s happening.

I managed to complete some tutorials on using MediBang Paint Pro. Doodling on my Wacom tablet has become more intuitive as well. Note to self: whenever learning a new software, learn the shortcuts first.

That aside, I watched Howl’s Moving Castle. It felt good to get lost in a good movie., hehe.

On a more personal note, I absolutely love what I’m doing with Prof Helena and her team. At this point, I’m considering continuing my work with her even after the Laidlaw programme ends. If she’s able to hire me as a research assistant, I’d want to stop tutoring, even though I’d earn more as a tutor. I’ve learned tremendous amounts in just five weeks. Imagine what else I can learn if I keep this up!

What did I learn?

Why are your twenties termed The Defining Decade?

You’re in your twenties. What should you be doing right now?

Party? Date around? Travel the world? Have fun while you can? After all, it’s now or never. You’re only young once.

Meg Jay says no. Rather, we should be focused on exploring our interests, building our careers, investing time in quality relationships (not date around)

In her book The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter— And How to Make the Most of Them, she discusses why twentysomethings are so crucial.

In her book, she argues that our twenties are when the frontal lobes of our brains are primed to learn the complexities of adult-ing, aka “how to find a professional niche, how to choose and live with a mate, how to be a parent, where and when to stake our claims.” There is science to back her claims too.

“Twentysomething work and school are our best chance to acquire the technical, sophisticated skills needed in so many careers today. Twentysomething relationships are prepping us for marriage and other partnerships. Twentysomething plans help us think across the years and decades ahead. How we learn to cope with twentysomething setbacks readies us for handling our spouses and bosses and children.”

If you’re a twenty something and you’re engaging with quality jobs and relationships, you’re on the right track. You’re picking up the skills to adult as your brain is optimally ready to learn them.

But what about having fun and engaging in crazy exploits to create lasting memories while we can? To that, Jay argues:

“Twentysomething exploits are met with more enthusiastic clichés, such as “You’re only young once” or “Have fun while you can.” These messages encourage risk-taking and what one researcher calls “now-or-never behaviors” that don’t actually make us happy for long: partying, multiple sex partners, blowing off responsibilities, being lazy, not having a real job.”

As a twenty-two year-old college student, I’ve been hearing messages from both sides for as long as I remember. On one hand, I’ve been drilled to work on building my career from Day 1. On the other, I hear constantly hear ‘well-intentioned advice’ from relatives, youtube videos and books to live our best years (aka when we’re young) adventurously- go out, explore, have fun.

There must be a way to balance both. I believe so. I want to create novel memories with friends and family during this time. I want to check off my bucket list when I am not tied down to a family or a job. I don’t want to be so focused on building my career that i forget to have fun altogether. Yet, there’s no better time to pick up new skills, learn from apprenticeships, all to make myself a more competitive candidate for a career I’m passionate about.

Jay said to invest in good relationships- be it in your friends or partner. I believe that with such relationships, great memories naturally follow. So long I avoid low-quality relationships or jobs that I do not derive fulfilment/ joy from, I believe the balance will come naturally. How can I say no to late-night conversations, lunch expeditions or impromptu road trips? And since I can only fully indulge in these peak moments after knowing that i’ve done the work to deserve them, I’d go out my way to accomplish what’s necessary so I can have fun with my loved ones. That’s the way I choose to approach it.

Other things I loved about her book:

  • Start being picky about the relationships we have with others now. Our careers heavily impact our quality of live, that’s why we spend so much time picking and building them. Why don’t we do the same for our relationships?
  • Like producing good work, good relationships take “a few thoughtful tries”. We don’t know what love and commitment truly are until we put in the hours and take the risks.
  • Even as we near our thirties, we shouldn’t rush into marriage. This is because when you choose to marry, you’re simultaneously choosing your future family. It’s not a decision to take lightly.

What makes a defining moment, defining?

Falling in love for the first time. Getting fired from your job. Winning a tough competition. Having someone believe in your potential. Getting married. These are easily some of life’s most defining moments. The question is, what makes a defining moment so memorable?

Last week, we discussed how defining moments are usually peaks, pits or transitions in life. Apart from that, defining moments also have four key traits: they are moments of elevation, insight, pride and/ or connection.

Elevation. These are moments such as birthday parties, weddings, spontaneous adventures. They usually hold an element of surprise. They are extraordinary, unexpected, random. They break the script of a mundane routine.

Insight. Such moments include falling in love. Deciding to start a businesses. Discovering a newfound talent. Deciding to break off a toxic relationship. During these moments, you come to an epic realisation that changes your life. You see yourself differently. You see the world differently. As a result, your life takes a turn.

Pride. Think about a moment where you puffed your chest and lifted your chin in pride. Attending an award ceremony. Receiving a compliment from a superior. Mastering a hard skill. After doing something courageous. Moments of pride celebrate accomplishments. They are markers of competency, of progress, of growth.

Connection. These moments are deeply social. They bond and connect you to others. There is shared warmth, empathy, solidarity. Often, you have struggled together or worked towards a common purpose. Think of graduation, struggling through a tough work project, or a couple finally managing to conceive. They could also be milestones, such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries.

Elevation, insight, pride and connection. Our life’s defining moments usually have at least one of these features. Defining moments enrich life, create long-lasting memories and help form meaningful connections with others. How can we start creating or prepping for such defining moments, for ourselves and others? Chip and Dan Health’s book offers such a guide.

Well, I guess it’s time to infuse my WFH routine with some defining moments.

Morning pages

This week, I started doing morning pages after listening to a podcast with Jim Collins. It got me thinking relationship with my brother. Before he left to become a seafarer, we saw little of each other. I was staying at school, so I only get to see him when I returned home during the weekends. Even then, we usually only shared a family meal on Sunday.

After reaching Singapore’s shores in May, he’d been under quarantine for two weeks. Now that he’s back, it’s come to eight months since our family had been physically together. For the next few months, the entire family would be under one roof and sharing every meal together . While I am grateful, I am also grasping at the straws. I realised that the next few months would probably be the last opportunity my family would get to spend so many consecutive days in each other’s company, in like, ever.

My brother would be enlisting in the army soon. After he’s out, he would go out to sea again. By then, I’d have graduated and started work. Mom and Dad would be moving to Malaysia. If anything, this sounds like an opportunity to create defining moments as a family. Haha.

Laidlaw-specific reflection

The literature review I had written was unlike any I’ve done before. It was for a funded project. It would serve as a draft as well as a reference document for the multiple papers the team had aimed for publishing. Having gone through four weeks of just putting the document together, I’ve come to respect academics deeply. Their relentless pursuit to better understand our world is an incredible commitment. The commitment must also be deeply satisfying. Not only because research is tremendously difficult work, but also because it involves collaboration, extended periods of deep learning, as well as the ultimate hope of impacting positive change in society.

Advice on climbing the corporate ladder

Someone from the Farnam Street Learning Community had shared the following:

Large corporations can offer you a great deal: paid vacation, health benefits, a salary while allowing you to specialise in a niche area you really enjoy. Things you don’t can be handled by somebody else. A huge plus: the routine would grant you “time for hobbies and relationships aside from your day job”. I haven’t held a full-time job yet, but the benefits do sound pretty attractive.

If he could go back in time, he’d tell himself that personality and culture fit matters. Choose a job based on the quality of the people you’ll get to work with. His advice gave me something to chew on. Now that i’m part of a team, i realised how wonderful it is, really. I’m lucky enough to have picked my own project supervisor. With her came an amazing team. And for that I’m grateful 🙂 Perhaps one thing to takeaway is to join a team with a great leader who had likely assembled an equally competent team to lead.

To wrap up, this week has been about learning how to invest my twenties wisely and create personal defining moments. One such opportunity has presented itself as I go through the WFH situation- that is to work on my relationship with my brother.

What I can do better in week 5

  • Lunchtime walks and putting your phone outside your room has been helpful for your productivity! Keep it up.
  • This week has been a series of productive sprints and rests. I’ll try allocating shallower work (emails, research and reading-intensive work) to slower days.
  • Spend more time listening. Practice patience.
  • Read during lull time.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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