Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Seeking Validation

Nearly everything we do on a daily basis is to seek the validation of others because there is a deeply rooted human need for love and acceptance.  Where this can become an issue is when we’re so insecure that seeking that validation comes in the form of purchasing things beyond our means to assert status and sacrificing our well being for acceptance.  If you think even about the little nuances of everything we do on a daily basis, this is true.  For example, take the person who diets on a regular basis but is afraid of the backlash they’ll receive in a social situation when they decline a drink or sugary birthday cake.  Out of a fear of social rejection, they self-loathingly imbibe to deal with a sense of dread the next morning or later that night in solitude.  They're torn with numerous puppet strings of insecurity now because they want to lose weight to look better in public but they don't want to feel ostracized by not eating because they want to project a complacent attitude that they eat what they want. 

At the end of the day, most people really don’t care what you eat, what you wear or how you act, so long as you're not personally harming them. (Read John Stuart Mills On Liberty) These people may come up as a topic of discussion or gossip amongst friends when said person is not present, but how that impacts our day to day well being is essentially moot, again so long as you’re not breaking serious social taboo and injuring the physical or emotional well being of others.  Most of us feel that a huge magnifying glass is aimed over our heads where people are analyzing and criticizing us, when in fact most people don’t care and are simply focused on their own insecurities and how they’re perceived by others.   

This has led to our culture of narcissism where we hope everything we post on social media is liked by others and enhances our perception. We’ve become addicted to little dopamine rushes of attention by text messages, pokes, likes, tweets that our brains have become wired differently where being alone scares us.  When you pull up to a red light these days, people simply can’t resist the temptation to check their phones for a new dopamine rush.  We all secretly admire that person who doesn’t seem to care what other people think, because we realize how liberating that must be when so much of our daily behavior is geared at crafting a particular image to be accepted by others.   

I’m not sure where this is leading other than my realization that doing things in solitude is cathartic (and necessary).  Although we have human needs for socializing due to our highly evolved social brains, there’s a sense of liberating euphoria during times of extreme solitude because there’s no judgment upon us.  My roadtrip last year made me realize a lot of this since I had to rely solely on myself and my decisions and my main worries were getting a flat tire, having enough water packed and what to do in case of an emergency, not whether people would notice I had a spaghetti stain on my collar from lunch and draw a conclusion that I was a sloppy eater. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Booze and dependency

For the next 3 months I'm giving up booze completely because I hate the dependency I have on it.  Family is 100% supportive.  Friends I'm sure will range from supportive to scoffing, but this is purely to see whether my willpower can overcome my dependency on alcohol as a social and mental lubricant.  Over the last few years it's been very rare for me to take a night off from drinking, which is pathetic.  

Cheers to a dry quarter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hello 2014 (don't expect much)

For the sake of a New Year, here’s a post.

Since my last post I’ve landed back in Houston with no desire to travel.  Just like my previous exploits, I binged on travel enough to where I got sick of it and looked for the next outlet.  As the time passed idly, I still made time for reading (not a hobby I ever see myself overdoing) and slowly started searching for work. 
After a few months of tepid interviews and reading numerous postings about ‘seeking driven individuals with strong commercial acumen,’ I reached a neutral zone where I was in limbo with regards to working again and having all of this downtime.  Don’t get me wrong, the downtime is great.  I’m fitter, healthier and guilt-free regarding the amount of time I spend with my family and dog now.   That said, I’ve realized being away from something for an extended amount of time leads to romanticizing what you’ve experienced in the past. 
Even though I still have enough money to last me a few years, I began to romanticize work, a steady paycheck and business class flights.  I keenly forgot the mundaneness of meetings, small talk and office banter which led me to always disassociate work from personal life.   Now I’m taking the luxury of downing a few beers at 2 pm on a Wednesday (hello tipsy blogging) for granted and finding myself completely motivated to subject myself to routine and work for a paycheck and security. 

As job offers loom, I can’t help but self-reflect that once working again I’ll miss these idle times that come so few and far between, namely when you’re young and waste your youth.  At 32, with as much downtime as I have, however, it’s led me to a few conclusions about the decision I made last year, but I wouldn’t take it with a grain of salt because I can change my mind pretty quickly according to circumstances and boredom. 

Anyways, I digress.  This post was brought to you by cabin fever, alcohol and some mental stimulation after seeing my last post was over 5 months ago.  See you again later this year, when I’ve once again become a routine oriented capitalistic cog. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The travel bug is asleep

After nearly 3 weeks backpacking again through Europe, I can say the travel bug is fast asleep.  Travel is becoming a listless series of tasks as I move from city to city, sitting on trains and making 24 hour friends.   It isn't just the travel but living away from home for the past 2.5 years that's worn the edges down a bit.  Some people can do it long term but right now I need to feel a bit grounded again and Houston is the most logical place for me to be close to everything that's important to me.  So I'm cancelling my Trans Siberian ticket and heading home in the next week or two.

The wanderlust I'm sure will peek it's head out again in the future, but for now all I want is some routine and a place to come home to.  Travel definitely teaches you skills and knowledge you wouldn't have the interest in acquiring from home necessarily, but the curiosity of reading will incite my desires to see a place again later.

Monday, July 22, 2013

America the Beautiful

On top of Half Dome in Yosemite
Nearly 6 weeks and 7,000 miles of driving on the roads of the American west, I’m grateful to have made it back in one piece with only small hiccups to deal with.  The west was absorbing enough that it was difficult to make any conscious time to blog or write anything down.  I was lukewarm to even write this post, but I should put some things to the screen because travel proved again that biases, even against your own country, can be crushed just by putting yourself out there. 

Apart from travelling from Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon with some backpackers and having a friend in LA join me for the drive up the coast to San Francisco, the trip was done on my own with a lot of time to myself, which I still prefer for the flexibility and opportunity for meeting new strangers. The solitude at times got to me, but they were also the most memorable.  

What struck me most aside from the great scenery of the west were the people I came across.  In Salt Lake City I shared a meal with Shawn, a 40 year old man who spilled his guts about his rocky relationship with his son and ex-wives, his numerous arrests for drug use and his experiences as a homeless man in Utah after hitting rock bottom.  For a short moment, we celebrated the fact that he scored an apartment in SLC and was crawling his way back to what was a normal life.  He was hopeful, but I sensed hesitation on his part that he would make another preventable mistake and alienate more people from  his life. The people of America may be some of the most interesting in the world, for the range of opportunity, diversity and consequently, experiences people have.   Living abroad the past few years I created so many biases against Americans as small minded, religious people who refused to travel and consumed to find false security.  Some of this holds water, but I realized that was unfair and ignorant of me to come to such a conclusion.  America has more to see than a lifetime could contain, so I understand why people don’t have passports.

It dawned on me that the reason I traveled so much whilst living in Australia was to escape my life there.  I had a job I enjoyed paying me a 150k salary, beaches nearby, exotic vacations and everything on paper that seemed right, but I was missing my family and those friends I would be willing to stand in front of a train for.   
So here I am in Houston hours before my next flight to Holland to start another journey across the world to traverse 10 countries over the next few months, but the level of excitement is low because I don’t feel the need to escape my life here anymore.   My relationship with my family is solid and the handful of friends I love are here or very close by.   If anything, I have a sense of guilt that I’m leaving selfishly while my sister is on the last leg of recovering from cancer and my dad is in a hospital for his advanced Parkinson’s.  

Dare I say the travel bug is fast asleep inside of me now?  I’ll see when I land in Europe tomorrow. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Food, Shelter, iPhone

We’ve become too accustomed to having our smart phones with us every minute of the day that the necessities these days appear to be food, shelter and an iPhone, iPad or other smart device.  It’s the generation of the me and I, fed by products which encourage self-portraits and other narcissistic pursuits which inflate our sense of self importance. We can’t disconnect and make real quality time for people or immovable objects like natural scenery.  Once we get an interruption, it disrupts our day to day interactions with human beings.  We’ve lost the ability to read maps or practice our penmanship by relying on Google maps and typing everything into a digital device rather than writing things down.  Kids these days who have known Facebook and iProducts since puberty are becoming socially retarded. What the fuck is happening to us all?! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

America the Hedonist

The past 3 weeks have passed idly in Houston, the first week being an odd adjustment with regards to jet lag and re-acclimatizing to the culture I was raised in.  Big cars, big meals, strip malls, meager public transport were all tell-tale signs I was back in America (specifically Texas).  It was a reverse culture shock of sorts after being abroad for 15 months where things seem to be done more efficiently.  Americans overdo things and are highly inefficient, while being very impatient, a terrible combination bolstering a NOW culture of instant gratification.  We can’t seem to cope with slow internet, normal calorie sized meals, traffic or queues at the DPS, but we tolerate huge portions, driving solo in V8 trucks and a lifestyle of buying unnecessary things.  A product which was revered just a few years ago as an innovation in communication (iPhone 3 for example) is now scorned by those same people as an inferior product which leads to inefficiency, time lags and a flaccid cool factor.  Get real people.     

America doesn’t foster an environment of learning and curiosity anymore, but rather buying, consuming and opposition to something (anything).  Our independence and our status as the most capitalistic, quasi democratic country make us feel entitled to complain about anything as long as its something.  We need to be satisfied in all facets of our lives and any source of disappointment should be spoken out against rather than simply rolling with the punches and realizing everything can’t be tailored to our specific needs.   We’re a country of 312 million people who are all in a hurry looking for our niche comfort zone and products.   Someone inept is to blame for anything that slows us down or fails to satisfy us. 

What we praise as American culture these days is nothing worthy of boastfulness.  Overconsumption of food, drink, media, religion, sports, technology, celebrity gossip?  I've been smacked in the face by this upon returning and it doesn't appear to be letting up.  We no longer give merit to literary achievements, scientific breakthroughs, or humanitarian efforts. Diversification by way of immigration is a bane and something we should be afraid of lest we lose our jobs and become insolvent to pay off our multiple televisions and cars.  

We try to make up for these shortcomings of inefficiency by recycling or driving an efficient vehicle, for example, because we know how wasteful we are relative to the rest of the world, but who are we fooling?
But fuck it, who am I to speak?  I'll be driving 10,000+ miles over the next 2 months driving around the US indulging in my self made independence as well...  but it doesn't necessarily feel right.  Hedonism at its best.