actuality.log


All entries tagged 'social life'

Friday, October the 29th, 2010

There is one crucial aspect of yesterday’s story that demands a closer look. But that in turn requires some necessary back-story.

Even though I have all this turmoil going on in my head, I’m outwardly very calm and composed. I rarely lose my cool, and my tone and demeanour barely change, no matter how intense I find external stimuli. This is good because it gives me a feeling of great control; this is bad because it gives me a feeling of great control. Sometimes, I feel like I’m forcibly filtering all my “innate tendencies” just to behave and sound like a certain mellow chap I fantasise myself to be. Or, rather, that I imagine other people want me to be.

People have always been telling me how they lose some of their inhibitions and control when they start to drink, and how this loosens up their social behaviour. I don’t know this from personal experience, but I’ve always been curious to find out. Just how would an unfiltered me experience and react to the world?

The general practise here is that you carry your own alcohol to parties (since it is so damn expensive). I normally carry a lot, but don’t really drink since I just don’t. On the way to the party where I was to later meet Alicia, someone asked me why I was carrying so much if I wasn’t going to drink anything. I didn’t have a strong case, other than to point out that I thought contributing to the party was the polite thing to do.

And that’s when it dawned on me, why don’t I just bite the bullet and drink my stash at the party, and find out whether it changed anything? The idea simultaneously excited me and made me nervous, but I really wanted to perform this experiment. So I asked a friend of mine to keep an eye on me (which he utterly failed to do) while I hung out at the party and went through my drinks.

Several drinks in—but, as I saw it, none the woozier—I met Alicia. Interesting, open, opinionated… she seemed like everything that I claimed she was, but was she really? Why was I talking so long to a woman I wasn’t even attracted to? How did I find it so easy to talk to her? I left that evening with a few questions I couldn’t easily answer right then, because I wasn’t certain if my perception of the world was warped by the drinks. I had to meet her when sober to find out for sure.

And so I did. Multiple times. And she really is all those things, and extremely easy to open up to. It hasn’t in the least felt any different from our first evening. Perhaps my brain ever really relinquishes control.

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Thursday, October the 28th, 2010

As bleak as things seemed, I was determined to fix the situation. At least to try earnestly, anyway. If I wanted to make a friend outside my current friend set, I was going to go out and make it happen. Too many years of my life had already been lost reconciling to awful situations under the blanket excuse: “But I’m incapable of doing anything about it!”

I made it a point to put myself out there more. I’d done it once before, and that resulted in Stacey now sharing my bed. It couldn’t be that hard, could it? And so, repressing all social anxiety and other introverted tendencies, I started showing up at all parties I was invited to. I consciously attempted to talk to people I didn’t already know.

It’s on one such evening that I met Alicia. I noticed her early on, hanging out at the kitchen, effortlessly flitting in and out of conversations with different groups. She seemed interesting, and her eager smile made her approachable. I don’t recall how it happened, but soon enough I was talking to her friend beside her, and a short while later, I was talking to Alicia. Our conversation lasted well into the night, even as the party had long since thinned out. We talked about ourselves and travels and dreams, but more importantly, and for the longest time, feelings and relationships.

Alicia was gentle, open, opinionated, young (though mature beyond her years), and you know the strangest thing? I greatly enjoyed talking to her though I wasn’t attracted to her. She was perfect. I’d found the first of my friends outside my current circle, and I didn’t want to lose her. By the end of the evening, I did something I hadn’t ever done before: exchanging contact information with a perfect stranger.

(At this point, there are a few directions I could take this story. For now, I think I will jump over crucial details and just complete this primary tale, leaving the other threads for subsequent entries.)

Even though Alicia has been remarkably busy finishing her M.A. and holding onto a couple of jobs at the university, I’ve got to spend a lot of time with her since we first met at this party. We’ve gotten closer over long evenings of good food and deep conversation. I enjoy her company and her view of the world. And each additional perspective helps me make a bit more sense out of life.

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Thursday, October the 21st, 2010

Well, my great plan to write an entry per day for a whole year lasted about a day. But who wasn’t expecting that?

My social life has improved tremendously since I left the States. For one, I have a loving girlfriend with whom I’m physically and emotionally intimate. I don’t live alone anymore. I have a few close friends to talk to, more to meet up with for activities almost every evening, as well as get to travel with on occasion. Life is good. In fact compared to my earlier situation—being completely isolated and having suicidal tendencies—my current state could be deemed life in Utopia. But even so, there’s been one thing that’s been constantly nagging me:

Everybody I know knows everybody else I know.

Let me try to explain this. Everyone I get to interact with from day to day: my partner, friends, flatmates, landlords, activity partners, … is either someone I work with or someone they knew and introduced me to. Every single person. This isn’t inherently bad, but I don’t think it’s normal. I feel like I can’t ever say or do or feel anything toward any of these people without everybody else somehow knowing. And that bothers me quite a bit.

This thought has been gnawing at me for a while, but only recently did it crystallise in my head. With which came the obvious solution to my predicament: I needed to bond with other people removed from this bunch. But along with the obvious solution came the obvious problem: I believe I’m borderline autistic, and that my current social circle materialised through pure luck. How could I possibly recreate that environment?

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Tuesday, June the 1st, 2010
Wednesday, May the 26th, 2010
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Tuesday, September the 1st, 2009

I barely got any sleep over the weekend, and nearly all my time awake was spent having fun. It began with a concert (where I was the only non-white person in the crowd!) on Friday evening and ended on my couch in the wee hours of Monday morn over an episode of Nip/Tuck along with my friends. The events in between are still a bit fuzzy in my mind, but I remember it being a blast.

When I was first contemplating coming to Scandinavia over a year ago now, I thought of the move as a very temporary step. Like it was some unpleasant detour I needed to take before I proceeded with the actual course of my life—where I’d have interesting and fun things to do, where I’d form bonds with like-minded people, where I’d feel peaceful and relaxed… but the more I think about it, the clearer it becomes that I already have all these things. Right here, right now. This place has been good to me. The people I get to be with are warm and friendly. Work is interesting and relaxed. I spend a lot more time doing fun things—including activities outdoors. I eat healthier. I feel healthier. I make more money, and I live a lot better.

But why am I bringing any of this up now? I think it’s because the chance I have to go to Cambridge has resurfaced again, and I am not convinced I should leave all of this behind.

Even if it is a fancy uni. Even if everyone there speaks English by default. And even if the population there is a lot more diverse.

Monday, May the 18th, 2009
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Sunday, April the 26th, 2009

I shot a small series while hanging out with some friends late last evening. With its old school colours and comfortable ambience, I kinda like how it turned out.

Molly and Tim

Sunday, March the 29th, 2009

hlea. I’m having difficulty focusing on the live band.

I’m pointing this out only because it hasn’t happened before: I’m writing this entry drunk. It’s about four in the wee morn and I just hobbled back home. I had a fun evening out—one that began with a viewing of the latest comic book-turned motion picture extravaganza, “Watchmen.” Overall, I really liked it and thought the copious shots of naked male bums and proud glowey penises were well done.

My silence has belied it, but I’ve been doing a lot more adult-y things with my life lately. I’ve been entertaining guests at home, hanging-out later at bars and inviting people over afterwards. It’s like for the first time in my life, I’m not embarrassed about how I live it. And that’s made me comfortable with the notion of sharing it.

It’s not like anything has fundamentally changed, it’s just that life has become more fun to navigate after moving here. With everything being so laid back, I have all the time in the world to focus on whatever catches my fancy. Without guilt.

Of course, with all that leisure time and substance-induced inhibition reduction, my mind often tends to revert to its core state. And rather than explicitly spell out to you what I mean by that for the 400th time, I leave you with the following metaphor.

Most of the buses and trains in this city have an approximately equal number of seats that face forward and back. I’ve been keeping some notes over this past couple of weeks, and guess what? Given a choice, 98% of the people choose a forward-facing seat from which they can see where the bus is going.

I always pick a seat that faces backwards.

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Saturday, December the 13th, 2008

Just peeking out, it’s hard to miss the characteristically cheery vocal intonation and the sudden dearth of distinctive facial features—I must be back in Scandinavia!

It appears I’ve returned home in one piece (accidentally leaving my 3 mW phone on during the flight didn’t mess with the plane’s navigation system or cause it to crash!) after weathering a week in Paris. I chose to go with the verb “weathered” because the entire experience—while admittedly exciting—was remarkably draining. Intellectually, I had much to do there which kept me occupied for a large chunk of my time. I spent the rest gallivanting between the usual tourist spots and tagging along with friendly locals to some of the more intimate nooks hidden-away in the city. Apart from a couple of exquisite pieces at the museums, it was getting to experience these little gems—the tiny, crowded pubs heavy on the attitude and the atmosphere-rich cafés that were the highlight of my trip.

All in all, I have to admit that good times were had. It’s just, since there’s still so much to see and experience, I’m going to have to plan multiple trips back if I ever intend on scratching beneath the surface. Some months just for soaking in the plethora of art, another couple for relishing the various shows, even more for sampling the variety of local fare, … I clearly enjoy places rich in history, culture and character (even if the locals aren’t the friendliest when you first get to meet them).

I better start saving if I ever intend on pulling this off. And I also have to start spacing things out a little better. This past week, each of my days began 7ish in the morn and proceeded until 3–4 the subsequent morn. I’m barely able to stay up as I write this; I really need to get some sleep.

Boy am I fucking old.

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Sunday, September the 7th, 2008

I spent all of last week in Germany—my maiden trip out exploring Europe since I first moved here. I am pleased to report that my EU visa works, and I was freely able to country hop. About three-quarters of my time was spent in a teeny-tiny town called Oberwolfach (at the MFO, a fairly renowned mathematics institute) and the last two nights were with a good friend of mine from grad school.

All in all, I had a wonderful time.

After flying into Germany, I got to experience first-hand their ultra-efficient train system, which allowed me to systematically (and quickly, like 250+ km/h quickly!) get from Frankfurt to the teeny town without needing any hand-holding. I got to try out some of my broken German from language courses so long a go. I was also lucky to see their countryside and experience small town charm at its finest.

The institute was a remarkably serene place; purposefully built in the middle of nowhere to avoid being bombed during the Second World War. I got to meet a lot of interesting people in my field as well as my former boss. The food was authentic, rich and varied. The discussion just varied. Having no TVs or Internet access (or even locks!), the spartan (but fully functional) rooms at the institute encouraged people to be out interacting. The meeting itself was informal and free form—exemplified by one session running late into the night causing a ruckus from the sleepy crowd.

While my work obligations were to keep me at the MFO until yesterday, I skipped out a little earlier to head out to Stuttgart to be with a friend—who too had decided on a post-doc in Europe after finishing her stint at the uni. It was a blast being with her again, and we were able to explore the town, sampling some of the finer things it had to offer—courtesy of a (very elaborate and crowded) wine festival!

Now, after a surprisingly exhausting week of arguing with older Italian gentlemen about select terms in obscure equations, figuring out the German transport system, extremely fun and eventful evenings running late into their subsequent morns, I am finally flying back home. Relaxed and rejuvenated, with a definite plan forward and some neat research ideas to pursue.

Friday, July the 25th, 2008

I have no better words to explain things than to say, “I’ve fallen into a sort of anti-routine.” Much of how my life goes on now seems to be entirely contrary to how things were when I was in grad school. For starters, I’m spending a lot more time outdoors—socialising, hiking, playing, shooting pictures.

A group of happy campers

Crazier still, much of my time at work also seems to be spent socialising and laying down plans for further fun after work and on the weekends! The only times I’ve seemed to have gotten any real work done are the few days I’ve forcibly isolated myself at home. And this has been necessary from time to time, for the world has gone entirely topsy-turvy: Work stuff isn’t trivial any more. Much of what I’m looking at right now I haven’t delved into before, requiring quite a bit of catching up.

Either way, what I guess I started off trying to say is that I’ve fallen into a routine here. And even if it the specifics of this routine starkly contrast how things were before, constancy is not the best inspiration for me to write—explaining the recent silence.

Lonely girl by a lake

May be I should just get irked enough about the ghetto neighbourhood I’m temporarily domiciled in, so I can entertain you better. Or at least, try to with greater frequency.

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Wednesday, July the 9th, 2008

you wouldn’t dress like that.

I’ve been wanting to pen this for a while now, but I’ve been too busy… having fun!

I arrived here expecting things to be cold. And by that, I don’t mean the temperature outside (that I can handle, given my training over these past years)—I expected the people to be very cold. I thought I was going to be isolated and end up lonely and miserable. Truth be told, I almost wanted things to be that way, so that it would hasten my move to England.

But alas, it wasn’t to be.

I really like this place and it’s people. Everybody is warm and helpful, and they make it a point to drag you into whatever shenanigans they’re aiming to pull. Consequently, I too have begun leaving work early, and most of my evenings and all of my weekends have been packed with fun activities. In fact, I probably didn’t go to sleep at all last weekend, choosing instead to attend one party late Saturday, which sort of lasted until late Sunday… around which time the next one began!

There are definitely some perks to the sun not setting.

Well-oiled colleagues

(Not getting yelled at by the cops for disorderly conduct at 4 a.m. is not one of them.)

I need to get going now. I’m joining a group of people for the awesome does of fun that is frisbee golf; an ingenious sport that replaces the dullness of golf with the hilarity of athletically-challenged science dorks trying to throw things over long distances!

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Tuesday, April the 8th, 2008

I awoke last night in a cold sweat.

Actually, I awoke once many nights ago but I’ve just been too lazy to write about it. In fact, I wasn’t even in a cold sweat at the time—I just threw that in there for effect.

Like I was saying…

I awoke in a panic late last night, extremely conscious of my own singleness. After unsuccessfully racking my brain for the thoughts that concluded in my anxiety attack, I promptly shifted my focus to how I was going to remedy my situation.

And that’s when it started: I began cataloguing the list of people in my life I’ve genuinely been attracted to (at one point or another).

Now, I don’t have a really clear idea how that intellectual exercise helped me, but I’m now desperate to know from them the answer to the obvious question: “Are you married/betrothed/taken… or aren’t you?” And so, I’ve decided to take the bold step of just asking them. I intend on doing this via e-mail because that makes it all cold and impersonal, just ripe for this sort of occasion.

I think it’s going to read something like this:

Dear Admiree,

I’ve always had a bit of a crush on you, but never the guts to tell you so.

Hoping I’m not too late,
Me

Of course, there are some shady aspects to this plan. In particular:

  1. I intend on sending this same letter to about three different women.
  2. In every instance, I’d be utterly devastated if I were to find out they’ve moved-on with their lives and want to have nothing to do with me. And this is where I believe my great plan falls apart.

In any event, I think the reason I’m bringing this up here is because I want to run it by you first. Just what would you do if something like this arrived at your doorstep?


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