All entries tagged 'decision making'

Wednesday, December the 16th, 2009

I kinda like it here at the university. After being away from one for over a year now, I realise how much I’ve missed the fascinatingly varied talks, the thought-provoking conversations, the dauntingly-large libraries, … the scholarly atmosphere in general.

Being here at Cambridge has given me a lot of time to ponder. Unfortunately, I’ve squandered much of this time obsessing over decisions regarding my future. You see, I have about 6–7 months ’til the completion of my contract in Scandinavia, and people keep asking me what I plan on doing next. The fact that I haven’t a clue sometimes makes me feel like a free spirit, but more often than not, the thought terrifies me. There are so many dimensions and angles to this quandary, it quickly overwhelms me every time I start to think about it. Perhaps things will be clearer when presented in the form of my possibility matrix.

Please please please jump in with any ideas that you have.

What↓ Where→ Continue in Scandinavia? Return to the U.S.? Return to India? Explore options elsewhere?
  1. And if so, what do I do? Continue with stuff I’ve been trained to do well, or try something else new entirely?
  2. Live frugally off savings and attempt nothing noteworthy.
Work hard1 Feasible Feasible Feasible Feasible
Rely on nepotism Nontrivial Feasible Feasible Don’t know anyone
Quit life entirely2 Can’t afford Won’t allow Feasible Won’t allow

My possibility matrix

As I’ve said before, I really like choice. I hate choosing.

Alongside the table, I’ve also started to catalogue forty-two specific options for the future. As a first for this journal, the page that lists these options is password protected. You need to e-mail me for access if you really want to see it. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it has to be.

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.

Sunday, February the 22nd, 2009

It’s not too complicated to explain really, at the heart of things it’s just that I’m a lazy bum. Almost anything of significance, be it work-related or personal, requires a fair amount of effort on one’s part to create and sustain. Effort that I am not willing to put in—hence the lovely state of my life. But that’s old news, except that it isn’t.

Of late, I’ve seriously been contemplating one grand scheme after the next to stop working within a year (or so). I’ve “been working” now for what—six months?—since I completed my schooling and I’ve come to the conclusion that another year or so ought to do it for me. Really, I’m done with the whole “being a professional” scene and it’s about time I got back to what’s important: Lounging on a hammock somewhere sipping something.

It’s within this context that I wrote to my father hoping to rope him into my plans (or at least, inform my parents of my intentions).


I have a basic question: Realistically, how much money should I save if I want to live (let’s assume in India, since it is cheaper to do so) for the rest of my life without working?

I don’t care about living fancily, I just want to live without responsibility. I want to be able to spend all my time doing whatever I want.


Usually, my parents always get back to me instantly—like they’re perpetually waiting to talk to me. But it’s been a couple of weeks since I sent this, and I haven’t heard back from them. I’m sure my folks are sitting somewhere aghast, unable to fathom why their son is “throwing his life away on a whim.”

The truth is, I’ve been drifting away from them ever since I left home to pursue my studies. Even though I talk to them once every ten days or so, I almost do it perfunctorily. And it’s always they who initiate the conversation, never I. It’s like the more independent I’ve become over the years, the less I’ve deemed their utility. I know it’s a mean thing to say, but I’ve been self-reliant for so long, I don’t see the point in talking to them any more. I do respect and appreciate what they’ve done for me (while lamenting about how ineffectual their contributions often are); it’s just that over time, our lives have diverged.

In fact, I don’t even know why I wrote to my dad about my plans. I didn’t write to him for his advice on what I needed to do to achieve a life of doing nothing, I wrote to him for approval. Come to think of it, do I even care anymore?

Tuesday, July the 29th, 2008

Or at least, what’s left of it.

Reduced viewership

What do you think it means when a woman tells you she’s “not sure” if she’s single? Does it make a difference that she brought up the topic and volunteered this information to me? (We all know I’m too chicken to speak my mind on the matter.)

What am I then supposed to do?

  • Do I go, “OK, that’s uhh… good to know.” (Not how I feel.)
  • Do I probe for more information? (Scary, and the thought of what I’ll find out puts my tummy in knots.)
  • Should I speak my mind? (Potentially too forward.)
  • Must I sit back and wait until she figures things out for herself? (Might blow my opening while I wait.)

Life ought to come with some sort of instruction manual; one with really pretty and colourful pictures, so it has a prayer of being read.

Tuesday, May the 27th, 2008

A starving scientist marrying a starving artist doesn’t make much business sense. It makes good economic-compatibility sense, but not so much business sense.


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Thursday, April the 17th, 2008

My fingers are refusing to type this; they’ve been numbed by the cold outside.

But I had to go out. I had to get away. Sitting at my desk was becoming too claustrophobic. It was as if the words on the screen before me were crawling out to smother me.

I seem to have blacked out the specific words I saw, but whatever they were, I heard them exclaim: “Leisure? You don’t have a right to leisure!”

When I formally concluded my graduate studies at the end of last year, I’d reached a crossroads in my life. So much of the past half decade of my existence had been devoted to the creation and completion of that one humongous document, I conveniently opted to ignore just about everything else. I hadn’t even contemplated the basic question of what I intended on doing thereafter, now that this chapter of my life was drawing to a close.

Thankfully, come new year’s eve, it dawned upon me that it’s better late than never, and I ought to pause now to think about things; to seriously contemplate the state of my existence, and search for where I was going with my life.

And I did. It’s what I’ve been doing for these past few months.

This period has been good for me. It hasn’t been particularly exciting or eventful, but I have a better idea of what I want: I want to be free. I want to be under the radar, not bound my society’s expectations. I don’t want commitment and I don’t want to be tied down by responsibility.

I want to read, to write, to express. I want to shoot pictures and sing in the rain. I want to spend my evenings at a smoky night-club under a Parisian cafe, reciting poetry, passionately debating the iniquity of a purely Neo-Marxist society with my beret’d friends.

It doesn’t matter if my activities can sustain me, or help me save toward a down-payment of a home, or impress a gold-digger enough for her to spend the rest of her life with me, or pay college tuition for the kids we’d likely have.

No, I just want leisure. That’s all I want—I want the time and space to pursue whatever I fancy.

And that’s why I stepped out into the cold. I had to get away.

I’d just learnt that as an international student here, it was new U.S. policy that one can’t amble along unemployed for too long after graduation; they have to do something with their lives. And since I can’t yet put my finger on what my something is, the next moment I did the only thing I know how—I returned to working at the uni; to spend even more time confined in a window-less cubicle.

Because somehow, it’s this that makes me a desired and productive member of society.

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Saturday, March the 22nd, 2008

It seems that these past few months have satiated my yearning for wallowing in my own misery and indulging in my self-defeat, and I am now finally ready to move on with my life.

As I sit here writing this, I’m awaiting a contract from a European research laboratory; one which I’m supposed to peruse and, if I approve, sign. After going back and forth on this for weeks, I’ve finally decided to revert to my original decision of exploring opportunities in Europe. The resolution of this matter fills me with an immediate calm, replacing much of the angst that arrested me before.

Let me outline the plan for you since you must be curious. (You’re here, aren’t you?)

I’m going to be employed by a Norwegian research group situated in Oslo. I’m also going to be working with a professor in Cambridge. This will involve some shuttling between Norway and England, and I’m now working on some paperwork (for the necessary work permits and visas and such) to get the ball rolling. Independent of this, I’ve got a conference to attend in Venice in June–July, so at the very least, I ought to have lived in/visited three European countries between now and early next year!

Have I made the “right decision?” I sure as hell don’t know. But I do know that the big breakthrough in my turbulent decision-making process came with the following simple realisation: This is just a job. It pays very well and if I enjoy myself, great! If things don’t work out the way I would like them to, I can surely move onto other things later.

Nothing is set in stone.

Saturday, March the 8th, 2008

The entries on this journal have been noticeably sparse because I have had little to report of late. Unable to make any firm decisions or take any bold steps, I have let my life grind to a complete halt.

It began with not being able to choose between positions—each involving a significant move, and the consequent need to reestablish myself—and has now progressed to something much deeper. At the heart of it, I think it’s just that I don’t find what I do (or at least, what I am groomed to do) very rewarding. As a result, while it appears as though I’m having a hard time picking one particular research option over another, what I’m really struggling with is a more abstract concept.

The fundamental realisation that what you do has little impact on anyone (or anything) outside your little sandbox is a harsh one to grapple with; that your efforts won’t stand the test of time, or elevate the masses. Predictably enough, it is a glimpse of this notion that’s caused me to stall, stripping you of potential reading fodder.

The problem is further exacerbated, for while I wave aside my existing choices recognising this inherent flaw, I am unwilling to take off my metaphorical blinders and explore other options—I am just a big chicken.

Wednesday, February the 13th, 2008

“But do you feel she’s pretty?” I push on, knowing fully well I can’t implicitly trust her answer. My mother has this odd way of rating the attractiveness of women, and someone who’s a 9 in her eyes is realistically more like a 6. But I chose to ask anyway, for I’d decided to let such details factor into my life’s decisions.

You see, as slowly as things have been progressing, they’ve generally evolved positively and I now have few job options on hand—spanning Europe and the United States. I’ve even received official word from the Homeland Security-types that I am not evil and can legally pursue employment in this country.

But even so, my life has been relatively stagnant. The sticking point seems to be nothing in particular other than me circumspectly dragging my feet—hoping to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of every one of these opportunities, so as to make the one true right decision™.

Incorrectly reading this to be depression-driven sluggishness, my mother occasionally tries to help out by stepping in and helping with an other entirely different problem—mate selection. Not wanting to really exert herself however, she sticks to her tiny, close-knit grapevine and attempts to casually bring up in passing conversation her friends’ nieces and daughters. And since my work search is rather wide, geographically, there are times when it snags one of these women as well. At which point I push her for details, for I am evil like that.

Hey, if you’re going through so much rigour to make the one true right decision™, you might as well work all the angles with all the facts, right?

9,975,837 people conned into wasting their bandwidth.