Happiness is Making Progress

My lack of control over my eating has been the source of great frustration and unhappiness for me for a very long time. I have been working out at an expensive, women’s-only small group gym that has a personal trainer for every four women and had been getting nowhere with my weight. It wasn’t the gym’s fault either. My muscles have been getting toned; I can see muscles in places where I had never, ever felt any before and under half an inch of fat on my belly, I can feel rock-hard abs. I was building the muscles…only, they were hidden under a thin cover of fat.

My nutrition plan is simple:

  • Eat good food
  • Eat smaller portions
  • Eat a balanced meal
  • Eat until full, not stuffed
  • Drink lots of water

I have stuck to my diet/nutrition plan well these past 10 days — including the weekend — and already I have been rewarded. Continue reading “Happiness is Making Progress”

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Happiness is Making Progress

Digital De-cluttering: Newsletters

Have you noticed that every store asks you for your email address as a routine part of their in-store payment process?

They claim they’re doing it because they’re going green – saving paper, trees, the environment and the Earth.

I call BS on that. You know why? Because, a week later, you will find that you have a copy of their monthly printed catalogue sitting in your mailbox. And suddenly, their email newsletter starts showing up like clockwork every week too.

I used to spend a few minutes each morning to delete all newsletters from my email inbox. I thought nothing more of it. It was part of my routine for a couple years now.

Then, as I started to look at everything in our apartment with a critical eye, asking myself the questions – What purpose does this serve? And, do I really use it? – I instinctively turned the same critical eye on my email inbox. Continue reading “Digital De-cluttering: Newsletters”

Digital De-cluttering: Newsletters

Decisions, Decisions…Path after PhD

What do I do with my life after my PhD?

This is the question that keeps me up at night. I don’t know what the right path is.

Of course, it also means that I have options. I should be grateful. Keith didn’t have options when he joined his law firm at the peak of the recession in 2008 as a paralegal in a boutique law firm that specialised in intellectual property.

I could go the traditional route: become a post-doc for 2-3 years and keep my nose to the grindstone doing research, publishing papers and competing against tremendous odds for that tenure-track assistant professorship that will guarantee 7 more years (at the very least) of 17 hour days with few holidays in an attempt to get tenure.

I could join a big law firm as a technical specialist in their intellectual property department and eventually pass the patent bar to do the same job Keith does (and the same horrible hours) at a higher starting salary than what Keith makes 3.5 years in. Continue reading “Decisions, Decisions…Path after PhD”

Decisions, Decisions…Path after PhD

Minimizing Stuff: Thoughts and Feelings

Alongside donating books by the boxful, I have also been giving books away to people who I think will enjoy them. For example, my friend Luis wants to learn how to cook like me, but does not know where to begin. To him I gifted my hardcover copy of Michael Ruhlman’s book, Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook’s Manifesto. A barista at a coffee shop I go to often is taking a biochemistry course in the fall. I gave her my Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry.

Both these books are precious to me. I have owned and read the biochemistry textbook since freshman year in college and I loved it for the clear explanations and easy-to-follow language. Mine is a well-thumbed copy. I remember studying it from cover to cover for the preliminary exam that I took at the end of the first year of my PhD. Ruhlman’s Twenty gave me a clear path to follow when I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of cooking knowhow out there that I felt paralysed and didn’t know what to learn first. Giving these books away actually hurts. I felt a twinge of panic at the moment of handing each book into another person’s hands for good. It’s a bit like losing a reliable friend; who would I turn to now if I got stuck again?

Then why give them away at all? I didn’t need to.

No I didn’t. But I don’t need to hold on to them either. I hold on to them out of sentimentality. Sentimentality is not a bad thing. But it does give rise to clutter. Sometimes I look around my apartment and I have the eerie sensation that I am living in a tomb or mausoleum of my past like an ancient Egyptian king equipped for the afterlife. Ok, that’s both a little extreme and a tad morbid. Sorry. 

However, the older you get the more tokens of the past you have and the more things you own that are kept for what they once were to you. Sentimentality means more boxes to drag up flights of stairs or to stack in the basement or the attic.

The truth is that I have outgrown these books. My cooking is now much advanced and most of the things in Ruhlman’s Twenty are now incorporated into my kitchen muscle memory. The biochemistry in my Lehninger now falls within the realm of “elementary background knowledge”. I don’t have it all committed to memory, but most of it I know, and the rest is easily looked up if I ever need it.

So, I am giving them away to people to whom the books will have more value. When you watch a great movie you tell all your friends to watch it so they can enjoy it too, right? So why not share your most favourite books with those who will get out of it what you got. Sometimes the right gift, given at the right time can be the catalyst can make all the difference.

Minimizing Stuff: Thoughts and Feelings

Simplification First Step: An Experiment

Ever lugged something about from one end of the country to the other because it had, in the past, been very important to you;  something that you don’t really use any more but hold on to because you have held on to it for so long?

Maybe you have not even stopped to look at it properly in over a year. Sure, you pass by it every day because it’s sitting on that shelf on the way to the kitchen, but you notice it like you notice the walls in a room, that is, with peripheral vision. Own anything like that?

I do.

Here’s just one example: Continue reading “Simplification First Step: An Experiment”

Simplification First Step: An Experiment

Why I Decided To Simplify

Call it what you will – de-clutter, simplify, minimize – they mean the same thing in the everyday sense of the word, which is to go back to the basics, prioritize the things most important and ditch the rest. That is what I’m in the process of doing.

But why, you ask.

I mean, why get rid of perfectly good stuff that I have use for…or even do already use from time to time?

1. The Guilt

I’ll tell you why: it’s the GUILT. Continue reading “Why I Decided To Simplify”

Why I Decided To Simplify