Hugs and Trips

qwinne’s post made me think. I don’t believe I have ever hugged a student. If a colleague goes in for a hug, I won’t avoid it, but I definitely won’t initiate it. I can’t recall if I’ve ever hugged my now-80-y.o. former mentor. Maybe? Probably not. I am not a touchy/huggy  person, in general. I don’t like to hug friends or most members of my ancestral family. (Again, I don’t avoid hugs, but anyone who’s paying attention will notice me stiffen and I never initialize any form of social touch, except maybe a handshake. There’s on-the-cheeks kissing as a form of greeting in my ancestral culture, which is just disgusting, and I thankfully don’t have to suffer through that anymore.)

However, I am very affectionate as a parent. I love LOVE hugging my kids and husband (and, before I was married, my boyfriends), but other that a couple of select family members (no, my parents are not among them), I don’t want anyone breaching the perimeter of my personal space.

Blogosphere, are you as prickly as me? Pricklier or cuddlier? How do you feel about (non-creepy and contextually appropriate, such as greetings or congratulations) hugs within a professional context?


A biennial conference in my field was to be held in Asia in 2021 in a picturesque but very remote and expensive touristy location. Amid Covid concerns, we discussed moving it to a cheaper and more accessible location that provides the organizers with added flexibility in terms of moving dates or going virtual, if need be. Yet, some members of the advisory board brought up the alternative location’s lack of picturesqueness as an issue. 

Even in the best of times (and we won’t have the best of times back for a long while), I hate HATE complicated conference travel. I don’t have the time or the energy to spend two days traveling inland via numerous transportation mechanisms to someplace pretty, only to be jetlagged in the conference hotel the whole time. I know the older (and richer) members of the community fly out several days early, bring their spouses, get over jetleg and relax, all before the conference starts. I don’t have the time, money, or will to do that. I have never wanted to attach vacations to my work. I want my work travel to be to places that are easily accessible; I want the hotel close to the venue; I want the presentation rooms to have comfortable temperature and seating, as well as enough outlets and Wi-Fi bandwidth; I also want the technical program to be enticing. These are the things I want; I am not going on vacation, so I don’t need or want the surroundings to be pretty. I want my vacations to be decoupled from my professional life, but I may be in the minority.

Blogosphere, how much do you care about location when you travel for work? Do you append vacations to conferences? 

Crisis vs Crisis

During these unsettling times, I find the self-indulgence of a midlife crisis to be almost comforting in its relative normalcy. It feels weirdly soothing to be pissed with the world because I’m no longer 20, because there’s so much I want to learn and do and be, yet  there just isn’t enough time or freedom to do it all. I need several lifetimes for what I want but I don’t get to have them, and getting myself properly fuckin’ infuriated over it is as good of an antidote as any for the low-level dread emanating from the internet.

Anyway, here are some comments I left over at Clarissa’s in her recent midlife-crisis thread.


A number of people IRL change careers or add a second career in the middle age, so it’s not just about the personal life, although it can be. I have been in the throes of a raging midlife crisis for several years, with no end in sight. I think the hallmark of a midlife crisis is the question “Seriously, this is all there is?” or “I’ve done everything I’ve set out to do. Now what?”Basically, re-evaluating of priorities and crafting a new set of goals that no longer hinge heavily on education or reproduction, but tend to be better aligned with a mature individual’s core values and their true passions (many of which were neglected since childhood in the pursuit of a lucrative career and/or mating prospects).


…there is research showing that a vast majority of people in the developed or semi-developed world do go through some form of midlife crisis. There’s psychoanalysis work dating all the way back to Jung and Freud on why it happens and why it’s developmentally appropriate.


So you did actually have a midlife crisis, but, since you were unencumbered by familial relationships, you could just leave once you decided you wanted to. Most people in their forties or thereabout cannot. I am the primary breadwinner and will be 60 when my youngest finishes college. I would love to just leave everything behind and go try to make a living as a screenwriter or move to Australia to do whatever or half a dozen other options, but I cannot, because there are people who depend on me financially and emotionally. Most folks have similar restraints. The midlife crisis stems from the conflict between the responsibilities of adulthood and the unfulfilled desires of youth, which comes to a head once a person has reached the end of the blueprint (education, mate selection/family, professional ascent).

Winky Links

COVID Poetry

https://cliffarroyo.wordpress.com/2020/05/04/pessimistic-about-optimism/

Stinky Link

Sol, Burning Bright

A few months ago, the sci-fi book club I’m part of read The Sol Majestic. The book is OK; rough at the outset, but eventually gets better, so I’m glad I finished it. I’d give it maybe 3.5/5 stars. The book’s eponymous setting is the best restaurant in the galaxy. People travel for years to have a meal there. Of course, working in that kitchen is the ultimate chef dream. Those fortunate enough to toil in The Sol Majestic live and breathe their art; they sleep in or near the kitchen, and the work atmosphere is one of extreme pressure associated with the highest level of achievement. The boss is not tyrannical; he’s a larger-than life genius who compels those around him with the force of his vision and personality. The Sol Majestic is a place of competitive, creative euphoria.

One of the people in my discussion group complained that these chefs lived in inhumane conditions and had no work-life balance. I didn’t say anything (see all the recent posts about me being annoying), but what I wanted to say is that work-life balance is overrated. Not everyone wants it or needs it. Some people only feel alive when they are firing on all cylinders, when they’re immersed 100% in their pursuits, when they’ve given in to their obsession. Working at the very top of their field is the fuel they need.

People who don’t have this fire don’t understand those who do, those who cannot bear the tedium and predictability of balance.

We see so much popular culture where a guy works non-stop and the wife tries to make him spend more time with family. You know what? Maybe the dude would indeed rather be home, but evil corporate overlords won’t let him. But maybe that dude really likes to work. Maybe he doesn’t actually want to spend time with family. Maybe he shouldn’t have gotten married or had kids in the first place, but he did, and he will spend time with the family now because they need him and it’s the right thing to do (or, you know, because it’s in the movie script). That doesn’t change the fact that, if he were free to pick what he’d rather be doing without being told he is a horrible person then left by his wife, he’d pick work because that’s what he honestly enjoys more than anything else, more than talking about his day or attending Little League baseball and piano recitals.

If you’ve got a fire burning inside you, and everyone tells you that you need to slow down, get a balance, not work yourself to death, that what you feel you need in your gut is wrong, I am here to tell you that you are not crazy or broken, that there are others like you, that you should pursue whatever ignites your soul, and that the fabled work-life balance, for someone like you, means banality and boredom. Do not let those who don’t understand your fire convince you that what you are is wrong. Go, burn bright!

This and That

Lots of work, but low motivation. Being constantly interrupted doesn’t help. Week 7 on around-the-clock cooking duty doesn’t help, either. Daily hour-long walks have become absolute sanity savers. I just wish there weren’t quite as many others outside. Today, it was freezing and raining, so I finally got to be (almost) alone outdoors. It was glorious.

***

I feel very disconnected from my job. Yeah, I am on sabbatical, but the research part of it is such a slog. I can’t believe that up until a few years ago that’s all I ever wanted to do. Now I’m just really bored. Bored with the papers I read, bored with the papers I write, just bored with science. You know how the general public says that science is hard and boring? I get it now. I get how they perceive us, all of it.

***

I’m thinking about a second career. I know it’s a stupid idea, an irresponsible idea, but I guess thinking about just starting over is developmentally appropriate at my age and career stage. The thing is, it’s hard to keep doing my job and taking care of my family, and actually immerse myself in another (competitive, creative) endeavor deeply enough so that in a few years I can expect some money from it. But maybe I’m just scared and more than a little lazy. Right now, focusing on anything requires serious willpower, willpower I can’t seem to summon, because of constant, CONSTANT distractions.

Some random reading along these lines:

https://hbr.org/2017/04/why-you-should-have-at-least-two-careers

https://hbr.org/1983/05/a-second-career-the-possible-dream

***

Missing alone time, real alone time, several hours without having to look over my shoulder, expecting someone will barge in and need something from me. Could I escape and sneak into my office? 

***

My nose is stuffy, who knows why (allergies? whatever), and when my nose is stuffy, I just want to bite heads off.

***

I am so, so sick of cooking.

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Sup, blogosphere? 

Linking No Blinking

More links today, as I catch up on stuff.

Auditory Infotainment

Podcasts. What do we think? I am not the biggest fan of the form. I find most that aren’t heavily edited to be a slog:  slow, with too little content for the runtime, and hosted by people whom I don’t find engaging.

But, I found one that’s well aligned with my extracurricular interests, and have been enjoying it on walks. Some episodes are awesome, others so-so.

The host sometimes brings her husband on as a guest. Those are the worst episodes, yet, cruelly, also the longest. She sounds really uncomfortable and giggles (nervously? flirtatiously?) far more than with other guests. Also, for this type of podcast you have to love the topic, and he just…doesn’t? Anyway, she’s great when she talks with other women, and those episodes have been smooth and strangely soothing.

Blogosphere, do you have podcast recommendations?  Please share your faves. 

Loony Links