Choosing to be meTue, 6th Jun '17, 3:05 am::
As a kid, the most confusing thing for me was how adults behaved with other adults. Grown-ups were usually pretty nice to kids but it was clear that there were a lot of behind-the-scenes tallies running during their interactions with each other. From deciding which family members or friends should get an invite to determining the appropriate gift for someone, there sure were a lot of rules and regulations for being a proper adult. Naturally, I absorbed every bit of social etiquette and norm I was exposed to, so that I could easily navigate the adult world of adulthood like a proper adult. And turns out, it works out pretty alright.
Except when it doesn't. It turns out, not every situation I encounter as a grownup has an established handling procedure. Dinner-table seating arrangements? No problem! Trusted coworker shockingly spreading false gossip? No standard operating procedure that I could just follow. It took me a while to realize that how we handle situations that deviate from the typical social routine, is what really defines our true personality. We are defined by how we navigate uncharted waters. Until I realized this, I kept trying to apply skills I had previously learned to new situations, hoping for favorable outcomes. It worked out for me as well as a random coin toss - 50/50. I was not happy with this but it's the best I could do.
Then one day, during some heated discussion on what the proper course of action should be, I just said to myself "I will give more than I take because that is who I am and want to be." Suddenly, all of my dilemmas were resolved! I didn't have to worry about what the appropriate gift card amount would be for someone who may or may not have ever sent me a gift. I didn't have to worry if I should spend more effort helping someone who rarely helps me. I didn't need to keep running tallies of everything everyone ever did! I could just do what I can, when I can, based on how much I care about someone. Most importantly, I would rather do more than less because that's the kind of person I have chosen to be.
I realized that I could choose to be someone who does not do tit-for-tat. I could just decide to be someone who always gives more (money, time, love, attention) and does not care much about exact reciprocation. Of course relationship is a two way street but if I expect it to be equal all the time, then it's not a human connection, it is a business transaction. There are definitely some negatives to taking the give-more-take-less approach. The additional effort usually goes unnoticed and comes at a cost of time, money, and sleep. But it still works out better for me because it makes life so much simpler.
This is a failure of the Golden rule (treating others as one would wish to be treated) and happens because we underestimate what we get and overestimate what we give. Always giving more than I get resolves this nicely and saves me from headaches. Maybe I am foolish for not trying to maximize my net gain in every relationship but that's ok. I choose to be like this and will continue to do so until I decide otherwise. That's the best part about being an adult - you can choose the kind of person you want to be.
This too shall passMon, 1st May '17, 1:15 pm::
I am having a hard time coming to terms with the passage of time. It's been 17 years since I moved to America, 13 since I moved to Florida, 9 since I got married, 5 since we moved to our current house, and 2 since our son was born. I feel like in the blink of an eye, those numbers will go up by a decade and I will be left wondering where all the time went and if I made the days count.
Things have been a bit rough last few months. My dry-cough returned in March and persisted until April, when I broke my left wrist (5th metacarpal fracture). I got surgery about 2 weeks ago and have had gnarly metal spikes poking out of my hand. Being a lefty, it has made things a bit difficult. Earlier this year we lost our cat Pearl and last night we lost our ever-so-loving Chihuahua Jack to old age.
Jack came into my life when Juliet moved in with me 9 years ago. He was Juliet's baby and she took him everywhere with her. Even though I was never a huge dog person, Jack became a part of my life and I grew to love him like my own child. I spent countless hours securing our fence so he wouldn't get lost in the neighborhood, installed cameras all around my house to find him when he inadvertently managed to do it anyway, setup a raised-loft in his cage for comfort and hygiene, and installed a heater on a separate electric circuit in the porch to keep him warm in the winter. Last night, with the help of my friend Carlos, we laid down Jack to rest. All of us, including his best friend Ladybug will miss him dearly.
I often tell myself "This too shall pass" when things are tough and remind myself the same exact thing to ground myself when life is great. But the one thing I never realized is that the more I say it, the more time passes and I never prepared myself for decades flying by.
Today happenedMon, 27th Feb '17, 1:45 am::
Someday in the future when life feels unfair and unbearable, be it stress, sickness, or sorrow, I hope I read the words I am writing today. I wish to remind my distressed, distant self of not the most momentous days of my life but rather ones like today that were uneventful but warm, fleeting but nurturing. We spent the whole day at home, had nice home-cooked meals, took Naveen out to play in the backyard, cuddled our pets, briefly chatted with the neighbors, played a simple board game as a family of three, saw my buddy Arthur's new puppy on video-chat, watched a series of short comedy clips with Juliet, talked to my parents back in India, paid some bills, and finished up some work projects.
Nothing amazing or devastating happened today and that's the beauty of it. Days like today are the adult-equivalent of adolescent summer months that instantly fill us with fond nostalgia. As kids, boredom was the norm and so summer adventures were exciting. As a grownup, I expect to be perturbed every day and so days when nothing extraordinary, good or bad, happens are welcome. It doesn't matter if I am going to get a surprise refund or an unexpected bill, both mean I now have to deal with additional paperwork.
Dear Future Me: Our favorite days are like today when we simply exist and experience. You and I often forget what truly makes us happy and sometimes think that material success, fame, or even recognition matters to us. I want to remind you that the only thing that you and I really care about is spending time with people and creatures we love, preferably in nature. Maybe that is not always possible but remember, that is always the goal. No matter how you feel now, just remember that today happened. And even if seems impossible, it will happen again.
Naveen - Year TwoSun, 5th Feb '17, 6:20 pm::
Can't believe Naveen is turning two this week! We took some family photos earlier this week and had a birthday party for him today. It was a blast. We're all just relaxing now. Back to normal routine tomorrow.
It's Christmas Day and things are finally alright. Last few months were hectic and I've barely had time to sit and relax. Our kitchen remodel project was completed earlier this month and we rearranged the living room furniture after that. The house is clean, the Christmas Tree is 🔥lit🔥, the family is asleep, and I just got done wrapping presents.
I'm looking forward to welcoming 2017 next weekend. 2016 was a grueling year personally and I hope the efforts I made throughout the year will come to fruition over the next decade. Not just work and house but also new relations and old friends. The year asked a lot out of me and I did my best to deliver. From weddings and galas to funerals and emergency room visits, this year had it all. I don't think there was a single week in the entire year when something awesome or awful didn't happen.
On the bright side, my sister had a health baby boy, Naveen joined a wonderful school, Juliet passed her boards with flying colors, and I mostly met my resolution of spending more time with the family. On the numerous not-so-bright days, I learned the value of pushing forward and doing what I needed to do without letting my emotions get in the way.
Even though there was no particular accomplishment this year that I can proudly list, I'm content with what I can best describe as my gradual increase in stoicism. Rushing both my kid and my wife to the ER on separate occasions while remaining calm and careful were experiences I hope to never go through again but I feel I came out of them stronger and better prepared (thankfully both ER visits ended up OK). Death of pets is never easy and I had to deal with more than my share of that this year. Add to this unexpected issues at work, emergencies of the social kind, and a never-ending list of paperwork, projects, appointments, and doctor's visits and you can see why I'm proud of just making it through the year without becoming an emotional wreck.
No matter what comes my way next year, I think I am better prepared to face it today than I was a year ago. And that's something I'm happy about. Here's to the passage of time!
Congratulations to my sister Roshni and brother-in-law Aashish on the birth of their son Ayaansh! I am officially a "Mama" (Maternal Uncle in Gujarati) and Naveen finally has a cousin :) Not sure when but can't wait until we all meet for a fun family gathering.
This past weekend we attended my college friend Chris' wedding up north and traveled around Philadelphia. We stayed at my wonderful friend Megan's house and she took us to Schuylkill Center’s Wildlife Clinic. We went to museums, ate greasy food, and spent quite some time just walking around downtown Philly. My buddy Arthur came to visit us and we watched classic episodes of South Park. All in all, a fantastic weekend thanks to great friends. And as always, here are the photos.
MotivationTue, 1st Nov '16, 2:20 am::
I find myself at an unexpected place in life. I am used to clawing my way out of problems when things go terribly wrong. I am familiar with waking up stressed every day and striving to stay focused amidst a score of distractions. But I am struggling to motivate myself to accomplish some big but necessary goals because things are already going according to plan.
In mathematical terms, when life's at -1, I know how to push for a +1 to arrive at a comfortable net 0. But now that life's at a chill 0 and I need to push it to +1, I am having a hard time propelling myself. Looking back at how difficult life was at -1, I am thankful that it has been at 0 for such a long stretch. But complacency kills even the mightiest and I am no exception.
We are getting our kitchen remodeled. Juliet and Naveen are healthy and doing well. My sister is days away from delivering her first child. And I have my hands full with work, personal projects, and social events. Literally nothing to complain about. And yet I find it difficult to motivate myself to get to the next level.
I spent some time thinking about the possible root causes but haven't arrived at any eye-opening conclusions yet but I did recall something from my college years that I'm going to try again. When I had to write a long paper but had no motivation to do in-depth research or write detailed arguments, I simply wrote a rough, inexact outline in one quick burst. Seeing an incomplete and potentially erroneous draft frustrated me enough to fix and expand small parts of it, slowly getting me closer to my final goal of a well-researched, comprehensive paper.
When it comes to my work of writing code, I think I'm going to quickly write a basic framework with an unacceptable number of bugs and gradually fix them until the number of bugs is acceptable. It sounds tongue-in-cheek but it's pretty much the motivation behind Exception-Driven Development. Why waste time writing code to avoid bugs that nobody will encounter when instead you can use that time and energy to fix the worst bugs and user issues?
I don't know if I'm going to wake up tomorrow pumped up to hack away at my computer but I do know that picking a better approach could help me concentrate even when my brain says "Eat some snacks and watch another episode on Netflix..." Here's to motivating myself!
DiscoveryTue, 4th Oct '16, 11:45 pm::
As I celebrated my birthday with my family today, I tried to think of something profound about life, growth, and age but couldn't. I was living in the moment and there was nothing deep or touching I could confer with anyone. I can share my political views or opinions on economic policies instantly but I can't dredge up my own feelings and emotions without a lot of contemplation.
It's been like this for a few years now. For a while I thought it was just because I was living on autopilot doing all the routine things like work, chores, and child-care but lately I've realized it is something else - I am no longer a big mystery to myself. A large part of growing up is finding out who we really are. At age 18, I didn't know if I was the kind of person who puts family first or career first. At age 24, I didn't know if I wanted to stay in one place or travel around the world. At age 30, I didn't know if I would give up on my dreams and goals for an easy life or continue to work hard. Today I know the answers to those questions, as boring as they may sound: family-first, stay-in-one-place, and continue-to-work-hard.
I don't think these are choices that one can make; I believe these are innate traits one has to discover for themselves. You can't choose what makes you happy, you can only choose to accept it and be happy or reject it and be miserable. For years, I rejected the fact that I am a homebody and forced myself to travel a lot but it didn't make me as happy as I hoped it would. Only when I accepted that I am someone who likes being at home most of the time and occasionally likes to travel, did I start enjoying both being at home and traveling.
There is still a lot about myself I don't know but most of it is about how I would deal with adversities that I have not yet faced. From dealing with my kid's future teenage angst to health issues I could have later in life, there is much I will have to discover about myself as I age. Until then, I prefer to ponder over the joyous unknowns - how I will react when Naveen writes his first computer program, what will I tell Juliet after she cooks the first meal in our soon-to-be-remodeled kitchen later this year, what will I do when I get the news of my sister's first baby in the next few weeks?
Naveen's first day at schoolWed, 7th Sep '16, 9:00 pm::
Yesterday Naveen had his first day at Saint Paul's in their brand new Early Learning Center. While we were very happy with his old daycare, we loved the infant to middle school education track at Saint Paul's. He is already running around his new classroom making friends and reorganizing the baskets of toys.
We spent the Labor Day weekend in Orlando and Naveen got to visit Disney World for the first time. He's too young to remember it but Juliet and I had fun taking him all over the park. And after all, isn't that what it's all about?
BeliefsMon, 22nd Aug '16, 1:35 am::
I fully expect everything that follows to be a long meandering brain dump of multiple subjects connected by nothing but my mental model of how the world works. Usually when I write about something other than my day-to-day routine, I treat it like a school essay and try to making a point with logical arguments. But what I've noticed is that behind my persuasive arguments is a set of core beliefs that rarely changes. And I'm not the only one. Behind almost everything I've read, heard, or seen are someone's core beliefs making a point. Listing and comparing our beliefs divides us. But discussing how our beliefs work, can help us communicate better.
Before we get to heart of our belief system, let's start with a simple opinion: The world is better/worse today than it was 20* years ago. You can rely on facts, anecdotes, or personal experiences to form an opinion on this statement. Maybe two decades ago you had a great job and cost of living was low. Or maybe you were in a bad relationship and felt stuck in life while today things are great. Your opinion is yours to have, share, defend, and sometimes change. But beneath the facts that bolster opinions or heartwarming experiences that sway them, are beliefs that seldom rely on numbers but predispose which facts and stories we listen to.
Do you believe the average person is good? If I randomly picked just ONE person out of the 7+ billion people on the planet, without seeing their face, would you trust them to return your lost wallet? Don't overthink this. Just ask yourself if you believe that to be true or false in the average case. Now ask yourself what you would do.
Do you believe the average person is lazy and unmotivated? In other words, if they could get just enough money to eat, live in a modest apartment, and afford the bare necessities of modern life, would they accept that life and quit their job or instead continue to work hard to get even further ahead in life? What would you do?
If you believe the average person is honest and hardworking, and feel the same way about yourself, realize that you are living in a world with other people who believe that while the average person (that includes you) is dishonest, lazy, and unmotivated, they themselves are good, industrious, and quite motivated. This isn't a comparison of who is right vs. who is wrong. This isn't about people having different beliefs. This is about people having contradictory beliefs about each other.
There is a famous exercise in Game Theory called the Prisoner's Dilemma (if you don't want to read about it, watch this video). In my mind, our beliefs about the goodness of an average human pits us against each other in a world-wide Prisoner's Dilemma where we all try to guess if everyone else is an honest, productive person and act accordingly. And that I think is what leads us to have differing opinions on whether the world is better or worse off today.
Our beliefs guide us to seek evidence, which helps us form our opinions. From a cold scientific, rational perspective, there is a very strict requirement for what constitutes evidence and so if you take that route, you will arrive at the currently accepted scientific consensus. But what if you believe that the scientists who came up with the conclusion that you find hard to stomach, were funded by organizations that benefit from the very conclusion? Certainly you wouldn't be wrong to believe this because there are countless examples of that. Well, then you find yourself questioning not just scientific research but news media, social media, education systems, governments, corporations, and pretty much every institution with power and means. And you would be in your right to be skeptical! Because if you believe there is corruption and greed at almost every level, you will find ample evidence to support it if you dig deep enough.
The difficulty in trying to comprehend the world today is that it is so big yet feels so small. With so many people, all things good and bad that could happen, happen daily. And with the world being so connected, we can find evidence of almost anything to match our beliefs - logical or not. The world as a whole did not know about the Nanking Massacre or Armenian Genocide for decades. Yet news of a single hero giving up his life to save others spread around the world within hours last year.
There are just too many nuanced and seemingly conflicting facts in every single aspect of our life for us to weed through. So regardless of what scientific, political, and economic theories we study, we tend to believe in some core things that cannot be easily quantified, justified, or articulated. Beliefs about race, gender, and religion are strengthened by events that we experience, which motivates us to seek additional examples to reinforce our beliefs. If you believe that women with same experience and skills are paid less than men for the same jobs, then you can find ample evidence to defend it. You may even support laws to curb the injustice. Or you might believe the wage gap is a myth with evidence to the contrary.
I have friends and family on both sides of almost every issue and what's interesting to me is how rarely does evidence change anyone's opinions. Evidence contrary to our beliefs is either an immaterial exception or further proof that the opposition is grasping at straws to maintain their lie. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the 2016 US Presidential elections. Whether you support Clinton, Trump, any of the 3rd party candidates, or none of them, your beliefs are what their campaigns are piggybacking on.
On the economic front, Trump is fueled by the opinions that illegal immigration and Obamacare are the primary cause of hardship for most Americans today. Many in the media mock these openly without trying to understand why people feel this way. Beneath these opinions are the beliefs that people who break the law do not deserve amnesty and that we are better off when we can make the financial and healthcare decisions for ourselves and our families without the Government's mandate. The former is about Government not presently doing its job to stop illegal immigration and the latter is about the Government overstepping its authority. In other words, Government is doing more bad than good. While we can come up with arguments for and against these beliefs, realize that these are not purely academic ideologies we are arguing about but rather what they believe is necessary for the good of their community, country, and world.
Similarly, on the economic front, Bernie was fueled by the opinion that decades of rigged economic policies by the richest of the rich are the primary cause of Americans' hardships. Beneath this opinion is the belief that sound Government policies can curb corporate greed, or in other words, a belief that Government can do good. Clinton is fueled by the opinion that political obstruction preventing Obama from enacting the necessary policies is the primary cause and she is the one who can fix it. This is a mix of both the beliefs - people who believe that Government that can do good being impeded by others who believe that Government cannot do good.
I'd imagine that your belief in Government being capable of doing good or not is partially derived from whether you believe that people are good or not. I say partially because even if you believe the average person is honest, you might believe they don't work in the public sector for long, thereby making Government corrupt by attrition. The reason I keep bringing these types of beliefs up repeatedly is because there is no way to prove them either way - they really are something you have to accept on faith alone. With millions of people working for the Government, you can easily find evidence to prove any stance. So what you rely on is your belief that there are or aren't enough good people in public sector to help steer the country in what you believe is the right direction.
I have avoided listing my own beliefs and opinions because my point wasn't to convince you to see things my way. My point was to show that the world is so noisy, there is no point in blaring more noise at people who disagree with us. But instead, listen to the muted melody lost in the cacophony. Even the person you most vehemently disagree with has core beliefs you can rightly respect if you only cut through the mountain of opinionated drivel.
* I picked 20 years because there is more variability of viewpoints in that. Would be boring to compare today to 2 years ago (not enough time) or 200 years (only for history buffs).