thoughts

Fifty Questions That Will Free Your Mind

Stumbled across this page a couple of years ago and slapped it onto my to-do list. Finally got around to it today. Twas actually quite fun. Hope you enjoy reading my answers, and I recommend doing this activity if you’re home sick with a cold like me! Some of the questions sound a bit fluffy but it is a rewarding process. change-your-mind

Fifty Questions That Will Free Your Mind – answered by Grace on 8 August 2013

1.       How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? I think I would be 17, which is such a pretty prime number. I’d like to think that, inside, I’m still as optimistic, passionate and playful as a teenager. I’m still trying to shirk the responsibilities of adult life and I’m still hoping I’ll achieve my dreams. But then, I’m sure everyone feels younger inside than they are outside. The world is full of grown-up children.

2.       Which is worse, failing or never trying? My head says never trying, but my heart is afraid that failure hurts.

3.       If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do? Because we follow the path of least resistance. Because we follow the values and habits conditioned into us from birth. Because we don’t want to let people down. Because we’re afraid of trying and not succeeding. Because we feel guilty about enjoying ourselves too much and not slaving away at our jobs like everyone else.

4.       When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? I hope not. I could avoid this by keeping really, really quiet.

5.       What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world? Eliminate social status.

6.       If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich? Writing!

7.       Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing? I think I’m doing what I believe in. I believe that medicine is a good career and it’s something that I’m reasonably capable at. I’m not as passionate about it as many others, but I care about the people I look after.

8.       If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently? Haha. I’d quit medicine.

9.       To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken? I have had all the freedom to make almost all my choices in life (apart from the choices made by my parents for me when I was too young to think). However, only in hindsight do I have the wisdom to evaluate those choices and realise that a large part of who I am is a condition of my socioeconomic, cultural and family influences. You could have predicted me from day one.

10.   Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things? Both, I guess, which is probably enough to drive one crazy. I was brought up in a conservative Christian family with strong moral ideas. I’m also a Type A personality, unfortunately.

11.   You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire.  They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend.  The criticism is distasteful and unjustified.  What do you do? I would speak up in her favour. This has happened to me before.

12.   If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be? Can I speak baby talk? If not, it doesn’t matter. The poor bub wouldn’t understand me anyway.

13.   Would you break the law to save a loved one? Ooh, what a thrilling question. I’ll say yes. I think I would. Depending on the law.

14.   Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity? Not yet. My peers are quite sane.

15.   What’s something you know you do differently than most people? I write with my left hand.

16.   How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy? I disagree with this – I think the things that make me happy are pretty general! Feeling like you’re good at something, being loved, seeing loved ones happy, achievements, seeing the world…we’re more similar than different :D

17.   What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?  What’s holding you back? These questions are probing! I want to write more, but my sensible self (and my parents) would prefer that I hang on to a stable job. Other things interfering with writing time: stalking people on Facebook, awesome TV shows…

18.   Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? A dirty joke rose unbidden into my mind. But I will resist. I don’t think I’m holding onto any excess baggage any more. I’m quite free and looking forward to the future.

19.   If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why? Generic answer time. Probably London, because so many people I admire lived and worked there. Though I’m not sure I could put up with the gloom and the rain. Otherwise, maybe Japan…if I could speak Japanese.

20.   Do you push the elevator button more than once?  Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster? Indeed I do. No I don’t believe it will make the elevator go faster. I just like pushing buttons.

21.   Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton? Worried genius.

22.   Why are you, you? I have wondered this for over twenty years.

23.   Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend? Nope. I’m a good listener, but I’m terrible at keeping in touch with friends when it’s no longer convenient. I am sorry. I miss them often, but I can’t seem to work up the courage/motivation to send them a message.

24.   Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you? Both are sad, but losing touch with a good friend near me is sadder. Good friends in other countries are still good friends.

25.   What are you most grateful for? Health. A mind that can think. Loved ones.

26.   Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones? OMG. This is an awful question! With great difficulty, I pick losing my old memories. I’ve only lived 24 years (and don’t really remember the first five…). I’ve got so many more memories to make. Also, I will leave a convenient letter to my amnesiac future self.

27.   Is it possible to know the truth without challenging it first? Nah, probably not. You can’t really understand something unless you question and challenge it.

28.   Has your greatest fear ever come true? Losing my teeth? Not yet. Getting stuck in an elevator? Not yet. Failing at life? Not yet.

29.   Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset?  Does it really matter now? I remember ten years ago bawling my eyes out that my parents wouldn’t let me go to a sleepover. FOMO to the max. Five years ago, bawling my eyes out that my parents didn’t think transferring universities was a good idea. I’m glad I cry a lot less now.

30.   What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special? Playing imaginary games and building cushion forts with my little brother. Those days were so wonderfully carefree and blissful. I am so happy that I had a sibling to grow up with.

31.   At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive? Travelling with Victor.

32.   If not now, then when? Soon. Time is a vengeful god.

33.   If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose? Sunk cost. Which is, apparently, an illusion!

34.   Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever? Uh…not absolutely nothing. That would be a bit odd. I do loathe small talk, though, and have often attempted to broach the small talk barrier by dropping in an awkward, more personal statement. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, depending on my conversational partner. I’d like to think that the people who catch on are the ones worth hanging on to :)

35.   Why do religions that support love cause so many wars? This is a loaded and complicated question which I cannot answer.

36.   Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil? Some things are most certainly evil, and some things are certainly good. Though if you start examining the motivations behind actions, then the moral value may be muddied. But then do you judge morality by intention or outcome? Hm, hm.

37.   If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job? Er, yeah. I’d do something else. Something that excites me.

38.   Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing? The latter. But I don’t think anyone wants more of internship.

39.   Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before? Yeah, at times they all merge into one giant blobby day.

40.   When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in? Oh, that’s poetic. I’ve not marched into any metaphorical darknesses, sadly. I wish my life were more adventurous.

41.   If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today? You know who you are.

42.   Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous? Tempting, but probably not.

43.   What is the difference between being alive and truly living? For me, I suppose truly living means using what I’ve been giving to create and contribute to the world in some way. One of the worst ways to live would be to just go through the motions, dwindle, become demented/immobile/incontinent, and die.

44.   When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right? When a middle age crisis hits. I kid. I’ll give my dreams a go next year.

45.   If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake? I’d rather get it right the first time ;P

46.   What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you? Dress different. Be less polite. Ask tougher questions. Release my inner nerd.

47.   When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing? I like quiet. I think I lay in bed and listened to my heartbeat and stuff a couple of days ago.

48.   What do you love?  Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love? Interesting that this question asks what I love. Hmmmm. I love when people are selfless. I love when people are excited or passionate about an intellectual pursuit. I love the fact that humanity, despite being a crawling, sprawling conglomeration of 7 billion plus organisms, cares about emotions, details, art, creativity, individuals, and has collectively created a world that frequently shows itself to be beautiful.

49.   In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday?  What about the day before that?  Or the day before that? Nope. I have a surprisingly shocking memory.

50.   Decisions are being made right now.  The question is:  Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you? I’m trying to make them for myself, more and more so, from now on.  

Now arriving at…

image

Today I took public transport alone, into the city, after almost a whole year of travelling by car. It had been a long time. I thought I remembered what it was like to sit among strangers on a crowded carriage, but I was wrong.

Melbourne is full of strange and ordinary people. In fact, you will never find people stranger than the ordinary folk that populate a city. The people that press close to you on the tram, that cough a phlegmy cough into your hair, that fill the confined space with their stale, orangey smells. The mad fellow that stumbles purposefully up and down the aisle, muttering into the crook of his arm. The swearing schoolkids. You haven’t taken the Metro until you’ve experienced all of these.

I’m not sure what’s changed in the past year but I found myself noticing all these little things that used to slip my attention. The seat scattered with spilt raisins, which I avoided. Unpleasant sticky stains on the floor. And the incessant symphony of smells: old coat and day-old sandwich, unwashed hair, funky breath.

In the past I’ve always enjoyed being in public places to observe people passing by–strangers with fascinating, hidden other lives. But today there was something claustrophobic, almost threatening, about the experience of taking public transport. Maybe it’s only because I’ve been away for so long.

When you’re in the same place every day, and around the same sort of people every day, you can miss out on the diversity of the very city in which you live. If you spend more time watching TV than out and about, you can forget that real people are often unattractive, unusual to behold, unfashionable, foreign, and difficult to understand. It’s nice to have a reminder that the world revolves around 7 billion other people, too.

Pet Peeves and People Problems

Here, for you to delight in, are five of my pet peeves, and, to balance it out, five little things that brighten my day.


The Peeves

1. Mushrooms

Let me explain. I love eating mushrooms: mushroom soup, penne con funghi, mushroom in claypot stew…but when they’re alive? And in the ground? Ohmygosh, they freak me out. Look at them, so orange and curly and weird. I shudder at you, ugly fungal growths. Shudder.

2. People who Capitalise Things that are Not supposed to Be In Capitals

In order to Illustrate just how Annoying this is, I am going to Randomly turn Regular Words into Pronouns. Come on, People! Capitalisation is Not a form of placing Emphasis! It is grammatically incorrect and Drives Some Poor People Crazy.

3. Sidewalk hoggers

I have no problems with you, other than you walk too slow and sometimes you line up with your friends/partner/children and form a human wall. Sometimes you even zig zag at a leisurely pace so it’s very difficult to circumvent you. Grr.

4. Being poked

Poke. “Hi Grace!”

Do not do the above.

5. People peering over my shoulder

Not because I occupy myself with anything of the dodgy nature. But please ask, cough, or make your presence known. Don’t pretend you’re not looking. I know you are. I have eyes everywhere.

*

Now you’ve all seen how petty and ridiculous my pet peeves are ;D And I know they are, but we all have them. Last week, I was chatting to a few people I’ve never really had to chance to speak to before. Coming away from that conversation, I realised that a lot of the time, the disagreements, chafes and animosity between people arise from nothing more than pet peeves. We see something in a person that instantly makes a blip on our Annoyance Radar. We make a snap judgement, and then everything else that person does is tainted by our preformed conceptions.

This happens, I think, even more in group situations. A collective opinion somehow becomes more of a truth. But the lesson I’ve learnt is that you should always venture out and make your own judgements. Talk to people properly before you like or dislike them. And never draw a final verdict…because more often than not, you’ll look back and realise you were wrong.

*

The little happinesses:

1. Waking up and realising you can sleep in as long as you like

2. When you come out of the toilet at a restaurant to see that your food has arrived (I stole this one from Pulp Fiction!)

3. Compliments from strangers

4. That gentle ache in your muscles from a good exercise

5. Parcels on the doorstep

*

My final exam is tomorrow! I am so nervous. Wish me luck, amigos. See you on the other side! I can’t wait for the sweet, sweet taste of freedom…for four weeks at least :)

Love,

Grace

The Mexican fisherman

You may have heard this little story before. I heard it a long time ago but it must have struck a chord in me because every so often it drifts back into my mind :) It reminds me to continually evaluate the meaning of success. Hope you find a gem of thought in this too!

The businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while.

The businessman then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The businessman then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time? The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The businessman scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor and eventually open your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?” To which the businessman replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then, señor?” The businessman laughed and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.” “Millions, señor? Then what?” The businessman said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”



In this dream, I’m dancing right beside you

I have reasoned that there are two sorts of people in the world, and I fall into the inferior half. There are those of you who are content to exist within the internal universe of your own mind. A bit of pondering upon a subject, perhaps over your morning bowl of cereal or while sponging yourself off in the shower, and you’ve nutted it out in a logical manner. You feel no real need to rely on another’s opinion. You are less swayed by the tendencies of the masses.

I, on the the other hand, could be more accurately compared to a limpet. I am rarely able to straighten out my thoughts without saying them aloud to someone. My ideas are only validated if they are written or spoken, and more importantly, absorbed by another. I am an impermanent image created by the reflected reverberations of my own invisible voice. That is why I need to write everything down before I can learn it; why I spill my thoughts to strangers on the web; why I savour the feeling of translating a gingerly formulated concept into a crisp, clear sentence.

Most of the time, this is OK. We Type 2 limpets are happy to fill our notebooks/our friends’ ears with an interior monologue of woes, whilst you Type 1 people calmly and silently plot world domination, or whatever it is you do with all that extra brainpower.

But at times I feel like all the pieces of myself are being stretched out across space and time like long strings of fairy floss. When this happens, I know I need to draw those threads of thought back into me and knot it all securely together. Because it is possible to care too much what other people think. And the fear of rejection or being disliked can hold you back from achieving big things.

In order to have self-confidence–and by this don’t mean arrogance, domineering or even assertiveness, but rather a sort of quiet, self-contained, self-confidence–I think you need to know what ingredients make up you. Your strengths, weaknesses and beliefs. In which direction you want to steer your life. What things and people are important to you, and what obsessions just aren’t worth your time.

One thing I’ve struggled to do in recent months is to retain perspective: to remember that today is just one day. That all things are temporary, and in retrospect, all things seem smaller and clearer. Though we may feel old already, we are really only at the beginning of our lives. We have so many tomorrows, and so much to make of them. We don’t want to waste our energies on today’s worries.