Anomaly / Imposter Syndrome

I am certain that you liking me on Tinder was an anomaly. It was either a random low probability event or a straight up aberration in the flow of our stories. These things happen sometimes. Fingers twitch. You might have had too much coffee. If the universe is anything like me it will let an anomaly run amok out of curiosity for just a while before it corrects itself.

Your spelling, punctuation and grammar is impeccable. You have a way with words that makes text conversations incredibly fun. You’re fun in person. You’re a model, a theatre actor and you sing well. You’re twenty-five, you enjoy going on dates with people and aren’t looking for an exclusive relationship. You will eventually realise that I’m a little boring and then you’ll correct yourself.

None of this presents a problem. I’m putting on my running shoes so that we can run amok.

Master of None

There have been many things that I thought I could develop into serious career options over the years. When I was around sixteen I considered growing up to be a professional skateboarder or a professional gamer. I only ever learned to do an Ollie, which I think I could still pull off with a few days of practise. I have since given up on these two as career options. Around eighteen I was really good at maths and physics and I thought I’d go study at an IIT and spend a decent amount of my life doing research and other science stuff. This too seems only a remote possibility at the moment. I was gifted Feynman’s Lectures on Physics many years ago and I still haven’t read them.

When I was in college I’d gotten pretty good at algorithms and AI for puzzle games and I thought I could build a career around that. I think I’m still pretty sharp with these skills. I could probably still do this if I was to leave my current job and be underpaid for a couple of years. It’s because this is somewhat similar to what I currently do (which is run an ecommerce website), that I still think of it as an achievable option.

I first started this blog in 2005 on Xanga. I’ve enjoyed writing since then but I’ve never done enough of it. I once made a submission to a science fiction short story writing competition and I won second prize. There was actual prize money and they mailed me a cheque. I thought I could write more things good enough to put out into the world at some point in my life. I never believed I’d make any serious money writing and so I thought that when I’m older and I’ve figured out the making money part of my life I’ll do some serious writing. I guess I still believe this.

In my early twenties I made a couple of simple websites built on WordPress as freelance projects. I then thought  that I could make websites or web applications for a living. I guess I was right about this one. I also worked as a software developer making a web application in Java for almost two years. The work was easy and paid decently well but I always knew that this couldn’t be all that I’ll do for the rest of my life. It was nowhere close to as exciting as any of the other things.

When I was really young my parents sent me for tabla classes. They were once a week and I went for years. I didn’t learn all that much but I developed a good sense of rhythm. I eventually bought a second hand guitar. I thought that if I don’t manage to write prose, I can write songs instead. Maybe they’ll be easier because they’re shorter. The fulfilment lay in telling stories. I wrote a few songs and some of them aren’t too bad but this didn’t go much further either.

When I first played the drums it felt like I could get the hang of it quickly. It could have been all the tabla knowledge I didn’t know I had. The drums don’t help me tell stories but they could help me make more complete songs. They’re also a lot of fun to learn and jam with.

This is not a comprehensive list. This is probably less than half of all the things I thought I could do and spent at least a little time learning, but these are most of the important ones. These are the ones that have stuck with me for long enough to really count. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then I’ve told you almost all of these things before at some point. I’m sorry about repeating them. I needed to tell you this story to get to the point of this blog post.

I’m the kind of person who wants to do a lot of things. And we live in a culture that glorifies people who do one thing really well. I partly believe that with a rather large dose of discipline and a few difficult choices I could still be one of these things; a socially acknowledged success. But that’s rather difficult and very little fun. I’ve tried making these difficult choices and working on one thing at a time. When I decided that I should make writing a top priority I’d feel guilty every time I started doing something else that was fun, even if it was something equally fulfilling and meaningful. When the guilt would drive me to try to write, I’d be staring at a blank screen. After backspacing a couple of sentences a dozen times I’d be back on Reddit again.

The realisation crept up to me that I’ll never get good enough at any of these things because when I stop and focus on only one thing, it still doesn’t work. I never openly accepted this to myself, but it was always at the back of my head, looming and melancholic. Too big and scary to deal with.

Learning something is also really rewarding at the start, after which it starts to plateau. It takes an increasing amount of time and effort to make what seems like diminishing progress. Add to this the knowledge that I’ll never be good enough to really make something of this skill and I’m at the point when I stop trying to get better. It’s now just another guitar standing in the corner of my room that I’ll pick up once every couple of months.

I want to say that it’s okay to be mediocre at something forever and I’ve tried believing that but it doesn’t work for me. I’d rather just watch TV and go out and drink with friends and spend hours browsing Reddit or Instagram than put in effort to be just a notch above the the level of mediocre that I used to be. So that’s what I did for over a year. I still didn’t want to admit that I’d abandoned most of my ambition, and so I never thought about it and things largely remained the way they were.

It’s honestly not that bad a place to be. The good thing about actually enjoying doing so many things is that even if I do one of them once in a few months it feels great. I just need to have forgotten exactly how good it felt the last time. If I do it more often then I’m hit with the realisation that I haven’t made any progress and I never will.

It took me a couple of years to fully understand that just because I’m not going to be as good at anything as I’d once hoped is not enough reason to stop trying entirely. I will never be enough of a musician or writer or skateboarder for that alone to be satisfactory. I am a part-entrepreneur, part-programmer, aspiring writer and musician, amateur drummer who can strum chords on a guitar and can probably do an Ollie. There may be a few things to add to that description but it’s largely pretty rigid. I’ve tried to change it and failed. What I really need to do is be the best part-entrepreneur, part-programmer, aspiring writer and musician, amateur drummer who can strum chords on a guitar and can probably do an Ollie you’ll ever meet. This is the only way to keep a distant-future-me from suddenly being struck with the crushing guilt of not having done enough in my life at a point when it’s to late to do anything about it.

In the course of my whole life, I can probably make twenty to thirty songs that a few hundred people will love and be really moved by. I can also manage to be a good enough drummer and guitarist to jam with for most part of it. I can also write a dozen short stories and maybe even a book or two out of which three will ever be liked by over a thousand people. I can also contribute in a very small way towards making software that significantly makes the world a better place. I can also be a forty-something who can have fun at a skate park and briefly explain the latest developments in particle physics. I can hopefully also use one or more of these skills to make enough money to live a decent life.

Any one of these things isn’t much but if I can do all of them, that’s really something. That’s also something that twenty-nine year old me feels is certainly achievable.

 

Wishing you luck with whatever you chose to do with the rest of your life,

The best part-entrepreneur, part-programmer, aspiring writer and musician, amateur drummer who can strum chords on a guitar and can probably do an Ollie you’ll ever meet.

Long Term Companionship

As an intended consequence of the ‘hooking up with 4 girls’ resolution, a.k.a. Resolution #8, I have been going on dates and stuff. (Refer to the previous post for an explanation on The Resolutions and Resolution #8). Going on dates has many desirable outcomes:-

  1. I meet new people, which is fun in itself. These people are also largely girls. I sometimes hook up with these girls. With the right people, hooking up is a lot of fun. Outcome #1 can be summarized as ‘Fun’.
  2. I’m learning how to be charming and stuff. A very important first step in this that I have never done before is immediately and openly expressing admiration, infatuation and interest. This expression, of course, needs to be gradually turned up only when the subject is receptive. I think I have a pretty good handle on gauging receptiveness by now so this is really pretty easy. This first step can be as little as offering a brief smile (and maybe a wave) when she catches me looking at her instead of quickly looking away hoping that she didn’t notice. It helps that I’m good at not being creepy. It helps that I’m not unattractive. This, however is only an example. Outcome #2 can be summarized as ‘Self Development’.
  3. It’s likely that I will end up in some sort of a serious relationship with one of these girls. The desirability of this outcome is can be debated, but that’s only because it eliminates outcomes 1 and 2 once it happens. It’s clear however, that the elimination of Fun and Self Development as a consequence here are only in the context of meeting and hooking up with new girls, and Outcome #3 should create new avenues for Fun and Self Development in the future. I shall, for the course of this examination treat this outcome as desirable. Outcome #3 can be summarized as ‘Long Term Companionship’.

In the context of Outcome #3, this process of dating can be looked at as a way of experimentally acquiring the best candidate for Long Term Companionship. From my observations of other people’s experiments with relationships, The time between a first date and a serious relationship usually varies between 2 weeks to 6 months, and in most cases us under 3 months. Now, this data hasn’t been scientifically gathered but if I was to draw a graph with what I have it would look something like this:-

The Y-Axis says “Chances of dating turning to a serious relationship (%)”, in case that’s hard to read.

 

Assuming one of the girls I meet by the end of the year (and this experiment) is a suitable candidate for Outcome #3, I have a 50% chance of being in a relationship by 10th February 2017 and an 80% chance of being in one by June 2017. Of course, the probability of this assumption being true must also be factored into this calculation but this is something for which I can not come up with any meaningful data. All I can say is that I have a good feeling about the girls that I can potentially date and fair confidence in my current ability to find more such girls.

Now the reason I bring this up is because of a particular girl, let’s call her Candidate A. I know her well enough to know most of her incompatibilities for Outcome #3 and I can still say that she’s a fairly good candidate. The best course of action would be for me to date her along with say 2 other good candidates. I can then be fairly certain of entering Outcome 3 with someone who’ll make it worth it. The problem is that Candidate A doesn’t want to date me now but at some point in the future. My inference is that this point will be 2-4 months from now (if at all) given that she’s chosen to start dating someone else at the moment. Since I consider her a good candidate and want there to be a chance for her for outcome 3, I am left with the following options:-

  1. Delay / postpone the experiment
  2. Keep course and let chance decide the outcome.

While I agree that Option 2 seems like the right thing to do, my partiality towards Candidate A tempts me to find a compromise between the two, which is to delay but at a later stage of the experiment and by a small amount of time. The biggest resolution of uncertainties is required when trying to answer the question, how much time? We shall take a dig at that in part 2 to this blog post. Meanwhile, here are a few pressing questions that we can try to answer for now:-

  1. Am I trying this concurrent approach to dating to make up for all the time that I haven’t been dating?
  2. Is this concurrent approach to dating to flawed to work? Is dating meant to be done sequentially?
  3. Am I grossly overestimating my chances of success with only a few months of dating?
  4. Am I favouring Candidate A only because I already know her well?
  5. Will anyone ever date me after she reads this post?

P.S. This post is to be taken lightly. However the comments section is open to all your opinions on the situation.

 

Resolution Rejuvination

At the start of this year I made some resolutions. They were mostly a list of things I want to do more of because they make me happy. We’re a good way into November now and these resolutions all lie disappointingly incomplete. This is what they look like:-

  1. Read 12 books (7/12) – Sybil (I’m kinda cheating on this one since I started it last year and only read the last 20% or so this year but it’s too late to worry about this), Ready Player One, The Lover’s Dictionary, Wonder, Snow Crash, The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect
  2. Write 12 blog posts (2/12) – Yes, counting this one.
  3. Make an international trip (1/1) – I took a 20 day long trip this year where I went to London, The Netherlands and Belgium (and a bit of Dubai) and met a lot of old friends. I also attended my first ever international music festival.
  4. Make a road trip (1/1) – As a part of that 20 day trip, I rented a car and drove around The Netherlands. It’s a really small country when you have a car.
  5. Write 4 songs (0/4) – It might be safe to assume that this isn’t going to happen.
  6. Perform at an open mic night somewhere (0/1) – This is kinda dependent on the previous one. I also bought an electronic drum kit a couple of months ago. It’s great to practice and a lot of fun to play but I already feel guilty of how little I’ve used it so far. Making the time to pick up a guitar and write a song on top of that seems very unlikely.
  7. Wear a new accessory for a week for 8 weeks of the year. I barely have 8 weeks left so I need to get started on this ASAP!
  8. Hook up with 4 girls unless I end up in a serious relationship (0/4) – Don’t judge me on this one. These resolutions are supposed to be things that make me happy and I don’t do enough of. Besides, the reason this is hard is that these have to be people I like at least at the moment. Hooking up with absolutely random people really isn’t that much fun.

It looks bleak, but wait! There’s a reason this blog post is called Resolution Rejuvenation and not Resolution Relinquishment, and that’s because I’ve decided to throw in one last whole-hearted attempt at getting these things done. As with any good attempt at getting things done, it must start with a plan. While I was drinking with Radhika last Friday and telling her about the depressing state of my resolutions, she gave me her Ring. The ring was big, metallic and not anything I would normally wear. I wore it for a whole week which is how Resolution #7 a.k.a The Accessory Resolution was narrowly rescued from certain failure. It’s clear that I need to wear a new accessory every week for the rest of the year without skipping any weeks to save Resolution #7. Since this is straight forward, I decided to tie in all the other resolutions with this one. Here’s what I need to do:-

  • Read 1.25 books per 2 accessories.
  • Write a blog post per accessory.
  • Write a song per 2 accessories.
  • Perform at an open mic night.
  • Hook up with 1 girl per 2 accessories.

Yes, I know I might as well have said per week instead of per accessory but it sounds so much more doable this way. I have committed so hard to Resolution #7 that it’s considered as a certainty and that makes the action plan one point shorter. I also know that I’m probably not going to end up doing all of these things but I know I can do at least 3. Wish me luck!

P.S. I started writing this post a week ago and things have changed now. Here’s an update:-

  • Books – 7.16/12 (I’ve read 16% of A Brave New World)
  • Blog – 2/12
  • Song – 0/4
  • Girls – 0/4
  • Open Mic – 0/1
  • [Accessories – 1.85/8]

Hopefully things will look a little better by the end of my second accessory.

Weezer and the Mandela Effect

It’s 2005. I’m having breakfast and watching VH1 before I head off to college when Perfect Situation by Weezer plays. This song has been stuck in my head for a few days so I’m mentally singing along until the chorus comes. There’s something wrong. He’s not singing “woah-oh, woah-oh, woah-oh-oh” the way I remember him singing. Instead he’s singing “woah-oh, woah-oh, woah-ohwo-uhwoh!” I’m probably not entirely awake so I forget about this incident until I hear the song again. Again, the chorus is not how I remember it. Maybe VH1 is playing a different version. I go online and download the video but it’s the same new chorus. Keep in mind that this is before YouTube. This is 2005, when 64kbps internet connections were called “broadband.” I open up Kazaa or Limewire or whatever was in at the time and download every radio edit and demo of the song. They all have the new chorus. I eventually download every file with a different size for the song that I can find and play them all until the first chorus while they download (because I’d have to wait twenty minutes until they finish) but they all have the same bloody new chorus. At this point, I don’t know for certain if I had heard a different version of the song to begin with. Maybe I remembered it wrong. Maybe I dreamt it up. I can’t be sure.

I hummed the version I remembered for days so that I wouldn’t forget it. I wanted the old chorus to be etched in my memory until I could find out where it came from. I eventually stopped searching and over the years I forgot about this old version. I let it go because this wasn’t the first time this had happened to me.

There’s a version of I’m A Believer that plays in one of the Shrek movies. When I first heard it, the tune after each line in the chorus was five evenly spaced chords on a guitar. “Then I saw her face-ta-ta-da-da-duh. I’m a believer-ta-ta-da-da-duh.” Every version of this song that I downloaded, however, was different. It had a keyboard or a trumpet or something that went “Then I saw her face – ta-na-na ta-na.” I did mostly all the same things I did for Perfect Situation to find the right version of this song but it was years earlier and the internet was dial-up and I didn’t know how it worked well enough.

Things like these haunt you forever. You can forget about them but you can never truly forget them. Sometime last year, a whole ten years after the Perfect Situation incident, I learnt about the Mandela Effect. Our minds are complex things and so I’m not surprised that other people have had similar experiences to mine. There is a Reddit community for people to share these experiences. They define the Mandela Effect as “The phenomenon where a group of people discover that a global fact – one they feel they know to be true and have specific personal memories for – has apparently changed in the world around them.” This pretty accurately described my experience. I felt like I woke up one day to a world where something that I remembered distinctly has changed and nobody else seems to remember it. The Mandela Effect doesn’t end there. People who believe in it usually believe that shared false memories are either reminiscent from or glimpses into parallel worlds with different timelines. Now I’m not that crazy yet, but it’s comforting to know that maybe somewhere out there is a world where Perfect Situation is sung the way I remember it.

Flash forward to today. I’m listening to a mix of Weezer’s top tracks on Apple Music in an attempt to teach it what music I like. Maybe someday it’ll get as good as Spotify. Perfect Situation plays, but with the old fucking chorus that I remember! I know, this probably isn’t a big deal for you but I have at the back of my mind been looking for this version of this song for ten years. So here, finally, is proof that I am neither crazy nor from a parallel dimension:-

And here is the other version:-

Rivers Cuomo has since said that he had written two versions of the song. One time when they played it on a tour after recording it, he got the crowd to sing along and they all sang it the other way than the recording. Cuomo then decided that since the fans think it should be this way, they should go and record the song again. What a fucking idiot.

Edit: Pretty soon after writing this blog post, I found the version of I’m A Believer that I thought may have come from another dimension. Turns out it was also a cover by Weezer. Fucking Weezer. Thank you for fucking with my head for over ten years.

P.S. The Mandela Effect got it’s name because it started with a group of people who are convinced that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s.

The one that got away

A long time ago, there was a girl who was pursuing a bachelors in physics. When I first heard about her I thought It’d be awesome if she’s cute. She was cute. She was also super friendly and witty and kind. I don’t need to tell you that she was intelligent because the bachelors in physics says that already. She was just about five feet tall and loved Bob Dylan.

I was sitting at the AIESEC office one day trying to study a bunch of heavily condensed notes on automata theory. I had an exam on the subject in a few days and I didn’t yet know what ‘automata’ meant. I was waiting for a meeting and she had just got done with one. She asked me what I was reading. I explained and we spent all of the next ten minutes or so until my meeting figuring out what an automaton is. I know now that if a girl is ever curious enough about automata or machine learning or cryptocurrencies to help me figure them out then I should kiss her right then and there.

I know what you’re thinking and to answer your question, nothing ever happened with her. There was another girl I really liked back then with whom I thought I had a better chance. I was a naive fool and thought that showing even the slightest hint of romantic interest in more than one girl at a time wasn’t a good idea. We left AIESEC and I (am 97% sure that I) never saw her again.

Long after I broke up with the other girl I thought about her again. I tried to look her up but all I had was a name. She didn’t seem to have any trace on the internet. No Facebook account, no helpful search results. None of her AIESEC friends knew where she was. (Okay I’ll admit, I only tried asking one).

I worked in New York for five months in 2010. I did all I could to catch every band and musician I liked that played anywhere near New York city. I caught Bob Dylan at Terminal 5 the night before I left for a road trip to Niagara. I was late because I had to go home after work to pack my bags. A friend who really loved Bob Dylan was waiting outside with my ticket when he would rather be holding his place at the front row. I walked as fast as I could driven by the guilt of making him wait with the knowledge that I could have planned this better. About fifty steps from the entrance I passed a girl who was looking down and walking almost as fast as me in the opposite direction. She wore a sweatshirt with her hood up and carried a backpack. For those couple of seconds in the dark she looked like Her. I turned around as she passed but I didn’t have time to see where she went. Of course, it made sense! If she was anywhere near New York city at the time (given that that’s a long shot) she would definitely be at the Bob Dylan concert. He was her favorite. I walked on knowing that if it was her, I’d run into her again before the night was through. I kept my eyes open both during the gig and after but I saw no sign of that girl again.

I googled her again today and found out that she’s studying and doing research on particle physics in the US. Something about neutrinos. How cool is that?! Time is strange and it’s made me a T-shirt peddler and I think it’ll take me weeks to understand just the basics of what she does today even if she told me herself. If she didn’t live halfway around the world I’d probably hang out around her university until I bumped into her.

Maybe I’ll meet her someday still. Maybe she’ll be seeing someone but we’ll still catch up at a cosy coffeehouse that plays Dylan and I’ll make her tell me all about her research and the difference between muon neutrinos and electron neutrinos. I’ll listen to her with a genuine expression of awe as she tells me about how they create a beam of neutrinos which pass through the earth’s crust while being largely unaffected by it and other such sciency-stuff.

As night sets in our conversation will stray. We’ll talk about how they once thought that neutrinos travel faster than light and what it would mean if they really did. We’ll talk about science fiction and time travel. We’ll talk about philosophy and compare neutrinos to people and how we zip through so much of our lives without really being affected by everything we pass through. After the coffee shop shuts and I walk home I’ll wonder if there’s an alternate universe where I tried my luck with her when I had my chance and if there’s another one where I ended up spending my life trying to understand the smallest building blocks of our world.

The importance of habit

Starting something new is hard. You never know how to go about it and so you need to fumble around and focus and think about what you’re doing. Starting something new is also usually exciting and so you’re willing to put in all that effort. Deciding whether or not to stick with it is usually the problem. Decisions are complex things and they take time and effort. Often enough, most of my free time is spent in deciding what to do with my free time.

If I write something everyday, somewhere down the line I won’t waste time deciding if I want to write. I’ll open up my laptop and write just as naturally as I turn on the TV. I don’t think it’ll take more than a month. Eventually, I’ll write when I’m tired, I’ll write when I’m drunk, I’ll write when I’m hungover and I’ll write first thing in the morning when I usually have nothing to say. I won’t think that I can sleep and write when I’m well rested tomorrow. I won’t worry that my writing wont be coherent when I’m drunk. It won’t hurt my head to put sentences together when I’m hungover.

I’m not saying that what I write will be good, but it’ll be different. Think about it, if I only write when I’m enthusiastic and well rested and ready to take on something new then all my writing is going to eventually sound the same. And this isn’t true just for writing, it’s for anything I try to make as a hobby. Work remains an exception because it’s a habit by default. But everything else I make will tend to be so one dimensional unless I do it when I usually wouldn’t be doing it.

And that’s why you do the things you want to get good at everyday until you don’t need to make a conscious decision to do them anymore. That’s the importance of habit.

Adulthood

There’s many good things about being in my late twenties. One of them is not needing to answer to anybody about life-decisions. I guess this really starts in your early twenties or maybe even earlier for some but it takes a while for it to set in and to get the hang of making good life decisions. Another one is having enough money to do all those things you said you’d do when you’re older. I could afford a month long trip to Europe or Japan or South America. I can buy a new TV and a good speaker system and a Chromecast to go with it. I can buy a tablet and an Xbox. I can buy an electronic drum kit along with a good amp or studio quality monitoring headphones. I can pay rent to have my own place to keep the drum kit. I can have one room air conditioned and soundproofed and have the walls all padded and the whole floor be a bed so that I can literally bounce off the walls. I can put everything I just bought into this room and make it into a jam room and a bedroom and a party room at the same time.

Imagine it, the drums will be on a movable platform that can be lifted up to the ceiling when they’re not being used and the TV will go into a hidden panel behind the cushion walls. I’ll get perfectly spill-proof glasses to that nobody spills a drink on the 100 square feet of bed. There’ll be a hidden cupboard somewhere to keep all the music equipment and the fold able table if I ever want to bring food into this room. 

Yes, I’m getting carried away but my point is that i can’t do all of these things but I can do those few things that I really want to.

Life decisions…

The Birthday List

I made a list of (almost) 28 things to do on my birthday. One of the points on the list was, of course, to put up a blog post. It’s actually quite a nice list. Check it out:-
  1. Spray paint graffiti
  2. Smoke from a Vaporiser
  3. Have special coffee
  4. Put up a blog post
  5. Launch a Chinese lantern
  6. Talk to a new girl
  7. Dance
  8. Make a song. Even if its only 4 lines.
  9. Run a kilometre
  10. Make one person very happy somehow. (This is difficult!)
  11. Give yourself a gift and also your mom. Like Charlie.
  12. Find a new blog worth reading regularly? Too hard?
  13. Give everyone present at your party a compliment. Separate compliment for each person.
  14. If there is an open mic night somewhere, play.
  15. Feel the rain
  16. Watch the sunset
  17. Take a selfie with everyone there.
  18. Touch the sea.
  19. Give 3 strangers a hug.
  20. Write emails to those I’d want to meet but can’t.
  21. Get a new Look for a day.
  22. Wear headgear you have never worn before for the evening.
  23. Hitch hike at least 1km.
  24. Either get a drink or 50 rs.
  25. Find an old album you love and listen to it straight through
  26. Make a new friend

Most of the things on this list still seem achievable in the little time I have left today. So you will have to wait suspensefully until I finish my birthday and give you an update on this list. Wish me luck!

Happy Birthday to me!

Shifting Time Zones and The Rain Project

My new ambitious goal is to put up a blog post on every day that it rains. I also plan to wake up at 8am on weekdays. This should be a good thing because then I’ll have time to exercise and have a bath and run errands before work. Which means I’ll have all my after-work time to myself to do things like putting up more blog posts. This new life feels like living in a different time zone because I used to wake up at 10am not too long ago. Let’s see how this goes.