Thursday, December 25, 2014

So How Did My Year Go?

Well, on the whole pretty crappy. And so for a while I was quite annoyed by the wave of Facebook's "I've had a great year! Thanks for being a part of it!" series of posts from friends. This is no fault of my friends, nor Facebook for that matter. I cannot expect my own misery to have to translate into the lack of joy for others. But Facebook did make one mistake which annoyed me a tad more than usual - they asked me if I would share my year with others, pre-filling the entry with what they thought were pictures representative of my 2014.

That was nearly enough to push me to put up a snarky status post - "My year was shit. I'm now on Walkabout." But I held back ... as I had indicated above, I had no desire to inflict my misery on the joy of others.

It was however a lot more hurtful for others. This blog post captured the issues very well, and captured a lot of my own feelings about the matter.

The one thing he said which resonated most with me was:
And I know, of course, that this is not a deliberate assault.  This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years, showing them selfies at a party or whale spouts from sailing boats or the marina outside their vacation house.
The thing I had to re-learn after so many years of being indoctrinated by my grandparents and parents about being wary of others to the point of paranoia, is that most (the vast majority of, really) people are decent people by nature. It tends to be better if we try to view things (at first) from that perspective whenever we feel hurt by others, before we find evidence that leads us to conclude they are in fact douchebags out to get us.

Well, at this stage let us hope that blogpost gets some attention from Facebook engineers and designers, and let us hope they do a more thorough think-through of some of their features. I had previously been upset by their previous antics of delving into the experiments involving negativity. Yes, it was a scientific experiment but one which in my opinion was unethical. They had no right to mess around with real human emotions without the consent of participants in the experiments. Facebook should never had facilitated such things.


Kevin Jang said...

I realized that Facebook has that function of "It's been a wonderful year so far. Thank you so much." It is ridiculous, the same way that Facebook offered to help us annotate the various moments of our life from 'Facebook birth' till the recent moment as a form of collage. And yes, I have similar feelings of "It sucks now, and I am not paid to idle or work, and I am not able to move out to be where I want", and I have no intentions of ranting or raving about it, since Facebook is largely about duplicity--portraying what appears to be good, or what you want others to think is good in your life.

On the flipside though, if you see Facebook as that, then all the negative or depressing feelings will fade away or become more manageable, and you will not be bothered when someone posts that annoying "It's been a wonderful year so far".

Kevin Jang said...

I think that despite the bad moments, there will always be 'good' moments, 'good' not because you fulfill the world's definition of what it means to be successful, but because you learn more about yourself and what you want and need as a person.

Personally, I have learned not to take other people seriously, especially online. Think about it, there are people who excel at being condescending and self-superior such as Limpeh. I said something about Singapore, and then he went on some tirade against me again. Boy, if you ask me, I doubt that he has grown up from the time when I knew him as a person(sad but true, since he seems to be rather full of himself since NS times when I met him in my French classes.....). These people don't probably have a sense of the bigger picture of who they can be, and are in a world of their own. Your Facebook 'friends' (I use it to describe the majority of people I list on Facebook, since their online personality is often different or sometimes extended versions) probably should be prioritized accordingly.

As for my year, honestly, compared to my time in 2011, which was a majority of heartache, because of the job search situation, and my inability to let go of things such as the difficulty of the academic job market, it has been much better. I was unemployed for the majority of it like you, since March onwards, but sometimes, if you look at it from another perspective, people who are job-hunting have the 'luxury'
of examining themselves, their lives and the people they allow around them compared to those working who just allow just about everything to flock to them in the name of business and duty. We met in May after I came back from the holiday in Seoul as you know, and you probably know that I was looking forward to being in Korea for a while if not for the long haul. Right now, I am planning a time out from Singapore like you, and am learning to switch off the negative things, including people online. Either way, don't let that thing about Facebook get to you. Facebook is never known for being 'nice', and has a knack for intruding into people's sense of space and privacy after all.

Chee Wai Lee said...

I need to thank you again for the suggestion to cut the news feeds from people who tended to post stuff which riled me up.

On the whole, I'd say Facebook is more boon than bane. I enjoy the ease with which it keeps me in contact with large groups of friends whose relationships would otherwise be somewhat cumbersome to maintain over email. It has also put me in touch with celebrities and public personalities in somewhat more personal contexts. And sometimes they post various inspirational stuff (like that TED video) and from perspectives very different from my own.

Anyway, I agree that while crappy, my life in 2014 isn't a complete disaster. Like yourself, I'd consider 2012/2013 to be some of the worst years of my life - when I was plagued with uncertainty, and felt constantly off-balanced personally and professionally. I'd characterize 2014 as the year I'm on the ground, hurt, and trying to get into a comfortable position. Ignored by many, helped by some, and comforted by others. Perhaps spit on by a few ... but it is easy to imagine slights at a time when one is most vulnerable. I'll review these when I become stronger.

I found it easier to relax better and find my footing without having to deal with immigration, and big financial security issues (i.e. housing). My parents are thankfully taking care of that. One physical symptom I had experienced when I first returned seems to have significantly decreased in intensity - these were my breathing difficulties due to moments of high stress induced by depression. I hope your time in Singapore will be similarly beneficial.

Kevin Jang said...

Actually, I avoided a lot of people over the last one week after I returned on the night of the 13th. Even now, I have not technically allowed many people to know that I am back. It might stay this way even if I let some people know that I am back, since I do not have many friends here.

The mention of being "spat on by a few" is hopefully metaphorical for you. However, I know what you mean insofar as Singapore's culture is unforgiving on the whole. That said, as I had lunch today with two friends(one of whom is a peer in my Honors and went onto the NUS Master's program like me, before she quitted it and is now tutoring full-time), one of them(the mother in her 50's) told me that one can experience light even in the darkest place, and even in the best place, there will always be specks of darkness and unkindness from people, because it is the nature of humans. She said that as long as I remember that, then I will not be so badly affected by people here who are unkind to me. She is on my side as a friend and thinks that since I am still young, I should explore options like working and living overseas, especially since the world is so connected now, and there are many places worth exploring. (She jokingly mentioned Norway.)

I actually have the permanent residency from Australia, and coming back here does not render any problems, as long as I return there within the next one year, although I am not sure how possible that is with a job search situation that needs to be fixed or addressed. One thing is for sure, I do know that I have a lot of people on my side(maybe not necessarily in Singapore, but Canadian friends from back in church or elsewhere in Canada, and Korean/Taiwanese/Hong Kong friends--whom I met in Korea--who know of that move out of Australia and have known me for years). Who cares about judgmental or condescending people anyway? The reason that they are like that is because they have issues with themselves.

I was actually happy in South Korea during my summer of 2014, although I was not working. I will eventually go back there one day for a while to complete my Level 6 Korean, no matter how long it takes. Also, in the meantime, I treat this time as a way of further recognizing myself in terms of what I really like, am good at, and can do long-term.

Kevin Jang said...

My parents are going to be in Japan during the Lunar New Year season, and while I am going to be around, I kind of wish that I could get back to Japan for a while and a visit if not anything else. In either case, I am envisaging a holiday in the near future. If anything, depending on how and where I end up by August, I know that August 9, December 24-25, and every Lunar New Year, I will be out of the depressing red dot. A holiday is always in the planning!

Chee Wai Lee said...

I made it a point to only meet people who asked when I first got back. From there, I made a decision to only meet them again if they weren't pesky about what I was going through. I guess it is not surprising on hindsight, but my American friends tended to be far more accommodating with my need to be left mostly alone when I asked to be. With Singaporeans, they either kept pestering me, or felt like they were getting insulted. I received no such prejudicial feelings from my pals in the USA.

Anyway, great to know you will still be retaining your Australian residency! It was a huge drag on me where US immigration status was concerned.

Strangely enough, one of my bosses who is Indian in origin ought to have understood the immense pressures that had on me. Instead he was the one who kept talking about me going back to Singapore to sort out my broken marriage like it was a trivial matter. Hell, I just found out you cannot even leave a marriage here before 3 years have passed unless it is an abusive one (and I have no clue what is the legal definition of abusive here.) I guess empathy wasn't one of his stronger suites.

Well, I hope the plan to study more Korean works out for you! My skin inflammation still bugs me somewhat, but I've been better about going out, so whenever you feel like meeting up we could.

Kevin Jang said...

You know, learning more Korean does not necessarily help me to get any job teaching and lecturing English, but it certainly allows me to get in better and blend with the people.

Well, about that wife of yours, isn't she desiring an end to the relationship too? Why should it drag on if there is no mutual happiness on either side?

Singaporeans do not really care that much for me. On the whole, if I ever get prescriptive words of 'advice', it is always from people who do not know me, are busybodies and have no empathy whatsoever, or frenemies(people who think they can guess or know me when they do not in reality). My character is very direct as you know, and that does not blend in very well with the Singaporean tendency to pretend to be someone else towards even people you hate.

Kevin Jang said...

Aussie residency has rules(travel rules) hedged around it actually. If you are out of the country for more than a year, you need to have a resident return visa, but that is difficult to obtain without a job. Right now, I am not thinking so much. If it is meant to be, I will be back in Australia, but if not, letting the residency lapse is not a bugging matter too.

Kevin Jang said...

There is a catch: I cannot teach English in South Korea, because I do not hold a passport from one of the seven approved countries for teaching English in South Korea. Well, it's life. I do not think that I am even thinking about working in South Korea at this stage, because I want to use my skills, and be respected for them, instead of being discriminated against for nationality or race.

Chee Wai Lee said...

That's quite a bummer. Such a restriction would never have flown in the US. Even as they consider most nationalities as non-native English speakers, the Universities there use the SPEAK test to evaluate candidates wishing to teach anything.

Kevin Jang said...

It is legalized racism in South Korea. Even Asian Americans get passed over a lot because of the idea that only whites 'look the part'. In Japan, which has more relaxed rules about the teaching of English, even Asians or those of Asian heritage can get discriminated against, because of looks alone. They might even employ Europeans who speak another language other than English as their first language simply because they are white!

I knew that thing many years ago in 2011. It was a blow, but it never stopped me from applying to teach English overseas. The way I look at this now, whatever it is, if people want to discriminate against me, and cut off chances to work from me, I am better off not working there in that place or institution anyway.

Chee Wai Lee said...

Quite frankly, their loss. Also the reason why I think continuing to think along the lines of CMIO here in Singapore is a really bad idea. This is the 21st Century, and it is probably time to think more along the lines of human individuals, than ethnic cogwheels.

Kevin Jang said...

Singaporean society is still very much racialized. You cannot deny it. There is a lot of racism against Malays and Indians born here, although technically, I see little in the way of cultural differences beyond the religion and dietary patterns. If you want to talk about multiculturalism, look at Canada, where every ethnic group is allowed to keep its own culture and religion without being a hassle or threat to the fabric of society. Singapore has failed by constantly importing mainland Chinese who do not even blend in at all.

Chee Wai Lee said...

Tell me about it. We're so insecure and terrified of ethnicity as a possible driving force for violence that we enact horrible social policies in an attempt to hold the status quo, rather than helping people adapt.

Indian and Chinese cultures are fantastically diverse. We just don't look at it so. Thankfully, at least people here are finally more aware of the existence of Hindi. Not sure how many know it is spoken by the most people in India, and yet is not a majority language. It is too easy to just throw all Indians into the same cultural bin and go lalala.

I personally hold ethnic biases, but these are often the result of my feeling awkward about stepping over unseen boundaries where it comes to offending people. I don't handle those scenarios very well.

Kevin Jang said...

Do you mean the "white trash" thing? Unfortunately, that was my experience in Sydney, AUS, on the whole.

Chee Wai Lee said...

hehehe, actually no. On the whole, where biases go I'm actually more partial to those of caucasian ethnicities. So far my experiences with them had been more positive than most, even if I do run into the occasional "white trash."

Kevin Jang said...

You will be spoiled for choice in Australia when it comes to white trash. The house where I lived in then was full of them. They smoke, drank and f-ked like there was no tomorrow. My experiences in the USA and Canada are way better, because at least North Americans are more respectful people. As for Australians, don't count on it unless you encounter the highly educated and well-to-do lot. Otherwise, the roughnecks are basically the nasty lots.