Personal

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To say that so much has happened in 2020 is an understatement. To say that it hasn’t felt real, like this still feels like a dream, is an understatement. To say that life seems to hit pause button, that’s everything is frozen, is an understatement.

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Hopefully you never have to call triple zero. Or 911. Or 112. Or whatever the emergency telephone number the country you’re in. Hopefully you never feel threatened that you are really considering calling the police.

I did.

It has been a tough few days, if I’m honest. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who would be calm, or at least I expect myself to, in regards to emergency type of situation. I’ve watched countless movies, read countless books. I’ve pictured myself as a hero in those dystopian stories—the one who would actually take chances. But when it’s happening right in front of you and your mind draws a blank, remember this above all else: do not freeze.

I froze.

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Last week, I attended a situational awareness training at my workplace on how to deal with upset, difficult, or aggressive customers, and the trainer was talking about empathy. I know that this doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with cooking, but hear me out.

He told us about his encounter with a stranger on a train with whom he felt a strong connection to. At that time, he was undergoing a really difficult time—his wife had just died. He was sitting on a train, reading newspaper, when a woman in front of him asked him whether he was divorced. There was a line on his finger where his wedding ring should be.

He told her that that he has been widowed for three months, and that he has three little children.

“So you know how difficult it is to be in the kitchen then,” she said to him. He was offended. Just because I’m a man doesn’t mean that I can’t cook, he thought.

“Oh, no, no,” the woman said, realising his face had changed. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m referring to feeling the dread when entering the kitchen, thinking, What should I cook for dinner tonight?”

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Ever since I work in the library, I’ve met so many different people walking different paths of life.

It seems a bit surreal sometimes, of how different we all are, and how different are the lives we’re living—how different are the things we want in life.

Take those who work in the library for example. Almost everyone has a different story. One is currently studying, the other is a proud grandmother of three who’s filling her time as a casual. One, I find out, has always dreamed of becoming a librarian. Another comes into the job by accident, and yet he’s stayed on, year after year, for almost a decade.

One has a side business as a photographer. Another used to be a teacher, a banker, an economist.

One travels a lot, every chance he gets. The other has hardly ever left the country.

One thinks of the job as a bridge to the next thing. One really, really wants to be a permanent, and has been waiting for an opportunity ever since.

And that’s just the people working there. The patrons’ stories are even more diverse.

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When Tjok and I are getting our own house (in the near future, Amen), he’s promised me that he would get me my own library.

It’s probably not going to be as wonderful as Belle’s library, but I’d take anything that has more than three bookcases, hopefully with a ladder, and fill them with books.

You see, I’ve run out of spaces to put my books in our apartment since, well, since we first moved in. Most of my books are now stored in our basement storage space, and I make the pilgrimage to take out some books (and return some) once a month. Yet despite lacking the physical space to buy and store more books, this year I’ve been reading more than ever before. That’s because I’ve discovered a service that I’ve never really utilised before during my previous seven years in Melbourne: a local library.

It’s been slightly over a year since I’ve found out that I can borrow books, and even reserve the books that are still on order (so I get to be the first one reading that book before it’s being passed to dozens of other people) for free. So it’s only natural that sometime in August this year, I sent in my application to work as a library officer.

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Some months ago, I came across this article from The Atlantic titled, The Quantified Welp: A new study suggests that measuring an activity makes it less enjoyable. It’s sort of self-explanatory, and it does make sense: if you’re doing something and measuring it instead of being immersed in the activity, you’d end up enjoying it less.

Of course, the study clearly says that the intention of the activity matters too.

Say you want to lose weight—you would, of course, measure all those calories you burn while exercising. The end goal is different for you: you want to lose weight, so you track it; it has nothing to do with enjoying the activity or not. It’s different for those who just want to exercise because, well, they enjoy exercising.

The article goes on to paint another picture: say you’re doing colouring. You enjoy colouring. But then add a certain goal (e.g. colouring a certain number of figures), and you’d end up saying you enjoy the experience less. Sure, you get more figures done. But you don’t enjoy it as much.

A follow-up article on The Atlantic sums it simply: measuring an activity makes it feel like work, so you enjoy it less, even though you’re doing more of it. Consequently, it reduces your ‘subjective well-being’.

It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

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