A Lesson in Traveling While Traveling

While I live in sunny southern California, most of my relatives live in varying parts of Japan. This leads me to station myself at a specific relative for several weeks, and within that time frame, travel to other parts of Japan to see other relatives.

I typically only need to carry 4 or 5 days worth of clothes because the laundry machine is spun every couple of days, or even every day, in most households in Japan. I was packing to travel from my in-laws' home to my parents' home this morning. The trip was going to be 4 days, and I brought about 5 days worth of clothes for the entire trip.

The problem in front of me was this: I could take the time to pick out the 4-days worth of clothes... or I could simply pack everything that I had and just take it with me without thinking.

I picked the latter option without hesitation. Because I wasn't going to do a lot of walking, the time investment required and the cognitive overload of thinking about, and picking 4 days worth of clothes from a 5 day wardrobe simply made no sense.

There are too many of these small decisions on a day-to-day that wear down our decision making ability, cognitive bandwidth, and take away from time doing things we actually care about doing.

Don't get me wrong — if you like packing and picking clothes and optimizing a travel wardrobe, then you probably don't share this opinion and that's totally okay.

This was a good reminder that we all only have 24 hours in a day, and that time is spent by accumulating small tasks to do throughout the day. Being cognizant of each of these decisions and quickly being able to decipher what is actually worth doing and not worth doing is a key skill in optimizing our output towards a life that we want to build.

For me, that means more time spent learning new things, making things, talking to family, and playing with my 6-month old.

Stop Looking for "The One" and Start Being "The One"

If there is someone out there for you — "the one" — rest assured you won't find them.

Everybody is a little bit crazy. There isn't a single person in the world who will drive you a little bit crazy, and there isn't a single person in the world who won't be driven a little bit crazy by you if you decide to live together and try to make it work.

We can spend our time looking for this person, only to be repeatedly disappointed by the fact that being in relationship means evolving together, needing to sacrifice and compromise parts of your crazy to meet the needs of the other, needing to inform the other of such things, and needing to graciously accept that you exhibit questionable behavior too.

We can continue to be disappointed by trying to find a new partner only to realize that problems of relationships are fundamental to humans sharing a life together.

The issue is not the partners. The issue is our expectation of what building a lifelong relationship with a cohabiting partner entails.

One day, I finally internalized that relationship is the act of contributing to the partnership. Moreover, the relationship requires no questioning of its validity for growth. So now the questions I ask myself have shifted from

Is my partner the right person? Are we compatible? Will I be able to live the rest of my life with this person?

to inquiries like

How am I being a contribution to our partnership today? How can I be a contribution tomorrow? What have I done in the past that has driven my partner a little crazy, and what lead me to do those things? How can I better my attitude about moments of growth in our relationship? How can I inform my partner of their craziness more graciously? What do we both want out of the relationship? How can I help enable those things?

Don't get me wrong, I think inquiries assessing the validity of a relationship are important if you are looking for that validation, and there are many situations where this is appropriate.

But no one needs that validation to decide that you want to contribute to a relationship. The act can be selflessly given away at no cost. What kind of partner are you being if your operating premise is that you will only contribute if you believe that the partnership qualifies as a worthwhile venture?

Relationships become worthwhile ventures because you contribute to them. Not the other way around.

This realization has taken a very long time to mold into shape, but it has slowly become the rock foundation of my decision making process in my marriage.

Adopting this framework of thought has lifted the pressures of needing to feel that the relationship is whole, and has instead actually helped me feel whole, knowing that I am doing something to better the relationship.

That's not the whole story.

I had a conversation with my wife the other day about how by looking at people's instagrams, you are given the wrong impression about what it's like to have a child. Watching stories about the child laughing and doing silly things is delightful.

Our 3-month old is totally affecting us in ways we didn't anticipate — and not all necessarily in ways that are emotionally easy to deal with, like struggling to find time with the spouse, being in a state of anxiety and stress when the child won't stop crying, among other things... I'm sure other parents can relate.

Just a casual reminder that, while I think many of us have struggles that give us trouble on a day-to-day basis, it's not so easy to share these things on social media. What you see online is almost always not the whole story, and that everyone has something that's difficult, perplexing, or troublesome in front of them.

Dissolve the flour before adding it into hot liquids.

In an effort to thicken up a gravy that I was making, I made the mistake of putting flour directly into the hot liquid that I was stirring.

The flour curdled up and the gravy now has white bits of curdled up flour. Oops.

I should have dissolved the flour first in some kind of room temperature liquid, like the stock I was using or just plain water before putting it into the hot liquid.

This is a good lesson in cooking because cooking is not about simply combining ingredients to arrive at a dish. There are other dimensions, like how to prepare those ingredients or combinations of ingredients. Whether something is hot or not influences all of the physical and chemical reactions that occurs with other ingredients when mixed together.

It's important to understand the various dimensions that play into cooking, in order to be able to make smart decisions on adjusting your recipe.

Following recipes line-by-line will surely get you close to a promised result. But it doesn't teach you why the recipe is able to achieve what it achieves. Completing a dish certainly feels good, but the "why it works" is the more interesting part because it paves the way for you to be able to concoct your own delicious creations.

The "why it works" mindset is what leads to being able to hear the art in music, see the art in a painting, and taste the artistic decisions of a dish.

"Why does this work?" is a powerful question, and I ought to ask myself that more often.

The Crying Baby Within

Babies that are about a month old cry a lot.

But it's nothing personal.

It's not that you're a bad parent if your baby cries. It just means your baby is doing what baby knows how to do best. As a new parent, I've quickly discovered that crying is one of the few biological instincts that a one-month old baby has.

Why assume the baby has ill-willed intentions? That's silly. Every parent knows not to take it personally.

But, then, when it comes to adult life, we often tire ourselves out questioning the intent of other adults. When someone else lashes out, we wonder if it is due to some ill will towards us because other adults don't look like babies, and we know how capable we ourselves are of making rational decisions.

But the reality is, in most situations, other adults are dealing with their own demons and voices in their own heads that make them react to outside events in ways that are unpredictable to us. They don't think about what ill will they have towards you and make a calculated decision as to how to project their emotions on to you.

I like to think of this as the "crying baby" instinct. I think we all have it. When we are overwhelmed with emotion, not sure how to react, don't have a clear head, we often find ourselves falling back on poor behavioral patterns and hurt others around us who are willing to deal with it.

Most people mean well.

The others – the adults who continually inflict harm on those around them despite being aware of what they are doing — are purposefully deflecting the hatred and judgement they have toward themselves at others.

That's an unfortunate way to live life and I feel pity towards them.