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A Thirty-Something Flying Blind

Destination: ¯l_(ツ)_l¯

My Gall Bladder Hates Me

Okay, some of y’all know what went down, but I thought it would be best to write a quick blog post update.

On Sunday night, I had a nice dinner with friends, and eventually made it home around 9pm. Within 5 minutes, I had stabbing and intense pain in my abdomen, which persisted for 2 hours. Knowing my body, this was far from normal, so I went to the ER. After tons of waiting and a bunch of tests, it turns out that I have gall stones. I stuck around the ER fora while until they determined that I didn’t need surgery immediately and the pain died down enough that I could go home. I was discharged and was home by 7am Monday morning after pulling a not-so-fun all-nighter.

For the record, this is one condition that I do not recommend. I dealt with the constant pain for six hours straight before getting some morphine. Even a few days later, my abs are still quite sore as if I were recovering from the most intense ab workout of my life. No more stabbing pain, just sore as hell.

Supposedly these episodes with a gall bladder can be triggered by a heavy meal, high fatty foods, or spicy foods. I had some spicy sushi at dinner that was likely the culprit—a spicy tuna roll and a roll called Russian Roulette (cucumber, spicy crab, avocado, topped with white tuna). So yeah, I learned my lesson not to tempt fate with meals associated with gambling on death.

I likely will need to have surgery eventually, although the ER ran checks to make sure that I didn’t need it immediately. It is one of those things that I might never have another episode. But as intense as Sunday night and Monday morning was, I am less inclined to roll the dice. I mean, I usually eat healthy food, and while the food might be culprit, it isn’t that clear cut. So I meet with my doctor in a few weeks to plan ahead.

It is also a kind reminder. Yes, I am a thirty-something and I have to worry about this shit now.

Anyways, thanks for those who were thinking about me or helped out during this time. I just wanted to give you all a full update so everyone is in the loop.

Also, here’s an Awkward Yeti cartoon that seemed appropriate (source):

gall-bladder

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Music from My Teen Years

A few months ago, my friends on Facebook started posting lists of the music that the listened to as a teenager. I thought it was fun ideaat the time, but I didn’t bother to post anything (I also hate tagging people like a chain letter for this stuff, but that’s another conversation). One of my friends posted his list this week, and I finally decided to sit down and think about it properly, even taking the time to flip through my old CDs in case I forgot one of them.

I listened to music A LOT as a teenager, and these are the ones that stick with me. There are some other albums and artists that come to mind, but I mainly played certain singles on a loop (*cough*90’s boy bands*cough*). I strictly focused on those albums that I listened to from start to finish almost every time, and those few albums that I often selected to take with me on road trips or to the library with my portable CD player.

My music taste also changed so much in my teen years (July 1998 to July 2005). Most of this stuff was mainstream–I listened to the radio a lot, and I often taped favorite songs on cassette tapes before getting either buying the CD or getting into mp3s. But as you can tell, it jumped from late 90’s pop to more alternative music, all well before I started going more indie in my 20’s.

I saw various rules for these lists; however, I decided to hell with it, I’ll just do my own thing. I picked 20 albums from different artists (with the exception of 3 soundtracks). I also made a Spotify playlist for fun with the random tracks (see below).

Okay, here we go:

1. Paula Cole – This Fire – I think this was my among my first CDs that I ever owned. I listened to it a lot, even though I don’t think my parents liked this album a lot.
2. Eve 6 – Eve 6 – “Small Town Trap” was my angsty teen anthem.
3. Puddle of Mudd – Come Clean – I have memories of doing high school Chem II homework to this album a lot. Not sure why, but I did well in that classes.
4. Bowling for Soup – Drunk Enough to Dance – First band that I ever saw in concert. I also listened to this album a lot my fall freshman semester while doing stats homework.
5. Blink 182 — Enema of the State – I remember listening to this one on Quiz Bowl trips.
6. Natalie Imbruglia – Left of the Middle– I still like this album, although I likely will get mocked for it.
7. Third Eye Blind – Third Eye Blind – I somehow got permission to memorize “Jumper” in my poetry requirement for my high school freshman English class. In retrospect, I am surprised that I didn’t get sent to the counselor for that choice.
8. Savage Garden – Savage Garden – Zero guilt here! Love this pop album, and I do not care what y’all might think.
9. Matchbox 20 – Yourself or Someone Like You – Before they insisted on spelling it “Matchbox Twenty.” I think that I had a bit of a crush on Rob Thomas back in the day. And I listened to this album a lot.
10. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? – Didn’t start listening to Oasis until college, so this is a late teen album. Still one of my all-time favorites.
11. Lit – A Place in the Sun – A one-hit wonder, but this album is quite enjoyable. Several tracks make it onto my mixes even now.
12. Fastball – All the Pain Money Can Buy – An underrated album. I still listen to this one every now and then.
13. Everclear – Songs from an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile – A band that I listened to a lot as a teen, but less in the last decade. It was a good album for my last few years of high school
14. Weezer – Weezer (Blue Album) – Still a great album, and still one of my favorites.
15. Goo Goo Dolls – Dizzy Up the Girl – Another one I listened to a lot in high school, but less often over the years.
16. Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill – Oh, Alanis. Sarcastic feminist in the South in the 90’s? This should shock no one.
17. Green Day – American Idiot – I listened to a compilation of theirs a lot as a teenager, but this one hit my political sensibilities in 2004 as a college sophomore.
18. My Best Friend’s Wedding soundtrack – A weird one, I know, but it was among the early CDs that I bought in middle school, so I listened to it a lot. I don’t like the movie all that much, but for some reason, the music appealed to me.
19. Garden State Soundtrack – My roommate my sophomore year in college played this soundtrack all the time. I think everyone heard way too much of The Shins that year.
20. Smallville Soundtrack – I didn’t watch much of the show, but I listened to this album a lot in my early college days.

Why I Marched

On Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017,  I marched and protested for the first time in my life.

And let me tell you—it was awesome.

It was a catharsis that I needed after the election. For those critical of the march, some have argued that President Trump has not done anything yet while in office. While that is debatable (after all, one of his first acts was to make sure the Department of Justice stopped its case against the Texas voter ID law, and many of his cabinet pics are extremely worrying to me). Nor am I denying that Donald Trump is President of the United States. Some might be, but I would argue that most people protested for a variety of issues, and contesting the election results was NOT one of them. The main momentum was anger on so many different levels, and the march emphasized being inclusive.

Some people were frustrated that an openly sexist candidate ran a campaign that used sexist attacks successfully to win the White House. And women weren’t the only targets—LGBT, people with disabilities, people of color, Muslims, and so many more. And some of these words carried over into actions, particularly in the way he interacts with women, and picked a cabinet largely made up of white men. While this march was labeled as a women’s march, it was inclusive to all those groups who Donald Trump has attacked over the past year and a half (or longer).

I’ll be honest, I debated about where or not I was going to march for well over a week. Part of it was that I didn’t want to do it alone. Part of me worried about the weather. And do I really have the time? But then I remembered what I wrote after the election on this blog. I didn’t need to just talk the talk. I needed to walk the walk.

Quick aside: Let me be clear on one point—I would not have marched if any other Republican candidate won the election. I never protested under President George W. Bush, even though I disagreed vehemently with his policies. President Trump has campaigned on taking away the rights of so many people, and for me, that is a cause worth protesting.

So I decided that I wanted to march not just for women’s rights, but all of our rights as Americans that I hold dear.

The march in Nashville was an awesome event to go to. I arrived around 9:45am, and there were already loads of people in the area. People young and old, men and women, black, brown, and white. It was a very diverse crowd with such a great energy.

I met up with some friends and new acquaintances, and mulled around before walking across the pedestrian bridge and did the mile walk for the march. One in our party had speakers on his bike, and he started off playing Shana Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” with strangers all around singing and dancing along (it is Nashville after all). There were so many clever signs (and someone dressed up as Abraham Lincoln). Everyone was just so nice to each other–I have never seen anything like it. And I also love the dude who looked like Hagrid who proudly wore a pussy hat (sadly, no pic).

All in all, it was an estimated 15,000 people who turned up in Nashville, and nearly 3.3-4.6 million in the U.S. protested in the name of this march with other protests around the globe. Did this march accomplish anything? Not yet. It is a start, though. And there is a call for continued action after the march.

Bottom line, it something that I am proud to have done, and it will give me some momentum in the weeks, months, and years ahead in this administration. After the total dismay and disgust that many of us felt after the election, it was wonderful to realize that there are plenty of other Americans who were just as mad as hell as you were, and decided to come out and act.

Election Thoughts

Long post warning—approx. 3 singe-spaced pages in Word.

I am sure many of my friends are wondering how I am doing today, especially since I just moved back to the U.S. after living abroad for most of the Obama era. To be honest, it has been a long, rough day. It has taken me most of the day to wrap my head around the election and to go through the stages of grief (anger is still up there). I still have raw emotion and deep disgust for what happened last night, and I hope putting some thoughts down here will be helpful for those trying to cope. To be clear, this is not a rant or a bashing of Trump voters. I am just processing everything, and I also want to make the point that for progressives, this better be a freaking wake-up call. But if you are a conservative friend of mine reading this post and you voted for Trump, you can continue reading for my perspective without any antagonism toward you. I genuinely welcome to hear your views and reasoning if you are willing to share (Seriously. I might disagree with you, but I do welcome open discussion here.).

I think most people (both my friends in the U.S. and abroad) have wondered, “How the hell did this happen?” I think that answer is complex, and whole dissertations will be written about this election. My simple go-to-answer for months was that this question was whether the electorate fears Trump more than it hates Hillary, but I know there is more to it than just that. There is a lot of finger-pointing right now, but one clear sign is that voter turnout was low (the lowest in 16 years). A protest vote of “not voting” doesn’t make your voice heard, especially when roughly 46% of eligible voters in our country didn’t even vote in this election. Of eligible voters, each candidate only had about 25% of the vote. Elections have consequences, and the only way you can make an impact is by showing up.

But I also think that those who did vote for Trump had their reasons, and they are not all rooted in racist or bigoted views. Some on the fringe are horrible, but I genuinely believe that nearly 60 million Americans who voted for Trump have a variety of reasons, and latched onto his mantra to “Make America Great Again.” Liberals often scoffed at that mantra for many reasons. Why be nostalgic for the “good ole days” when we lived under Jim Crow or open sexism in the workplace? To quote Billy Joel: “The good ole days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

But there is more to that idea than yearning for the past that may or may not have truly existed. Society has been changing fast, and people–in their perceptions–were getting left behind. This is true technologically speaking, but also just how we perceive certain issues in society. Terrorism has been increasing in a variety of forms. Other forms of social change aren’t welcome to all. Take views on homosexuality as an example. In 2004, 19 states passed constitutional bans against same-sex marriage; in 2015, gay marriage was legalized across the U.S. This change is incredibly fast, and other issues like this one make some people feel that they don’t recognize the country they live in anymore. I also think the economy was far more important than all of these issues. While most economic indicators are good right now post-recession, most people still feel that they are struggling to get by. I think most of the recovery appears to be more in the cities than in the rural areas, which reflects the vote we saw last night.

People wanted change. People wanted an outsider to disrupt their system. And they might have gotten more than they bargained for.

But enough analysis on how we got here. What the hell do we do now?

Random thoughts, with some suggested actions.

1. We need to stand up for our friends, family, and neighbors (or anyone) who do attract that most crude elements of Trump’s platform. I’m sure we all heard incidents pouring in today, and here are a couple that I’ve heard. A woman getting attacked for wearing a hijab. People who “look Hispanic” being told to enjoy the time they have left in this country. Gay couples moving up their marriage dates because they are afraid of losing their right to marry who they love. In fact, my employer sent out this e-mail to all faculty, staff, and students today that implicitly referred to the election. To prevent the worst of President-elect Trump’s platform, we have to make a clear, united message that this is not what we as Americans stand for. Ever.

Course of Action: Call out this BS if you see it around you. And considering supporting these organizations in any way to fight for equity for all Americans.

2. I watched a video from Colbert last night, who I do love and adore. He focused on a message of unity, while also emphasizing that we overdosed on the political system, and the good news is that we don’t have to do it for a while. I disagree with this particular point. Politics isn’t something that you just tune in every 4 years and tune back out. It is the day-to-day things, from local city councils to the state governments, to our federal government. Civic engagement takes work, but is an important cornerstone for our democracy.

Courses of action: Multiple suggestions here. I’ll admit that I haven’t done or necessarily do all of these, but it is important to consider for future action.

  • Action 1 – Vote: If you haven’t done so, register to vote. Now. I don’t care if the election is years away, get it done so it isn’t an excuse down the road (info on each state here). Then vote in ALL elections, not just the presidential one. City, state, and federal elections, primaries, and special elections—keep track of what is going on. You have zero right to complain if you don’t make your voice heard. Don’t just think ahead to 2020, think ahead to electing Democrats in 2018 to take back the House and Senate.
  • Action 2 – Keep up with the facts: Follow the news regularly, and not just from news that confirms your own political views (also called confirmation bias). It is easy to only seek out certain news sources, and I know that I am guilty of it,too. This video from John Green suggests that we aren’t working with the same facts anymore, which makes it rather hard to communicate with each other. It is easy to disengaged with the news, but being uninformed or misinformed is a civic issue.
  • Action 3 – Participate. Do what you can here. Don’t just complain on social media, actually do something. Volunteer for a cause you care about, or be an active participant in your political system. Go to city council meetings. Volunteer or engage in your community. Hell, run for office if you’re so inclined. So many of the races up and down the ballot are won by people because they run unopposed. Don’t like the incumbent representative? Then, run yourself (or seek out candidates who you think can do it and support them). But if you’re tired of the status quo and feel your government doesn’t represent you, this is one way to change the system.

3. I hope this goes without saying, but know that people who voted differently than you are not “the enemy” or “evil.” I know I that I had this knee-jerk reaction back in 2004 when I was younger and more immature about dealing with post-election turmoil. Realize that those who voted for Trump last night may have had similar feelings 4 or 8 years ago relative to what you have now. I do agree that Trump is a far worse liability than many of his supporters may realize, but only time and his presidency will prove this to be true.

Course of Action: Don’t be a dick to your conservative friends. We’re all Americans, damn it, and we’re all in this together. You can be angry, upset, disgusted, and disappointed. Channel this to some of the actions above. But don’t lash out because that changes nothing, and only makes us more divided.

4. One last thing—I think the thing that genuinely disgusts me about this election (beyond the Trump platform) is that Republicans in Congress are being rewarded for their obstruction of President Obama. They have done some pretty radical things over the last several years—shutting down the government (or threatening to do so), going over the fiscal cliff, filibustering a cabinet position, not even voting on a Supreme Court vacancy….and those are just the highlights. Now they have full control of government, and can repeal Obamacare all they want (assuming Mitch McConnell gets rid of the filibuster, which I think is highly likely). All I can say here is that since they have the keys to the car now, they’re responsible if they wreck this thing.

Course of action: ….I’ve got nothing. Drink? Cry? In all seriousness, write to your Congressional representative if they consider legislation that is important to you (see this video made after Orlando, which gives tips to how to write your representatives). And yes, I’ll do this even in Tennessee where both of my senators are Republicans. Hand-written letters are more effective than e-mails or tweets. And yes, these things still matter in this day in age. Is it an act of futility? Maybe. But you need to utilize all channels and be an active participant in this process.

Bottom line: Today sucks. Tomorrow might not be as bad as it seems, but it still seems pretty bleak from here. But if you don’t like what happened in this election, channel your emotions into actions. Don’t just throw your hands in the air and give up. Apathy and disengagement solve nothing. I know that I haven’t acted in all these ways that I’ve recommended here, but I will try to act this way in the future. And I’ll be damned if my country goes down in flames without a fight.

After 7 years…

Today my Facebook memories showed me my first post that I made from Groningen 7 years ago (I arrived Aug. 25, 2009, but I didn’t have internet right away or a smartphone to post). It is interesting to pause and reflect where I was then and where I am now. Ultimately, I did accomplish my goals that I had when I left the country 7 years ago. Sure, I took longer finishing my Ph.D. (a common occurrence) and lived abroad longer than I expected, but I have few complaints about where I am now or how I got here.

I’ve been back in the U.S. for over a month now, and I must admit it that has been a bit weird switching back. 2009 doesn’t seem that long ago, but things are different now.

  1. Smartphones: The biggest change by far. The iphone was out for a couple of years, but the smartphone market didn’t take off right away. On a related note, somehow things have switched that I feel that I need to text people before calling them now. I didn’t always have a ton of friends to call while abroad, but now it seems like this phone etiquette has changed. Or I just can’t get out of the mentality that I need to “schedule” my conversations with people like I did with Skype.
  2. Amazon prime: A godsend for all the random crap that I do and don’t need in my life. Helpful for moving, and post-move as well.
  3. Netflix: Streaming–the mail service was just taking off by the time I left. Also, I had to cancel my Australian Netflix (which I’ve only had for a little over a year) and subscribe to my American netflix because Netflix doesn’t change countries well. Otherwise, I would have been charged in AUD until the end of time.
  4. Uber: Thank God for Uber. As someone who can’t drive due to a visual disability, Uber makes things way easier for me to get around. I always relied on awesome friends to get me around over the years (and I still do), but Uber allows me to preserve some my traveling independence that I grew accustomed to while living abroad. I still want self-driving cars to become  thing though.

Switching back to the U.S. has been an interesting re-acclimation. For the first few weeks, I found it odd hearing American accents all the time. I realized that I started getting overwhelmed by choices in stores, particularly in grocery stores. Sounds weird, I know, but our grocery stores are massive compared to Europe and still bigger than the ones I generally went to in Australia. On a related note, my sense of how much things cost is way out of whack, both because of Australian dollar costs but also just re-adjusting my cost of living sense. I can’t keep track of which stores use the damn chip insert for my card and which ones don’t (just do the pay wave system like Australia, please).  Finally, I am less tolerant of the uber-patriotic rhetoric, especially this election season. I love my country, but we Americans can tone things down a bit.

On a more personal level, I know that I am a different person, and I believe that it is mostly for the better. As the obvious point, I’m 31 now, not 24. I generally have mellowed out–in a good way. I have found a balance in my life. I think that I often sacrificed and stressed too much for the sake of my education and career over the years, and I think that lack of balance actually hurt my productivity in the end. I still work hard, but I also recognize the need to keep a balance and take care of myself. Also, I am more comfortable with who I am, and I am less tolerant of wasting my time with people who don’t accept that. I guess the best way to describe my current state of mind is content. Sure, things could be better, and I still have my goals to improve myself. Yet I think these things are more of a function of getting older rather than living abroad…even though that time of course had a huge impact in shaping who I am and how I view things.

Power Pop et al. (2016)

I have several mixes in the works, but this one I think is in good enough condition to share. I’ve been in a power pop mood lately. Why? Who knows. But I lacked a good power pop playlist, so I decided to make my own (see below).

HOWEVER. Before you check it out, a brief warning.

With all sub-genres, definitions of various bands and artists become blurred. Some people get into rather heated debates on this subject, but I never have been among those people. Power pop in its traditional definition includes Cheap Trick, Big Star, Raspberries, The Knack, among others. However, I kept a broad definition when making this playlist, which included power pop influences. If this idea makes you start to twitch, just stop reading now and click on this adorable cat video to restore your calm.

The rest of you, are we cool? Awesome.

I included artists/bands that are considered new wave (e.g., The Cars, Blondie, The Bangles, The Go-Go’s, etc.), 90’s alternative (e.g., Weezer), or contemporary indie stuff (e.g., The New Pornographers, Ok Go, Valley Lodge, Kaiser Chiefs). I also included some slightly controversial picks, including power-pop-predecessors (e.g., The Beatles, The Who) and some artists who are considered other genres but who had specific songs that had power pop-ish sounds to them (e.g., Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run” and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers “American Girl”).

To avoid people sending me cranky replies about X and Y artists are not power pop (aside from the cat video distraction), I decided to name the playlist Power Pop et al. (2016), in homage to the APA Style citation for multiple authors (because I am a nerd). So toss in any genre description you want–I’ll consider it part of the “et al.”).

This playlist is designed to be played on shuffle. It is definitely not in any order, and I do repeat tracks by the same artist (*gasp*). It is a long one (101 songs, 5.5 hours), but I find it to be a nice, upbeat (duh), mix to have on in the background while I work. I hope you enjoy!

Hiroshima Anniversary

Today is the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This topic is always controversial. Some argue that the bombing sped up the ending of World War II and thus saved lives, while others argue that Japan would have surrendered soon and the bombing of civilians was not necessary. Regardless of your view on the subject, it resulted in a huge loss of civilian lives in way that rarely has been seen since.

I visited Hiroshima this past December shortly before Christmas. In a nutshell, it was an intense experience. It was a gorgeous day to walk around the peace park, but it still was a sobering experience going to the various shrines and memorials. I also recognized that it was uncomfortable to visit Hiroshima as an American. It was my country who caused such destruction and devastation. Obviously, it was my grandparents’ generation, but it is still part of our national history and identity. Also, I always had a weird personal connection to this bombing that I couldn’t shake. My grandfather was fighting in the Pacific theater at the time (and he was in Japan not long after the Japanese surrendered). If the war continued, then there is a decent chance that he would have died in the process. I know that it is weird to play hypothetical 20-questions with this bombing, but it seems like a natural thing to do when thinking about this bombing and the aftermath.

Within the park, there is a museum that explains the history of the bombing, and it also serves as a sobering reality of the consequences of nuclear warfare. To put it mildly, they did not hold any punches. Part of the museum was under renovation when I went, but the key parts covering the bombing and the aftermath were exceptionally intense. The “artifacts” on display made the whole thing far more real and sobering than any history book could do. I read John Hershey’s Hiroshima in high school, which was also a powerful read for me. However, this museum took it well beyond that experience.

After visiting the museum, I walked around the park and tried to clear my head. Among the many emotions I felt at that time, I distinctly  remember feeling anger. This anger was directly toward Donald Trump (someone I didn’t want in my head while on vacation, but unavoidable), who was casually discussing nuclear warfare with such a cavalier attitude. Part of the mission of the museum and the park is to prevent nuclear warfare in the future, which is a mission held by most Japanese. And then, Donald Trump not only proposes dropping nukes, but even suggesting that Japan should use nukes to protect itself against North Korea (which has gathered more attention recently, but these remarks did start last year).

On the other side, I am glad that Secretary Kerry and President Obama have both visited Hiroshima since my own visit. We cannot run away from our past, and I am glad that our leaders are not shy about confronting our history either.

Bottom line? I am glad that I went to Hiroshima. I knew it was going to be a rough day, but it was worth the visit. It is one thing to be a student of history, but it is another thing to face it head on and try to come to terms with it. There are some things that you cannot experience by reading books, and visiting Hiroshima was one of them for me.

Birthday Time (A bit early)

I started this blog on my 30th birthday. Nearly a year later, I thought an update is in order. Unfortunately, I’m busy moving, so I’m making this post early. I know I could schedule this post to go up on July 30, but I think this way is easier for me.

I’ve had a busy year. My blog posts, like all my old blogs, have been infrequent. Still, I’ll keep it up. Some highlights of this past year:

  • I had an unusual amount of travel over the year (Japan, U.S., Brazil, and Australia). My travel map has extended to Asia and South America, although there are plenty of places I have yet to go.
  • I was on the academic job market, which is always a barrel of fun. I had some low points in that process, but I ended up landing an awesome job back in the U.S.
  • I had a first-author JPSP publication accepted and published in the last year.
  • I ran my first race ever (5.7 km) a few weeks ago, which is something that I would not have ever expected a year ago. I might write about this in more detail later, but ultimately that particular achievement was part of a long process throughout this year, which is still ongoing.
    • Side note: For those wondering about my music selection for the race, I ended up listening to selected tracks from the musicial, Hamilton (Ham4Run playlist on Spotify). Warning: “Guns and Ships” might throw you off your pace, but it is awesome to have toward the end of a race.

race pic

  • I’ve met some amazing people from all over the world this year. I met some cool people at work conferences this year, as well as made friends from vacation or at the gym.
  • I made sure to set aside some time to read and relax, mostly with audiobooks. Not sure about my actual total…I know I read around a dozen or so books over the year, which isn’t too bad considering how busy this year was. I also listen to a lot of podcasts and some Great Courses on Audible, which have been nice outside-of-work learning stuff.

Since July 2016, world events and politics have not been the best. On a personal level, I’ve had a challenging, but ultimately a good year. And to cap it off, I’ll end my 7 years as an expat and return back to the U.S.

Like previous birthdays (see this post from last year), I made a new music mix for my birthday: Just Make a Wish: 31 Flavors Edition. It is an odd and short mix, but it reflects my mood. The first half highlights my travels over the year, starting with the New Zealand Topdeck tour song from last July (shortly before my birthday), and ending with the Australia Topdeck tour song from May. The rest is a  combination of anticipation and melancholy, which I think is just all my mixed feelings about moving. While I’m thrilled to be going back to the U.S., I am sad about leaving Australia, too. It is natural to be a mix of emotions. Toss a birthday into the mix, and you might be able to get my weird mood. I know without a doubt that I’ll be back to Australia in the  future, but I definitely will miss it here.

Anyways, feel free to check out the new birthday playlist below:

A Commentary on “The Personality Myth”

After reading online about Invisbilia’s latest episode on “The Personality Myth,” I decided to listen to the episode myself to see if the reactions from fellow personality psychologists were hyperbolic. In short, they were not. Chris Soto and Simine Vazire already have excellent, succinct explanations of the flaws of this episode. I also wanted to add my own somewhat longer response as someone who has researched both the stability and change in personality.

This episode of Invisbilia covered one side of the person-situation debate—the argument that personality is inconsistent, so therefore it doesn’t exist. The person-situation debate actually ended in a synthesis of the ideas—personality is relatively consistent over time, but it can also change across different situations. How? Imagine this exercise—let me ask you how extraverted you are right now. How about a few hours from now? Tomorrow morning? And the next day? When you ask people to answer how extraverted they are several times a day for two weeks, you get a better idea of their whole personality trait, which looks like a bell curve (or a distribution). Sometimes people are very extraverted in a situation, sometimes people are less extraverted in another situation, and the average level of all these different snapshots reflects a person’s trait. When you think of a personality traits in this way—as a distribution of how you are across situations—you can see how people are the same over time (the average of two weeks of these measurements) and how they change in different situations. You have a default, trait level, and situations (or stuff going on in your mind) can cause you to fluctuate around this average trait level.

Once you think of personality traits this way, you can start to try to understand why people change in different situations. People don’t just change at random—there are distinct patterns that can be studied. My work has looked at the goals that people are pursuing in a given moment—and we found that a huge part of these changes in extraversion and conscientiousness in a given moment are the specific goals people are pursuing. When you’re trying to have fun, connect with people, or make others laugh, you are more extraverted. When you are trying to get things done or use time effectively, you are more conscientious. We also did an experiment and an observer study that shows the same pattern of results.

This overview explains personality changes over a few days and hours, but what about changes over the years? How do people change over long periods of time? The Invisibilia episode talked about Dan, who said that he made a conscious decision to change who he was over a period of time. Personality development is complex, but it does develop and change over the lifespan. The most volatile time for this change appears to happen in young adulthood–when people have new experiences and social roles (e.g., go to college, start our first job, get married, etc.). We also have evidence that suggests that personality may change as a part of therapy treatment. Still, long-term change doesn’t appear to be drastic or quick, which echoes how Dan describes that it took a long time for him to change his personality.

Ultimately, our behavior is complicated, and it is a mixture of personality and situations. It is something we have known for a long time–Kurt Lewin famously made this case back in the 1930’s–but we now have technology to study personality in more complex ways, faster and easier than ever before.

Some might ask why we personality psychologists had such a strong reaction to this episode. The answer is in the podcast itself, when Walter Mischel casually mentions that he was accused of nearly destroying the field of personality. This claim alludes to the fact that the number of personality psychologists declined drastically in the 1970’s, both in terms of number of graduate students studying it and the number of universities hiring people who studied personality. Even today, personality psychology graduate programs are limited in the United States. To add insult to injury, we still have to defend why the thing that we spent years studying in graduate school actually exists and why it matters. So yes, personality psychologists may have a slight chip on our shoulders, but for good reason. Episodes like the one Invisbilia just aired does not help our situation, pun intended.

To see a modern view of Walter Mischel’s Personality and Assessment, the Journal of Research in Personality did a special issue in 2009 on its 40th anniversary called “Personality and Assessment at Age 40: Reflections on the Past Person–Situation Debate and Emerging Directions of Future Person-Situation Integration – Personality and Assessment at Age 40.” It is worth reading these articles to get a more up-to-date sense of the person-situation debate in the decades that followed.

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