My first experience with YouTubing

I have recently started my own YouTube channel, a Booktube (natable books) – yes, it is all about books, reading, and reviewing the new releases in literature! I am both excited and terrified. I have never thought I could have the courage to talk in front of camera and then put myself on display for the whole world (I have 10 subscribers now, 9 of them are my family members, lol).

There are two main reasons I started my channel.

First, as long as I remember myself, I have always been reading. From the very early childhood to my adult life now. Books mesmerised me. I loved getting new books, touching their pages, looking at how words made sense on a page, and diving deep into the stories. Before I always had my mom to share this hobby with. We would read the same books and discuss our feelings about them. It felt satisfying not just to read a book, but also to have someone read it simultaneously with you and discuss all the moments of the story when the impressions are still fresh. I moved away from home long time ago, and even though I constantly talk with my mom on the phone, we do not really discuss the books the way we did before. We have different time zones, different regimes, and even different languages we read the books in (I started reading more in English). Where I live now, I do not really have a close friend who chooses similar books as I do. I wish I had someone to share all the reading moments. So…that is why I decided to find it in the online reading community. It would be great to meet similar readers and thinkers and literally read the same books together. Just like it was before.

Second, I started the Vlog as a chance to tackle my greatest fear – public speaking and being in front of people/camera. I grew up in the society that did not teach the skills of speaking with confidence, defending your position, and being free-spirited and free-minded. When I moved to another country, I understood how the world is different and how it is so much more fun to live a life with no fears or anxieties. Being in front of a camera is one of the biggest fears for me. I often freeze, forget all my words, and cannot think of anything smart to say. It is so much easier for me to write than to speak. But I do not want this to be a part of my personality. I believe you can become who you want to be if you take risks. Right now I am taking a chance and we will see what is going to come out of it.

My YouTube journey has just begun, and I hope it will be an interesting and unforgettable ride!

Link to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMnQ20MloYorPpKUpp7w-rw

Instagram: @natable.books

Stay humble

The semester is over. Exams are marked, and lecture rooms are empty. I am sitting inside the cafeteria and looking at my student’s card. She gave me it as a thank you for a wonderful semester. The card says one sentence: “I find you to be very humble and for that I thank you!”

I stare at this card and these few words. I have never been thanked for being humble before. Why would she think I am humble?

I have never had any special approach to this student. She was a bit behind some of the assignments and I helped her with that, but only because she was working full-time as a school bus driver. She was silent during most of our books’ discussions. She did not come to see me during my office hours. We did not have one-on-one time really. And, yet, she was the only one out of 30 students to find me after the final exam and give me this card. When she was handing me the card, she said exactly the same words as written inside: “I really want to thank you for being humble.”

Humble…this word can mean so many different things. Do I teach in a humble way? Do I speak too quietly? Some students complained about that before, so I always increase the podium microphone to the maximum. Am I teaching humble texts? Is it my behaviour, my words, or actions? I guess I will never find an answer to that.

Is being humble a compliment? In our society, humble often means having low confidence and not enough ambition. Many companies do not want to hire humble people. They want overachievers, assertive people with a high self-esteem. Nobody wants to be humble. Everyone wants to be perceived as brave and successful. Strong and confident.

But after some consideration, I realized that being humble does not negate achievement, passion, or even ambition. You can enjoy success and still be humble. You can be humble in the way you treat other people. You can be humble in the way you show yourself to the world. You can be humble in the way you think or talk about yourself. Humble means less self and more other. Humble helps you love the world around you.

Take a moment to reflect on the past year and thank yourselves for being humble in any moment of your lives. Stay humble.

saying YES

Can we try to live a month or week of YES? Instead of jumping to refusal, denial or negative answer, can we react positively to everything that happens to us?

Can we say YES to an early beeping sound of our alarm clock and agreeing to wake up right away without hitting the snooze button?

Can we say YES to any shirt that we grab in the closet without changing our minds or being unhappy about the way it looks on us?

Can we say YES to a healthy breakfast with oatmeal without rushing though the morning and buying some bun or muffin on the way to office?

Can we say YES to the cold and fresh breeze and take a deep breath of cold air without blaming the weather for the summer to be over?

Can we say YES to a terrible traffic on the way to work and use this time to meditate instead of getting frustrated and honking at a driver who jumps in front of us?

Can we say YES to the start of the work day without thinking of the long hours till we can go home?

Can we say YES to any favor being asked from us without assuming it to be a burden but being grateful to help someone?

Can we say YES to a pile of emails in our mailbox without ignoring them and forgetting to answer?

Can we say YES to our friend’s invitation for a coffee instead of choosing an easier way to stay home and be lazy in the evening?

Can we say YES to a daily workout which only takes 30 mins of our time when watching TV takes more than 2 hours a day?

Can we say YES to a home-cooked dinner with healthy food without having a take-out and adding empty calories to our bodies?

Can we say YES to giving 100% of our love to the closest one without any demand or complaint?

Can we say YES to this day and night without regretting any second of it?

Can we say YES to ourselves? Every day, every month, every year of our life. Can we say YES to being alive…?

30 pairs of eyes

30 pairs of focused eyes. They are all concentrated on the task I gave them for the whole class. 30 students, 30 different lives. I see them 3 times a week, yet I do not know much about their lives outside academia. What do they love to read? What will they have for dinner tonight? All I know is their major, their attitude to class, their score, their skills in my class. Is it enough?

As an academic lecturer, I have to be professional and help my students with their studies and skills for future careers. I am not their mother, or therapist, or even their best friend. And even though there are moments and situations when a student opens up and shares some personal things with me, it is always an exception, rather than a rule. We keep it professional. Subordination.

Sometimes I wished I knew them better. I could have understood why she left the class earlier. Or why he did not want to take part in a group work in class. Why she was so upset with a “B+”. Or why he had a smile on his face for the whole class. Sometimes I want to know why he has tears in his eyes or why she has an absent-minded look. What moves them? What makes them come to class? What do they want to do in future?

I look at them and imagine their lives. Their parents, friends, and first love. I make up details in my mind – their hobbies, passion, and free time. But why? We meet 3 times a week – 3 hours together. I do not spend as much time with my friends or parents. Yet, little do I know about these 30 pairs of eyes. I wish I knew them better.

What we’ve learned living in a new house

We (my boyfriend and I) have been living in our new house for a month now. It is both an exciting and weird experience. It feels as if we went back to school times – dorm lives with all the hardships and almost puritan moderation. The house is empty for the most part: we left all the old furniture behind and decided to start from scratch. The purchase of new furniture is put on hold – we are doing a ton of renovation in the house. How did this move change our lives?

Well, first of all, it made us see the world from a different angle, literally. In our mid-30s, we found ourselves sleeping on the mattress, right on the floor. No bed frame, no box spring. It is so low that we feel like we are sleeping on a very, very, very soft floor. It is handy now because there are no night stands, so we put everything on the floor, next to the bed, within our reach. Without all these luxuries, we have learned to live outside of our comfort zone, and it has made us accept new things and unexpected changes with more ease. It puts everything into perspective and makes you appreciate things more when you find yourself deprived of them. Even as it is as simple as a real bed in your room.

Second, as we do not have nightstands, there are no nightstand lamps. The only light fixture available at the moment is a poor light bulb in the ceiling. So we read less before sleep. We talk more though. And I think it is better for the relationships. Back in the old times, when people did not have electricity, they had no choice but to have long bedtime conversations. I am sure my boyfriend really appreciates this time before our sleep when I talk about all sorts of things that come to my mind. And he just listens and listens and listens, desperately hoping to fall asleep.

Third, we have learned to be extra cautious. All of our outlets are exposed. We’re changing the trims, the baseboards, the outlet cases, the wall plates. We have to be extra careful of not sticking fingers into the wrong places as it can result in an electric shock – and this will definitely change our lives.

Fourth is closely related to the third one: we’ve learned how to walk with almost closed eyes at night. Parts of our floor are missing. Some hardwood is ripped off. In some places, there is only plywood or a hole (hello, the room below!). There are tools and equipment everywhere. After hitting a staple gun on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I have now learned how to walk like a cat, extremely slowly with smooth and fluid movements. Grace and coordination are life skills important during any renovation period.

Fifth, we took all the blinds out as there is too much dust from the renovation. As a result, we feel like we are living on display, especially when it is a night time and we cannot see anything outside, but all the neighbours walking by can see everything that is happening in our house. It is almost like a reality show, and we are the main stars of it. So, you know, you learn to be decent, modest, and, most importantly, dressed at all times.

Sixth, as we are redoing the mud room, we cannot use the laundry. It taught us to appreciate any clean clothes. When you don’t have a choice, you don’t think how this pair of jeans does not flatter you or how this shirt looks bad on you. It is clean, it does not smell like paint, you put it on and persuade yourself how good you look in it.

Finally, we have learned to accept the constant mess in our life and not freak out about it. We have tons of dust from scraping popcorn ceilings. We have million of boxes of unpacked stuff because there is nowhere to put it. We do not have basic furniture. Our walls are covered with drywall mud. We have a bee nest under the house. Holes in the floor, spiders in the basement, and squirrels everywhere around the house. It is complete madness. Mayhem, insanity. Yes, renovation equals chaos, but it is something that makes a house home. Our home – from the first nail to the last dab of paint.

Hello, Fear

Are you familiar with this type of fear? Do you remember how it feels every time?

You wake up in the morning, and it is right there already. You think about it, and your palms become hot and sweaty. Your heart starts pounding like a hammer inside the body. Every beat resonates in your mind. Your stomach gets twisted like Twizzlers, and you don’t know how to untangle it. The face starts to itch. A bit of rash on the skin. You sweat. You feel your shirt gets wet and sticks to your chest and arms. The clothes become your second skin, but it does not help or protect you from the fear. Inhumane, animal fear. You cannot think rationally. You repeat word by word, phrase by phrase, and nothing seems to hang in your mind. It is empty, a canvas. Fear erases all the logical thoughts. Your brain knows only one thing: “I am scared!”

You move in a rush. Hustle, hustle, hustle. You know you need to stop to calm down, so you try meditation. Some good relaxation song to pause the racing mind. But all in vain: it agitates you even more. The quieter the song is, the more thoughts are on your noisy mind. The struggle goes on. You talk to someone instead: your friend, your mom, your boyfriend. They say wise, encouraging words, but nothing changes the fact. You are scared. Scared to death. You try to let the feeling go, like Sedona Method says. You acknowledge the fear, plunge into it, and embrace it. It does calm you for a minute, but then your mind escapes again. And you feel hopeless. Tortured a bit.

You finish your morning routine. Driving eases you for a moment. But once you enter the building, you start trembling again. Your guts shake inside. You step in the room. You see hundreds of eyes. You settle the table. The presentation is on. You open your mouth and say: “Well, hello, Fear. Here we are again, face to face.” And the Fear answers: “My pleasure. Enjoy your presentation. Until next time.”

And then it leaves, the fear of public speaking. Until the next time. And you don’t miss it all.

September

A month of new beginnings – the end of summer hopes. The smell of cold, wet grass and yellow leaves. Dark outside, and sunless sky. Small drops of dew on face and skin. And rain boots – waiting at the entrance.

Forget about work. It’s time to snuggle. A blanket, feet to feet, and warming laughter underneath. A perfect chance to take long baths. To drink macchiato, to sip mulled wine. Forget about work. Remember, it’s September.

You say goodbye to summer shorts. No need for sunscreen, no more mosquitoes on the skin. School buses drive in all directions. Another start, another failure. Too serious, too regular.

An in-between – still time for leisure. Amazing colors. Guilty pleasures – hot chocolate and pecan pies. Fresh goals, a meaningful adventure. September is a month of wonder. The only time to stop and ponder.

Corporate Skills?!

All things come to an end at some point. So did my summer internship as a research analyst with the municipality. It is a bit sad to leave the company and great people I’ve been working with, so I will try to add a light and funny tone to my message. Here are a few of the many things I’ve discovered during my corporate job:

  • I’ve learned how to quickly adjust to a nomadic office lifestyle. During my internship, I didn’t really have a permanent office or cubicle. I occupied offices of people who were off, on vacation, or on a leave. I moved from one office to another every week or sometimes every 2nd day. By the end of my internship, I feel I’ve become an office nomad: constantly changing locations, having only the bare minimum of my stuff to be able to move quickly, working with whatever is available or missing at someone’s office (like no keyboard), and avoiding any attachment to a space. It was part of a fun experience: never knowing where I was going to end up next. Now I can add “flexibility” and “adaptability” as my key skills to the resume.
  • While occupying one of the cubicles for a week, I’ve realized how important it is to learn to snack quietly and gracefully at the desk. First, you might never know when someone would peek into your cubicle and find you with a full mouth of food. Second, when it gets too quiet, people, sitting in nearby cubicles, can hear you chew. And some food does need a lot of chewing or even munching. Learning to snack silently is a good skill to acquire in corporate work. Another skill to add to the resume: “multitasking” (working, eating, and making no noises) and “able to operate (food) under pressure.”
  • Before internship, I’ve often dreamed of having colleagues and feeling like a part of the community. And I got that experience; however, I’ve also found that having too many great co-workers leads to having too many great conversations, which, in turn, leads to having too many minutes NOT spent on your work. Balancing between work and great conversations can be tricky sometimes. I can legitimely add the skills of “time management” and “networking” to my resume now. 
  • I’ve always been a pro-sport and pro-exercise person and I’ve never thought that walking down the stairs from the 9th floor (office is on the 9th floor) might be the only meaningful workout throughout the day for me. When you don’t have time or energy to do a normal workout, you become creative: walking up and down the stairs a few times a day, dancing a bit of zumba during lunch break, and choosing heels over sneakers to build some muscles in legs. Two important skills: “innovation” and “creative thinking.”
  • I’ve also learned that the outside weather does not reflect the weather in office. No matter how much sun there is outside, it is always chilly in the office. So if I have a hot cup of tea/coffee on the desk, I make sure to sip it as fast as possible before its temperature drops. I’ve also given up the idea of wearing nice summer dresses or skirts to office as having goosebumps all over the body is not the most attractive thing. Choosing layers of clothes is one way to solve the problem. Another way is to go to the bathroom and keep your hands under hot running water. Such a warm feeling right away. So, in the end, this all enhanced my skills of “problem-solving” and “strategic planning (of what to wear every day).”
  • Finally, I have realized that headphones are absolutely integral to your success in corporate work. With so many people working around you, headphones are key to your concentration, performance, and result achievement. I can add my final point to the resume: “Active Not  Listening” skill. 

My internship is almost over, but I am excited to develop my career further and hone the acquired skills of adaptability, flexibility, creativity, multitasking, working under pressure, problem-solving, and time management. Goodbye, offices. Goodbye, desks. An office nomad is ready for the next career move.

PhD survivor

How to survive a PhD? Just follow these 15 simple steps:

  1. Choose the university that gives you the biggest scholarship for the longest possible time. Preferably, unlimited funding without deadline.
  2. Choose the supervisor not based on your common research interests or expertise, but based on the time it takes him/her to answer your emails. Track and measure it during Year 1.
  3. Do not make any attempt to find PhD alumni and ask about their post-PhD career paths. In fact, do not ask anyone at the department about that. The less you know, the better you sleep.
  4. Choose to live in the dorm close to fraternity houses. There will be many loud parties, and this will remind you to study harder to be able to finish sooner and finally have a life.
  5. Build your survival food system. In year 3-5, you will especially need emergency food. Fill your pantry or kitchen cabinets with instant noodles, canned food, crackers, nuts, peanut butter (lots of it!), and protein bars (brain food, you know).
  6. Start cutting all close relationships with people before Year 2. Your thesis will become your best friend, your partner … and sometimes your enemy too. The faster you cut contact with human beings, the sooner you will develop relationships with papers, articles, and books. This all will speed up the defence and graduation.
  7. Prepare to develop distaste for reading. In fact, stop reading anything a year before PhD. In this case, you can trick your brain into developing an interest for a new activity – boring reading.
  8. Do not spend money on anything. Save up and spend all your money on the best printer on the market and the most expensive chair. Office chair would especially be nice as it will give you an illusion that you are working in corporate business and making a difference in the world.
  9. Buy glasses and eye lenses in advance. Consult with your doctor on the possible trajectory of eyesight getting worse from year 2 to year 6 or 7.
  10. Apply for various grants and go to as many conferences as possible. Free travel, free food, free pens and note-pads.
  11. Visit the Buddhist monastery before starting a PhD and learn the secret of patience. You will need that a lot while waiting for the committee feedback on chapter 1,2,3 and so on.
  12. Buy a set of clothes 2-3 sizes bigger than your normal size. You will start noticing changes in Year 3.
  13. Buy subscription for all stupid comedy TV shows. It will be the only way to relax your mind and get distracted. Best mind therapy.
  14. Sign up for boxing classes. Stick the first page of your thesis on the punching ball and beat the shit out of it. It will help with anger management tremendously.
  15. And last, always remind yourself you will have a cool title “Doctor” at the end, even though you cannot really save or help anyone. It will still feed your ego and make you forget all the troubles you went through.

You can do it. I did it, so can you. I am a PhD: Proudly half Dead 🙂

Buzzing bee and mind problems

Do you know the ways to slow down your mind? Recently, it has been hard for me to keep my brain from thinking and constantly working. It is like a buzzing bee that does not fly away or stop humming around your ear. Or like a swarm of ants where every single one of them strives to survive – every single thought competes to be the dominant. And I live in this constant jungle of wild thoughts. Or insects. Or weird metaphors 🙂

I’ve noticed in life you either have quiet moments when everything is in slow motion OR things happen All at once, Simultaneously, Synchronously, Parallel-y (help me with another synonym to intensify the effect!). Right now I feel my life is like a time lapse video. Everything that was supposed to take years and months is happening all at once in the span of a few weeks. Things are happening and I do not even have time to process them. New job, graduation, new house, renovation, packing, moving, driving lessons, writing, researching, blogging. My mind goes off the rails. I have the strangest dreams of passing a driving test while reciting my thesis to the driving instructor. I dream of my new co-workers renovating my house. I dream of my boyfriend being my new manager and commanding me to blog more often at work! All kinds of crazy, hilarious scenarios in my dreams!

Life is very unbalanced sometimes. Everything can be uncertain like someone literally presses a “pause” button on a cassette recorder (yes, cassette! for those who were born in the 80s and earlier!). It is sometimes passive and vague: like three dots at the end of the sentence . . . But then, without any warning, there is big bang moment! And things start unravelling. And you cannot stop them. You cannot pause or rewind or slow down. The fast-forward button is stuck! All you can do is just let it happen. Let your thoughts fill your mind. Let your dreams go crazy. And let that bee keep buzzing, and buzzing, and buzzing.