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Intermittent life update [Mar. 2nd, 2018|12:33 pm]

I just went back to my last life update post to see when it was, and a lot of things have changed since then! Given that it was over three years ago, that's really a good thing.

In very rough chronological order:
  • I started a relationship with the Canadian guy I met online, and we visited each other several times
  • I exited the PhD Linguistics program with a Masters, because academia is a terrible place for me
  • I started volunteering for an online peer counselling service
  • I moved to Canada to be with Canadian Guy
  • After a couple of years of that, things weren't going so hot, and so when he got a job offer in Hungary I took that as my cue to initiate a break up and move back to Sydney. (the breakup didn't entirely take, but we get along so much better now that the relationship expectations aren't hovering)
  • I started dating a boy in Melbourne. Still long distance, but at least it's only a relatively cheap 1.5 hour flight to see each other 
  • I enrolled in a Masters of Counselling and Psychotherapy
  • A friend of mine who owns a company in the UK has hired me to do technical writing stuff, and the income from that is good enough to keep me afloat without eating into study time

So obviously the thing I'm most excited about in there is enrolling to become an official counsellor person. Classes just started a couple of weeks ago and so far everyone and everything is lovely. (Except for their admin. My friend commented that I have Siderea-like powers of getting into weird administrative situations, and this definitely qualified.) Also, everyone here seems to dislike CBT, which I find kind of hilarious given its position as the gold standard everywhere else. I'm a little nervous about things like 'eye contact' and 'making legible expressions' as so much of my social experience has involved either the Internet or interaction with people who were just as socially anxious/awkward as I was, but I think that'll pass as I get more into the program. I'm also nervous about my placements, since some of the students are counsellors who've already been practicing for years and how can I compete with them for placements? But I suspect that will be fine too, since those other people probably don't want to do their placements at the kind of places that I do.

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Emotional labor [Jun. 27th, 2017|07:11 pm]
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A condensed version of the post that really started the whole dialogue on emotional labor: drive.google.com/file/d/0B0UUYL6kaNeBTDBRbkJkeUtabEk/view
The post that helped crystallize it properly for me: english.emmaclit.com/2017/05/20/you-shouldve-asked/

The idea of emotional labor has gotten a lot of traction lately online, but the main problem I keep seeing is that people have a hard time pinning down exactly what it is, as opposed to being able to point to various anecdotes that they think exemplifies the concept. This in turn leads to confusion, and often a significant subset of people (usually men) who find the anecdotes and the conversation around it to sound too much like "haha men, they suck so much, amirite?" So this is going to be an attempt to lay down a clear definition of emotional labor without the baggage.

Emotional labor is essentially a name for a managerial role in a relationship. This takes on a few different concrete forms.

The first is management of the household, appointments, shopping, and other assorted tasks that are generally shared across couples and/or housemates. Sweeping a floor or cooking dinner is not emotional labor, but being the person who makes sure that those things are accomplished is. It doesn't matter whether you get the floor swept by doing it yourself, asking your partner to do it, firing up a Roomba, or hiring a cleaning service; what matters is that you are taking on responsibility for making sure the task is done. This is why people who say that they would be happy to help with the housework if you would just tell them what needs doing are being a lot less helpful than they think. They're taking the physical labor component of the task but explicitly sticking the other person with the emotional labor component.

The second is taking responsibility for the likes, dislikes, feelings, wants and needs of other people who you are in a relationship with (and to be clear, it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship). Stereotypical scenarios that are covered by this kind of emotional labor include: the hysterical girlfriend who demands that her boyfriend drop everything he's doing to comfort her, the husband who comes home tense and moody after a long day at the office and wants to be asked how his day went and listened to and have validating noises made at him, noticing that the other person in a conversation is uncomfortable and steering the conversation to a more pleasant topic without having to be asked, helping a confused friend talk through their feelings about a potential or former partner, reminding your spouse that it's so-and-so's birthday and that so-and-so would appreciate being contacted, remembering birthdays and anniversaries and holidays and contacting people and saying or doing the right things on each of those dates,

Notice that that last emotional one crosses over into material relationship management again. I'm pretty sure that this is why the confusion is so rampant over what exactly emotional labor is, because other people see the cards and the cooking and whatnot and assume that those things are the emotional labor. They're really not. The emotional labor is the responsibility/management aspect. They're also the part that's invisible and easy to take for granted, particularly since management of other people's feelings is usually assumed to include not letting the other person feel bad about their lack of emotional labor skills.
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Random musing [Mar. 22nd, 2017|09:43 pm]

Something I've been wondering recently: how much of the benefit I get from therapy is from actually visiting my therapist (and working through stuff with her and setting goals with her and so forth), versus the way that visiting a therapist regularly gives me good access to a mental model of a therapist that I can consult on demand?
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Life update, May edition [May. 28th, 2016|12:26 am]
Lots of changes!

The main ones being that my partner and I finally moved out of his mother's house and into an apartment, and I quit my call center job because I was starting to have pre-breakdown symptoms.

The new apartment is fairly small, but we're happy with it. We're much less happy with our neighbours, who have turned out to have... issues. Ranging from the fighting that we can hear through the walls to having friends living in a tent in their backyard to having what we suspect might be is a bicycle-stealing racket to the girlfriend getting stabbed one evening.

As for the job situation, I'm working from home doing video captioning and trying to also to work as an online researcher for a website called Wonder, although on the latter I'm running up hard against my perfectionism (as per usual, *sigh*).
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Trying to shake free a writer's block, by writing [Mar. 13th, 2016|08:06 pm]
I can't remember if I mentioned this here, but one of my aims at the moment is to transition into a work-from-home type job for freelance writing. I know that I can write, at least in theory, but my perfectionism is doing its usual unhelpful thing and insisting that everything I write is terrible and this isn't even the best way to convey the idea I'm trying to get across and I should definitely start over. It doesn't help that grad school gave me tons of experience in writing academic papers but no practice at trying to be purposely engaging or hitting the right level of knowledge for a lay audience. Part of me feels like I should spend a bunch of time researching how to write, the other part of me is just like "nah, that's just procrastination, get in there and write *something* even if it sucks and you can edit it later".
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5 Hilarious Clickbait Titles I Generated At Work (#4 will make you laugh out loud!) [Mar. 8th, 2016|10:03 pm]
7 Things You Definitely Don't Know About My Apartment

You Won't Believe This One Trick For Eating Your Breakfast

I Tried To Set Up Our Computer Desk. What Happened Next Will Amaze You

8 Reasons You Should Help Me Put Away My Groceries

The 5 Types of Customers Everyone In A Call Centre Will Recognise

Generating clickbait titles is surprisingly fun and satisfying in a weird way. I wonder if writing the accompanying articles is anywhere as entertaining. I'm considering actually writing that last one, I already have the 5 types worked out, just need to find appropriate pictures and write the silly prose to go with it.
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Life update, March edition [Mar. 7th, 2016|11:49 pm]
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Boyfriend and I have our own apartment now. It's small and our kitchen has zero counter space and the spare room is still filled with miscellaneous junk that we hauled over and haven't found homes for yet, but it's ours and the mother-in-law has only set foot in it once so far.

There's a pub just down the road that's a sort of a local fixture, since it was the closest pub to the old GM plant back when everyone worked there. They serve above-average food and have an open mic on Sunday afternoon and a lot of locals with very good voices and guitar skills, which we discovered by accident on Valentines Day when Boyfriend's car broke down and took all our plans along with it.

In much less happy news, I hate my call centre job to the point where I visited HR and asked to drop a day from my schedule because the job is so damn emotionally difficult for me. I'm feverishly scouring the various job sites for almost any other job that I'm even vaguely qualified for.
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Job post [Jan. 10th, 2016|09:02 pm]
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One of my highest priorities when I got to Canada was getting a job, so that I wouldn't feel like a parasite and also because we're currently living with my boyfriend's mother and we want to move out as soon as possible for lots of reasons. So I surveyed my experience and skills and realised... I don't have the recent experience in programming to be at all confident enough to do it for pay, and I don't have any formal experience at anything else really employable. That left applying for entry-level positions. Which I did. And promptly got a job at an inbound call center company where I take calls for a large US telecommunications company. I am in the collections department, which means that I spend my whole day trying to convince people to bring their accounts current with us by making a payment over the phone.

First off: call centre work is just as bad as all the stories you might have heard. Not that all of the calls are terrible, not even close. Out of maybe 100 calls in a day, only about 30 at most are problematic in any way. The rest are a combination of people who ended up in the wrong department, and people who actually want to work with us. But since those 30 bad calls can strike at any time, they definitely foster a sort of bunker mentality, where every time you need to deliver any kind of bad news to a customer you're bracing in case they explode at you. And to make matters worse in my particular department, our supervisors don't take calls directly but offer callbacks within 24-48 hours instead. As you might imagine, when a customer is already angry enough to want to be escalated to a supervisor, telling them that it's not possible and that the best you can do for them is fill out a form for a callback tends to lead to even more verbal abuse on their part.

The bad calls tend to be a combination of:
* The customer is already annoyed at us because we've been sending them automated calls hassling them about their past due balance
* The customer's cable/internet has just been turned off due to non-payment of their bills and we're the ones standing between them and getting it back on ASAP
* The customer owes us an ungodly amount. Occasionally this is our fault, but most of the time it's because their scheduled payment was rejected due to insufficient funds or they just plain suck at making payments in a timely way
* The customer wants an arrangement that we can't give them. Either because what they want is ridiculous (eg. if you're $200 dollars past due, then offering $80 today and a vague promise of the rest 'when I can' isn't going to be enough to get your services restored) or because they've been a bad enough customer in the past that we don't trust them with arrangements anymore and want the money upfront
* The customer has been bounced around different departments a lot, either because their issue is complicated or because they're demanding something we can't give them and no one wants to give them a flat 'no'
* The customer is outright lying. This happens a lot more often than I would have guessed before starting the job, and I've heard all kinds of stories where the customer insists that they talked to another representative and were told all kinds of things that happen to be heavily in their favour, and we have either no record of that conversation or contradictory records from the agent who took the call.

There are some exceptionally good calls too though.I've had a man start crying on the phone because I was able to work out a way for him to get caught up on his bills. I've had guys flirt mildly with me after paying their bill. I've had chatty older people sharing details of their lives with me. I've had customers who called in with multiple complicated issues where I was able to resolve a bunch on the spot and give them solid advice for the rest. Those are all kind of the minority though.
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(no subject) [Jan. 1st, 2016|09:58 pm]

It's been a super long time since I posted. Some of that's due to general busyness: moving to Canada, getting a job, exploring the city, Christmas, etc. But the majority of it is the adjustment to living with my partner. As an ultra-introvert, I can only take a certain amount of interaction with people before I need to go somewhere quiet and be completely alone and not have to react to anyone or anything for a little while. Having my boyfriend around, who's somewhere on the mild-to-moderate extrovert end of the scale, means that it's very easy for him to saturate my interaction-meter. Which is fine overall, because he doesn't take it personally when I need alone time. But it does mean that the idea of writing or posting anything on Facebook or Livejournal feels really unattractive to me because it's inviting further interactions that I already don't really have the energy for. It also means I've made basically no effort to find a new social group in my area, which is another of those things that's a long-term issue rather than a short-term one.

My hope is to start posting again, both here and on Facebook. Whether or not I'll succeed is another story, but at least at the moment I do have a few more post ideas lined up if I can find the time/energy to write them.

(Also: if you're curious about anything I'm up to please feel free to ask! I can always use more inspiration for posts)
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Question vs infer: The corrolaries of ask vs hint culture [Apr. 13th, 2015|09:19 pm]
One of the posts that periodically makes the rounds on the Internet is Ask vs Hint Culture. The idea goes like so: Imagine that you are in a room, the room is too hot, and there is a window right next to your friend such that it would make the most sense for them to open it. If you are from Ask Culture, you make this happen by saying "Could you please open the window?", and lo and behold, they open it, but if they are from Hint Culture they may find your question unpleasantly aggressive. If you are from Hint Culture, you make this happen by saying "It's really hot in here, isn't it?", and lo and behold, they infer from this that you would like them to open the window and they then open it, but if they are from Ask Culture, they may either miss the hint altogether and not open the window, or else they may find your manner unpleasantly passive-aggressive. There isn't really a 'best' style - they both have their advantages. Ask culture has the advantage that if you want a thing to get done, it is more likely to get done. Hint Culture has the advantage that if you can't do the thing, you have a way to not do it without coming right out and saying "No, I can't do that", and thus everyone gets to save face since the person who did the Hinting can pretend they didn't want the thing, and the person who can't do it doesn't have to outright refuse them.

One of the issues that comes up between the bf and I is that we have quite different communication styles. Not Ask vs Hint; we're both relatively Ask-oriented when we want a concrete thing to get done. But when it comes to information, there's a similar distinction: Question vs Infer. When he wants to know a thing and I might know it, he asks me directly. When I want to know a thing, I try to find a way that doesn't involve asking outright for the information, for that is Aggressive and Rude. I infer based on other things he's said, I build a mental model of the thing I want to know about and see if I can fill in the gap myself, I look up Wikipedia, I crowdsource on Facebook. And the reason I do this is that when someone asks me something, I feel like there's an implicit expectation that I should know the thing, or at least look it up if I don't know it off the top of my head. When someone has a stream of questions for me I feel like I'm being interrogated and get more and more tense until eventually I bite out a surly "I dunno, why don't you look it up yourself?" and slink off to nurse my injured ego.

Is this a dichotomy anyone else has encountered, from either side?
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