A leap into the unknown

The following piece is my latest thought piece published in Woroni, also available in print.


A leap into the unknown

In a recent New York Times Op-Ed article, the writer wrote about how the pros of random selection, with particular reference to roommates, outweigh the cons. The writer mentioned the different studies that showed that much education takes place not through formal classroom syllabus, but rather in peer-to-peer learning that occurs in colleges. For example, economist Bruce Sacerdote found in a 2000 study that randomly assigned roommates at Darthmouth in the United States affected each other’s G.P.A.’s. On the other hand, David R. Harris, a sociologist at Cornell, found in a 2002 study, that white students who were assigned a roommate of a different race ended up more open-minded about race.

Looking back at the moments of randomness and spontaneity in my life, I have to agree with the writer. Unfortunately, with the inventions of the Internet and digital technologies, it has become tempting to resort to Google Search, instead of leaving things to randomness and spontaneity. Having everything in order and control is often valued over randomness. I know of friends who would not watch movies that they haven’t read reviews of or with less than three stars ratings or go to a random new restaurant that has opened up in town.

When I first started out as a postgraduate student in ANU last year, I recall forming an alliance with two PhD friends I had just befriended, putting their names down as preferred flat mates on the college accommodation forms online. I was also looking for off campus accommodation with friends. On hindsight, it might have been a blessing that I ended up in a studio on campus. Living in a studio forced me out of my comfort zone, to meet new wonderful friends I would otherwise not have really bothered knowing if I was living with friends.

It was also through randomness that I ended up with a girl from Tanzania as my off campus flat mate during my first year undergraduate days in Brisbane. I learned to appreciate the African culture and food, picked up bits and pieces of the Swahili language, and even hosted her in Singapore. She turned out to be the best flat mate I ever had, and would never have met if I did not leave things up to randomness. Of course, there are other times where random selections meant that I ended up with the worst flat mate ever in my life. Yet, I survived with hilarious tales of my ex flat mate, the police, ambulance and the hospital to tell.

Certainly, there are other areas in life where certainty is valued over randomness, such as when it comes to seeing a doctor or a dentist. You would want a good professional one. A few months ago, I needed a dentist and decided to leave things up to randomness. Typically, I would have typed “good dentists in Canberra” on Google Search, be amazed by the answers I would be getting and choose one from the shortlist of dentists I have gathered. Yet, I chose to visit the dentist that is five minutes away from my office. My dentist turns out to be the best dentist I ever had in my life so far. Out of curiosity, I did a Google search on my dentist’s name the other day. One would never have guessed that the only thing that came up on Google search is that my dentist was actually a nominated bachelor for Canberra’s Bachelor of the Year. If I had done this earlier, I would probably never have turned up for my dental appointment.

So, the next time when you have some free time with no one else free, consider catching a random movie. You could be pleasantly surprised. After all, when we lose randomness, we lose that bit of serendipity in life, which makes it more interesting.

Would you rather be the cookie cutter girl or the alpha female?

The following piece is published on Thought Catalog. This isn’t entirely a well written article. But, it was a fun frivolous piece written when I was inspired.


A giant, noisy, brightly-lit, gaudy carousel, whirling ever faster. People in the darkness beyond, watching and wondering.
Others at the edge, trying to climb aboard. Some who are clinging on precariously, trying not to fall off.
Those who are riding the horses and grinning giddily.
A few who sit in the still centre, sipping champagne.
The observer then looks at the controller’s booth and sees that it is – empty!  This is the modern world.

– Anonymous (A friend wrote this.)

You are the classic example of an Alpha female, often driven by insecurity and ruling by fear. Since young, you have focused on your achievements, in pursuit of perfection, that sense of satisfaction and achievement. All that gives you the adrenaline high, similar to what you get after a good run and consuming chocolates. People around you often see you as aloof, unemotional, and unsympathetic. You have grown accustomed to such views. You know you are not aloof, but you just find it hard to express your empathy towards others.

You are always planning ahead. In college, you take up additional coursework and attempt to finish your college degree in record time, while taking on internships and what have you that gets you ahead during the summer holidays, while others party on. Unfortunately, such adrenaline highs never last long enough for you to be satisfied with what you have. So, you are constantly on the move, constantly chasing after the next achievement, and the next big thing that gives you even more satisfaction. You never seem satisfied. At work, you find yourself always looking out for the next job, as soon as you land onto the current job. Your current job should always take you onto the next job. Otherwise, it is a no go.

With men, you never ask for their help. You are not of those girls that need help with moving from place to place or with their grocery/shopping bags. As painful and tiring as it may be, your pride and ego as an alpha female disallow you from asking for any help. You rather complete everything on your own, instead of asking for help. For that and many other things, men find you overly stubborn. At the movies, you constantly tell yourself that these teary movies are fiction and shedding tears would be silly.

After a few years at work, you find yourself having to deal with the increasing dissatisfaction with how things are  and with your own incompetency. You quit your job, convinced that you need further education. You take on another degree – be it the Masters, the MBA or the PhD. You find the need to constantly improve yourself, and to be the best in what you do. Your pursuit of perfection and excellence drives you insane at times. Getting into a prestigious postgraduate degree gives you the instant high. But, that adrenaline high yet again sinks soon after.

Sometimes, you find yourself wishing that you are in the darkness beyond, watching and wondering about the rest who try to hang onto the path that twirls and swirls one around. Sometimes, you catch yourself wondering if it is better to be a cookie cutter girl rather than an alpha female, and to be satisfied with settling down, accepting help from guys, being loved by someone and getting married. Then, there are other times, you wonder if you would ever get to the still centre, sipping champagne, and be totally satisfied and pacified by life, the way it is.

Would you rather be the cookie cutter girl or the alpha female?