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What experiments do I want to run in my life?

5 min

“The pain of inaction stings longer than the pain of incorrect action.” -James Clear

At the start of the year, I asked myself, “What experiments do I want to run in my life?”

Thanks to Neurohacker for sharing this image.

This past month were some experiments of removal. I ran three experiments of elimination this past month and will share my findings as follows:

  1. Dry January (no adult beverages)

  2. No caffeine

  3. No Hinge dating app

Through noticing things that I feel dependent on, I can observe more clearly my triggers for habits and behaviors. Can I live without those things? Time to channel “Jen the scientist” who loves experimenting 👩🏻‍🔬.

(1) Why did I quit alcohol?

To be fair, this isn’t a novel experiment for me. It was the fourth time I have completed a dry January. Without drinking, it afforded me the space to notice five reasons why I indulge in adult beverages:

  1. To celebrate or incentivize myself. Historically, I’ve over-indulged as a way to commemorate a win in life. Whether that be completing calculus homework, a friend getting a year older, married, a holiday or vacation, these created opportunities where it was socially acceptable to consume.

  2. The perception of rebellion and adventure. Growing up as a sailor, drinking was ingrained as a part of the boating lifestyle. Then in school with groups, it was a ‘coolness’ factor of having a fake ID. Furthermore on spring breaks or at parties, I felt like I was being rebellious. As a part of a sorority and for after swim meets, it felt like an adventure to explore a more giddy sense of myself.

  3. To be social, let loose and connect with friends. This rang through as a definite incentive for me in university, where I would be able to go straight from the library to the bar to meet up with friends and take the edge off. Hot dog happy hour with $1 wells drinks was a superior vehicle to transitioning me from my overthinking mind into my extroverted life of the party “Jenny V” mode. The narrative in my head was that I was expected to drink to fit in. It turns out that so many of those familiar faces I thought of as friends were really mere drinking buddies.

  4. To make new friends. There’s no huge mega fair to join clubs and make a gazillion friends easily after college. In the working world, happy hours and nights out on the town appeared to be of the few ‘normal’ ways to make friends. There was additional pressure of fomo on my career progression, if I missed the golfing event. Alcohol served as a crutch to lean on when I felt like I needed an excuse to meet up with acquaintances. It felt like it was something “to do” in case it was awkward. For adults, alcohol implies fun.

  5. To have fun. In retrospect, there are unlimited ways of having fun and they don’t have to mean screwing my future self over either. I’d consider it a win that I feel secure in myself after meeting up with newer folk without giving into social pressure to fit in and drink.

What’s my relationship with alcohol nowadays?

It’s a work in progress. More or less I’ve given up hard liquor. I’ve forbade shots from my life for a year or so now. I’d be lying if I said I won’t be drinking a pina colado on the beach with my sister this weekend. I’m considering to try this longer term. Though, I do love the experience that a cold beer creates after a sailboat race or a glass of red wine on a chillier winter game night.

(2) Why did I quit caffeine?

This is something that I previously quit back in 2020. I had originally stopped after thanksgiving while feeling extra jittery and ramping up with my freelancing. The dreary weather in Chicago had me drinking coffee every morning and tea every afternoon which left me feeling this false sense of mental energy. From a behavioral standpoint, the triggers to start my creativity and productivity rested on the limbs of coffee beans and tea leaves. Not a great place to be IMO. I want my energy to come from within me, without being externally stimulated.

This time around I quite while in isolation with Covid over the holiday. I had headaches anyways and was sleeping so much that the mere thought of getting up to brew a pot of joe seemed silly. I didn’t miss it and realized that Hawaii got me addicted to it again.

What’s my relationship with caffeine moving forward?

The routine is in flux a bit. Drinking a hot beverage is a staple to starting my day. Usually it is warm lemon water with some red saffron threads, mint leaves, or turmeric. Maybe a bit of honey, if it was hard to get up. I still absolutely love chai lattes, my favorite Hawaiian green guava tea, and the smell of coffee.

I’m trying to listen to my body and what it needs vs. what it wants. I love starting my writing sessions with a hot herbal tea. As a treat, I’m going to sometimes have caffeinated tea as long as I don’t feel that I need it. I’ve started to drink decaf coffee ensuring a caffeine doesn’t slip through the cracks. This is a new pursuit, where I feel like an undercover agent tricking my body with a placebo.

(3) Why did I quit the dating app Hinge?

Why do I even use this in the first place?

My intent on the app started out as a priority for the first time in my life of figuring out what I seek in my future life partner. My parents met when they were my age, so I was curious to give it a shot.

I’ve never had a boyfriend (unless a 3 month high school fling counts), so I ended up making a routine of every week or so going on dates in Honolulu. This added up to ten first dates. It was a priceless experience to learn more about others, body language, communication, myself and my values. I do not regret this. However, it was exhausting. So many judgment calls, and it was challenging to chill rather than feel like I’m auditioning.

When I was in quarantine, I was lonely and bored. So, I found myself more and more on Hinge acting like it’s a game swiping. Then I noticed how much time I was actually spending on it and was confused by my actions.

Why do I want this fake sense of attention? I realized I would much rather prefer to spend that attention calling a friend or reading a book at night instead.

What’s your relationship with this dating app now?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the app. I love connecting with new people and gamified apps (you should’ve seen my addiction with Tiny Wings a decade ago).

I’ve since realized that there’s many opportunities to meet new people in my day-to-day life. I can channel my courage and make a move. Sure it’s more scary than swiping, but the chance at authentic connection is much higher. I do not need to rely on such a curated first impression to navigate the dating world.

Originally posted on Letter 96 from a Learn-it-all.


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