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Winnie Lim on Rebuilding Oneself

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We spent all Sunday reading and writing about Winnie Lim’s The year I broke up with myself: a review of 2015 with yearlong data. I’ve been following Winnie’s blog for a while and let my wife read he latest post, the isolating experience of my migraines, because it contains some truths I thought might help her as well. Her interest was piqued, and after following a few links, we ended up on Medium, reading her gigantic 2015 year in review.

Being true to oneself is easy until there’s a lot at stake, but having more at stake makes it important to know who we truly are.

Many of her philosophical reflections and quotes ended up in my journal. I had to refill a pen. Everything Winnie writes, especially that long article, is very moving. We recognized a lot of ourselves in her struggles and I greatly respect her for throwing her fragile life out in the open like that.

It’s one of humanity’s greatest privileges to listen to somebody tell their stories.

It takes a lot of courage to do so—to write, not about the things you’re good at (design, programming, blah blah), but about the things you’re struggling with in life. I find myself enjoying these blogs more and more, compared to the one-dimensional blog that contains only technicalities. When looking at Brain Baking, I think I’ve made the transition in 2021 towards a blend of both, and I quite like that.

I think I am experiencing burn out because I love my work too much.

But my public writing does not come close to Winnie’s blog. I simply don’t have the guts to do so. These things, for now, stay in my analog journal.

I don’t want to wait till death is imminent for me to realize that I should have loved deeper, traveled further, written more.

Why do these quotes grab me by the throat? Is it because they’re deeply infused with philosophy, which I’m also fascinated by? Is it because her thinking patterns align with mine? Is it out of respect for opening up, admitting to the sensitivity?

The way to cope with my darkness is to keep on shining light on it.

Perhaps it’s because of the one question, we all try to answer: what do you actually live for? “To do right”, as any Stoic would probably answer? That sounds awfully superficial. Winnie conducted a longitudinal study on herself, by meticulously inspecting her own tweets, Facebook posts, pictures, check-ins, kilometers walked, … of an entire year. This made her slowly but surely want to change herself. Based on data. It reminded me of The Quantified Self, except that here, it’s the Qualified Self. This clearly is qualitative data that has to be analyzed by coding, not by emotionless statistics.

Stop seeing the world, life, yourself, as a series of problems to solve, but develop the capacity to let it unfold on its own with conscious, mindful participation. Speed gives the illusion of progress, without considerations for sustainability or macro-implications.

It seems that The Qualified Self already exists. Damn it, too late to coin the term!

As I get older I realize it’s not the peaks & valleys that matter but what lies and happens in-between.

Thank you very much Winnie, for sharing your inner battle. It’s going to take a long time before we digested your insights. My wife even created index cards with your quotes, translated in Dutch, from which we can grab a random one to guide the mindful moment of the day.

Winnie's quotes, translated, on index cards.

I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

If you found this article amusing and/or helpful, you can buy me a coffee - although I'm more of a tea fan myself. I also like to hear your feedback via Mastodon or e-mail. Thanks!