Friday, July 5, 2013

Missing the homeland

One of the great things about having a nerdy intern (who you definitely helped hire for many reasons) is that he supplies you with TV shows. This is especially helpful when your TV, similar to the situation in Finland, does not receive the TV signals of the country you're living in, which continues to be the case for me here in the UK. I still love my TV but it basically is a glorified computer monitor at this point, no reason to beat around the bush.

One of the shows he has supplied me with without my asking (so this doesn't include things like the very obvious and awesome Game of Thrones or Walking Dead, which I've specifically requested) is Homeland, an odd but interesting show with Claire Danes about the CIA and their tracking of terrorists. Basically the storyline is Danes is a CIA analyst (and field agent...not sure how realistic this premise is but whatever, we all like to pretend that the really awesome brainy ones are also cool enough to wield guns and do dangerous things sometimes) tracking a Muslim terrorist who has planned several attacks against America. Something something she's always right but no one believes her because she's kinda bipolar and gets a little too obsessive about her work.

Anyway, my point in bringing this up was that it made me realize a lot of things, now having lived outside of the US for over a year (whoops, forgot to take notice of that anniversary):
  • Shows that depict US lifestyle really must seem ridiculous to the rest of the world...but I'll assure you: they are actually realistic portrayals of what our neighborhoods and suburbs are like...and they make me miss home.
  • The show does a good job of demonstrating how zealous (and overzealous) the States is in dealing with "enemies" to the homeland - we do indeed take threats to the country very seriously and it seems this is taken into account at all levels - by the citizens, by politicians, and etc. This is somehow accurately portrayed in the show. Interesting.
  • The fear that is transferred to the citizenry via the media coverage on these "enemies" and the resultant hatred and stereotypical misunderstanding of everything associated with that culture/religion/people. There is one part in the show where one of the main characters is revealed Muslim (he's a white American Marine who is returned home after 8 years of being a prisoner of war by a Muslim terrorist group) and his wife tells him that because he is now a US congressman that it simply "cannot be." She means that it is unacceptable that he be anything but the expected. 
  • The lives of politicians and their families are protected to the greatest degree and they are given special privileges that would not pass for anyone else. There is another part in the show where the vice president's son commits a hit and run with his car and leaves the woman he hits in the street dying. Fearing the wrath of his father he runs out of fear. When his girlfriend tries to convince him that they should turn themselves in he says that it wouldn't matter anyway because they (his parents) would never let him. True to form even when the girlfriend does make them confess they are never allowed to go to the police with their crime.
And for me the greatest of takeaways from the show: analysts have some of the most important jobs of any country. They do our dirty work, they make our discoveries. They are the scientists of many angles and many industries. Unfortunately they also sacrifice a lot. This is one of the better shows I've seen depicting how many of the most talented analysts have gifts (e.g. a lot of times they have illnesses that make them fantastic at their jobs: ADHD, OCD, bipolar disorder, among many types of savants and other types). Some of these gifts are kept in check, others are not.

Here is an article I put on my FB not too long ago that I completely agree with: Data Scientist: Sexiest Job of the 21st Century. Well the real article link is there (it wasn't working when I just tried to click on it, it's from the Harvard Business Review).

This is not a pump for my own job, btw. I do love my job and it is incredible. But I have been noticing that...well, I am kind of like Claire Danes' character. Little obsessive about my job. Working long hours, giving up things in my personal life. Sort of killing myself slowly with work and my interest in delving myself a little too deep.

And she's completely nuts in the show. Admittedly she does have bipolar disorder and some other illness they never make clear (but that she is clearly taking medication for). But it did start to ring a little too true for me that if I continued exactly on the path she was on (naturally not hunting terrorists but delving into industry analysis and competitor studies) I would probably end up alone.

So this is a call for going back to the greener side of things. Focusing on the self, not giving things up for the glory and the satisfaction of literally, a job well done.

This does not by any means mean that I am giving up on my job or becoming lazy. Because let's face it, I love my job and what I do too much for that. But I am going to make a conscious effort to do things other than my job. Not spend all night at work and then at the gym. There are other things in life. Like travel (haha, and not just for work) and friends. And love.

So cheers to that. And I've decided it's okay I miss my homeland. That's why it's home. All of my homes, but especially America.

Happy Belated Independence Day.

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