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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Scenes from San Francisco

I drove to San Francisco recently and I walked around the city for hours. Here are some of the pictures I took.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Experiencing Self vs the Remembering Self

I recently embarked on my very first backpacking trip. Up until this point, I had only gone camping and short distance hiking on trails that were 5-10 miles in length. Backpacking essentially combines both hiking and camping and it can be an intense experience depending on various factors such as the length and difficulty of the trail, the weather, and how many nights of camping are involved. For my trip, I went backpacking on the Lost Coast Trail, which starts at Mattole and ends at Black Sands Beach. The trail is located in Shelter Cove, CA and the total distance is about 26 miles.  It took us 3 days of hiking and 2 nights of camping to finish the trail. The average weight of our backpacks fluctuated between 25-35 pounds depending on how much water and food we had used up. The majority of the trail involved hiking through sand, and rocky shorelines, which made the hike much more difficult (although also more beautiful). The entire experience is hard to describe but I can confidently say that I was challenged and pushed to my limits at an emotional, physical, and mental level.  Even as my legs were ready to give out and I was thoroughly exhausted, the views were so picturesque that I was still able to properly admire them.

Throughout this whole experience, a reoccurring idea refused to leave my mind during the toughest portions of the hike. This particular thought gave me the ability to look past the physical pain and exhaustion of the present and it granted me the strength to keep going when I genuinely felt I was completely depleted and could not keep moving. I was thinking about the idea of the remembering self and the experiencing self. Professor Daniel Kahneman describes the concept in his TED Talk:
...we might be thinking of ourselves and of other people in terms of two selves. There is an experiencing self, who lives in the present and knows the present, is capable of re-living the past, but basically it has only the present. It's the experiencing self that the doctor approaches -- you know, when the doctor asks, "Does it hurt now when I touch you here?" And then there is a remembering self, and the remembering self is the one that keeps score, and maintains the story of our life, and it's the one that the doctor approaches in asking the question, "How have you been feeling lately?" or "How was your trip to Albania?" or something like that. Those are two very different entities, the experiencing self and the remembering self, and getting confused between them is part of the mess about the notion of happiness.
The idea is a bit more complicated and nuanced than the part quoted here but for the discussion at hand, no further details are necessary. By reminding myself that there can be two distinctly different selves, I was able to look past the troubles of the present. During my lowest points when I felt like giving up and I was fatigued, I consistently remembered that once this experience was over, I would be thoroughly proud of myself for taking on such a challenge and not giving up. I knew that my remembering self would properly frame the experience in a positive light and I would ultimately grow as a person. As I currently write down these thoughts, with my remembering self in full control, my predictions have come true. I am in fact very proud of having had the courage to take on this challenge and to see it through. By "tricking" my experiencing self into looking beyond the present and imagining how it will feel in the future, I was able to distract myself from the harsh reality of the present and essentially pull the more pleasant future back in time. The idea might sound a bit ridiculous and abstract but it did work for me and it could perhaps work for you as well.

The next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, try to remember that you have two selves that have control over defining your reality and ultimately, your happiness. Do your best to look past the present and imagine how your future self will view the current experience. By focusing on the potentially more pleasant future, you can make your present experience more bearable and perhaps meaningful.

With that said, here are some pictures from the hike itself and a few bonus photos from the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

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