Shrinking myself

S: Hello. I’m Shrink.

M: I’m Mandy.

S: What brings you here today?

M: I’d just like to talk a few things out. I’ve been a little overwhelmed recently, and while I definitely feel better, it would be nice to get it out in the open.

S: I understand you wrote an ambiguous Facebook post about feeling like a failure. You know ambiguous Facebook statuses are a failure in and of themselves, right?

M: Are you allowed to call me a failure? What kind of shrink are you? Where did you go to school?

S: University of Texas A&M University. Psychology was my minor. I got my Masters in Googling and my Doctorate in Advanced Judgmental Behavior.

M: You’re not supposed to judge. You’re supposed to listen and guide me by asking questions.

S: How does it make you feel that I’m judging you right now?

M: I want to get up and leave. I don’t need your judgment. But leaving you is difficult since we’re the same person.

S: We are, and that sucks for me, since you’re feeling overwhelmed. Tell me why.

M: I have a lot going on right now – a lot of responsibilities. Normally it would be okay, but since my time in Taiwan is limited, everything seems more pressing.

S: Your time is limited?

M: Yes. You know that. In August I’m moving, probably back to the US.

S: Probably?

M: Well, yeah. If I get a job in Canada or Europe, I wouldn’t be in the US.

S: That won’t happen. You’re not a stellar enough candidate for them to choose you over a citizen. So, you’re going back to the US. Why?

M: Because it’s time.

S: Why?

M: I want to leave Taiwan and miss it, not feel like I overstayed. I don’t want to feel trapped like I did in College Station.

S: Why?

M: Why do I want to leave now or why would I feel trapped?

S: Yes.

M: …how much am I paying you?

S: Nothing. It would be weird if you paid yourself for shrinking yourself. It’s odd enough that you’re shrinking yourself. You’re an overthinking shrinking piece of work.

M: …All I heard was, “Nothing.” Can we move on, please?

S: Fine. So, you’re going back to the US. Why?

M: You know, everyone asks me that. What are you going to do? What’s next? Why are you moving? Where to? I don’t know the answers. I’m just doing it. I’m going with what my heart is telling me to do.

S: Do you listen to your heart often?

M: I try to.

S: Does your heart speak with an English accent?

M: …You know it’s not actually talking to me, right? That’s why I don’t have clear answers. I’m going with how I feel, and what I think I would regret least, as strange as that sounds.

S: Compared to most of this conversation, that’s the least strange of half the stuff you’ve said.

M: You’re judging me again?

S: Of course I am. How does that make you feel?

M: I judge myself enough. I don’t need your input.

S: How do you judge yourself? Not that I need pointers – you’re an easy target.

M: Excuse me?

S: I said we need to target your self-loathing and point out the easy ways you can stop judging yourself so much.

M: There’s no self-loathing. I like myself. I just expect a lot from myself. I don’t like feeling like I’ve let people down. I don’t like feeling like I could’ve done more.

S: You can always do more.

M: But I’m only one person. Like Christy told me the other night: “It’s enough.” What I’m doing is enough.

S: Who is Christy?

M: A friend here in Hsinchu.

S: Is she invisible?

M: No. I actually have friends, you know. Just because I don’t go out drinking a lot doesn’t mean I don’t have friends and don’t do stuff.

S: You sound boring.

M: Sometimes I feel boring, but just because I don’t think I’ve done anything WHOAMAJOR in my life. At least, I don’t feel like I have.

S: Those are a lot of capital letters. That’s not a real word.

M: “Whoa” and “major”. You really couldn’t read that?

S: Of course not. You like making up words. It’s one of your more irritating traits.

M: You’re calling me irritating? Pot, kettle.

S: Don’t get defensive. You moved to Taiwan. That was major.

M: It doesn’t feel like it. I do a lot with my life, but none of it feels epic or super exciting. It just seems… I dunno. Not that interesting.

S: You’re on the other side of the planet from everything you’ve known. You’ve become involved in a completely different culture.

M: I know. But what have I really done, you know? What difference have I made?

S: You think you’re going to make a difference if you move?

M: I dunno. But it feels like the right decision.

S: You keep saying, “I dunno.” What do you dunno?

M: I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what’s next. I have no idea where I’m going to be, what I’m going to be doing, or what my life is going to look like in three months. And that’s terrifying.

S: Terrifying?

M: Of course it is. Didn’t you hear me on the phone with Mom and Dad the other night? I don’t ugly-cry to win Oscars. I do it because this is real life, and it’s hard and confusing.

S: So what you’re saying is that you want to be an actress.

M: What? No. Is this really that complicated?

S: You made it complicated all by yourself. Do you thrive on complicating things?

M: No. Of course not. I mean… I dunno. No. I like things straightforward.

S: Then why are you so hard on yourself?

M: I’m afraid to make mistakes.

S: Why?

M: Because some mistakes are irrevocable.

S: I don’t believe in mistakes.

M: Neither do I… normally.

S: Liar.

M: No. I tell other people all the time that as long as they don’t hurt themselves or others, they can’t make mistakes. They just make decisions.

S: Then you can’t make mistakes, either. You can only decide which way your life is going to go. The only mistake is not living your life.

M: Where’d you get that – a fortune cookie?

S: No. Don’t be rude.

M: You know, they don’t have fortune cookies in Taiwan.

S: I’m well aware. That one was on the house.


  1. Why’d you feel trapped in College Station?

    In case you don’t mind trying out a culture more different from your own that what you will find in Canada or Europe, I’d like to point out that there is no income tax in several Gulf countries, and it will be rather simple to get by using English alone.

    1. College Station is a good place, but very homogeneous, and there’s not much culture to enjoy there. After 20 years there, I was ready to leave and live in a bigger city with more things to do.

      I’d love to go to the Middle East, and another friend of mine recommended I try it out. I’d actually found a position in Oman that I was going to apply, but I think I need to go closer to home for at least a couple of years. We’ll see. I don’t know what’s in store for my life, and I’m having to come to terms with that 🙂

      1. For what it’s worth, you don’t lose a lot by just applying. Also, Omanis have got to be some of the nicest people anywhere. But good luck figuring stuff out!

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