the fear that Dr. House had, the fear of happiness

Hello dear diary,

You know what’s odd is that some months ago back in November 2017, I met someone that changed my life, and if all anyone had was this blog to piece together clues about my life, they wouldn’t know at all that I’ve been in a serious, joyful relationship.

This is me and Rossy (most people call her Rosie but to really pronounce her name correctly, the s sound in her name should be accented, kind of like you're hissing it)This is me and Rossy (most people call her Rosie but to really pronounce her name correctly, the s sound in her name should be accented, kind of like you’re hissing it)

I don’t know myself what took me this long to mention about this here. This is after all my ongoing memoir. For me, as someone who’s been single and living alone for most of his life, a girlfriend like this is a huge deal. Perhaps, as the title of this post suggests, there’s something about love and happiness that’s really scary, and as I’ll try to explain below, especially being in a helping profession like social work.

I realize this is still a relatively new relationship, but I could really envision a future together with her. We’re both committed professionals somehow finding meaning in our careers. She grew up as a vegetarian so the fact that I try to live my life as vegan as possible is not an issue. I can cook food her and share with her, and her cooking is quite amazing as well. She’s extroverted in a way that perfectly complements how introverted I tend to be. I don’t mean to say it’s a perfect romance since she and I, like everybody else, are such flawed people, but it does feel to me like this is the kind of person and relationship, I’ve subconsciously waiting for all my life.

We discovered each other on this dating app called Coffee Meets Bagel. Initially we were texting back and forth so much, and we couldn’t meet because she was going to Portugal for almost 2 weeks, which is a vacation she had planned for months and months before she was aware I existed. Even though we were thousands of miles apart, we continued to keep in touch texting each other and finding time to talk to each other over the phone. There was clearly an emotional connection, and though we’ve never met in person there was definitely some sexual attraction and tension as well.

But then something happened and I was left to face a dilemma that I never imagined could be something I had to deal with. What happened was, someone “superliked” me on Tinder.

Tinder in my experience has been the worst kind of dating app. No one ever liked me back on Tinder. Well, there were like three times total I think? Two times never lead to anything more than just texting hi to each other. The third we actually met in person but turns out the only reason was because she wanted to go to this EDM concert and didn’t want to go alone. Tinder is too intimidating to me, feels too focused on the superficials, and no one is upfront about their intentions.

So when someone superliked me, I was surprised. I got a notification and was even more surprised when I checked out the profile: a cute Korean girl who’s proud and passionate about being vegan. I liked her back, we started talking, and went on a date.

So for the first time in my life I had a dilemma of having to choose which woman I wanted to keep dating. I guess in the contemporary dating culture, it’s generally acceptable to continue dating two people at the same time and then eventually come to a decision. But it’s me we’re talking about. I’m too awkward to pull that off. I consulted with some friends whose suggestions were to ride it out, that since I only had one date with the Korean girl so far and I haven’t even met Rossy in person, I shouldn’t feel guilty about it. I was advised to go on an actual date with Rossy after she returned from Portugal, see how that goes, and then decide.

It was sound advice. But I couldn’t do that. The type of person I am, I felt compelled to be transparent to the people I was dating. I told the Korean girl first that I had connected with someone on Coffee Meets Bagel app before and we were actually still texting with each other. She was nonchalant about it and told me that she herself was being wooed and courted by 5 other guys that she connected with on Tinder.

Rossy though did not take it well. The whole thing went to shit, and based on how our text convo went, I came to believe that my chances with Rossy was over now. I no longer had a dilemma, but it still felt rather sad to me it all ended before it got to start.

I had one more date with the Korean girl. It was a really nice date. We sat and watched stars together and even shared some kisses. But ultimately it never really went anywhere. The only thing we really had in common were our vegan ideals and our like of Korean dramas and shows. She lived and worked deep New Jersey while I lived and worked way up in the Bronx. She was still figuring out her life and adjusting to the fact that she didn’t live in Korea anymore. I lived in NYC for over 10 years rarely looking back towards Korea. We liked each other but there really wasn’t a way anything more would happen.

What brought me back to Rossy was when I took a vacation trip to Hawaii. Hawaii is such a romantic place. Traveling there as a single person can feel so lonely. I imagined that’s how Rossy must have felt when she was traveling in Portugal by herself. She must have felt so lonely like that when I texted her that I had connected with someone on Tinder and I was not completely sure who I’ll end up with. No wonder she got so upset. After Hawaii I could really empathize with her.

I texted her in the hopes that she’d forgive me. It turns out that she had been feeling bad she got so upset at me and was hoping I’d forgive her. So we re-connected quickly, and long story short, we’re now one of those sappy people that probably would make single people cringe and puke if they spotted us on February 14th.

The difficult thing for me has been trying to stay motivated as a social worker. I mean, I was struggling with this before I met Rossy too, but when my personal life outside work feels so good, waking up early in the morning to commute to my office becomes really really tough. It just feels like now I have this life outside of my social work with its separate ambitions and plans and joys. I of course still see my social work obligations as very important, but it definitely feels like an obligation a lot.

There’s another aspect to the House’s fear though. He’s a brilliant diagnostician that gets away with so much unprofessionalism because he’s that brilliant. Throughout the show we learn that pain is a constant thing for him. He limps with his cane, always feeling the pain in his leg. There’s a story arc in which his leg is cured. Initially he’s happy and excited. Then he kind of messes up on a diagnosis.

We the audience should know this is not the first time House makes a mistake. There are plenty of times beforehand in which House makes the wrong call and endangers the lives of his patients and his career.

House doesn’t seem to realize that when he experiences a similar challenge after his leg is cured. He comes to think that without pain, he’s less able. He fears happiness because he has this idea that his misery is what enables his mind to work brilliantly as it does.

The show I think is rather ambiguous in answering whether House is right to have that fear or not.

To me, that’s always been a very relatable kind of fear, especially nowadays that I am so happy being in this amazing relationship with such an awesome girlfriend.

To be frank – and I admit, I’m not feeling completely comfortable disclosing aspects of my life and thoughts this honestly – like House, pain is a thing I carry around constantly as I do social work. I have never been diagnosed and though I’ll be considered very functional (having a full-time job as a social worker), I get into depressed mood a lot. Some years ago I was reading books about loneliness and from that I took away that if chronic loneliness ever came to be taken seriously as a mental/emotional health condition, that’s basically what I’ve lived with for so long.

It’s a kind of pain that has been very challenging for me to live with, but at the same time, as a social worker, it’s often something I looked to as a source of strength and skill. My thinking has been that because of this pain, I’m better able to empathize with the people I service in my work, and the better I’m able to be motivated and compelled to do this work.

Social work is not a dangerous life-threatening profession like construction, or military, but it’s can be extremely stressful, because in this work we witness so much pain. It’s a field in which our clients are diagnosed with mental and physical disabilities, and have experienced awful traumas such as homelessness, sexual abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, loss of loved ones, incarceration… We take this all in as their confidants, and somehow we have to not let it get to us when we leave for home.

So it’s good to escape social work. I think almost all social workers have a way of finding escape and respite from social work. We go to our own therapists and social workers. For me, my main escapes are found in video games, in movies and TV shows, and in writing out my feelings and thoughts. Lot of these reflect the pains and struggles I witness, in some ways more extreme and dramatized. Like when I watch about slavery and oppression in the anime One Piece, when I find myself hunting robot dinosaurs in a post-apocalyptic world of the video game Horizon: Zero Dawn, I can escape to fictional worlds that are so much worse than my realities but find the courage required to overcome them.

So I do relate to a fear like one House has/had. If I enjoy my escape from social work so much, if I am so happy, does that impact my social work skills when a client confides to me her traumas and her pains? If so, in what way? It’s probably irrational but sometimes I get this sense that I have to sacrifice an aspect of myself and my ambitions for a happiness like this.

I hope all this just ends up being irrational nonsense honestly. There’s no rule book that social work has to mean not finding personal happiness and joy. In fact, it is a profession about trying to help the most vulnerable populations find their happiness and joy. That should include the social worker himself.

So my task is the same as it’s been, to try my best in social work, but it’s a good wonderful thing I’m in a joyful relationship with my Rossy.

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