Another day, another decade. Tonight is, of course, New Year’s Eve, and at the stroke of midnight, we’ll be ushering in another year, and indeed, another decade. This day, over the past few years, has always been a day of reflection for me, as I’m sure it is for many others. A few years back, I started an annual tradition of writing a letter to my future self, one year down the road. It all started with a dumb project in Careers class where we had to write a letter for five years down the road, but when I finally opened it and read it, I realized the value it had in reflecting on the past. I could see how much I had grown, what I was thinking about at the time, and what I expected for the future. Since that time, I’ve started writing letters to myself every year, and this one will be no different. I always forget what I write, so it’s great to open it and read it like it was the first time a year later.
This year has been one of growth for me. That’s obviously a good thing. I’ve learned many things about myself and the world around me that I think I will keep with me for a long while. When reflecting back, something that still comes to mind is my deconversion from Christianity. Though it’s still fairly recent, it seems like ages ago that I took that step. I suppose that happens with any event, but it partially means that I’ve moved on since that event. It no longer feels like just yesterday that it happened. Part of the growth I mentioned is to do with “getting back on track,” so to speak. Tearing down one’s worldview and rebuilding it from the ground up is not an easy process, and it has taken time. However, I have made significant progress. I feel more confident in what I do and don’t believe, especially with regard to religion. In other areas that my religious beliefs previously informed, I’ve worked towards developing a more informed opinion on other areas; these include areas like politics, economic systems, and ethical systems, to name a few. I am still not sure of my footing in these areas, but I’ve at least tentatively laid some groundwork so that more time and effort will firm it up. I am confident that the future holds a much better sense of what I believe about these things, and I look forward to that.
Another area of “getting back on track” has involved my social circle. I lost many friends when going to university (as often happens as we move our separate ways), and after spending a year hiding in my room and reading about philosophy and theology, my social life has suffered. This has still been somewhat of a struggle, but I have made progress in gaining new friends. Of course, in the new year (just a couple of days from now, actually) I will be moving to Ottawa for a co-op job, so we’ll see what happens with my friendships then, but I am sure that my time in Ottawa this term will be much less lonely than my previous term there. I have made more connections, and know several people also moving there for co-op jobs this term that I can hopefully hang out with. I might also be able to get back in touch with some of the friends I made the last time I was there. And, of course, I plan to make some more friends as well. We shall have to wait and see what the future holds in this area, but I’m glad to be seeing an improvement already.
This time of year is, of course, a time filled with New Year’s resolutions. I generally hate goal-setting to begin with out of principle, and even moreso at New Year’s, since no one ever keeps their resolutions, but I decided I would make a few this year. These are not particularly new ones, as they are goals I’ve already made for myself and intend on keeping, and have already alluded to them up above, but oh well. I’d rather re-affirm an existing goal and actually keep it than set a wildly unrealistic resolution and break it. I’m not going to resolve to read the Encyclopedia Brittanica this year or lose 200 pounds (which is good, since I’d be into negative values if I did). Good goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable, and time-based. At least, that’s what I’ve always been told. (Now you know one of the reasons I hate goal-setting: they inspire these cheesy acronyms.) So here we go with some SMART goals.
First off, in 2010 I resolve to reach a conclusion regarding the economic system that I believe to be the best. This is something I’ve dealt a lot with lately (as seen in several recent posts), and I am confident that with some more time examining the benefits and drawbacks of each, that I can find one I believe to be the best system available. Currently, I’ve been spending most of my time on this matter looking into history. I’m trying to look at socialism/communism and see just what it is that made the several countries that have tried it fail. I mean, theoretically communism is a democratic system, but in practice, all the countries that have tried to implement it (or at least the ones I’ve looked at so far) were totalitarian countries with a single-party system. How can a system with only one party to “vote” for be democratic? This makes it difficult to tease apart whether it is communism itself that is the problem, or whether it’s a matter of how it is implemented, and the issue of totalitarianism that is the problem. I’m hoping that by reading more about these countries, I can figure out this issue. There are, of course, other systems – laissez-faire capitalism, corporate capitalism, socialistic capitalism (or mixed systems, as they’re sometimes called), socialism, participatory economics, and so on. But my plan is to end up with a firm and well-reasoned conclusion to this issue by the end of the year at the latest.
Another one of my goals is to decide with more clarity on what I intend to do after graduation. Right now I’ve kind of decided to go to graduate school, but that was less of an intentional decision than it was just “I don’t know what else to do and graduate studies seems to get me where I may want to go in the future.” The problem is that sometimes I fear spending lots of time and money getting an education, then getting into the field and finding out I hate it. I feel like I’m putting an awful lot of investments into something that I’ve never tried before. It’s like buying a house without ever taking a look at the inside of it. I’m hoping that the experiences I have lined up for the future – a co-op job as a research assistant, working on my honours thesis, and so on – will help to clarify it for me. I just don’t know, though. Even if I do go to grad school, do I want to do it right away, or go do some travelling first? Or get a job and work for a year, then go back to school? These questions need to be answered, and so I need to spend some time, sit down, and think about it. I plan to do that in the next year – hopefully sooner rather than later.
Finally, I resolve to keep trying to expand my social circle and get back into actually having a half-decent social life. This goal might work against the other two goals a little bit. It’s hard to go out all the time when you’re sitting at home reading Karl Marx and reading the history of the Soviet Union. But I don’t need to constantly be interacting with others. Just a little more would be helpful. I miss having friends that I can just call up and say, “Hey, let’s hang out.” Most of the friends I have seem to have started into this mode of planning big get-togethers. I have nothing against that, but they tend to be fairly infrequent. I like just going and hanging out with people. So I kind of need to do more of that. Part of the solution to doing that is to get more friends that I can call upon, rather than relying on a select few. This might take a while since I’m somewhat of an introvert, but I don’t understand how I used to be able to manage so many friends in high school and now suddenly react against even having a few. I may need to bring out the big guns on this one, but we’ll see. Part of what has helped me this past year has been attending meetings for the Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo club on campus. It’s a weekly thing, which is nice – I’d rather have friends to hang out with outside of scheduled events, but at least it’s something that I can rely on to happen every week. So we’ll see what happens. It’s a gradual process, obviously, so it will take some time. Just gotta work on my irresistable charm and boyish good looks, and this should be in the bag. Well, okay, so it might be a problem then.
Anyway, those are my three resolutions for the new year. I’ve always been a big believer in self-improvement (despite my hatred of formal goal-setting), and my hope is that at the end of 2010, I’ll have come through it as a better person than I am right now, at the beginning of it. My hope is the same for all of you who may be reading this. May the new year be full of joy, reward, and plenty of surprises for you, and may we all look back on it and realize we’ve been better for going through it. Happy New Year!