I have spent a fair few hours over the past two days reflecting on the year that has just passed and the year that has just started. I’ve been thinking about all of the experiences I have had that have led me to where I am in this moment and all of the people who have shared in those experiences. Having the time to pause and reflect has helped me see some things more clearly and I’d like to share a few of these reflections here.
One of the things that struck me was the realisation of the vastness of the world. I began to think of all of the people that are special to me, thinking about where they are, how the threads of our lives managed to be woven together, and I felt a profound gratitude that I’ve been able to meet and be part of so many people’s journeys on this oftentimes frightening but always incredible planet.
This month I will be travelling from one side of the planet to the other and back again in order to see friends and family. That’s pretty extraordinary and I cannot wait for it to happen, although I have a feeling my circadian rhythm will not be as thrilled as I am. Only a short time ago such trips would have been wholly impractical and beyond the means of someone like me. So much of the world is open now for so many people – I’m grateful that I’m one of those people. At the same time, I think about others for whom the world is much smaller and for whatever reasons, economic, political, social, or reasons of their choosing the vastness of the world is reduced to a single country, city, or room. I keep wondering how we might try to continue to open the world for them as well.
I’m sure it is obvious to my readers and listeners by now that I love travelling. I love experiencing things I haven’t experienced before. While occasionally uncomfortable, I love finding myself in situations that are new to me which expand my views and make me question myself, what I do, who I think I am, and what I take for granted. Travelling and meeting people from different places does that better than anything else. I want to make it a priority in my life.
I’ve been thinking as well about various projects, professional and personal as well. This past year I began a podcast with my partner, Jeremy, to breathe some life into these experiences, to share our stories and the stories of others more widely, and to create something new. I think recording the segments, interviewing my amazing friends and learning new things about them, and publishing each new episode has certainly been a highlight of my year. The process has given me new insights into my own experiences and the experiences of people I care about. It has also changed the way I think about travelling, being an immigrant, and being in the world. I’m really excited to be continuing this project and to keep refining it in the new year.
While the podcasting has been such a treat and I have been able to maintain some consistency with it, my blogging has suffered a bit. Podcasting has given me a new and more immediate way to synthesize my experiences as an immigrant in the UK perhaps a little to the detriment of the written part of this venture. It probably also doesn’t help that hanging over me at every given moment of the day is the need to complete my 80,000 word PhD thesis. When you spend most of the day writing for work, writing for pleasure is the last thing you really want to consider. That being said, I’m hoping to get back to blogging more regularly in the new year. Even if it’s only 500 words, I want to make sure I’m still reflecting on things in my life.
There is that PhD, too. I had wanted to complete it by now, at least have it submitted but that hasn’t happened. I’ve made great progress with it and along the way I’ve had the chance to share my research at an international conference, write a chapter for a book, work on other research projects which are incredibly meaningful to me, and do some teaching as well. I have a tendency to be rather brutal with myself if I fall short of my expectations but while I haven’t completed the main task I set for myself in 2017, I have grown in tremendous ways through these other experiences of which the PhD is one part. There is a love-hate relationship most PhD researchers feel about their PhD journeys and there have been times over the past three years it has felt more like a hate-hate relationship. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have been able to do half of the incredible things I have done over the past three years without it. It allowed me to return to the UK, take time to answer a research question I’m passionate about, meet people from all over the world, travel to places like Argentina, reconnect with Jeremy who has become my best friend and partner and who I can’t imagine my life without. None of it wouldn’t have happened without the PhD. I want to remember all of that while I work toward finishing it this year.
While I’ve already mentioned the incredible people I’ve connected with over the course of my life, I feel like they have been the most fore fronted in my thoughts recently. There have been people which have come and gone from my life; there are people with whom I have only grown closer to emotionally despite the increase in the physical distance; I can never think about being an immigrant without the pain of remembering I’m separated from my family. The people in my life have made my life beautiful: the ones who are still here with me, the ones I no longer am in touch with, the ones who have left this world, and the ones who are far away but still manage to make me feel as though they are just down the street. In my darkest moments of despair, when I look at the news and think about the level of vitriolic hatred humans are capable of I want to remember the humans who have made my life beautiful and I want to participate in making others’ lives beautiful in return.
These aren’t resolutions as such. These are observations, these are reminders to myself of what is important. These are my roadmaps back to myself when I get lost.