Early 2020 feelings

2020-01-18

in Daily updates

A few factors in the last few weeks have left me thinking broadly about the past and the future: the date roll over to 2020, my 36th birthday, and the feeling of progressing toward finishing the PhD. It has been a mingled set of feelings, but with a sad tone.

Breaking it down into components, part of it is certainly stock-taking about past decisions and outcomes and wondering about alternative courses my life could have followed. That also includes an awareness of how many contingent and semi-random things ended up having a big effect. I have certainly wondered what life would have been like if I stayed in Vancouver after my BA or in Oxford after my MPhil. I have also been feeling aware of all the travel which I have missed since I stopped flying in 2010. In particular, there have been major trips all over the world — to countries and regions which interest me but which I have never seen — which family members have undertaken in that time. I have been feeling a sense of how it’s not always possible to go back and cover what you have missed: the nature of time ensures that missed opportunities cannot be jumped back to, even if they can sometimes be re-created.

Another distinct element has been not thinking about choices or alternative possibilities, but just things which were memorable or important in the past but which are now gone forever. My pattern in life has generally been to have a few close friends who I at least interact with a few times per week. Who is in the set has changed drastically over time, however, with high school and UBC friends, Oxford friends, Ottawa friends and classmates, and then Toronto / U of T / Massey friends. It’s weird to think that there are people in the world who spent long spans as my closest social contacts and who I haven’t now spoken with in years.

All this hasn’t been getting me down too much, and it’s certainly possible to redirect feelings about all these past experiences into a sense of gratitude for having met these people, been to these places, and had these experiences. It’s also not a bad idea to be thinking big picture as I am coming to the end of the PhD and contemplating what to do after. It’s clearly going to be a trade-off between who I want to be near, what kind of work would suit me, and how that will fit in with climate change advocacy. I suppose one big advantage to having this fractured or fragmented past with many identifiable eras and sets of friends is that it avoids the anxiety of having concentrated on one place and one thing and being worried about having too much excluded various other choices.

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