Saturday, December 31, 2011

Some Year-End Thoughts

By some measures, this has been a significantly more interesting year than I'd expected it to be.  In the past year, I've made some headway in conquering my depression and my eating-disordered behaviour, mustered the courage to let several new people into my life, become friends with most of them, started working (if only on a volunteer basis) in my chosen field, come to a slightly better understanding of my sexuality and sexual orientation, travelled to Scotland and Ireland, bought a guitar, read a lot of great books, learned how to make bannock, finished my first major crochet project, did some of my best writing so far, both here and under my other internet pseudonym as a fanfic writer, and found myself with something approaching a love life that confuses me a little, partly because of the nature of it and partly because (as I've said before) for a very long time, my love life has consisted of little but a series of rejections and other emotional disasters.

(I also, at this point in time, have thirty-five posts that are only in draft form at the moment; most of them were started this year, though there are also a few from 2009 and 2010.  Perhaps I'll be a bit better at finishing what I've started in 2012.)

So, whatever else I might say about 2011, one thing I doubt I'll ever call it is boring.

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On a not-so-personal note, this was also the year in which Stephen Harper unfortunately got that majority government he'd been salivating over since he first became our Prime Minister, the NDP became the Opposition party in a rather surprising twist of political history, Troy Davis was executed in Georgia even though seven of nine witnesses recanted or significantly changed their testimony against him and there was never any actual evidence that linked him to the scene of the murder he was convicted of committing, Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement grabbed headlines and met with unreasonable obstruction and aggression on the part of law enforcement, and a lot of white feminists did a lot of offensive and embarrassing things.  It's been a difficult year, but (as cynical as I can get sometimes) I do hold some hope that it's at least laid some groundwork for better things in the future.  A lot of people who needed to learn some hard lessons learned them, and a lot of other people were inspired to act, and to speak up, in ways that they might not have otherwise done.  And perhaps we'll eventually get the chance to build a better world because of it.

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A few days ago, a friend of mine wrote about a few things about the Western celebration of Christmas that bother him.  Among other things, he said that he wished that we wouldn't give so much money to stores that sell goods that were produced in third-world sweatshops, and that we'd give more generously to charitable organizations that help those in need, or actually reach out ourselves and give our time and energy to more good causes.

Which made me think of something that bothered me quite a bit while I was travelling, actually.

When I was in Scotland and Ireland with my church choir this summer, I was struck by the sheer amount of poverty I saw in both places.  So many people begging on the streets in Edinburgh and in Dublin, obviously needing help...and every time I didn't have a pound or a Euro to spare (I never carry much cash, just as much as I think I'm going to need, especially when I'm in a foreign country), my conscience picked at me.  How could I possibly think of myself as a decent person when I'd just refused help to someone who was obviously in need?  And inevitably, this quote from the Bible, which I've quoted here before, would come to mind:
How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
—1 John 3: 17-18
Obviously, I failed the test.

It's too easy to say that a single coin couldn't possibly have helped that much.  It's too easy to say that I was just being smart, avoiding being pickpocketed in a foreign country while distracted by the opportunity to do good.  It's certainly being too easy on myself to say that I was just being careful with my money, as I only brought with me what I thought I'd need.  The fact is, I saw people who needed help, and I didn't give it, even though I was only able to make the trip in the first place because I'd had help.  It didn't matter that the little that I could give would hardly lift them out of poverty, or even feed them for a night.  I know damn well that when you're in desperate circumstances, every little bit does help.

And yet, I know very well that kicking myself for it will do absolutely nothing to put things right.  I can only resolve to do better next time, and then actually do it.

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In some ways, I can hardly believe that we've made it to the year 2012 already.  When I was a child, even the year 2000 seemed like a far-away futuristic time, even when I knew objectively that it was actually not that far ahead of us.  2012 sounded positively magical, especially since at around the time we got our first dial-up internet connection, around 1997 or so, I started hearing about the Mayans' so-called dire prediction about the end of the world.  Never one to just sit back and accept the doom and gloom, I did a little research (it helped that I'd already started to develop an interest in Mayan culture and civilization), and soon realized that it wasn't so much that they'd decided the world would end in December 2012, as their calendar was set to enter a new cycle then.

But there are some people who just aren't capable of letting the facts get in the way of a good panic-inducing scenario, I suppose.

In any case, I shrugged it off.  I haven't changed my mind, but I do get the feeling that we're in for an interesting year on a lot of fronts.

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One last thought, and then I'll conclude this slightly disjointed ramble.  Of all the things I learned this year, there are two that I think are the most valuable: first, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  Even if it doesn't go well, the experience will be worth having anyway.  And second, it's OK to ask for help if and when you need it.

So that's it.  Whoever you are, wherever you are, I wish you a wonderful and blessed new year.

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