2017 is going to be a good year

Bold statement, right? Stay with me.

Besides the fact that I’m making a concerted effort to be more optimistic in general, I’ve recently dragged myself out of a bout of serious mental disarray (see the last post). It took a little time, but I think I’ve identified the cause of my melancholy. Before the winter holiday, I had built a good habit of keeping away from social media and the news for most of the week with only occasional indulgences. However, when I broke from my regimen and set off for a few weeks of travel, I left all discipline behind and binged on all things cynical and excessively realistic about our current political situation. When I returned, I forced myself back into a series of habits (waking up early, eating properly, exercising, etc.), but I forgot a big one: constant daily reflection.

Though I drastically reduced my intake of podcasts, I continued to fill as much of my transition time between scheduled activities with some sort of talk buzzing in my ears. As the thoughts from the day fought for the attention of my conscious mind, the satisfaction of the craving for an outside voice suffocated it. The effort of my subconscious mind to be heard drained the energy of my entire being. More than once, the simple act of dragging myself out of bed proved futile, and despite the extra sleep, I found myself drained after even a short day. I thought it was a new diet (full of fresh vegetables and protein but devoid of energy-packed carbohydrates), but regardless of how much I ate and even almost two weeks into the new diet, it was only getting worse.

After locking myself in my room immediately after classes for the third day in a row (but finally having the sense to shut off my phone), I sat in silence to listen to what was really going on. Something was wrong, and I had a feeling that my subconscious mind would bring it to light.

Sure enough, the flood of thoughts brought forth not only realizations of how my new routine was critically different from the old, but the mere act of letting the thoughts be heard (yes, I was talking to myself out loud) must have also brought a flood of serotonin because my mood rapidly lifted. I immediately unsubscribed from podcasts and wrapped up my headphones, accepting that such things would now be rarities. With nothing but the endless stream of thoughts in my head, I popped to my feet and dressed to get down to the rock wall.

Do I sound like a self-help author yet? Yeah, it’s really that simple. Go fuck yourself,  Tim Ferriss.

Now that the digression is over (hey, I warned you I’ve got a backlog of thoughts)(and it’s my blog, so deal with it), here’s the point I wanted to make: this year is loaded with opportunity.

Why would I say such a thing in a year that is coming off four of the hottest recorded years ever? is going to be devoted to dealing with the reality of a Britain-less EU and common-senseless White House? and is the year that my personal finances are scheduled to run out?

For precisely those reasons.

First, another digression. When I visited Mongolia in 2015, I spent most of a day wandering the capital, Ulaanbaatar, with a student of my host’s English school. As we were walking around the square in front of the parliament building, he told me the story of the square’s namesake, Damdin Sükhbaatar, who was the leader of the Mongolian Revolution in 1921, which established Mongolian independence from China. My guide then told me something that made the story astounding, Sükhbaatar was only 25.

At the time, I was about to turn 25, and I immediately felt a weight of needing to do something really impressive during 2016. That year has come and passed, my 26th year is about to come to a close, and all I’ve done is submit a bunch of rejected job applications, work a handful of menial jobs, and do some much more tame traveling than I did last year. Not exactly revolutionary status.

But as I learned as I was looking up that story to get the facts right, my guide was wrong. Sükhbaatar was 28. Booyah! I ‘ve got two more years!

Booyah! I ‘ve got two more years!

Ok, still impressive that the guy led a national revolution at 28, and no, I don’t need to live up the status of some Mongolian freedom fighter to maintain my self-esteem. However, opportunities abound for making a name for myself in my 26th year.

“But the world is melting into a swamp of unequal, polluted, and corrupt neoliberal nightmares!” you may tout.

Fantastic! When there are problems to be solved, problem solvers know what to do!

“But the most powerful man in the world is now a capricious naricissist, who idolizes tyrants and sycophants!”

Excellent! When governments oppress, the people rise up. That means loads of opportunities for young and passionate leaders to have their go at starting a movement.

“But! But! But 2016 was awful! The worst! The horriblest!”

Seriously? I don’t know about you, but my 2016 was actually pretty damn good. No, I didn’t overthrow any governments as I had hoped, but I did finish a long list of books I had been meaning to read, gained the experiences working in the service sector I had identified as very pertinent for my self-development (and contributed to my being able to finance a year studying abroad), played significant roles in multiple political causes and actually got recognized in state politics, traveled to some of the most amazing natural wonders America has to offer, moved to a country that has been on my dreamsheet for years to study the subject I’ve identified as my life purpose, proven to myself that I can lead confidently, learned how to build habits for personal success, added four new countries to my travel log, AND watched the northern lights (twice), once from the most northerly city in the world.

2016 was awesome!

No, the world is not moving any closer to paradise in 2017, but the challenges that stand before us are only opportunities for us to prove who we truly are. The great people of history are rarely unique; they are ordinary people in extraordinary situations. 2017 offers all of us an array of extraordinary situations. Are we going to hide from these challenges in our caves to complain about how unfair the world is, or are we going to seek them out, overcome them, and start revolutions?


Statue of Damdin Sükhbaatar in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia



Dark Age Ramblings

It never ceases to amaze me how slavish we can be to the underlying psychological structures of our brains, the deeply entrenched neural paths that define our habits, our reflexes, and our personalities. Though I have learned much and made many positive changes over the past couple years, I have noticed a significant return to many of my old ways (some good and some less so). It probably has something to do with the fact that over the past six months, I’ve spent at most a cumulative 10 hours being completely and properly alone. As an introvert who needs periodic disengagement from society to recharge, this has left me running on a deeply drained battery for many weeks now. The fatigue leaves me depending on old habits. Some that have developed more recently, I cling to proudly, but building new ones at this point has become a real challenge.

This is but one of the many bits of my personality that I have learned in the much reflection I have done over the years. Another is seemingly contradictory. Despite my need to shun completely the whole of humanity from time to time, I can’t suppress the strong desire to make people proud.

I met with my thesis advisor a few days ago, and we rehashed some of the details of my proposed project. He seems very excited (as am I ), and I am honored that he thinks I can handle it (I’ll explain details later, but it’s probably much more than a 15-credit master’s thesis). He’s so confident, in fact, that he has mentioned more than once at the end of such meetings the possibility of future Ph.D. study. As a lifelong student and one who finds most comfort in a university library (which, little did I know, doesn’t actually exist here on Gotland), this idea naturally excites me. But what really makes me excited is the fact that I’m already making him proud. At that moment, a very juicy carrot dangles in front of me, and I don’t want to do anything that might hurt my chances of taking a bite.

So I respond that I will keep it on the table as an option. I can’t deflate his hopes now. But in the back of my mind, I know this is almost completely untrue. Yes, I do hope to go back to school to do Ph.D. research in the future, but I have firmly made up my mind to spend some time in the industry. I still have absolutely zero work experience in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or project management, and that is a problem if I want to pursue my goals of developing wind energy. While I have been learning mind-boggling amounts of new information here, there is an inevitable limit to what I can gain in an academic setting. The nuances and integral facets of the industry can only be learned by actually working with them first hand.

When I left my advisor’s office, I admonished myself for being so disingenuous, but I also doubted myself with the excitement of the alternate future. Yet, one of the habits I have striven to cultivate is the value of my word. I have committed to returning to the United States to add to the force that is building perhaps the most important renewable energy system. I will not go back on this one.

As you can imagine, my mind is a bit muddled right now. I’m sure I have more impactful statements to write about right now, but I’ll leave it here for now. For those who are interested in updates, here are a few.

The thesis project is shaping up nicely. We’ve pinned down some more details of the project itself, and the conversation with the company I hope to intern with during the project has been receptive. We’ll speak more with them when my advisor returns from holiday early next month.

This term is shaping up to be much lighter than the last one, which is necessary due to the impending project and planning for my future entry into the American market. It has been a tough return to work after a full three weeks of not-studying (I can’t say it was properly resting), but our new course in wind power grid integration has exposed me to the (esoterically) fascinating subject of energy markets. I’m actually far too excited about it, but it keeps me going.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

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