Dec. 31, 2019, 10:15 p.m.

Christmas 2019 reflections

Well, as the year (and decade) draws to a close, I thought I’d fit in a final blog post for 2019. After 3 Christmas parties in as many weeks and coffees with a few friends, which included socialising for 6 hours on one day, I was ready to go and hide in a cave for a few days at least and ‘introvert’. I am now in said cave (well, metaphorically speaking anyway……I’m not sure how well I would fare in an actual cave…..) aka, my apartment.

The few days over Christmas provided the middle ground I needed through spending time with family but also having unstructured alone time to spend however I wanted (or at least, time spent together but doing our own separate things – the best way). Of course, there was the customary watching Christmas specials on TV, eating lots of food (with minimal effort on my part – ah, the perks of going home for Christmas!) and napping. I went home with 2 books and came back with a suitcase packed with a load of other books. One of the 2 books was partly an impulse buy from Amazon (‘Thinking Fast and Slow’) after ordering another book as a Christmas gift for a friend and the other was borrowed from the library (‘From class society to Communism: an introduction to Marxism’). A conversation with a friend in which he talked about the initial, catastrophic failure of communism in China, leading to the 3-year long ‘Great Famine’, and also referenced Marxism theory, sparked a sudden interest in learning more about the roots of communism and capitalism.

When home, I discovered a few books which I had reading in the recent past but which had got abandoned by the wayside at some point when or even prior to moving out, along with some on the bookshelf relating to philosophy which I bought years ago but never really got round to reading in any depth (‘Breakfast with Socrates’ and ‘The pig that wants to be eaten’). I also found the ‘Django for beginners’ book for when I was having initial teething problems with creating the blog. So I might either finally get round to coding the sidebar at some point soon as it is getting pretty loooonnng now, or end up breaking the blog.

I indulged in one particular hobby which I’ve not really had time to enjoy for a long while and remembered the unbridled joy of watching an episode of Doraemon (a Japanese manga series) in Spanish on YouTube. In it, Nobita balks at the idea of joining Gigante and Suneo for another baseball game and, as per his modus operandi whenever he has a problem, turns to Doraemon who digs out a machine which allows him to change the date to whatever date he desires. (They only play baseball in the summer so Nobita changes it to a winter day so that the boys don't want to play. As always, Nobita abuses his privileges a bit too much and the machine ends up malfunctioning and bringing about armageddon - well, the sun draws ever closer to the earth, melting everything in its path and eventually about to reach the running Nobita - .......only for this apparent living nightmare to turn out to be a simulated experience for Nobita when he wakes to the sight of Doraemon and friends laughing at him and realises it's April fool's day.) The joy it gives me is two-fold: the nostalgia hit back to the care-free times of childhood and fulfilling my love of learning, in this case picking up or finding out the meaning of new words in a fun way.

Going home provided a welcome contrast. Being free of expectations and the usual routine set me free from their shackles and meant I could appreciate the silence of reading on my bed when I have developed the bad habit (or more accurately, addiction) of having songs on the radio blaring in the background in the evenings. This is awkwardly ironic, given that I wrote about how golden silence is a few months back. I think my brain has got dopamine-high on the novelty of not knowing what song is going to play next – it’s like the music lottery. As much as I enjoy listening to music, I can’t do that and concentrate on reading a book at the same time. Our brains are not designed to multitask. But it has kind of taken over my evenings at home, often not turning it off until I’m just about to turn in for the night. No wonder I’ve found it hard to fall asleep these days.

I don’t usually bother with new year resolutions but those few days made me realise that I need to restore a bit of balance in my life and that – to use that cliqued phrase – ‘going forward’, I need to wean myself off the music, also spend less time on social media and invest that time in doing the one thing I loved to do the most during my spare time in childhood – reading. I had forgotten what it was like to be so engrossed in a book that you don’t notice or at least are not bothered by the passing of time. Besides, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you can listen to any song you want on demand at any time of the day. My brain needs instead to appreciate and learn to love the novelty of new knowledge and perspectives on the world and on life I may not have considered.

Now I know all new year resolutions are made in the merry spirit of self-improvement and promptly broken before we’ve even reached the end of the first month of the new year. As any pragmatist will tell you, any goal without a plan is just a dream. So my plan for this particular goal is to restrict having the radio on to when I do the dishes and to develop a wind-down routine where I set an hour aside solely for reading for leisure before I go to bed. If this is a resolution I can keep, my attention span (and sleep) will thank me for it.

Here’s to a healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2020 for one and all!


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