2013: Reflections on a Year

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As December closes, I’ve been reflecting upon the last year.  Originally, I felt I should stick to the standard story that it has been a year of change.  Really, however, it hasn’t.  There has been change this year, but it has been slow, almost imperceptible change.  This year I have continued down the road I’m travelling on, with no major diversions or off-road adventures.  At root, the road is the same one I was on at this time last year.  There have been no major life changes, but I have progressed nonetheless.

As I look back in twenty years, I imagine that the thing that will stick out most for me when considering 2013 is that this was the year I learned about, and committed myself to, the Giving What We Can movement. This is an international society dedicated to eliminating global poverty and seeks to examine the effectiveness of charities, thus maximising the value of charitable donations. In particular, this year I signed and began the pledge to give at least 10% of my income to the most effective causes to relieve global poverty. I have pledged to continue this for the rest of my life, dedicating at least 10% of my income. 

In 2013 I fell in love with a smart, funny, kind, and handsome man, and consequently had my first real relationship.  We spent much of the year together, and our relationship provided me with many novel experiences that will stay with me forever.  I felt the bliss that comes from lazy Sunday mornings with tea and cooked breakfast. I felt the serenity of falling into a peaceful sleep while listening to the calm voices on the BBC’s Gardeners’ Question Time.  I felt the comfort of having someone hold you while you weep from the moment Anne Hathaway sings her first line of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ to the closing credits in Les Miserables. I felt the change in social sensibilities and acceptance when I could kiss or hold hands with my boyfriend in public with no fear of attracting unwanted attention.  I felt that simple pleasure that comes being close on the sofa while watching Poirot. I felt the safety that comes from knowing that there is someone in the world who genuinely cares about how your day went, and the silly thought you had on the train.  Put simply, in 2013 I felt love.

In 2013 I also felt heartbreak.  I felt the pain that comes from knowing that the words you desperately want to say would not be echoed back to you.  I felt the pain of knowing that my feelings for him were not reciprocated: not in that way, not to that extent. For most of 2013 I had my first real relationship, but in 2013 I also had my first breakup of a relationship.  I learnt that all the emotions that people describe in such situations were true – I experienced sadness, regret, anger, humiliation, resentment, and finally acceptance.  I end the year knowing that what Paul said in Corinthians 13:4 is true, that “love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous”.  In 2013 I learnt that when you truly love something, sometimes the best thing to do is to let them go and give their blessings as they do so. I learnt that really loving someone who doesn’t return your love means supporting them in their quest to find their own love.

In 2013 I experienced the kindness of strangers. I was unexpectedly invited by a friend’s parents to spend time at their resort in Thailand after helping their son prepare for his final Oxford exams. I was welcomed with open arms and lavished with kindnesses that were far disproportionate to what I had actually done – helping a friend. I was honored to be able to attend and participate in my friend’s ordination ceremony to be a Buddhist monk. That day, I felt the love, respect, and pride for their son that radiated from the entire family. The kindness and generosity bestowed upon me this year will stay with me for my life.

In 2013 I felt the pride that comes from hard work. I earned my second Oxford degree – getting my second Oxford distinction in the process. I began my D.Phil (PhD) at Oxford with a fantastic supervisory team consisting of Miles Hewstone, Molly Crockett, and Nadira Faulmüller, whose confidence in my keeps me going when I doubt myself. I had three first-author papers accepted in peer-reviewed journals, with more currently with revise and resubmit decisions. I was offered the exceptional opportunity to spend time next year at Yale University working with the world-renowned expert David Rand on human prosociality. 

In 2013 I have travelled. I have been lucky enough to be able to visit New York City, Copenhagen, Venice, Copenhagen again, and Thailand. I am already gearing up to begin next year in a similar trend, with trips to Australia, the Philippines, the Netherlands, and the USA already scheduled.

In 2013 I have struggled, I have learnt, I have experienced. I hope 2014 is able to match it as a sequel.