Reflections on 2018: Year of the Blue Phoenix

This is the last day of the year 2018, a year of immense activity and numerous advancements in my life. I have chosen to label this as the year of the blue phoenix. Blue because I am now in the realm of my fourth decade on earth, that which is denoted by the digit 3. My mild synesthesia causes me to perceive this grapheme with a blueish hue, which also fittingly came to be reflected in the shift in my aesthetic sense this year towards shades of blue. The phoenix represents the process of re-birth, as happens after an event of great calamity, an image similarly symbolic for the happenings of the year. Let us be brief this time around and attempt to reconstruct the narrative and continue its telling.

The year commenced with my having just finished my tenth ten-day course of Vipassana meditation to close the seal of the passing decade. Moved tremendously by that experience, I immediately went to a tattoo shop and got an image of Metta inked onto my right inner wrist as an exhortation to myself to Remember Love. In particular, I wished to give love freely and openly to my family when I got the chance to see them. And indeed, I noticed its subtle but palpable influence over my thoughts and actions in all my subsequent interactions. I drew patience and consideration for others from it repeatedly and was able to channel the emotive power of that memory into real-world action to enact a positive atmosphere as much as I was capable of. While I’m on the subject of meditation, I was able to maintain the 2-hour daily sit until about April. After that, the theme of my continued slippage away from spirituality resurfaced. This is partly due to the influence of the corporate life, and the ever-inflating “self” delusion. Fairly soon after I stopped meditating the 2 hours, I entered into a new phase of partying and intoxication and found myself getting pulled further and further away from the spiritual life. This is all in spite of my yearning to meet deeper and genuine folks with good hearts from whom I may draw the inspiration to continue to practice, but such folk are rare indeed in the world, and all the more so in the corporate setting. And throughout it all, I would repeatedly try to re-invigorate the practice and would meditate here and there on an as-needed basis. The calendar that I purchased at the end of last year and hung next to my meditation cushion bears witness to this process. For the coming year, I will use an app to track my meditations and I resolve to try to keep the thread alive. I am a bit alarmed that I will not be able to sit another 10-day course during this winter break as this will now be the longest I have gone without one since I started them in the year 2009. I will be sure to try to maintain the practice as best I can until I am again able to sit another.

Last year was beclouded by the many consequences of having moved away from LA, including the break up and the dramatic change to my social sphere. From the ashes of that intense psychological blow was born a majestic and royally blue hued phoenix over the course of this year and my adjustment to the new era of my thirties. I will briefly summarize the highlights of that resurrection in the following few paragraphs.

In the academic and professional fields, I have continued to make progress despite many obstacles to be surmounted and pitfalls along the way. The year was dotted with business trips to conferences and a summer school for computational modeling, all of which were very successful. In the latter, my group was awarded the best group project award and was given the opportunity to present our work at MLMC, a satellite conference to SfN in San Diego. In addition, I was able to publish two new papers this year and got another accepted at CHI 2019 after an excruciating road that took intense effort and dedication. Finally, I was also interviewed for a postdoc role and was extended the offer for the two year position, ensuring the continuation of my career path for the near future and assuaging me of my insecurities that grew as my contract position was nearing its conclusion. These and many other little steps along the way contributed to my growing into my own as a researcher within the company and the community at large. In traveling as much as I did, I was able to meet many of the leading researchers and put myself more visibly on the map. From these tiring weeks and months, a phrase was ever-present on the auditorium of my mind: Fatigue is a way of life. I used this phrase like a mantra, wielding it to forge through in the toughest of times and to find the strength and motivation to keep on keeping on when my body and mind were screaming for the opposite.

In the personal realm, I have taken the opportunity of my newly single status to continue the self-development trajectory that had begun over a decade ago. The phrase “the examined life is not worth living” was another of those that I kept coming back to. It nudged me towards a more self-aware and wakeful perspective on my life. In so doing, I began to cultivate myself. This began with a vegan challenge that I undertook in February and have stuck to (for the most part) to the present day. The only times I deviated from it were when travelling and where finding vegan options was difficult, and I allowed myself to revert back to vegetarian diet in those exceptional circumstances. Aside from that, I would estimate that I have spent about 95% of the year as a vegan and I intend to continue that way into 2019 due to the numerous health benefits it has granted me and the psychological benefit of living in line with my principles. Physically, I began to take weightlifting more seriously and setting goals for myself and working towards them. In the dating realm of life, I began to take that more seriously as well and began a matchmaking program to go on blind dates with potential matches. The results of both of those efforts so far are promising. Finally, in my intellectual pursuits, I set time aside to pursue my insatiable need for knowledge, fixated as of late on computer science. I have become rather proficient with C++ as I have been using it at work, and have also continued to pursue other languages, and language-agnostic ideas from computer science. I continue to develop myself in countless ways as I traverse my life journey that periodically falls into a pit, only to re-emerge strengthened and renewed for the continued climb. This year’s emergence is an azure flaming bird of the court that soars to dizzying new heights and dazzles the masses with its opalescence and splendor.

Finally, and late in the year, I completed the largest financial transaction of my life thus far in the purchase of a house and the end of my time as a tenant. This has pushed me into an entirely new realm of existence in this mundane plane and represents the beginning of my ascent of the financial ladder. I am of course grateful to my father who supplied my with the funds for a portion of the down payment, and to my good fortune at having found a place to do the work I love while earning enough to plan for my future. In general, the first year of my thirties has represented a shift away from the days of scarcity and towards an attitude of abundance. I wish to enter into the upper echelons of the successful and benevolent members of society. I still firmly believe in the power of technology to change lives for the better and to be a force for good in the world, despite all the scandals that have beset Facebook this year, and all the negativity around technology that has provoked. I have not given up on the idealist in me who can still gaze at the world through cleansed doors of perception and see the best of its potential. But, I have become more grounded in the reality of this oftentimes harsh world that can sometimes seem to be filled with horror and cruelty. But we must strive on! And I will not let go of that yearning to do good in the world. I will just qualify that I wish to do it while profiting. Perhaps this is the slippery slope that we all come tumbling down as we age, but I will do my best to keep the vision alive.

In any case, this does an all too cursory job of summarizing and commenting on the major events of the year, but I have not patience nor energy to do a more thorough job. To seal a year as flush with fatigue as this has been, it seems admissible that I should do it thus, and so shall it be, and may you forgive me for it. The decade of my twenties was filled with much vigor and tumult, as is fitting for a decade that my synesthesia perceived as red. The new decade is a calmer and more regal blue, the color that symbolizes the Phoenician dye of my ancestors, and the royalty of the courts of many civilizations that clamored for it. Much dust has settled, and much renewal and growth has resulted, and I enter the new decade refreshed and inspired and in a commanding position. May I continue to grow, and may I not lose sight of the dream and the loving wish of my younger self that I continue to carry within me. May all beings be happy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *