Good Bye 2015, Hello 2016 – Part 3: A Personal Reflection

Here’s the last instalment of my year-end review of 2015, and my thoughts for the year 2016. It’s rather late, considering how it’s now the 10th of January. But I guess it’s better late than never.

2015 has been a year of frenzied activity. I feel like I’m fighting fire almost every other day. There’s so much to do, but so little time to sit down, pause and think about life and what I’m doing. To be honest, I quite miss the contemplative dimension of life that I enjoyed and took for granted in my school days. To be able to slowly and silently ponder on what I’m doing, and other interesting ideas – it is such a wonderful activity.

I could blame a lot of external factors, such as the crowded and noisy buses and trains, or the daily routine of rushing to work on time, making it impossible for me to enjoy quiet moments of contemplation. These have indeed played a part.  That being said, when one is so busy fighting fire due to a bottomless pit of projects and deadlines, it’s so tempting to continue working on whatever one has to complete. The very thought of putting everything aside to simply think about life doesn’t appeal to me in those moments.

But contemplation is a necessary activity that I will need to engage in more frequently. Sometimes, in the midst of all the frenzied activity, there’s just so many thoughts going through my head, it’s so easy to be lost when working.

It’s like playing those computer games where you start out on a level with enemies immediately attacking you. You’re just too busy trying to stay alive, dodging bullets and shooting everyone around you, that you don’t even have the time or energy to think of a strategy or what to do next.

This is something I encounter almost every other day. It is terribly exhausting and stressful.

I do need time aside to just think about my life and my work.

Perhaps I can only blame myself for not trying hard enough to set aside the time. It’s not like I don’t have time to engage in contemplative thinking. I do have time to myself. But it’s usually the time AFTER work ends, where I am just so tired and weary that the last thing I want to do is to think. After spending so much mental energy throughout the day, I prefer to do something mindless, such as watching stupid cartoons or something like that. It’s a nice release and relief from a long and tiring day.

I have tried waking up earlier, but that doesn’t help. Largely because the buses are incredibly packed with loud and noisy school children – where do they get all that energy so early in the morning?!

Sigh… I don’t know. But this is something that I will put as high priority for the year. I really do not like how each day passes by so quickly and stressfully, without room for pause or thought. Unfortunately, in these 10 days of the new year, I’ve failed quite spectacularly – ok, maybe not so spectacularly since I’m able to find the time to reflect and write this entry.

It is so difficult to resist the urge to do something, and to just sit and ponder about stuff.

Well, we’ll see how it goes this year.

2015 has been an insightful year for me too. I’ve silently taken on one particular person as my role model because of just how inspiring he has been. Yet, despite all his charisma, inspiration and successes, he has made so many mistakes and errors, angering/disappointing a lot of people, including myself from time to time.

Yet, I found myself very accepting and forgiving of him. Why? Because I can’t help but see this person as the older version of myself. It’s funny how some people can be so similar in character and personality, as if we were made from the same template. We share similar work habits, similar high standards of perfectionism, similar values and ways of reasoning about issues.

So similar, that I can actually understand why he does the things he does. Sure, I have been on the receiving end of disappointment from him, but I’ve come to be very forgiving and accepting towards him because I realised I would have done the same thing too.

This experience has provided me valuable insights about life: sometimes you can’t please everybody, and sometimes you just can’t win in life.

I have said before that the complexities of modern life is such that we find ourselves in situations where we have to make hard choices. But I guess I never had a profound experience of this abstract principle until my encounters with him.

You sometimes just can’t win in life. But you can still make the best of it.

I think it helps that he’s a really lovable character and not a complete asshole. This is one amazing quality that makes people still want to continue giving their all, fighting hard on the same team regardless of the past let downs.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a person before. A person who is so human and humane at the same time, a person so friendly and out-going, a person who can win people’s hearts with his words and actions despite his visible flaws and weaknesses. Here is an example of a true human being, one who is comfortable and loves being human, and allows his humanity to inspire others.

Most people are usually too driven by the insecurity of their own weaknesses that they can’t go forward, and instead get stuck trying to make up for their own flaws that it affects others quite unnecessarily.

Of all the people I look up to, I’ve never met a person like this before, one who remains so remarkable and inspiring despite his flaws. Simply incredible. I want to be like him, and I know it’s possible because we share so much in common. If he can do it, I know I can too. This is my personal goal for the year.

One of the questions I have been asking myself frequently is whether I’ve become a morally better person, a better human being, or whether I have regressed, or remained the same. It’s hard to gauge because I have slowly transited from one system of moral thinking to another. I’d like to think that I have progressed from a very naive outlook of the world and of people, to a more sophisticated understanding. I have, however, found myself making evaluations – be it about world affairs, or personal life – that would have shocked the old me.

This brings to mind Sartre’s famous words:

One is still what one is going to cease to be and already what one is going to become.  One lives one’s death, one dies one’s life. (Jean Paul Sartre)

In other words, we are constantly changing. With every new thought, every new encounter, every new experience, we change. The old you is gone, faded into oblivion, dead. We are living through a series of one death after another. Life is nothing but a series of the death of the old self.

Morbid words, but true.

It’s amazing how much I have changed over the years, and, still amazing how I’m still the same (or similar) in yet so many ways. I think I’ve grown a lot more accepting of myself and of my own flaws.

But the same question still looms over my head: have I become a morally better person?

I hope – that in 2016 and beyond – that the answer is yes, and I’ll do what I can to make it so.