Today is Dec 31, the last day of 2019 as well as the last day of the past decade. Tomorrow we’ll be entering a new era, at least physically, and I hope many of us will be spiritually up-to-date as well. To be honest, Jan 1 isn’t an occasion of great festivity in where I’m from. We mainly celebrate the Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Year) instead, which is the first day of the first month on the Chinese agricultural calendar and falls on Jan 25 on the Gregorian calendar this year—2020 is a year of the rat by the way, the beginning of a new zodiac cycle. But since my computer keeps reminding me of the “New Year’s Day,” and now that I have a blog to scribble on, I decide to write something to mark it.

desktop new year reminders on my computer
My computer keeps reminding me it is New Year’s Day tomorrow.

Looking back on my 2019, the biggest event that has happened in my life is my graduation from Cambridge. But I left the UK in such a hurry that the departure barely had any emotional effect on me, and I’ve only started realizing Cambridge is really behind me this time after staying home for two months.

my last photo of Cambridge
My last photo of Cambridge, taken on my day of departure

Some other events in my past year that are worth mentioning include:

  • I started blogging and haven’t given up yet.
  • I stopped cycling.
  • I tried kayaking.
  • I resumed my old hobby of language learning.
  • I kept writing short movie/book reviews on Douban.
  • I had three wisdom teeth extracted.

Speaking of teeth, I’ve been suffering from dental problems for long. During every vacation in the past five years I have had to abstain from meals and goodies due to some dental surgery. So, my biggest wish for 2020 is: May God bless my teeth!

I can feel how much I’ve changed in the past five years, both as a student and as a person. And the change is even greater when I look back at myself ten years ago. In fact it has been exactly ten years since I had left high school, so my past decade can be named “the decade of tertiary education”—I might use this as a chapter title in my autobiography later lol.

I remember seeing two chicken-soup-for-the-soul-style sayings somewhere. Since I can’t remember the original sources, I’ll try to paraphrase them below:

  1. If you constantly miss the good old days, your present is probably not that satisfactory.
    (Hmm but according to Charles Dickens “the best of times” and “the worst of times” are actually the same period.)
  2. Every time you realize you’ve done something stupid in the past, you’ve actually improved and become a better self.
    (So Aristotle tells us “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” and Laozi tells us 知人者智,自知者明Knowing others is wisdom; knowing yourself is enlightenment’.)

I know I’ve done a lot of stupid things in the past decade (actually too many!), so I must have improved a lot by now. And I’m not really missing the past either—I wouldn’t want to relive any part of my earlier life—so I must be satisfied with my present. Fantastic!

Earlier today I saw Barack Obama shared his 2019 favorite songs, movies, and books on Twitter. I haven’t had much time for non-PhD-related stuff in 2019 but do plan to broaden my horizon a bit in 2020. Some of the books I’d like to start, keep, or finish reading are:

  • The Cambridge World (Pre)History
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Zehn Jahre in Deustchland
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything

I used to dislike history in school (partly due to exam pressure) but am now more and more interested in it. In as early as the seventh century, Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty said “History is a mirror that reflects the vicissitude of life.” (以史爲鑒,可以知興替). And more recently, Ted Chiang’s new book Exhalation: Stories explored the intertwining relationship between past and future. So, I guess it must be helpful to know something about the past of mankind.

Also, my reading list is mostly nonfiction because for fiction I’d rather watch movies or TV series. I might finally (binge-)watch some of the renowned shows such as Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Doctor Who—I’ll also keep Time’s and Independent’s selections of the best TV shows of the decade in mind. I don’t mind if they turn out to be boring. Now that I’m back in China, at least I’ll get the chance to hone my English listening skills!

I seldom make New Year’s resolutions because I know they’re often useless. But this year I’ll make a few plans (if not resolutions):

  • Do some sports.
  • Keep learning the piano.
  • Keep learning cooking.

The next two years is like a career break for me, so I’d like to make some personal improvements. The tarot says my future is bright, so I’d better have faith too.

Happy New Year! May the world be peaceful, and may people be happy!🙏

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