Saturday, January 9, 2010


I am a bad one for making resolutions. By which I mean, I don't so much make "new year's" resolutions -- I am more in a constant state of resolution-making list-happiness year round.

But here are some I have been thinking about, of varying levels of specificity and do-ability.

1. Think more carefully.

This one covers a lot of ground, but for a good reason. I am not a careful person, and if I list out all the items in my life that require more of this sort of attention it would be very long and very intimidating.

But of things to consider more carefully, I could start with what goes into my system. I am a compulsive eater and drinker of fluids (none alcoholic, but many caffeinated). And even besides restricting the overall amount of such things (see resolution 2), I need to be more careful about eating things that I actually enjoy, that contain actual nutrients, such as fiber and vitamins, and that don't contain things I don't really need, such as 50% of my daily requirement of salt.

I need to think more carefully about what happens to my stuff. I recently was at a friend's house and had a chance to observe her laptop, her iPod, her camera, and her external hard drive, all things that we both own. Her laptop looks like it is new (she got it senior year of high school), her iPod has a nice plastic case to protect it from scratches, and her external hard drive has a little felt bag in which it resides, such that it positively glistens with newness. My laptop is coming up on a year and a half old. It has a crack in the plastic next to one speaker, part of the "Dell" logo is scratched off, and I cracked the plastic off the corner when it fell out of my backpack that one time last fall. My iPod and my external hard drive are nests of tiny scratches, and I have gone through three pairs of headphones in the last year (sorry parents if you are reading this.) My camera, which I bought new in Japan in August, has a a black divot in the corner of the LCD screen half the size of my pinky nail. I am not good about taking care of my stuff. We could go into things like deodorant stains, but let's not.

I would like to be more careful about what goes on my body. I am not exactly a pleasing shape (see resolution 2, again), and the easiest way to disguise this from myself and others is to not dress like a frump. It is an unpleasant reality that dressing better seems to make people take you more seriously, and a pleasant reality that dressing better seems to make me dislike the person I see in the mirror less. By this I mean choosing clothes that are flattering, interesting, and in good repair.

I need to be more careful about what I do in public. I am often guilty of doing weird things -- scratching my face, picking at my fingernails, and yes, occasionally picking my nose -- without thinking about who might be watching me. This is bad, both for "not disgusting passersby" and "not behaving in a compulsive manner" reasons.

I always need to be more careful about what I say. I am a bit of an idiot, and I talk as compulsively as I eat. Doubtless it would be nice not to nurse daily stupidities so much due to having less of them. To put it another way, I would like to worry less about who I might have offended, inadvertently hurt, or left with a less than stellar impression of my intelligence.

I need to be more careful about how I use my time. Facebook is a bad use of my time. If I'm going to procrastinate, I might as well read a book. I'm actually not so concerned about doing my work in a more timely fashion -- I generally get my work done. I'm more concerned with procrastinating more wisely and getting more sleep.

And. . . I need to be more careful when I occupy space. Also known as CLEANING! I am pretty good about kitchen stuff -- I remember to wash my dishes and put away my ingredients. But somehow that same mentality seems to be difficult to carry out in my own room, which is a haven of crap as far as the eye can see. I only sporadically remember to put away my books, my clothes, and other bits of junk, and I have issues with throwing things out in a timely fashion (both in terms of taking out the garbage and getting rid of stuff I don't use anymore.)

I can't deal with all of this every day, but I can deal with a little of one each day.

2. Lose weight.

Why is this necessary? Well, I weigh (x) lbs. (x is a lot.) I would prefer to weight about 40 lbs less, and so far as I know the insurance charts would prefer me to weigh about 40 lbs less too. Not to put too fine a point on it, I have pretty much always hated my body and how it looks. Why is a sort of a mystery to me -- a mishmash of cultural expectations, personal experiences, and a severely insecure personality come to mind. I have been intending to lose weight for most of my college career, but instead I have steadily packed it on -- I've gained about 25 lbs since the beginning of freshman year, which was on top of a high school weight with which I was never super happy.

I would like to feel more comfortable in my skin than I am. I would like to feel that I am physically attractive, which I do not. So. This means, among other things (also see resolution 1 about dressing better and resolution 3 about other things), weight loss.

This can be sub-divided into two other resolutions: a. control what I eat and b. exercise. I can do this. I've done it before. Last term I got so neurotic I was verging on binge eating (a whole box of cookies, anyone?) I'm not talking about starving myself, I'm talking about taking one cookie and putting the rest back. Or perhaps eating a real meal instead of eating a box of cookies in the first place. Or. . . correcting a host of other unhealthy eating habits, such as a habitual avoidance of fruit, vegetables, and other nice things that could fill me up without making me chubby.

As for (b) I actually love to exercise. Running or jogging is a cheap high, and my physical self-esteem goes up very quickly when I am doing so regularly. Everything I eat seems more pleasant, especially those bites which are less healthy. Time management (see resolution 1) plays in here. Somehow I can manage to exercise for about 4- to 5-month periods, and then I stop for a similar period (or longer), and then I start again. It would be nice to see if I could keep up exercising for a long-ish period of time -- say, a year or two years -- before a time management crisis causes me to give it up again.

I would also like, in this vein, to take up some form of exercise that works on my large muscle coordination/flexibility, such as some kind of dance or yoga, along with aerobic-type things and weight-training type things, with which I am more familiar.

3. Take better care of myself.

As a college student, I do a lot of dumb things along with my compatriots. I have never gotten drunk and barfed, but I do habitually neglect things that help my physical well-being. I forget to take out my contacts before bedtime, I forget to brush my teeth, I forget to wash my face, I forget to clip my toenails, I forget to put lotion on my dry hands and feet. (I've pretty much conquered the "showering/washing hair every day" beast of sophomore year.) These are little stupid things, but every additional one makes me feel just a little bit more like a homeless bum, which is not the goal.

4. Write more.

I have a specific goal for this one, i.e. I want to be able to enter every possible category in the Ilona Karmel Writing competitions in April. They are due April 2. This gives me 83 days in which to produce something like 100 (single-spaced) pages of writing. It could be done. I like to set my goals ridiculously high.

There are two reasons for this. One, I like to write, and I need to build up a writing portfolio of more recent work, in case I should ever get the urge either apply to grad school in writing or finally just drop everything and write books. Two, the Ilona Karmel awards give money, and I need money for my coming year's endeavors.

The awards are as follows:

The Enterprise Poets Prize for Imagining a Future

Essays, short stories or poems, that convincingly imagine a future human enterprise are eligible. (Probably not the place for a dystopian short story, but I have given some thought to how I would go about starting an organization that re-builds important buildings after disasters and builds schools and community centers in other areas. That sounds like an enterprise to me.)

The Robert A. Boit writing prize

Writing by undergraduates in the categories of essay, poetry and short story is eligible. (This one entails three things.)

The S. Klein Prizes
* for Science Writing
* for Technical Writing

Open to MIT undergraduate and graduate students. Entries should be intended for non-specialized but educated audiences and should show evidence of publishable quality. (For this one I would probably adapt -- and shorten -- the paper on daylighting and circadian rhythms I wrote last year, because hey, I know the subject pretty well.)

DeWitt Wallace Prize for Science Writing for the Public

Writing of any length addressed to lay audiences on issues and developments in science, medicine, and engineering. (So basically this sounds like a review paper on something I find interesting.)

The Boit Manuscript Prize

Works of substantial length by MIT undergraduates are eligible in the categories of fiction, poetry, essay, and drama. (Again, four entries. Drama would be hard. I might skip that one. Essay -- say hello to an extended rant on my Japan experience. Fiction -- oh laws, what story would I even pick? I have many.)

The Prize for Writing Science Fiction

Writing by undergraduate students in the category of science fiction short story. (Maybe I would write a story set in Sharon-dystopia-land, but focused on libraries.)

The Vera List Prize for Writing on the Visual Arts

Writing by undergraduate students should demonstrate unusual and thoughtful expression on some aspect of contemporary visual art. (Do church windows count?)

This, by the way, is in addition to writing my thesis. Fun times.

5. Finish my thesis on time.


6. Study harder.

I am the crappiest student of Japanese ever. Also even if I decide not to stay an extra term for a biology major, it would be awfully nice if I could pull up my gpa a touch and not do so crappily in the bio classes I have chosen for this term.

7. Mail as much crap home and throw out as much other crap by the end of January as possible.

I have potential to be moving out of Boston soon, man. Maybe.

8. Be timely and dedicated about my extracurricular commitments.

Already kind of failing at this one, but perhaps tomorrow I will able to catch up? Yay Little Shop of Horrors posters design.

Also, need to spend more time in the pottery studio. Yup. The plan was originally to try to throw 40 pieces by the end of IAP, but that's kind of laughable now. Let's say 20.

9. Be more involved with my faith.

That's kind of a lame-o way to put it, but there it is. I have a weird feeling that my faith is sort of warping around me, and I would like to be a bit more informed about what it's doing. I think some of my beliefs have changed, but I'm not sure.

The fact that this one is last is doubtless indicative of a major problem in some way. I think I need to be seeking more information on my faith more frequently, and seeking to grow rather than to just keep from falling off the I-love-Christ wagon. I just don't put the effort into this area of my life that I put into every other part.

I know that at this point I feel profoundly uncomfortable with certain parts of my faith. I think this is largely my own fault -- see aforementioned lack of effort. I don't put the time into study that I could, and I actually enjoy reading the Bible and historical-type books that help interpret it. I don't put time into prayer; I've just never quite gotten the hang of the daily thing.

But there is also a weird flux in my heart that I can't quite pinpoint. Some of it is living in an extremely diverse, liberal, and often wacky house, which tends to pull me a lot of different ways due to my lack of fondness for confrontation. Another part is operating for a bit too long without guidance back to the straight and narrow, which has allowed my percolating mind to produce some odd theological possibilities (some random things about universality and salvation based partially on human love, not just emanating from Christ.)

Some of this is a profound hunger for knowledge about other religions and how they actually function in the lives of people who believe in them. I'm not looking for the "hey I'm Shinto/Catholic and I go to a shrine/church twice a year" modern explanation of religion, but knowledge about how people around the world turn upward and outward for explanation of events they otherwise can't deal with. I guess I just don't think the Bible can possibly tell the whole story, because the God I believe in is not encompass-able by one finite book. And I guess I also just don't believe in a God who would refuse to reveal himself in any way to most of the people in the world until some Western missionary showed up to clue them in.

And that highlights one of the largest faith-related that is squirming around in my heart. I don't know what to do with evangelism. It's not just that I'm uncomfortable with it -- I'm not even sure if it's ethical to evangelize. I believe in a (and the) God that offers redemption and unconditional love, and demands a sacrifice of one's life and morals code to His will in return. But I almost think that idea is outside religion entirely. God on earth, so far as I have seen Him, is found in the collective faith of human beings, which I guess you could call religion or Christianity. But I think there is a profound difference between God on earth and religion, although they might be both made up of a similar thing -- the actions and beliefs that a group of people hold -- faith. The first seems to be a faith in some kind of profound goodness that demands action, while the second is a faith in an institution. Pulling back, while I'm sure that a recognition of God on earth is something that is required for ultimate salvation -- whatever that means -- I'm not sure that it's something that's limited to Christianity. Or organized religion. Or even human beings. And this makes evangelism a very odd subject for me to deal with, particularly when one considers the horrific damage that perhaps well-intentioned missionaries have done in the past.

(And then, I have creeping doubt. I have never doubted the existence of hell, but sometimes Christ flickers on and off in my mind like a faulty street lamp.)

I'm sure my questions are answered somewhere, if I would get off my lazy butt and look.

Too much.

Good night.

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