The start of a new year is traditionally a time for reflection, assessment, and vows of improvement — well, that and a bunch of lists detailing the most memorable moments (good and bad) of the outgoing year. I've resisted the urge to compile my own list — in part because it would end up being a list of everything I didn't have time to blog about — but I'm definitely the sort to reflect, assess, find myself wanting and vow to improve in those areas where I feel like I've fallen short. And also to marvel at how much my life has changed just in the last five years (three books, cross-country move, marriage, and a two-year stint with the Science & Entertainment Exchange would be the highlights; I start to feel fatigued just thinking about it). There have been good times and bad times, elation and heartbreak, confidence and insecurity, laughter and tears (especially during times of severe PMS), but overall we lead a very good life, and I am humbled and grateful for that — because it's such a precious and fragile state.
When I look forward into 2011, mostly, I see a big gaping Unknown, which frankly, I'm finding a bit disconcerting, yet exhilarating. My stint with the Exchange ended in late September, and I have lots of professional goals: the coming year is going to be one of taking a bunch of (well-calculated) risks and hoping at least a few of those pan out. On the personal front, I just hope to continue becoming kinder, more compassionate, and more forgiving of human foibles… my own as well as those of other people. And to be simultaneously more self-aware and less self-conscious, because (a) if you're too self-conscious it's tough to take risks and/or get anything done because you're constantly second-guessing yourself and worrying about what everyone else thinks, but (b) without self-awareness it's far too easy to become self-absorbed, to lose sight of the needs of others — and to appreciate one's broader place as being part of a community, not just an individual.
If there's one silly YouTube video to sum up my philosophy for 2011, it would be the 2008 "Dancing" video by Matt ("Where the Hell is Matt?") Harding — you know, the one where he went around the globe, courtesy of Stride Chewing Gum, doing his own unique dance, inviting people from all over the world to join him… which a surprisingly large number of folks did. The New York Times' Charles McGrath calls Harding's movement “an arm-swinging, knee-pumping step that could charitably be called goofy.” But, he adds, "There is something sweetly touching and uplifting about the spectacle of all these different nationalities, people of almost every age and color, dancing along with an uninhibited doofus." I still get a little verklempt watching it, and I'm not alone. Two and half years later, that video has been viewed over 33 million times. Dancing is a universal human expression, in this case, an expression of giddy joy.
We'll be back to writing about aweseome science next week. In the meantime, may we all be able to capture a bit of that un-self-conscious joy of just being in 2011.