The end of another year.
It is time again for another exciting chapter in Blog Posts I Only Write Because I Feel Guilty About Not Writing Blog Posts. In years past, I’ve often recounted numerous stories of adventure and victories. This year will be a little different. It has been a remarkable year filled with ups and downs but ultimately a lot learning.
People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing everday.
Looking back, my research has been surprisingly running much smoother than I originally believed.
I became one of the founding members of the Distributed Health Lab, helping to mold and develop the vision for future health technologies. We currently have an indiegogo campaign, which I urge you to check out =).
In March, I presented a paper on visualizing noisy crowdsourced data at the Aerospace Conference. This was a fun experience which allowed me to jump on some quality slopes outside of the Sierras and meet a lot of very interesting people part of the aerospace industries. Additionally, I have just found out that I will again be attending this conference, this time presenting on work we did in relation to crowdsourcing damage assessments right after the 2011 Japan Tsunami disaster.
Towards the middle of the year, I became an author in the forthcoming Handbook of Human Computation, specifically the chapter on Search and Discovery in relation to my work with the Valley of the Khans team. An exciting chapter of my life which I hope to continue partaking in.
Additionally, fantastic progress was made towards the completion of my Ph.D. with my well received research exam presentation. Only 2 out the 3 members on my committee fell asleep during the presentation, which I consider a win.
Above you see successes. A glossy image over which a very different interior resides. Reading between the lines, there has been a lot of turmoil, stress, blood, and tears that have lead to this point in the journey.
I find that it is difficult for people to talk about failures. Failures are embarrassing. Nobody wants to make themselves feel or look any less than they really are. However, failure is what got us to this point in the first place.
It is easy to say it, it is even easy to believe it, but to truly act upon this concept is another matter. So here I’ll talk about my big failure of 2013 most importantly how I and perhaps some other schmuck along the way can learn from it.
Bottling it up.
I have skirted many disasters and confrontations by simply biting my tongue and moving on. Perhaps I have caused many more by doing the same. A consequence of this is that many of those emotions and thoughts get bottled up. For some, more fleeting matters, this is manageable since by the end of the day it no longer an issue. But when matters become more than simply fleeting this is a difficult and inefficient manner to handle things. As a result, I did a lot of things I am not proud of and hurt some people who were very close to me. Thus, my biggest, if not most important lesson for the year is managing these issues in a way that can be more productive.
While not a hardcore Buddhist, I find their doctrines at the very least meaningful and at most useful life guidelines. The Four Noble Truths as laid out by the doctrine talk about “suffering”, which in modern times is often understood as conflict in one’s life. This could be through simple everyday vexations or more long-term stresses. Becoming attached to these vexations and stresses (a.k.a bottling it up) can create an awful feedback loop which does nothing to help and all but amplifies the problem at hand.
Buddhism is not alone in confronting these issues. Marcus Aurelius hammers this point all across Meditations:
You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
I’ll stop myself there. Does spewing quotes from doctrines and philosophers really help? Maybe. It is comforting to know that people have been struggling with the same ideas for thousands of years and that the same wisdom applies even to the conflicts of today.
At the risk of completely misinterpreting the point, it all boils down to: conflict is unavoidable. There will always be something that will elicit a reaction. And thereine lies the lesson, for our actions and responses to that certain something will define how we interact with those around us, whether it be in a useful, productive way or less so.
This took much longer to write than I ever through, but I would like to end with a special thanks to those who have been with me this year through thick and thin. 2013 was definitely an exciting year, and I can only imagine what is in store for 2014! Onwards and upwards!∎