Today I reach one of life’s predefined milestones: since I was born, the earth has completed a number of revolutions around the sun equal to three times the number of fingers on the human hands. Is this worth celebrating? Probably not, but it’s an opportunity as good as as any to write a little bit about what’s been going on since my previous birthday post. Since I have been notoriously bad at writing anything on this blog (I have only published nine posts in the previous twelve months), it feels like I owe the internet a summary.
According to popular psychology, I ought to experience some kind of crisis right now. Thirty is roughly the age where people start asking questions like: What am I doing with my life? Is this what I really want to do? Is this all there is to it? I have so far failed to experience any of this, but that might be because my life cycle is a bit delayed compared to the average. Sure, I have a degree and so on, but I’m still studying (which reminds me that I have forgotten to write about last semester) and haven’t got a proper job. Sure, I have a girlfriend with whom things are going well, but I don’t have a house, a cat nor any kids. All in due time. Perhaps the crisis will catch up with me later, but I don’t really think it will. I have proved quite immune to crises before.
In fact, I feel very optimistic about the future and feel that I know exactly what I’m doing. I might have been able to get to where I am now a few years earlier if I had made different choices earlier in my life, but since I feel that most of what I have done is useful in some way and I have enjoyed most of it so far, I don’t think this is a problem. In accordance with earlier posts, I will talk a little bit about what’s been going on in different areas since last time. Because most things have stayed roughly the same, I have less to say than usual and will try to sum it up briefly for anyone who is interested.
I’m still in the same master’s degree program at National Taiwan Normal University here in Taipei. I’m now past the time when I worried about courses being too difficult or time-consuming and feel that I can relax and invest some energy elsewhere. This is great, because I’m going to need all that time to be able to focus properly on my research. I haven’t decided on a topic yet, but I’m fairly close to doing so and might write more about that shortly. It’s related to perception and production of Chinese speech sounds and how to learn/teach these at any rate, so no surprises there.
The main reason I haven’t written much here is that I feel I get more out of writing articles on Hacking Chinese, a website about how to learn Chinese. The site has been expanding rapidly ever since its inception in 2010 and seems to keep growing at a healthy pace, even if I only spend a limited amount of time and no money on the project. Providing quality content once a week and sharing it on social media has generated about half a million page loads in 2013 alone. The more I think about Hacking Chinese, the more certain I become that this isn’t just a side project, it has the potential of becoming a serious job. There are many, many different paths to try and you are likely to see some of them surface in the coming year, some of them directly related to Hacking Chinese, others only indirectly so.
Things are moving steadily onwards and not much has changed since last year. This is good, though, because I have now been together with Zoe for more than two years and things are going better than expected. Sure, all relationships have their ups and downs, and don’t work smoothly all the time, but ours certainly looks a lot more stable than ever. My hope is that it will settle down properly once I get back to Sweden this summer when my life abroad will be mostly over, at least for the foreseeable future. It might prove tricky to find an apartment in Stockholm immediately, but I’m not too worried about the future. If you happen to have a nice apartment in Stockholm to rent to us starting this autumn, let me know!
I have stuck to mostly reading in Chinese (I read 25 books in Chinese last year), but I have also listened to a few audio books in English and my appetite for reading more is growing. I have also continued the work on my first novel, which should have a finished draft relatively soon. My hope is to have a version ready for other people’s eyes (although not publicly) at the end of this semester. Creativity is an important part of my life and I can feel that if I don’t have enough of it, I’m not really happy. I need to find a way to incorporate creative output in my weekly schedule even if I’m busy with other things! I have some ideas for how to do this, but more about this later.
I’m still practising gymnastics more than a dozen hours a week and love it. Sure, gymnastics can be very frustrating at times, but it’s such a beautiful sport in that it incorporates so many different skills and abilities, as well as raw strength, endurance and flexibility. I competed once last year and it went considerably better than I thought (I earned two individual bronze medals, one silver and one team gold). The next competition is fast approaching (about two months from now) and I’m doing my best to be better prepared this time. I also realise that I will (probably) never have such a good opportunity to practise gymnastics again, so I’m trying to make the most of it.
Towards a brighter future
As you can see, not much has happened that wasn’t predictable last year. I have done more of the same things, which is satisfactory in one way because this is what I like doing, but I can also feel that I want to move further faster. I’m quite sure that the direction I’m moving in is the right one and I’m also sure I go about it roughly the right way, but I think I’m too cautious, resulting in a slower pace than desired. This feeling has been with me for many, many years and I suspect that it will stay with me for a long time still, perhaps forever. I simply want to learn more, write more, read more, socialise more, practise more and so on, but there’s not enough time to do everything. It’s this feeling that keeps me going.
Even if this year’s birthday post was a bit boring, I’m quite sure that next year’s will be more interesting. Even if I probably won’t graduate before then, I will still finish my courses and move back to Sweden to do my research. This will bring a lot of changes and I hope that most of them will be to the better. It’s also likely that several projects will at least partially come to fruition this year and even though I certainly don’t think that all of them will succeed, I’m confident that some of the will. I will try to write a little bit more here, both about said projects and other things, so stay tuned!