Self-improvement

It’s this time of the year again, when everyone takes new resolutions to better themselves in the coming year. It’s been many years since I have taken new year’s resolutions, and this year is no different. I see self-improvement as something I do continuously, so I don’t generally have something specific on my resolutions list.

It’s funny that these good resolutions are so ingrained in our culture, yet most people do not think about self-improvement on a daily basis. Worse, most people are resistant to change, not only for themselves, but also for others. “Oh, you changed” is rarely a compliment (unless you’re back from the hairdresser… and sometimes not even). I personally get a lot of resistance to my changing of certain things, even from family members or friends (though I do feel quite lucky to have a generally very open-minded support group, which I attribute to having met most of them in an academic setting). One obvious point of contention is my veganism, but I’ve also experienced it with my journey of reducing waste, weightlifting, or even my yoga practice.

I think part of it comes from the fact that I’m trying something new, which often doesn’t fit with the idea they have of who I am. And they might be right sometimes, and I won’t stick with what I’m doing (looking at you, pole dancing – I have way too slippery hands). Other times it does stick, and funnily sometimes people who met me later in life cannot imagine me without it: for instance people who met me during my PhD have always known me as “the yoga girl with the allergies”. People who will meet me during my postdoc will likely have a hard time imagining me eating meat.

Conflict also comes when I do (or start doing) something others feel like they should be doing but don’t. I also have this, for exemple when it comes to zero-waste lifestyles, but I try to see it as inspiration instead of judgement. Because I cannot commit to a fully zero-waste lifestyle now does not mean that I cannot do anything. I can do research, I can change some things, I can limit my waste, I can talk to other people about the simple changes I am doing and how they can implement them too. And maybe one day I’ll be able to be fully zero-waste, but meanwhile I’ll be reducing-waste.

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I try to keep in mind that even though every little thing helps, in the grand scheme of things most people are not gonna become fully vegan or zero-waste. However, most people might become flexitarians or reducetarians. By striving in a lifestyle that is more compassionate and better for the environment, while still being relatable as fully part of society rather than an outcast (and hopefully a useful contributor to society as both a researcher and a yoga teacher), I hope and aim to inspire people to make small changes in their own lives. Even in France, I do see that things are changing, even for veganism, as usual slower than anywhere else (how dare you touch upon French Cuisine!), but at least in Paris, and in supermarkets, vegan products are becoming more broadly available.

I’ll still be taking the plane to move to NYC. I am convinced that we can live a modern lifestyle while being more respectful of our surroundings, and I don’t see flying stopping any time soon. However, I will not take the plane when it isn’t necessary: for exemple I went to Berlin by train a few weeks ago. The inconvenience+price VS ecological impact wasn’t enough to convince me to get a plane ticket. I would also like to see more initiatives limiting flying for science conferences for exemple, with all the options that new technologies such as Skype (and who knows, soon holograms?) offer.

’tis a complicated time to be alive, that’s for sure. Even when you want to make the right choice, and you do some research, there is so much conflicting information on ze internet that I cannot blame people who do not take the time to go through dozens of article, without any scientific training, and synthesize the information to make an educated choice. This is why I believe that we have to push for more certifications -even though there are already so many. I realize that more labeling might confuse consumers even more, but I am rarely as annoyed as when I am looking for information on a product and cannot find it. At least if it is there, you might or might not look at it, or spend much time comparing products, but you can do it. And there are often great people on the internet who will take upon themselves of making comparisons and come up with the best choice depending on both your budget and your values.

Anyways, are you readers taking new resolutions? Why / why not? And if so, what are they?

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Gratitude

As 2017 closes, I try and reflect on my blessings. 2017 was a special year, full of closures: I obtained my Introductory II certificate, my PhD, published my first first-author article, got a postdoctoral position at NYU and the corresponding visa, and saw many friends graduate.

A year full of events, which also lets me much room for growth in 2018, as I will be moving to a new continent, thus realizing my childhood dream of living in the USA, and also moving in with my boyfriend, a much awaited step after more than a year of long-distance.

It’s thus with mixed feeling that I start 2018, the excitement of my new life that is going to start soon, but also the small ping in the heart of leaving the nurturing environment of Utrecht where I lived for the past five years. I have learned so much here, met amazing people who became great friends, and have definitely made myself at home. While I am looking forward to the challenge of both living together as a couple and living in NYC, I am sad to leave this comfy life I created here. And of course, I am trying to finish as many things as possible before I leave, which makes things a tad hectic.

A bad surprise I got when I came back from Christmas break in France was to find that the house I am subletting until I leave not only did not have the new kitchen installed as it should (and there is thus a hole instead of a kitchen), but the heating does not seem to be working. Which also means no warm water as the hot water is controlled by the same system.

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Not sure who I should credit for this illustration, please let me know if you do 🙂

It’s been almost four days as nothing would happen in the weekend or on January 1st, and I don’t know when the situation will change. Luckily for me, this year is the hottest “oud en nieuw” recorded since records exist, with around 12C at the hottest moment of the day (thanks global warming?!). The house thus stays between 10 and 12C, which while cold, is sustainable for sleeping if covered by two warm duvets.

While this is obviously annoying, this makes me reflect on how lucky I am in my “misery”. First, I do have a house. I’m not sleeping on the street, which means I don’t get wind or rain, and generally the house isn’t humid so I’ve not been cold and managed to fall asleep quite rapidly. Secondly, I can (and have been) go to the gym or the yoga studio to shower with hot water. I also have a key of the yoga studio, which is heated up, so on January 1st, I spent most of my time there. I practiced, took a shower, made some tea and browsed the internet in a warm and comfy environment until it was dinner time and I headed home to use the microwave I managed to plug in. Thinking of which: I do have a working fridge and microwave, cold water, and general electricity. So I was able to store some food in advance for New Year’s, when everything is closed (and I did take some leftovers from NYE home). Furthermore, I was at a friend’s for NYE and had a great evening. I am incredibly grateful for their like-mindedness. So it’s not that bad, and makes me see how many things I use daily and take for granted. And it’s great for the environment!

In any case, I hope it gets fixed soon. Meanwhile, I am grateful for all the things I take for granted, such as utilities, but also health, a great support system, a loving family and partner, and all the opportunities that have been offered to me up to now and in the future. I hope I can keep on working hard, loving hard, taking care of as many people as I can to make this Earth a slightly better place than I found it.

Happy 2018!