Sunday, December 29, 2013

Year of the Astronaut

No, you will not find that on the Chinese Lunar calendar. Having said that, given the success they've had lately, they should probably legitimize the year of the astronaut.

It's that time of the year again. Another cycle of twelve months draw to a close. A couple of days before I left Stanford for home, I pulled out a small sheet of paper on which I had scribbled on goals for the year - a ritual I have followed for many years now; I even save each year's sheet so that some day in the distant future I can look back and see how my priorities in life have changed - to check how many of those items can be scratched off. Some of those goals end up taking many years to accomplish and as a result, find themselves repeated year after year. 

The cycle of twelve months has had its usual ups and downs, dotted with a few remarkable once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I found myself down in the dumps at the beginning of the year, and found joy and upliftment through two great projects that I wrote about earlier. It's strange what a fleeting sense of accomplishment can do for the soul. Somewhere near the end of the year, my friend J gifted me a book - "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" by Col. Chris Hadfield. I'm quite the astronaut groupie, and even if you're not one, Chris Hadfield is one of those inspirational people you just have to know. The world first came to know him through his remarkable outreach videos from the ISS. I was looking forward to reading the book, but I never expected it to be such a life-transforming experience. I have now bored most of my near and dear ones with accounts of how the book is fundamentally affecting my outlook on things in my life. I want to be an astronaut myself some day (I think this is my first public admission in writing), which is probably why the book is affecting me even more. While it has been really fun reading about Hadfield's experiences during his years of training as fighter pilot, in the astronaut core and then three times on the ISS, there are some fundamental life lessons I have learned from the book. Hadfield discusses his thought process in handling any problem he faces in real life and how it has been affected by his astronaut training. Perhaps the biggest lesson I've picked up is to develop the mind of an astronaut, whether or not I actually become one - to be mentally prepared for (almost) any eventuality, to be disciplined and to work the problem at hand rather than frantically hurling the kitchen sink at it. I've decided to adopt this as my theme for the next year - the first item on my little piece of paper. The words "think like an astronaut" have slowly begun to take center stage in my head, whilst slowly getting on the nerves of everyone around me.

I'm preparing for what's going to be a glorious end to another difficult yet rewarding year, and I'm hoping my new philosophy will hold me in good stead for the coming year. 

Good bye 2013, and I think I'm going to be happy to see you, 2014.

Happy new year, everyone!