So, it’s January 1, which means a ton of social-media traffic commenting on the year just concluded, most of it very negative– “Good riddance, 2014, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, etc.” I’m a little more ambivalent about the whole 2014 thing, and of course, being a good squishy liberal, I feel guilty about that.
Because, of course, in a lot of ways, 2014 was very good for me, personally. This is probably exemplified by my current circumstances– I’m typing this from the tail end of the Renaissance Weekend (actually, from a Starbucks across the street, because I thought that blogging during the final session might be considered poor form…). This is a high-power collection of people, and it’s an honor to have been invited here. And it’s been a really great experience, meeting some fascinating people, and my presentations were well received (even if the small kids were more interested in the colored sugar I was using for a prop than the basics of quantum physics…).
And that’s only one of a bunch of cool opportunities I had this past year– I also wrote four video lessons for TED-Ed (one, two, three, four), each of which has been viewed more than 100,000 times. I got to visit the UK, Ireland, and Sweden, and gave well-recieved talks in Bristol and Stockholm. And, of course, I finished Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist, which has gotten some excellent reviews. In a lot of ways, 2014 was a great year on a personal and professional level.
But, of course, it was also a year that sucked in a big way on a more global level, with the media (both international and social varieties) dominated by a series of brutally unpleasant stories– Ukraine, Ferguson, Gamergate, the NYPD, UVA/Rolling Stone, etc. On a political level, this was, as somebody put it on Twitter, a dumpster fire of a year. I fully understand the desire to push all that stuff into the past as quickly and thoroughly as possible. And there was some stuff personally and professionally that I’m very glad to relegate to history, to whatever extent that’s possible, but can’t really talk about here. (212 days.)
So, you know, a very mixed bag. Which makes me feel the usual crippling liberal guilt for celebrating my personal accomplishments in a year that was so bad for so many people. I feel a bit bad that my good year didn’t fall in a better year for more of my friends and acquaintances. Which is, of course, kind of stupid, since it’s not like that’s in my control, but there you go.
Anyway, the one bright spot in all the domestic political mess– even a dumpster fire sheds a little light, after all, amid the smoke and stench– is, somewhat paradoxically, that very little of this was really new. The bad stories that dominated the news in 2014 weren’t a sudden explosion of unprecedented bad behavior, but people on a national level becoming aware of bad shit that’s been going on for a long time. And while that makes for a real bummer of a year, it’s also the essential first step toward addressing those problems. Which won’t be fun and easy, but will make everything better down the line.
So, you know, goodbye to 2014. And may 2015 be the first of many better years to come.