Saturday, December 5, 2015

Autumn 2015 Reflections

Three finals on Monday and Tuesday, so this weekend is all studying. But I just finished making my note sheet for solid mechanics, after getting the practice final mostly correct, so I'd better write a post for the week.

I haven't been quite as self-reflective this quarter as I was freshman year, when I could feel myself changing, but I know that the way I behave at school is very different from the way I behaved in high school, or even last year. I think I am becoming kinder, and a little more relaxed, and certainly less self-conscious.

The intellectual defensiveness that I had at the beginning of freshman year is slowly being worn down, and although I still assume I will perform above average, academically, I also acknowledge that my friends are smarter than me and do not get upset when I have to ask them for help on homework. I am somewhat less disciplined, or at least proactive, about studying as I used to be--partially because I'm running harder in the day-to-day and don't have as much time to get ahead on my work as I did in high school.

The politics of my thinking are getting more and more liberal. I still think that Communism is a bad idea and that no political system that depends on changing human nature is worth considering, but I support the idea that if there is a societal shortfall somewhere--public health, for example--the government does have the responsibility to step in, or at least to provide incentives for private organizations to step in. This goes especially for cases where the system as it currently operates causes negative externalities.

(I wonder how COP21 is going to turn out.)

I've also felt more and more confirmed in my choice of major, because civil engineers can do a lot to help ease the world's problems. Building needed infrastructure, energy efficient buildings and cities, sustainable energy systems, resilient structures. My management class has also highlighted ways that the construction industry as it exists now is screwed up and inefficient and unproductive, and how that is changing. I'm eager to get started on the work and be part of the progress.

The world is not yet optimized, so build useful things.

Thinking more and more about the future, about life after I graduate. I need a Masters to do anything, so that's step one. What will I do? What will my life be like? Who will I be?

(I'm not aromantic but for some reason it's very difficult to imagine myself in a relationship. If love is a choice, and I believe that to endure it must be, why would I choose that?)

Who am I now, even? This quarter I came out as nonbinary to my friends and have been working through that. It all seemed much clearer over the summer when I took on the term agender--but I don't think I merit the term because I am playing the gender game. There is nothing inherently masculine about shirts that button left over right, and yet I feel more secure in my identity when I wear a "male" shirt.

That's an issue, I know. At the end of last year I was proud of the fact that I was comfortable in a dress because it was a sign that I was unlearning misogyny. What does it signal, then, that I can no longer touch any of the dresses in my closet? I'm starting to flinch when people who know I'm nonbinary use "she" even though I said at the beginning of the year that "she" is fine. But "they" still sounds strange--not uncomfortable strange, just unfamiliar strange.

I'm starting to uncover some patterns in my personal philosophy/the values underlying it, one of which is a preference of the mind over the body. I am no dualist, but bodies just disgust me. A philosophy that values mind over life could tread into very questionable territory, so I'm trying to define system boundaries such that I avoid being a monster.

Noblesse oblige is a central component of my philosophy of conduct--that is, power creates responsibility. I think that's one reason I'm a better human being now than I was last year: now that I have a little more power than I used to, I have greater responsibility. Power lets me be kinder--or at least, it gives kindness more meaning because there is less that I could gain from it. Or maybe I just think that power should be used to help people.

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