Reviewing My Goals for 2020: A Retrospect

After taking break for the holiday last week, especially since I had reached a natural cesura in the content I was translating, I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to look back on the year I’ve had. Particularly, I want to look back on the goals that I set out last year. Last year, I basically set out four pairs of objectives, trying to replace one superfluous or more negative behavior with something better. So, let’s review.

Quitting Facebook in Favor of More Blogging

In my post one year ago, I said that I would delete Facebook by January 31st, 2020. That didn’t happen, and my final deletion of Facebook did not occur until November. That being said, I only viewed Facebook maybe three during those ten months, so I achieved my goal in spirit, if not literally for several months. But what was the impact of disregarding and ultimately leaving Facebook? Has this increased more meaningful interaction between me, my friends, my colleagues and my family?

This is a mixed bag. I have probably had more regular and deeper contact with my family during this period. The contact may not have been as often, since I didn’t see pictures of them or posts from them, but our interaction was certainly more meaningful, since we actually made the effort to call and catch up rather than merely click a blue icon of a hand with its thumb raised. Part of the greater contact surely also resulted from the pandemic and the transition to a life lived in the virtual universe of Zoom. Nonetheless, the family aspect must be counted as a win and a great point against Facebook.

On the other hand, I essentially lost access to a number of people that I enjoyed hearing from, even if only indirectly. This lost access applies to both colleagues and friends. For that reason, I have no real insight in to the things that many respected people are involved with or working on. That’s an unenviable position to be in. It also tends to make me feel a bit lonely sometimes, particularly in academic contexts. I imagine that there is networking going on among other scholars that I am missing out on. Mind you, I have no evidence to support this, and I personally never made any concrete plans for cooperation on Facebook, but the pessimist in me just assumes that others are doing this. Missing out on friends and colleagues is certainly a negative aspect.

On the other hand, I did get to hang out with this tiger.

The deciding vote is unambiguously in favor of my leaving Facebook, however. I am seriously glad that I did not receive or view any content related to the election in the United States on Facebook. I didn’t see the ignorant posts of raving lunatics on Facebook. For that, I was still on Twitter. As far as I can tell, most of the people who made me rage on Facebook have not discovered Twitter yet, which means that I could peacefully network there socially (and even academically).

The objective of leaving Facebook was more blogging, which I certainly achieved. While I did not fulfill my goal of writing every week, I did do pretty regular writing on this site. This included two series about my work, neither of which has been concluded: one on the general textual history of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament and one translating the different versions of the biblical book of Kings. At the same time, beginning in the autumn, I accepted a position on the editorial board of the Digital Orientalist, which I published two pieces (with three more to come in 2021). The first was on trustworthy online resources for studying the Bible, and the second was on biblical manuscripts available online. None of this online publishing got the kind of traction that I was hoping for, but there is a small core of supporters who read this material regularly. To you, I say “thank you!” Since I hope to expand my audience, if you think that someone might enjoy what I am doing, pass it on. Or if you or someone you know might have questions about biblical studies you’d like more information on, reach out and let me know. I’d love to cover things that you want to read about, particularly ethical and theological issues! In conclusion, I made some big steps in this regard this, but there is still room for improvement in 2021. Stay tuned!

Less Meat and Sugar /
More Vegan Meals and Walking

This one turned out to be pretty easy in the beginning, but grew somewhat tougher as the year dragged on. At the beginning of the year, I committed to eating vegan almost every breakfast (overnight oats). This still had a lot of carbohydrates in it (maple syrup and dried fruit) and not much protein. After my annual physical, I got a recommendation from my doctor about a different kind of cereal and reducing the portion size dramatically. That led to me eating a special kind of overnight oats for both breakfast and lunch almost every day. At the same time, I cut out all snacking and sweets, particularly between lunch and dinner. At dinnertime we generally reduced our intake of meat, but often did not eat vegan. Sometimes we did.

My Sweet Potatoes are Legit (though not vegan because of the cheese).

At the same time, I increased my amount of movement substantially, which mean that I did a good job getting rid of some weight. I kept this up for a while, but once the amount of work that I had to do increased dramatically and our working conditions became significantly more difficult due to the pandemic, the amount of walking that I did really tapered off. The snacking crept back in as well, especially as summer turned to autumn and autumn to winter. I need to get back to the basics again in the new year and am recommitting myself to this.

What “Home Office” Looks Like with a Two-Year Old.

Less Listening to Respond / More Listening to Learn

As part of the process of bettering myself, I decided that I should spend more time listening without trying to always insert my thoughts into the discussion, just learning from what others are saying. In particular, I decided to strive to hear more voices from women, people of color, and others who have often been excluded from power and decision-making processes. To this end, I did a lot of reading, listening to podcasts, and following people on Twitter. The undertaking has thus far been enlightening, so I also plan to continue this in 2021 (and beyond). I have to take this opportunity to recommend the book How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (I want to write a full-length review of this in the future) and the podcast Scene on Radio (which David Loti recommended to me). If you want to critically reflect on what racism looks like and how it impacts power dynamics and history, these are good places to start.

Less Working Time Alone / More Collaboration

Alright. This was a seriously good intention, but there is nothing I can do about how this developed. I did not get to cooperate with others as much as I had hoped.

I would’ve loved to share this veggie burrito with a colleague or two.

But I need to qualify that: I still began more cooperation with others than at any point in my academic career thus far. It wasn’t the way that I had expected, meeting up and discussing texts and interpretations. Rather, we did it all online. This has led to some exciting results that will hopefully be published in the not-too-distant future. Here’s a preview: we taught an artificial intelligence to decipher ancient Greek handwriting. So, the Terminator may not find John Connor, but he will be able to engage in the exegesis of Codex Vaticanus. I still want to do some entertainment-oriented podcasting, vlogging, or blogging cooperation, so contact me to make a plan and make this happen, if you are interested.

In conclusion…

For most of us, I imagine, 2020 was a more trying year than just about anyone could have anticipated. I didn’t publish all of the articles I wanted to. I didn’t lose all of the weight I needed to. I didn’t get to travel hardly at all. Nonetheless, I wanted to take this opportunity to look back on what I wanted to do with the year and evaluate my progress. All in all, I think I did pretty well. There were a lot of setbacks, but also real human connection and progress, in spite of and sometimes even resulting from adverse conditions. I hope that you can find some silver linings in 2020 and that you can progress in your endeavors in 2021. Let me know how you did and how you’re doing. All the best!

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2 Comments

  1. I think you did pretty well, all things considered!

    Reply
  2. Andrea

     /  16/02/2021

    Lieber Jonathan, danke für den Link zum digital orientalist. Ich habe diese schöne Info meinen Studis nachgereicht. Ja, wir Kollegen sollten mehr in Kontakt bleiben. Ich vermisse das auch. Nein, auf Facebook ist nichts los 🙂 Grüße an deine Familie! Andrea

    Reply

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