I think over the past year or so I have managed to make some good decisions in my life. Of course, I made good decisions before from time to time, but at least now I think I’m making fewer bad ones, so the net result is (more) positive. The first one was to become a vegetarian, almost exactly a year ago. I didn’t plan on becoming a vegetarian seriously before, but it just suddenly occurred to me one day (August 30, 2006, to be precise) that it would be a good decision to stop eating meat. I was full of doubt about whether it was a good idea or not at first, but the good thing about such impulse decisions is that they tend to come with a large dose of initial motivation. And after the initial burst of motivation had been exhausted, I no longer consider going back to my old ways.
I assumed that it would be difficult to stop eating meat, especially since I had eaten a lot of meat in the past, but I never found that I missed it. In fact, the food I’ve eaten in the past year has been more consistently good than ever before (at least if you discount the food I ate in the dining common) — it’s a lot easier to eat what I want when I cook it myself! I’m not a particularly good cook, but I enjoy cooking, and I can follow someone else’s recipe if it’s not incredibly complicated.
Anyway, since I really enjoy food, and eating is an important part of my life (and probably just about everyone else’s too), I think I became happier in general knowing that I was making better decisions regarding my food. I didn’t expect that to happen, but it’s a nice side effect. In fact, I’ve become more confident in my decision-making ability in general. People say I’m looking healthier than before too; that wasn’t my goal, but it’s another nice side effect.
The problem is that my standards have gone up over the year, so now maybe I’m back to where I started, except that now I think I’m making bad decisions when I eat non-vegan food. I’ve been trying to do this less frequently, and eventually it will probably go down to zero, but I’m not used to making changes in installments, so it’s difficult for me.
Another good decision I’ve made is to become an atheist. Actually I don’t know if “become” is the right word; I don’t know if I would have said that I believe in god in the past, but I probably wouldn’t have said I was an atheist. Actually I think everyone in my family is an atheist; my sister will admit it, but my parents want to redefine god to coincide with something they believe in. I tried that for a while, calling myself an “axiomatic monotheist.” (I just threw together popular scientific theories about the beginning of the universe and defined it as god.) But now I think that’s not such a good idea. The point of having words is to be able to communicate with other people. (Well, maybe; as Orwell pointed out in 1984, it’s difficult to have thoughts if you don’t have words to describe them.) So if one redefines one’s terms so they are inconsistent with the way other people wish to use them, then one fails to make use of a great advantage of language. It doesn’t seem worth it for the sake of avoiding admitting to a controversial belief.
It’s really nice to be free of beliefs in silly and nonexistent things. And it’s a bit easier to focus on leading a good life if you don’t have to worry about what is/isn’t going to happen after death. (Then again, I don’t think I ever worried about that.) But it’s easier for me when I am really confident in my beliefs.
Tangentially related, I found this blog post on StumbleUpon today. It makes me hopeful that some kids can think like that.
I suppose that it isn’t exactly a good decision, but I will soon be living in my own apartment and taking care of myself. I’m really excited about not being looked after, although it’s just a matter of degree. While I’m renting an apartment from Stanford, Stanford will be sort of looking after me, although less than my parents do and less than people at UCSB did. Anyway, it should be really enjoyable for me to take care of myself and be in charge of all my needs.
Also, Stanford will be a new start for me. I have an opportunity to stop being pulled down by my bad decisions in the past. I am hopeful that I can get rid of some of them.