After having been overseas for a whopping grand-total of three whole weeks – without sniffle-filled calls back home, or the stifling of sorrows with Molson Canadian and grade-A bacon – I’ve settled.
Not “settled” in the sense that I’m resigning myself to some mundane, routine sort of existence: “Settled” in the sense that I’m on both feet, standing tall, fiercely looking out towards an Atlantic horizon (picture me on the coast, because I’m not actually near it), and possibly craving bacon, but definitely not crying about it.
I won’t pretend to get a lot of questions from fans: I won’t pretend to have any fans. But I do get questions, some from people who care about me, some from those who probably couldn’t care less. Here are my answers:
So, what do you think of Preston so far?
I actually think Preston is kind of a lovely little-feeling but not really little town: The brickwork is old and crumbling, the pubs have interesting names, the accents are thick, there is always something to do…
You think Preston is lovely?
Well, ya. I’m in a new country, everything is different.
Preston is boring, I feel sorry for you.
What course are you in?
[Editor’s note: The term “course” in England refers to the program or Major you’re in.] I’m studying International Journalism.
What classes are you taking?
International Journalism, which is basically a class in advanced feature writing. I’m also taking Terrorism & Human Rights, and Political Islam & Islamic Movements. They are all great. Especially the fact that they all just happen to fall on Monday and Tuesday.
What do you mean? You only have class two days a week?
So what do you do with all your time?
I explore Preston…
Are you American?
What’s the weather like there?
Preston feels colder to me, being from mild-weathered Vancouver.
West Coast, near the U.S. border.
I always thought Canada would be really cold…
It can be further up north, away from the coast, back east.
Do you like hockey?
You have nice Wellies.
What’s a Wellie?
Rain boots. Why, what do you call them?
That’s so American.
So what are you going to do this “weekend”?
Explore Prest-… I’m going to Manchester.
PS – Hi Grandma.
Packed everything, remembered my passport, checked-in; luggage not overweight, said goodbye; said goodbye four other times, made it through customs, did it all with an hour to spare.
I’ve struggled these first two weeks of January to come up with a proper New Year’s Resolution: Something meaningful, achievable, and appropriate to where I’m going to be this year and what I’m planning on doing.
I’ve settled instead on accepting the fact that maybe this year, I’m in for more of a personal revolution than a single resolution. The fact is, I don’t know what I expect out of the coming year, nor do I know – by the end of it – what it is I want to have achieved. This year, I think, is going to be more about the “figuring it out” than about having it figured out and simply attempting to get there.
In just over an hour, I’m boarding my direct flight to London. It will be the longest time I have been away from home, and the longest time I have been outside of the Vancouver area. It will also be my first time in Europe.
I can honestly say that I have no idea what I’m in for, but I’m as prepared as I can be, and ready for adventure.
In a suitcase I had previously used for 5-day trips around the province, I’ve packed the essentials that will comfortably get me by for 5 months. If that fails, I’ve brought British pounds so that I can purchase more comfort.
In my carry-on, I’ve got a phone-sized video camera, a brand-new Nikon DSLR, my iPhone, my voice recorder, my e-reader, two scarves (layer-able), two pairs of gloves (not so layer-able), a guide book to Great Britain, and a European phrasebook. I would say I’m more than set to document my journey, as well as entertain myself during the long hours in transit.
I will keep in touch, I will blog, I will live-tweet as much as possible.
Here’s to a New Year’s Revolution: To unrooting myself and embarking on a journey to learn more about the world.
Here we go.
PS – Hi Grandma.
I pride myself on being an intelligent and critical-thinking individual. And for what I may lack in common sense, I make up for as an avid autodidact (as my unnecessarily complex vernacular should well point out).
I’m book smart; I like to read. I may read slowly, but it is a proven fact that those who take on average a longer time to read one page have a higher information retention rate.
My academic career has been littered with A’s for Awards, Ambition, and Academic excellence, and I have successfully completed many upper-level post-secondary courses that grappled with ambiguous topics like ethics, subjectivity, and relativism.
All of this, and I couldn’t wrap my pretty little head around the basic concepts learned in a level-100 Introduction to Microeconomics course.
So I dropped it.
I was told I’d have no problem: That when demand is high and supply is low, prices rise. It’s logical, it’s straight-forward. Apart from supply and demand, and the basics of elasticity, it is also completely foreign to me.
There were other reasons for dropping this course: I had four others on the go, as well as a part-time job, volunteer work, and numerous weekly meetings. But I’d often wondered why I found it so challenging to understand such basic economic principles when I’d previously managed to work my way through much more complicated subjects.
Economics, as I recall, is in part the study of human behaviour as it relates to matters like the consumption of goods and services. Economics is also founded on the rationale that people will consistently act in their own best interest, which financially translates into what will save one the most money, or earn one the most money.
This second point, as a general rule, is probably right.
But I also think it’s wrong.
What was missing from the equations – and what the missing link was to my understanding – was the variable for human nature, that encompasses more aspects of our humanity than our tendency to pursue self-interests.
The truth is that people do not always act rationally. While we have the ability to think rationally, our judgements can not only be influenced by our emotions, but may be solely based on emotion. And when I use the term emotion, I extend that to include feelings of pride, aggression, entitlement, retribution, of what is just, of what is fair. It includes what we believe and feel and want, and what we want or don’t want for others.
There was a study done where a person stopped two people on the street. He offered the first person $50, and told that person they could divide it however they wished between the two of them, but that the second person was to decide whether they both kept the money, or whether the offer was rejected.
For the first person, the “nice” thing to do, or the “fair” thing to do, would be to divide the money 50-50, knowing the second person would most likely accept the offer, and they would both walk away $25 richer.
Now for the second person, the economically “rational” thing to do would be to accept any offer that earns them money. After all, they have no control over the divying-up, and regardless of what they get, it’s free money. This means that, again, “rationally,” if the first person split the cash $30-$20, the second person should take it. They should also take it if it’s divided $49-$1.
However, the study pointed out that there comes a point when some people decide that their pride is worth more than what is being offered and, out of spite for the other “greedier” person, reject the financial offer for the both of them. (I know that if I was offered a dollar while my counterpart tried to take $49, I would, out of principle (anger, pride, justice) screw him over.)
And thus, I would argue that like the idea behind supply and demand is to find an equilibrium between the two, the key to figuring out how to get to that equilibrium rests, to a certain extent, of finding that line where our emotions and feelings (real or believed) overtake our rational thinking.
Some people act in the interest of the greater good (a form of self-interest assuming you include yourself in the greater good), while others are driven by the bottom line. We have different ways of thinking logically, different criteria for what makes up a rational or irrational decision, different views on whether it is justice or fairness or equality or hard work that should prevail at the end of the day. It’s complicated enough on a person-to-person scale, let alone incorporating governments, politics, nationalism, patriotism, and history into the mix.
The point I am trying to make is this: While the structures and general rules microeconomics would have taught me are generally quite accurate, if all of its principles can get thrown to the wind because one person pissed another person off, then I would rather spend my time studying human nature.