It’s that time again when I start to think about what I will do to improve my life in the coming year. This New Year is particularly special because not only does it mark a new year, but a whole new decade.
Last year I resolved to try and personally reduce my impact on the growing problem of species extinction. I decided to make small changes in my lifestyle to combat larger problems of pollution, loss of habitat, deforestation, overconsumption of natural resources and animal extinction.
My four resolutions were to always dispose of my dog’s poop properly, to no longer use plastic bags at the grocery store, to stop eating factory farmed meat and stop shopping online as much. So how did I do? Pretty good, I think.
My past record of correct poop disposal was almost perfect, but not quite. It was just a matter of making sure every pocket in every jacket and pair of pants had a bag in them. I washed several inadvertently at first, but over time managed to remember to check and now boast a perfect poop record. Check!
Next came grocery store bags and this one was a bit harder. I decided that instead of relenting and using plastic bags when I forgot my reusable bags, I would punish myself for my forgetfulness and buy new ones or just take everything home in the car loose. I am now the proud owner of several dozen reusable bags, but a new habit was created. Done!
Honestly, the meat resolution was easy for me because I am not a huge fan of red meat. Convincing my other half to forego meat (or pay a lot more) was going to be the real challenge. However, after much trial and error he actually now requests that Beyond Meat be added to our bagless, grocery list. Yay!
The one I didn’t do so great on was the online shopping. As I sit here writing I can see my collection of temperature reactive nail polish and alas, it has grown larger. I’ll keep trying. Fail…
So, what will my 2020 resolutions be? For some reason this year it was a bit more difficult for me to figure out. However in the end, I decided to concentrate my self-improvement to my online persona. In a year likely filled with political vitriol – one where I plan to try to write more – I’d like to be sure I am not part of any local or national polarization.
Resolution #1: Be less convinced of my rightness. It’s no secret I am a passionate advocate for our local wildlife. My articles almost exclusively focus on wildlife and its issues. If you’re my Facebook or Instagram friend, you know that’s pretty much all I post about. I spend a lot of time talking to experts or researching things to make sure I’m putting out scientifically truthful information. I’ve joined many Facebook groups that disagree with my point of view and convinced myself that I’m open to dissenting opinion. I try to be diplomatic and open-minded, but recently I realized sometimes privately, about some things, I’m just not. I talk to like-minded people and we echo back and forth about how right we are without stopping to consider someone else’s experience. I need to realize that I have an unconscious confirmation bias in some areas and should stop. While I still trust in science the most, I will stop to consider how people’s circumstances and environment affect their opinions.
Resolution #2: Try to understand different points of view. Some of the issues I’ve written about this year have a real west side/east side rap battle feel to them. In some cases, the Cascade Mountains draw a real line not only geographically, but philosophically in our state. In a conversation about wildlife, one comment to a west sider from an Eastside resident reads; “just annihilate every stinking last one! Too many idiots these days who have no brain cells who are actually making big decisions on this agenda….” In another article one Westside resident says to an Eastside resident; “You’re a rambling pox upon our land. Go away.” No one asks why the other feels the way they do or what can change to make their situation better. We dismiss each other without stopping to consider the reasons behind those attitudes. I’m going to ask more questions before making generalizations about other people.
Resolution #3: Speak less (or type) and listen more. This year I got my first hate mail. Really, the subject line read: “Hate your opinion.” On the one hand I was thrilled, after all when you write you want to inspire emotions, but upon further thought, I wanted to understand why this person felt that way. I emailed her back and asked for context. She didn’t say which opinion she found offensive, but I never heard back. Now I think I was a little flip and could have handled that with more sensitivity. If it happens again, I’m going to try and do better. I still may disagree but I will listen.
In addition to making resolutions this time of year, I usually turn off fully half of my friends on Facebook every four years. I have a pretty even mix of us vs. them politically speaking and because I like everyone I choose to be “friends” with, I mostly stay out of the political fray. I have come to realize that tuning each other out doesn’t make for great discussion or mutual understanding. From this point forward I am going to put my focus on trying to empathize with people rather than telling them I am right and they are wrong.
Oh, by the way I do have a resolution #3.5: shooting to be a size six, can’t break a thirty year long failed resolution streak on that one! Happy New Year!