I am a little early, but who knows how October will pan out this year. So, happy birthday blog! It’s been ten years since I wrote my first post on “Art Space Tokyo”, followed by countless more. Time to reflect and look ahead.
It has become much quieter here. I wrote 180,000 words in the first five years, and only 40,000 words since. Much of my intermittent writing took place elsewhere, primarily in my PhD dissertation and related publications, but also in my day job.
The most popular blog posts have also changed (along with changing search engine algorithms perhaps?). Two 2013 posts, one on Harlem housing projects and one about Schomburg Plaza next to Central Park, now top the list.
Who didn’t have a momentous 2017-2022? For me, professionally, I finished my PhD, taught undergraduate students at TUJ, published academic papers and other articles, gave talks and rejoined the regular (albeit remote) work force.
Our daughter was born in 2018, we moved to Thailand, then to Germany, back to Thailand, back to Germany, finally to Australia. I shied away from writing much about our pandemic experience. Like for almost everyone we know, it wasn’t particularly easy and coincided with other upheavals in our lives.
But we were also incredibly privileged–having flexible work, being able to escape the worst lockdowns and exchange confined condo living in Bangkok with the expanse of the German countryside, where our daughter thrived thanks in large parts to her grandparents.
Many parts of the last five years are well-documented on the blog, especially the Tokyo bits and the publishing. I have recently begun jotting down summaries of the “professional” work I do for record-keeping, too.
However, there have been less of the personal diary-type entries. This is partly due to us going on fewer trips, and having less time to reflect. While soul searching is always important, it was particularly useful from 2012-2017 to use this blog as a companion to embark on new intellectual ventures; mainly Tokyo, but also Yangon.
Much of what I wrote five years ago for the fifth anniversary still holds. I remain accountable to this blog, and it has kept me up on my toes, even in its silent periods. A responsibility toward it, or a nagging guilt when neglecting it for too long, keeps motivating me.
A vanity project such as this fulfils so many purposes. In its essence it validates myself–in my own eyes at least–and helps me build a legacy. In weak moments, I can derive strength from looking back at the past and its memories, its ups and downs, its achievements and its potential.
Looking ahead, I feel that, curiously, I am at a similar stage of my life than 10 years ago when this project started. I don’t want to call it an intellectual “void”–perhaps capacity is a better word–but there is space in my brain that wants to be filled as some projects are nearing their natural completion.
There remains a strong residual interest in my previous work on Yangon and its wider implications, so perhaps I can find some continuities between the past and the future. For it is hard to always start from scratch. But perhaps so is life.
What would I like to see change from here? More work hygiene to account for the fewer hours available in the day, more books and podcasts to absorb more information, a better balance between more radical politics and my personal engagement.
Perhaps I can achieve all this by writing more substantive posts again, by putting in more links and starting discussions with other people. Let’s see how the next five years pan out. Thanks for reading!