Philosophy has been a part of my life since I was a teenager. My interest was first piqued as far back as grade 9, through an enrichment mini-course in philosophy at Queen's University. (I'm delighted to see that these are still being offered.) It blossomed first through early social media: philosophical debates about politics on FIDOnet, and then through an email list with friends I kept in touch with from high school. In both places I wanted to be more confident of the reasons that underpinned my political activism. As is typically the case, philosophy wound up making me less confident, as I learned to see other points of view, but that itself made me a better person.
The most crucial event for me philosophically, though, was travelling around Thailand and writing in my journals after I finished my undergraduate degree. (I've recounted this experience in more detail in two posts on my blog.) It was the sort of experience that many a young man or woman has while travelling, when one gets the chance to reflect on one's rash choices to date and how to live better. My case was complicated by two things, though: first, it was through reading and hearing about the Buddhism around me that I came to my life-changing realizations; and second, I'd spent a great deal of time already reading Western philosophy that seemed incompatible with the Buddhism I was learning. Could the two fit together?
That question would come to animate my adult life. When my time in Thailand was done, I went to Cornell for a graduate degree in development sociology, expecting I would continue in a career in international development. I found that my heart was no longer in international development but it was in scholarship, and so I applied to PhD programs to study the philosophy I had come to love.