It’s New Year’s Eve. I’m not really a fan.
Our culture sees New Year as a watershed moment in which we look back at what we have achieved in the last twelve months and forward to what we want to in the next. It always makes me feel miserable.
Perhaps it’s because setting deadlines is too much like being at work and makes me anxious. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a closed door person – I like to think there’s always a second chance. Perhaps it’s because my personal vague aims and hopeful goals are on a rolling conveyer. If I don’t get there this year, I might sometime. That sort of thing.
Every year my organisation issues a staff engagement survey. One of the stupider questions is ‘on a scale of one to ten, are you happier today than you were yesterday?’ My answer is largely dependent on whether I’m completing my survey on a Monday. That aside, my level of happiness is not just about work, but my home-life, my creative life, world events. So what’s the point of the question?
The New Year’s question seems as meaningless: did I achieve everything I wanted to in 2018?
I can say I achieved many things. In fact I achieved things I hadn’t even anticipated (one of the bonuses about not planning too much ahead). Some things, however, are still on the conveyor belt. (I suspect one will be trundling on until I no longer care about anything.)
Did I achieve them through hard work or luck? Probably a bit of both. I am fortunate to have been healthy all year. While sad things have happened including a completely unanticipated bereavement, there have been moments of joy and laughter too. And when I knew I’d get next to no writing done in November due to other commitments, I decided to accept it rather than feel a failure.
Does it matter if I failed to tick some things off? In the scheme of things, not really. The wounds of disappointment heal if I don’t pick at them. And there’s the question of timing. I’ve learned that sometimes, the fruit is under-ripe, the wine has not matured – waiting brings the best results.
As for 2019, I have only a very broad idea of what I hope to achieve. It’s manageable, assuming I put some effort in and the unforeseen doesn’t scupper it. But who knows?
Time is a very human, actually very modern concept. Our ancestors knew when it was time to get up, go to bed, plant, harvest, hunt etc and the rest just happened when it happened – good or bad.
We have made the boundaries of our lives so much more complex and demanding than they need to be.
Perhaps this New Year, I’ll simply stop letting it worry me, enjoy the good things as they turn up and accept that you can heal from the sad things with time and help. And if you feel the same, I hope you can too.
Words and photograph copyright 2018 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.