“2019 is going to be my year!”, “Let’s make 2019 the best year yet!”: By now we’ve all probably seen some social media addicted Facebooker write a really unnecessary memoir reflecting on their 2018, most likely concluding with one of the above sentences, convinced their Facebook friends care enough to read. Every post follows the same formula: sadness and sentiment over the passing of a great year, but enthusiastic optimism about the promise of change and how bloody marvellous the next year is going to be because “I can just feel it”. It’s the same content my timeline has to endure every December, and I can’t be the only one who just scrolls past completely uninterested.
I guess it’s natural to measure life through years, viewing the passing of a year as symbolic of beginning and end. It’s just how humans work; we need structure in our lives to assess how things have changed, to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come. My final days of December are often spent thinking about where I was twelve months prior, mentally and physically, and feeling mostly proud of everything I’ve achieved, where I’ve been and what I’ve learned. And yes, I suppose it has been a “good” year – but should we stop viewing years in notions of good and bad, in such black and white terms?
Years are not goals in themselves – we should not view life as incremental assessments of how each year has gone. Every year has good bits, bad bits and boring bits. So how are we supposed to decide on the whole how the year has gone? Do we judge it by how we’ve felt emotionally for most of it, or do we decide if the good outweighs the bad, or vice versa? At the end of our lives, we probably won’t weigh up how many years were good, or bad, or just plain average. Life should be viewed outside of the constructs of dates and time, but through general memories of good and bad times.
Judging life through an assessment of years is a habit I’m trying to break out of. It’s a weird way to quantify emotions and experiences. For example, for some bizarre reason, over the past few years, I’ve convinced myself my years “come in threes”: I’ll have a bad year, an average year, then a great year. It’s followed this pattern for the last eight years and thus, I’ve convinced myself that next year is going to be amazing. But how ridiculous is that? All I’m doing is giving myself a false preconception of how I’m going to feel throughout the year, when life and emotions do not alter depending on the date.
It’s unhealthy to go into January believing life is going to change and things will get better. In reality, nothing changes except the digits in which we measure time, but we give ourselves problematic expectations which will only lead to inevitable disappointment. If we really want change or improvement, we can strive for this whenever we want: you could change your life literally right now if you truly wanted to, rather than wait for the symbolic turning of New Year’s Day. Yes, it’s good to be positive about the future, but we shouldn’t base it on whimsical ideas that as soon as the clock strikes midnight, things will get somehow magically get better. Don’t get me started on New Year resolutions.
Ultimately, the best way to have a good year is to take the pressure off the year being “good”. Things beyond our control, such as the conclusion to the pantomime that is Brexit in March, will have a direct impact on our day to day lives. And who knows whether the effects will be benign? Life will always have its ups and downs regardless of the year and we have to just take it in our stride. So if 2019 turns out not to be “your year”, and instead is just a little bit good, a little bit bad, but mostly kind of mundane – be honest, what did you expect?