This is a very busy time of the year for me usually, because of all the holidays around, this is the only one that really matters in my book. New Year. Another complete revolution around the sun without getting slammed into by a giant killer asteroid is definitely something to celebrate, and not something wishy-washy like Christmas or St. Valentine’s Day, the origins and practice of which are shrouded in sentimentality.
I find this division of time into 365-and-a-quarter-day chunks reasonable and elegant. It means something not only to have made it full circle (or full ellipse, actually) but to know it. For me, like so many, it’s a convenient time to take stock of the last 365-days’ colossal failures and to plan for the inevitable whoppers of the coming 365.
But the truth is, if I have to choose, I’ll take the future. The future is always preferable to the past, despite evidence to the contrary. Future failures can be counted on to be bigger, better, more colossal than in the past. And, personally, I think that’s something to look forward to.
So I have to admit that while I think of myself a retrospective pessimist — you can never overestimate how bad things once were — I’m also a future-optimist — because you can never overestimate how new and improved they’re bound to be. I like to think that squeezed between a bleak past and a bright future makes me a present-day realist.
But I do like to take stock. Despite a sneaking suspicion that progress isn’t at all what it’s cracked up to be, and serious doubts that it was a good idea for our distant ancestors to leave the ocean in the first place, I can’t help looking back a little wistfully, and Powerpointing the year that was.
I know I’m not alone in this. We are a taxonomically-inclined species. In fact, list-making is probably what enabled us to get out of the swamp in the first place. You know, the other guys just could not get it together, too busy sucking up silt in the sludge to prioritize sprouting legs and moving up the food chain. I think stickies are hard-wired.
Another thing I can’t help doing between Christmas and New Year, is reading my diary from the year that’s about to end. As daunting as it can be (clocking in at something like a thousand printed pages — with lots of pictures, though) it never fails to be an enlightening experience.
I used to think the usefulness of the diary would diminish as I got older, that there would be fewer surprises. But the fact is, the sober assessment from my “objective” perch, with the benefit of hindsight, always seems useful, even if it’s not. And knowing how the story ends is no guarantee of not being surprised. The devil is in the details, after all. It’s very telling what we choose to forget.
Another thing I do is gather up those hundreds of little scraps of paper I have collected errant, runaway thoughts on throughout the year, and set aside for later, and sort through them. This is a much more arduous process than reading the diary, which is a pretty tidy affair. And every year one of my new year resolutions is to stop writing things on scraps of paper, which is what I have the moleskine for. In fact, I have a whole host of moleskine notebooks of varying shapes and sizes, to collect various different manner of random thoughts, facts and figures in…
I know this may seem self-consciously quirky of me, but it’s actually a sign of abject desperation in the face of an uncontrollable onslaught of useless information.
There’s only so much time in the day, and so much time in the year, and the clock is running down (and this is a game with no overtime). And I’ve still got unread magazine articles stacked up on the nightstand, movies to watch, socks to match, condoms to sort through and check their use-by dates, a kitchen to clean, and a nap to take.
And lots of sighs to sigh. Another year.