The most valuable asset we have is one we are always losing.
Well, folks, here we are again; online at the end of the year. Because time is of the essence, we will keep this relatively brief. But before we really begin, ask yourself what you are doing here, online, at the end of the year. Maybe you’re starting some gift returns? Putting to work your new gift cards and holiday cash infusion? (If you’re searching for something to buy you are in exactly the right place.) But if not, and for whatever the reason, you’ve found yourself on a belt blog that is just about to do some musing on yet another year gone by, another successful solar revolution aboard this overheating green & blue spaceship in the sky.
As for what you’re looking for, I’m almost certain you would find it in our shop, instead of here on the blog… BUT, dear friend, do not fret. Here (the blog) can give you something else that I’d bet you didn’t know you needed: perspective.
The end of the year puts you in a unique, elevated, position where you find yourself able to look back at the 12 months that have just passed and consider them as a collective whole: your year. Your 2021. It should be said that it’s not entirely fair that we do this — the length of time we choose to group together is entirely arbitrary — but tracking things by the years is simply ingrained in us as human beings. (Seriously, if you know any place or peoples that keep records with some other marker of time than the solar year, drop us a line.) And it’s useful! Looking back on the year before, and that year in relation to the ones preceding it, is how we make sense of our progress, our journey forward, our growing, maturing, aging. It’s natural, when the cycle is nearing it’s reset point, to consider the past year, and natural too, to think ahead on the year to come.
Depending on who you ask, the ancient Babylonians were the first peoples to celebrate the coming of the new year, and were known to make recorded promises to the gods in return for good fortune in the year ahead. Not holding up your end of the resolution meant the gods would be unhappy and as a result you, lowly mortal with a family to feed, would suffer. Simple stuff here. If you make promises to omnipotent beings, keep ‘em!
But the 4000 year old pagan habits sound an awful lot like our modern ones, don’t they?
Except now for whatever reason we don’t beg for the crops to grow, but for ourselves to grow in some fashion, and hopefully a measurable one. For whatever reason, every resolution revolves around self-improvement. I want to lose weight; I want to read more books; I want to learn to code; I want to stop eating so much chocolate cake; etc. etc. And with good reason! These are all admirable goals that will benefit you in more ways than one.
Except now there are no consequences for breaking the promise… save for the ones we decide to give ourselves (which is to say, lets be honest, no consequences). The Babylonians (in modern day Iraq) had the wrath of gods to fear if they failed. How vengeful are you planning to be toward yourself if you fail…?
So. No real consequences, then, only shame.
But what are we to do with the (researched) data point that only 8 percent of Americans achieve the goal they set our for themselves at the beginning of the year? Hmmm? If this were ancient Babylon there would by all accounts be an awful lot of gods’ wrath to go around. But today, in lieu of judgment from on high, isn’t that still an awful lot of shame?
Only 45 percent of Americans even make New Year’s Resolutions, so there’s that to consider, but doesn’t this seem kind of self-defeating? 92 percent of people who do make resolutions fail in achieving them? 92 percent of people dejected and ashamed by another year of zero growth or just plain giving up. 92 percent of people thinking (unwisely) ah, well, there’s always next year… News flash, pal, there ain’t always next year!
I’m not sure, but the whole thing seems counter-productive to me. Though I have to admit in full disclosure that the end of the year makes me melancholy, on the whole. I happen to think January is a dogsh** month compared to December, and there is very little anybody could say to convince me otherwise. (You are welcome to try me in the comments section.)
Seriously though, here’s a segue.
My girlfriend got me into journaling in the past year, and I’m certain that that experience informs much of this musing now. But she also has a great end-of-year habit that I find much more agreeable than the time-honored tradition of New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of resolutions, she makes reflections. She sits and writes down all of the particularly special memories she had from the past year (photos are a fantastic aid for this), and then makes another list of all the things she’s looking forward to in the year ahead. It’s simple, and an absolutely marvelous way to reflect on all the things you did and the places you saw and the people with whom you shared those experiences.
It is also an absolutely marvelous method to consider what is in store for you next, and a particular pleasure, I’m told, to look back on the list you drew up the last time the year was coming to close and see how many of the things you were looking forward to actually came to fruition. (I’m told this is especially enjoyable when a global pandemic wreaks complete havoc on what we once called ‘plans’.)
They’re not much different, really, the resolutions and the reflections. And it really doesn’t matter which you choose to do. What’s important is that you’re taking the time to do either of them at all.
Time is a funny thing and it’ll slip through your fingers like water if, you’re even lucky enough to sense it pass you by. Everyone could use a slowdown, especially at the end of a long year. Have a sitback, a recharge, a reflect. Hell, have a cold one or three. Consider where you’ve been, where you are, where you’re going.
This is your story.