I’ve never been a big New Year’s Eve guy.
Maybe it’s because there’s nothing all that great about the worst months of winter. It could be because it always felt anti-climactic after the thrill of Christmas as a child. It might be because, for a few years when I was a kid, my mother had my siblings and me sit down and do in-depth outlines of what we wanted to accomplish in the new year.
I get to put together a thesis on a nonschool day and reflect on all of my flaws? Yes, please.
I like the idea of a blank slate, trying new things or improving certain aspects of my life, but I’m not a fan of being so formal about it. Change should come when you realize it’s necessary and have reached a point when you’re willing to do something about it with feeling. That doesn’t often line up with the first day on a calendar — for me, at least.
Really, the past three years have carried a prolonged weight for my family. My wife found a lump in late 2019, was diagnosed with an aggressive metastatic cancer in early 2020 and underwent many difficult treatments and procedures through that year and half of 2021, when she was handed her clean bill of health.
So, maybe I’m predisposed to this position, but celebrating a new year just seems more and more arbitrary to me. Still, I think this feeling is less subjective than in years past.
For instance, personal circumstances aside, there was a general consensus among all of us that 2020 was a dumpster fire, especially with COVID-19 affecting all of our lives in ways we had never imagined. It was captured perfectly in a TV ad for a dating app in which the devil meets a woman called 2020. They’re seen frolicking in empty gyms and football stadiums, and stealing massive amounts of toilet paper. In the longest version of the commercial, 2020 asks “Where are you from?” “Hell,” the devil replies. “Huh, me too,” 2020 says. The commercial closes with the couple sitting together on a bench and wondering why anyone would want the year to end, as meteors hurtle toward a city in the distance.
But was 2021 better? Six days in, domestic terrorists consumed by conspiracy theories and other nonsense stormed the U.S. Capitol in a genuine attempt to harm members of Congress and stop the certification of a presidential election. (As an aside, Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., and Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., voting with several of their colleagues against certifying those results hours after the Capitol was attacked is a mark of shame they should bear for life.)
Vaccines came along for COVID-19, and half the country refused to get them. In many places, including West Virginia, the impact of the virus was worse this year than it had been the year before. We head into 2022 with cases spiking again in West Virginia and throughout the country. I’d like to think the new year will bring better times, but I can’t believe that changing a date will magically solve anything.
That doesn’t mean we should be hopeless. I’ve learned to look closer to home for solace. After all, my wife is healthy. My son has found a sport he loves. For some reason, in this day and age, I’m still getting paid to write. (That in itself is a miracle I’ll never take for granted.)
My family’s recent challenges have given us a greater sense of perspective and a reason to be thankful, in spite of the howling, swirling madness that is this world at this point in time. It’s not that there aren’t big problems out there or that those things aren’t important, but the indiscernible clump of time that has elapsed in my life while my family ran the gauntlet has taught me a lot, and I’m grateful for what I have.
So, maybe as the clock strikes midnight and 2022 begins, reflection on what has been and why it’s important is more beneficial than looking forward right away. Wait, you’re offering how much off on a gym membership? Let me grab my card.