I’ve never seen an episode of “That Was the Week That Was,” the British comedy series from the early 1960s often referred to as “TW3.” However, I’ve read that each episode always started with a song whose first lines were, “That was the week that was; it’s over – let it go.” Sitting here six hours before New Years’, trying to resist the temptation to reflect back and look ahead, that would be the most honest expression of my reaction to the change of year. It’s over – let it go.” I feel much the same about every year, which is why I don’t plan on any resolutions, either.
It’s not that 2008 was a kind of wild ride of horrors sweeping across my horizon, although it did have its share of moments I’d just as soon forget. And it’s not that there weren’t high points that have left me a partly different person from whom I was a year ago.
But I don’t see much point in dwelling on either horror or highlights simply because the calendar has reached an arbitrary point. Long ago, the year used to start on March 25, and other cultures celebrate the change of year by a different, fluctuating count, so there is nothing special about January 1st.
Nor is there any point in making resolutions – a custom, I suspect that is more often joked about and talked about than actually observed these days. I imagine that, for companies that benefit from what is left of the custom are hustling right now – companies that offer fitness coaching, for instance, or job advice – but I don’t happen to be one of them.
The closest I came to making money off the change of the year was to write an article a couple of weeks ago about what several prominent people thought about the outlook for free and open source software in 2009 – and, even then, I felt like I was pandering to popular prejudice.
Besides, the cynical part of me that stands to one side of my brain making flippant remarks can’t help point out how commercialized the whole idea of resolutions has become. Instead of being a time for renewal of purpose, the new year has become, in its way, as commercialized as Valentine’s Day or Christmas – and that’s I trend with which I have little sympathy or patience.
I do have plans, of course. I always have plans. But, just as I have long observed that people who talk about the books they are going to write rarely finish them, so I have noticed that people who talk about their plans never seem to carry them out. Last year, for instance, I noticed a rise in the people going to the local gym for the first few weeks of January – and a drop by the end of the month, as most of the newcomers disappeared. I have a half-superstitious belief that making a talking about my plans is a sure way to guarantee that I don’t follow my plans, so you won’t hear anything about resolutions from me.
Besides, they’re kind of private, you know? I don’t feel like telling everyone about the domestic changes I’d like to see, or the quarrels I plan to end, or the places I hope to sell my writing. Like charity – like prayer, according to the parable in Luke about the Pharisee and the publican – plans and resolutions are private concerns that you don’t parade in public if you sincerely mean to follow them.
For these reasons, I plan on starting the next year neither nostalgic or full of resolves I am incapable of keeping. Instead, I’ll plod along one step and one day at a time, the same as I always do. And, if you think that sounds Grinchish or just plain unimaginative, I’ll tell you what: I bet I reach my personal goals before you reach yours.