Every year at the end of December we naturally reflect on how our world has changed in the previous twelve months. We remember, we yearn, we celebrate, we regret. We look back on our lives --- our failures and accomplishments, significant events and milestones, the happy times and the not so great moments --- while the media feeds us a steady diet of historical retrospectives and pop culture lists to ponder (the worst, the best, and this year, especially, the dead).
By almost anyone's standards, this has been a shit year.
As the new year has drawn closer, social media has increasingly reflected the challenges 2016 foisted upon us. I can't swing a dead cat around my Twitter feed without hitting a "Hey 2016, Go Fuck Yourself" meme. Things are a bit more tame on my Facebook timeline, but the general sentiment is the same...things will get better next year. Because they have to.
But they don't.
While I don't know the larger personal context around many of the "Can 2016 Just Die Already" social media posts (after all, that's the magic of the internet - we learn a fragment of the truth without ever working to get the whole story), I am concerned that our expectation may be that somehow just making it to January will be enough to turn the tide, that simply flipping the calendar page will reset the game.
But it won't.
There is no magic at midnight on December 31st. Not this year, not ever. Robert Pirsig said, "The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there." That's how I'm choosing to think about 2017. If you want a happy new year, you better bring some happy.
I want 2017 to be a better year. I want to be less anxious and more joyful. I want my friends and family to experience more kindness and less bitterness. I want the world to be filled with more justice and less tragedy. It occurs to me that this is a simple but aggressive list of wants, and I have limited control over the outcome of most, if not all, events on this planet. That doesn't mean I'm helpless though. I determine my attitude. I decide how I present myself to others. I choose how well I listen and learn, how I communicate my message, how I adapt. I choose my own actions and reactions. I can shape the conversation.