Somehow, it is December. I don’t quite know how we’ve reached December, but then I’ve said that at the beginning of every month since about June.
It’s around this time of year I start freaking out about the year to come. Excitement turns to fear as the looming uncertainty begins to consume me. The following sentences start falling from my lips:
“I DON’T HAVE A PLAN!”
“WHAT AM I DOING?!”
“TWELVE MONTHS NO CLUE…”
“I’LL BE TWENTY_*fill in number*, in May, I STILL DON’T HAVE *fill in unachieved achievement*”
“Is there any certainty at all next year for anything?!”
Of course I don’t keep these concerns to myself. Never one to bottle my emotions, I unleash my made up problems onto Joel:
“It’s nearly the New Year and I have no plan for next year! NO PLAN!! I don’t know what I’m doing!?!”
Joel, though understanding of my perpetual need for certainty, cannot quite comprehend my somewhat non-existent predicament.
“So?? You do know the New Year doesn’t really mean anything, it was created by people, it’s a social construct. You don’t have to make any big changes…forget about the New Year!”
I gasp. Forget New Year?! What is he on about?! I am bewildered. I knew he was just trying to take the pressure off, break the whole thing down and remind me that in reality, the calendar really is just a construct. The changing of years didn’t have to mean anything. It certainly didn’t have to be some big pressure to achieve something great by a certain age.
(“I’LL BE 29 JOEL, 29!!!”)
But for me, the New Year did mean something. It was loaded with meaning. It was a new beginning, a fresh page, the next chapter. The turning of a leaf. All of that. It was moving on from all the shitty parts of the year just gone and on to better days. It symbolised hope. It meant promise and potential. Anything was possible in this next, brand new sparkly untouched year.
I loved that moment, in the seconds after the countdown and the clock striking 12 when everyone shouts Happy New Year. I’d feel a shift, a second of clarity as the snapshot of a whole new blank slate appeared in my mind. An entire year ahead. How exciting.
And yet the whole thing now scares me a little. The blank slate has gone from promising to a little overwhelming. I find uncertainty unbearable at times and so not knowing exactly what I’m going to be doing in, say, September 2022, I find rather uncomfortable. (When in this state of mind it helps not to think too far ahead…).
I’ve rarely faced a new year with so little in my diary. I’ve always had courses booked or internships lined up. This time four years ago I was auditioning for drama school. I had at least attempts at direction, I was busy exploring my options. I had stuff in the schedule that was just for me.
Now, with an eight year old and a toddler in tow, it’s not as though I’m not busy. I’m busy enough managing their lives with all the school runs, various activities and classes to escort them to. (Not to mention the laundry, my current biggest pastime.) My days are full running around (literally) after a toddler, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But I think I find the idea of 2022 overwhelming, because I fear underachieving. I fear not doing any of the things I say I’m going to do (mostly writing and creativity wise), reaching the end of the year and then feeling like I’ve failed somehow. (I try not to set “goals” for this very reason, but always end up making some kind of categorised list in around February/March that in effect is a goals list. I have ticked off a few but not every goal set this year and the unmet ones linger in the back of my mind.)
But then maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe the goals and dreams set should be so big that they’re not always achievable in the time frame set. Maybe there shouldn’t be a time frame at all. Just a handful of ideas and intentions, with no strict deadline.
I’ll always love the New Year, for all the promise that it brings, but mainly because I am grateful to have made it another trip around the sun.
For now, it’s December 2021, so my only plan is to enjoy what remains of this year. I will probably give in and make a vague goals list for 2022, I’ll get some courses in the diary. But I’ll stop myself from worrying about any “underachieving” and instead will gently allow myself to sit with the uncertainty, and beauty, of a blank slate.