“Checking in with yourself isn’t a secular, new age religion. It’s accepting that life is both magical and a bewildering clusterfuck.
You’re going to need a good team. Make sure you’re on it.”
As the winter sun sets on 2019 with an uncouth yawn, we find ourselves on the brink of not only a new year, but a new decade. Waiting in the wings, 2020 adjusts its tin-foil hat and prepares for a much-anticipated entrance.
‘The Tens’ saw the passing of some of our brightest stars – David Bowie, Whitney Houston, Robin Williams, Prince, George Michael, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, Alexander McQueen and Elizabeth Taylor to name but a few.
We saw the coronation of Netflix. The birth of Instagram. The rally cry of Greta Thunberg. There was Trump’s inauguration, the mighty Women’s March and the pussy hats. Leo finally got his Oscar and La La Land *wasn’t* Best Picture after all. Awkward.
Powerful movements arose in #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo. Lady Gaga wore a dress made of raw beef. There were two Royal weddings and the London Olympics. Game of Thrones ruled the television. Same-sex marriage was legalised in 18 countries. Hamilton changed the game. The planet fell ill to oil spills, hurricanes, floods bush fires and…Gangnam Style.
Pokémon GO got people walking (sometimes into traffic). Caitlyn Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. The British Prime Minister hid in a fridge. Fleabag confided in us. We saw the first picture of a black hole and said goodbye to Voyager 1, who sent us the iconic Pale Blue Dot image, as it drifted off into interstellar space.
It’s been quite the ride.
What will the 2020s hold? Shouldn’t we all be teleporting to parties in the sky by now in taut, silver jump suits opening bottled Elixir of Life with our bionic, Wi-Fi fingers?
Don’t ask me. I’m slumped on the sofa in a twinkling post-Christmas fog still reeling from the UK’s general election. There’s a low-level urge to dismantle all the decorations, deep-clean the kitchen and sign up to a half marathon. It’ll pass. I fall into a deep, cheese-dream conjuring a parallel universe in which Boris Johnson exists only as a mute, polymorphic blimp gliding through clouds. When I wake, I boil the kettle and note that by this decade’s standards, my dream is relatively unimaginative. Perhaps the leftover Brie will do it.
The period between Christmas and New Year (Chrimbo limbo?) always feels like some kind of temporal shift where the dread of tax returns has yet to hatch in your stomach and the days blur like names at a boozy wedding reception.
Where am I?
When can I next take a paracetamol?
I need to eat a vegetable.
There’s an odd duality to winter and, in turn, the celebration of New Year’s Eve. Crisp, short days give way to long, dark nights. Traditionally we once huddled together by the hearth to tell ghost stories. We mirrored the chilly landscape’s stillness and introspection. These days our frenetic, modern lifestyles and weapons of mass distraction can make us feel a little more Xanax than zen. Anyone who’s endured an extended family party in an itchy jumper knows this all too well.
After the sparkle of Christmas dissipates, we sometimes find ourselves adopting the brace position for the dreary slush-palettes of January and February. The dawn of a new decade, let alone a new year, can intensify feelings of ‘get your shit together’ and leave us flailing in the Venus fly trap of comparison.
Those of us on social media will recognise the jittery, end-of-year energy coursing through our timelines. Well-meaning LiveLaughLove Kayleigh from school got a rose quartz for Christmas and pledges to vlog her radical, spiritual transformation for 2020. Gym bunny Jon has a seven step plan to sculpt perfect abs from your mince pie flab (seriously, who feeds Jon’s cat whilst he takes all those changing room selfies?) and Uncle ‘Capslock’ Steve, unofficial Brexit correspondent, launches one final attack on the snowflakes.
Whether you’re yelling the midnight countdown in unison, frantically distributing glasses à la Monica Geller, or entirely ambivalent about the arbitrary point in Earth’s orbit, there’s no denying there’s a crackle of magic in the air on New Years Eve. Yes, it’s a social construct, yes of course you don’t have to wait until the 31st December to kick a bad habit or make a positive change. But as Walter Fisher’s Paradigm Narrative suggests, we are ceremonious creatures biologically hardwired to seek meaning. Our most ancient instinct is to survive, and what better time to celebrate that than on the 365th day of the year?
Full disclosure ; I’ve forged and broken my fair share of resolutions (still stunned I didn’t master Killer Preying Mantis after turning up to one whole yoga class in Crystal Palace in 2018). In New Years Eve’s gone by I’ve panic-dyed my hair some truly violent shades, drunk-dialled terrible exes and dragged myself to 6am fitness classes on frosty London commons the next morning.
More recently, I’ve cultivated a little ritual for myself free from extensive wish-lists, complicated Venn diagrams and crippling guilt. It’s hardly revolutionary, and you’ll probably feel a bit silly. However, I’d argue many silly things are in fact very good for you.
Have a word with yourself.
If you’re in company excuse yourself to the loo, the front door step, the balcony, your neighbour’s unsettling garden gnome collection – wherever. Take a moment to yourself. It’s easy to get swept up in all the noise and colour, clinking glasses and chattering voices. Before you know it, January’s barging through the front door with a Sports Direct mug of water, effervescent tablet and a tax bill.
Mull over a few things you’re grateful for. The people who consistently come through for you. The circumstances that keep you buoyant. The lessons extracted from this year’s grazes. Kick about some ideas for the coming year and accept that life may throw you a wicked curve ball, but you’ll adapt because you’re a god damn chameleon and this is just what you do (other than eat bugs).
Feel silly yet? Good. Scientific research conducted by Dr. Paloma Mari-Beffer at Bangor University suggests that speaking to ourselves, both internally and externally, is a sign of high cognitive functioning and helps us to organise thoughts, memories and emotions, as well as effectively plan actions.
Truth is, *cue swelling string section* you are your greatest ally. You’ve been there all along. The lofty highs and bottom-of-the-well lows. Every murky secret, earth-swallow-me-whole faux pas and shining deed. Checking in with yourself isn’t a secular, new age religion. It’s accepting that life is both magical and a bewildering clusterfuck.
You’re going to need a good team. Make sure you’re on it.
Go well, reader. Wherever you are for the chimes, may the 2020s see you shine.
By Mateo Oxley