This morning as my t-shirt crept up over my growing pregnant belly, it occurred to me that I was looking at the New Year all wrong, and you probably are too. It’s not just any 12/31…tonight is the launch of a new decade. And that demands something more than just the hollow promise of a juice fast. At the turn of the last decennary, New Year’s Eve 2009/10, I had posted something fittingly drenched in the lingering drama of my first 10 years post college…
Goodbye to the decade where I burst out of the gate, lived it up, pushed & pushed, learned a lot, lost a lot, gave up, started fresh, came to life, soaked it in, took it on, made my point, bobbed & weaved, ran amok, cried & fought, loved & thought, laughed & laughed, caught my breath…and grew up. Took every single chance I had. Survived. Wonder what the next decade will bring. Really looking forward to it.
While I wasn’t wrong about survival and speed being the characteristics of that decennium (look it up, I did), I’m struck now by how much I was lookingbackward. When we’re young, we have a tendency to want to put a bow on the past, to ruminate, to overprocess, to make deep and reflective multi-level peace before we believe we can move on. But what if we don’t need to? Maybe this new year’s is that chance.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t quit smoking or start kickboxing or whatever else seems like the ticket in the coming 12 months; what I’m suggesting is that you acknowledge that what’s significant is what impacts the long-game. And that’s what we’re all really playing. I swear I blinked and a decade is gone — and I’m not certain I would’ve approved of who I’ve become so far.
I still live in NYC, where I used to be one of the overglittered girls in too-high heels shivering through the search for a taxi headed to the next venue on new year’s eve like a champagne commercial. Those are the ones who will pass me tonight on the sidewalks, as I head home when they’re heading out, them laughing in anticipation of the midnight kiss, and me chatting with my toddler and waddling unsteadily with the weight of my soon-to-be second child. I smile when I see those young women, glad that I lived like them when the time was right. But I’d also like to tell them some things. Like that what changes in a decade is far deeper, but also more subtle, and alarmingly more permanent, than what transpires in any single year or even in ten.
The whole does weigh more than the sum of its parts. And much of it, if you’re not careful, happens to you. In ten years you can have given up on a dream without choosing to. You can have accepted who you are, who you love, or who you came from…without all the fanfare of a major intervention or triggering event. You will close a few doors, walk away from a few relationships, develop impatience with some sorts of people, pick up a habit or two, make a series of small trade-offs, and wake up firmly on one side of an issue. It’s death, or birth, by a thousand small steps or cuts.
Consider sea glass. It could start out as a shard of a broken beer bottle. One with no intention of smoothing itself into anything beautiful. But after decades of being tossed around through no will of its own…do you see my point? When we make a new year’s resolution we’re mainly answering the question “Where do you want to be in a year?” But the question at the dawn of a decade should really be “Who do you want to be on the dawn of 2030?”
Perhaps it’s knowing I’ll be on the other side of 50 by then. Perhaps it’s seeing that we lost George Michael, the widespread love of the written word, and all possibility of halting climate change in the past decade. Maybe it’s just a sneaking suspicion that the desire for significance, more than almost anything else, will color my life as I cross over into the next decade (just as a desire for connection colored my last such crossing).
So how do you devise a plan for venturing intentionally into the next ten years? Start by figuring out your real intentions. Start by talking with those who know you best. What patterns are they seeing that you don’t? What tweaks to your personal navigation system do they think would prevent you from repeating the same mistakes? Think about your financial picture in ten years; what kind of nest-egg would give you the stability to feel like you’re on the right path (even if not yet drippingly wealthy)? Imagine yourself in ten years and then cross key things out of the picture one by one, and see how you feel; this is how you forecast regret. (Maybe you’ll learn that having a child is critical…but being married is not?) Finally…imagine what contentment would that look like. In this vision of you sipping a latte, walking along the Seine, is your body fat as low as you’re aiming for in the new year’s resolution? Likely not. But there is a reason you’re smiling. Figure out what it is, rewind, and pour it into the intentions you’re setting for the coming 3,650 days.
Good morning to the decade where I’ll operate more from knowing than from fear. When I’ll slow down and prioritize impact over quick wins. Where I’ll finally meet my daughter, and let my gratitude birth a calm that she and her brother will absorb day by day as I watch them begin to become their own people. I will build something of beauty again as in my younger years, through the power of the word. I will find my audience. I will strengthen the most important relationship of my life. I will roar into the next decade…full of joy.