Every Year Is the Worst Year Ever

Until the next one.

By Will Leitch

Illustration by Paul Windle

Was there ever a year we didn’t think was shitty? Was there a time, ever, where we came to some sort of signpost, some clear pivot point, and said, “Well, that was amazing! Everything went right! All citizens are happy! Good job, all!”

Sure, 2014 was full of anger and division and tragedy and pain and woe. This makes it like every other year in recorded human history. The end of every year allows us the persistent illusion that things are terrible now but both: a) were better in the past and b) are bound to improve. This year was bad — unusually bad — but next year, next year we’re going to get it right.

It is a sort of collective reverse nostalgia. Woody Allen got this right in Midnight in Paris: “Nostalgia is denial of the painful present. It’s the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in, a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present. That’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying.” Trying to name any year the Worst Year Ever when it’s over forgets the year before it, and the year before that one. Every year feels bad because they’re all bad. Life is really hard, you know? In 20 years, we’ll say, “Man, 2034… glad that year’s over.” And we’ll probably remember 2014 as not all that awful. Every year is the Worst Year Ever. Until the next one.

This is actually charming, I’d argue, and even hopeful. To look back and fret and mourn is to look forward and believe the future holds something different. It doesn’t, of course. But bless our hearts for thinking otherwise! It takes a certain sort of courage to believe that this year of heartbreak was unique, to be kicked in the face by humanity’s worst instincts over and over and over and think it’s just a blip, a bug rather than a feature. It’s how we move on; it’s how we deal with all of it. So here’s to 2014: May its miseries ultimately be washed away by future miseries! Cheers!

Will Leitch is a senior writer at Sports on Earth, columnist for Bloomberg Politics, contributing editor at New York magazine, and the founder of Deadspin.