Inevitably, as the year’s calendar draws to its close, thoughts turn to achievements and reflections over the past year. Or if you switch the television on to Channel 4 or 5, countdowns of the best cookery TV shows of 2015 or funniest celebrity moments from the year or some other such pointless gap fill bombard you.
Of course it’s also traditionally the time to look forward and think about what improvements we would like to inflict on ourselves once the clock strikes midnight on January 1st. Even if we know that’s nonsense and claim not to do it, I bet we all can’t help but a) reflect on what the past year has brought us and b) look forward to maybe what’s to come. It’s simply what our culture has precipitated December 31st/January 1st to be. Like the Roman god of transitions, Janus, we look back with one face and forward with the other.
For my own part, I have always tended to be more of a reflector than a look forward and make resolutions kind of person. I have always loathed January… sitting still and waiting for it to pass. It’s depressingly dark working winter days never seeming to end. Having to make the wage packet received earlier than usual in December stretch an extra week. Thinking what rot it was to even attempt any kind of change orientated goal in the coldest of months.
Until last January that was.
Never one to make New Year’s resolutions, last year I made two. Well resolution-ish they were. The first was to go the whole of January without alcohol. A small, achievable goal, rather than a resolution. This I did for charity and it helped kick start a weight loss goal I had which had come to mind, not because it was January, but because 2015 was the year I was to turn 40, and I didn’t want to be forty and fat and unfit.
The second ‘resolution’ was to enjoy January. To make things happen rather than waiting for February to arrive before starting my year.
In the first week of January 2015 I lost 5lbs in weight. By the end of January I’d dropped 8lbs, and this wasn’t due to a ridiculously strict diet, but rather down to no alcohol, regular walks and thus increased energy. It spurred me on to lose another stone in weight across the year as well as adopt other small diet habits which I’ve stuck to and am now much healthier than I’ve ever been.
In January I wrote every day. Not a goal I’d set myself but something I did nevertheless.
In January I joined English Heritage, not intentionally, it was quite by co-incidence, but it meant in February I got to go to Stonehenge, something I’ve always wanted to do.
In January I saved some money as I began to set some longer term goals for the year and needed cash to achieve these. (Not all were achieved, but I am not in any way despondent about that, because they were simply longer tern goals than I’d previously imagined.)
And In January. I read a book. Yes, that sounds daft doesn’t it? But I hadn’t read one for 2 months. I intended to try and read one a month. By years’ end I’ve read 17 and have started my 18th, so I’ve managed more than one a month.
All these little things were good. They made me feel January was worthwhile after all.
More importantly last January spring boarded me into having the best year I’ve had since 1994. In fact probably ever.
Nothing life-changingly dramatic happened to me.
I don’t have a dream job. I actually make less money (though seem to have more, however that works) than this time last year. A knight in shining armour didn’t whisk me away on his steed and make sure we lived happily ever after in a castle in the Scottish Highlands. I don’t have a best selling novel. In fact it’s no where near finished written and I had to start it again. And yet I am at peace with myself. Over the year I slowly became more and more contented.
I am, for once in my life, truly contented with me, with who I am, and I don’t really know how it happened. I can’t explain it. It just is.
Other than to say I think I learned to just be. To simply focus on small things, one at a time rather than the big picture and focus on the things which give me pleasure and the people who give me pleasure.
Don’t get me wrong. Shit still happens and I have bad days, sad days, lonely days. But I no longer feel the despair I have felt for so long. There is a light at the end of each day, even if it’s just climbing into bed exhausted and knowing that the sun will rise again tomorrow. At least I have a bed. I can now get up more easily when the bad things happen and not beat myself up, thinking it’s my fault or that I’m an awful person. I can look in the mirror and like what and who I see. It has taken me twenty or more years to feel this way. Maybe age and wisdom finally caught up with me.
And for all that, I know that I am the only person who can be responsible for my happiness. I used to believe other people could make me happy, but that is the worst way to think and I don’t quite know when the light bulb came on for me with this. However, I made my happiness this year and I moved forward. Not in my career or in gaining a love life or anything else tangible like that. Just in myself. I’ve learned to be just that little bit more positive. Something I’ll still work on, because you know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
But I look forward to 2016…the past is just that. The past. Whether good or bad. 2015 has shaped me as all days and months and years do. But this one feels to have shaped me differently. No longer will I be the person who only reflects. I will look forward too. Much more.
This year has been great, but I intend to make next year even greater.
Have a fantastic end of 2015, everyone and Happy New Year!