By Anne T. Donahue
We’re less than a month away from New Year’s, and I still keep thinking the year of our Lord 2022 has just begun. I have no concept of time outside of my exams and final papers, and when somebody tweeted today that Christmas was in two-and-a-half weeks, I sat perfectly still and let the waves of shock wash over me until I was tired and needed a nap. I have no idea what I’m doing or where I am, and I don’t really care. My world right now is school, this essay, and various Real Housewives franchises, and my only goal for year-end is to find more cozy, oversize sweatshirts. (Also, to lose the cough currently making me sound like Fantine in Les Miserables (minutes before she passes away). But I am not hopeful, because I’d rather focus on the sweatshirts.)
With all this in mind, I saw a friend post something about how the mad dash to year-end accomplishments is a goal we don’t need to keep around anymore. And for that ethos I am truly grateful: I want to go into 2023 feeling absolutely no different than I do in this moment, and as much as I love whoever happens to be reading this, I don’t care if you think I’ve done a lot or achieved a lot or kicked 2022’s ass because who cares? Reflecting on the last 52 weeks is all well and good, but the pressure to deliver #results in any capacity is pointless and exhausting. It’s great if your dreams came true, but it’s also great if you’re still standing. Congratulations if you’re a person on this planet daring to get up and get on with your day – that’s all anyone can ask, honestly.
I didn’t think I’d ever morph into a person who started rejecting cold, hard goals in favour of floating into another year, free of feeling guilty for not getting around to doing all the things I set out to do. Especially since every year I’ve been a writer, I’ve aimed to make my end-of-year look like a beautiful compilation album, capped off with the knowledge that I could enjoy my holidays without the pressure of playing catch up or thinking about everything I was meaning to do, but then didn’t.
But even when I tried my best, that never happened. I’m always running behind. I’m always asking for an extension. (Ask my editor who published this!) There has never been a time in my life where I’ve been able to tie off a year or a month or a week with the comfort of having Finished It All. And I could blame it on ADHD (and don’t get me wrong: I will), or I can accept that there isn’t ever an end to all the things I’m supposed to be doing. When I’m watching TV I should be writing a paper. When I’m writing a paper, I should be working on my book. And when I sit down to sift through the work I left back in 2020, I remember that I have to send someone an email. It never ends, but I’m not sure I want it to. Having nothing to think about makes me nervous, even if what I’m thinking is about everything I need to do. Ultimately, it’s a reminder that I have to keep going and the earth keeps moving, holidays and end-of-year be damned. There’s comfort in accepting that we’re living in a real-life version of “The Song That Never Ends.”
So this year, I’m taking my pal’s words into consideration and have decided to avoid falling into the sinkhole of mentally categorizing everything I have to do and what it will mean if I do and/or don’t get it done. I will finish my paper (because I am not paying tuition to fail a course), and I will go to my exams. I will try to write back to the people who need me to respond to them. Maybe I’ll clean the house! Absolutely, I’ll finish catching up on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills because it’s an addiction I’m not in control of anymore. But the world will not end if we don’t finish everything, and the good news is that the world will (likely?) continue to exist after the new year and we’ll be so desperate for post-holiday distractions that we’ll thank our past selves for not striving for December excellence.
At least that’s how I assume I’ll feel after trudging back to my laptop following that week-long Sunday that falls between Christmas and New Year’s. Grateful that I’m one of the most disorganized people on the planet (a fact I hide well behind colour-coded notes and a meticulous planner . . . that I religiously forget to check), I start the year under self-imposed duress, usually with the inevitable emails that I need an extension, that I’m running late, that I mismanaged my days and am now dealing with the cold/flu everybody has so okay, fine, I shouldn’t have waited to start everything on the day it was due. But maybe I’ll just master that skill in 2023, a year I will venture into completely comforted by the fact that there’s no way I’m starting it ahead of the game.
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