Happy new year! What a momentous occasion! What a time to reflect! What a meaningful yardstick against which to measure our hopes and dreams! What a fabulous time to make resolutions. Because tomorrow, everything is going to be better. We’re going to be smarter, and fitter and more morally upstanding. We’re going to be charming and attractive and rich and witty and correct. Everything before now has been a shambolic accident, a reckless mistake, or somebody else’s fault. None of that applies now. Nope! Not anymore. Now, we have better friends, smarter ideas, boundless resolve, and new notebooks in which to plan it all.
Here’s to the new you. Here’s to self-improvement. Here’s to your inevitable rise over the next 365 days while those around you, astonished, flail without a plan, sans notebook, the new year dribbling into drudgery before their very eyes.
Except here’s the thing. Time is arbitrary and a lot of things happen despite notebooks and planning. And that’s okay. Here are some things that are okay. This is a Public Service Announcement.
Ice cream is nice. Even vegan ice cream is nice. It just looks fun, doesn’t it, ice cream, and then you get a frozen ball of sweetness in your face on a hot day. Balanced on a waffle cone, I mean what a world.
That thing where you’re standing in the street and it’s just you and then the street lights quietly flick on and you look around like, “is anyone getting this?” but it’s not momentous enough to tell anybody so it’s just you and the street lights who know.
In fact, that kind of feels a little bit like that other excellent thing that happens, where you learn a word you’ve never heard before and then you hear it on the radio in the car a few days later and think “Ha! How about that!” and then someone says it in a cafe a couple of days later and you look at them as though maybe they’ve been spying on you and then you read it in a book and you think “oh come on, universe”. This phenomenon has been given a name: the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. The fact that it has been given a name means that someone had that happen enough that they wanted to share it with other people, because just like the street lights going on, it’s just a lonely moment in the universe between you and a word, until it’s a named phenomenon someone can write into a crossword clue.
Gardens exploding over the top of fences are lovely.
Overheard bits of dialogue between people whose lives are not yours are sometimes just interesting enough to take you out of yourself for a minute, and that’s a phenomenon that should have a name. The other day, I was in a cafe and I heard two people from music shops talking excitedly together in a booth in the corner. One of them, a man with a moustache, had just been estimating that he did “half a million in violins and cellos per year”. He stopped suddenly after that, leant conspiratorially in and lowered his voice. “Tell me”, he said, “What’s your approach to the flute problem?” Other people’s lives are happening around us all the time. You just never know what they might be dealing with. The flute problem, for instance.
Clay is nice. Dug your hands into some clay lately? Tried making something with those hands of yours? Give it a burl. It’s really quite something to get lost in a craft for a few hours.
Comfortable slippers are just the business.
Reading in the bath. Some people hate it, but for those who don’t: reading in the bath is one of life’s pure joys and I commend it to you.
Write it down. Doesn’t matter what it is: your worries, the story of your parents, a To Do list. Don’t think of an audience for it. Just write it. See what happens.
New year’s resolutions are fine. Sometimes they even work. That feeling of the ”new year“ feeling new and hopeful can be a good thing, too. But it doesn’t represent the fall of humanity when life doesn’t quite live up to your shiny new version of things. Find an exploding garden. Put on some comfortable slippers. Have an ice cream. Lovely things are everywhere, no matter what day of the year it is. This has been a Public Service Announcement.
This was originally an article in The Big Issue. Please buy the magazine from your local vendor.