It is the last calendar day of a tumultuous year. For most life on this planet, today is no more special than the day before or eight days from now – all that changes is the weather, the slow ebbs and flows of seasons and the ratios of sunlight to darkness. The long cycles we call a year are relatively steady waves, long breaths and heartbeats of the planet circling the sun. The solstice ten days ago was more of a natural demarcation of cycles than today if you’re a tree or a bird or a deer.
But on this continent and across the world, millions of others like me who must plan their lives on a common grid of counted days will be looking forward to the ceremonial ending of the past three hundred sixty five collected days we numbered as the two thousand and twenty first cycle, and we begin counting a new cycle of days, a new year already gridded out before us in fifty-two rows of seven boxes, each offering possibilities, unknown opportunities, and unforeseen new challenges.
Within these boxes, we will mark new triumphs and new tragedies. There will be a lot of more of the same. There will be drama, comedy, love, hope, pain, illness, hunger, and fear. There will be adventure and excitement and new discoveries. People will fight, people will cheer, people will struggle, people will keep trying. Some will overcome, some will give up and let go. We will all learn something new. We will all be disappointed, and we will all be surprised. We will remember it could be worse.
The days to come are always there, blank squares of possibility. The will to use them, to fulfill their promise, is within us waiting to be empowered and put to use. Our willingness to try. So what will I do with my inner will across this great grid of open days ahead? How can I take an active approach to using these blank pages waiting to be filled? Perhaps there are millions of others like me who are privileged enough to have this mindset, and it is almost a luxury to feel empowered enough with the life stability to “only” worry about such existential matters.
But there could be hundreds of millions more across the globe whose goals are more fundamental: getting access to food every day, finding shelter and clean water, caring for loved ones. Maybe just struggling to find someone to share their life with, someone who will love them and see them. There are likely a million people within a day’s drive from me who just want a job, who just want to feel useful, want to feel needed. Millions who only want to feel safe, who want to trust others, and to feel trusted. Want to feel confident expressing themselves, want to feel valued and beautiful and appreciated.
These are basics all humans seek. To live a life free of fear, free of illness, free of hunger, thirst, or war. I am aware of my privileged luck to be born with those freedoms already in my life. I have all I need and a hundred times more. I have access to endless knowledge on demand, decadent meals, and I’m even healthy enough that I can afford to gently poison myself with alcohol and endless television. I have so much available to me and yet I am not considered rich or even upper middle class. I have such amazing technology all around me, even strapped to my body, and yet I no longer see it as amazing. I live in a stable home that keeps me safe, comfortable, sheltered from the elements, and holds all my stuff. Yet I only see or care about where the structure is weak or in need of repair.
I, too, find myself continuing to fret over what could be better rather than enjoying the life I have that is already very, very good. And so perhaps that is where I need to be today: aware of how lucky I am, how lucky my wife and I are to have this home, this abundance of food and clean water, to live with nice things in a quiet community, unafraid; to be healthy, to be employed, to be unencumbered by dependents or struggling with debt.
I am lucky to be loved, and to have freedom to decide what I do with each new day. I hope the same will be true for you as we take another lap around the sun together.