There are six discarded drafts of this column. You can probably guess what most of them were; the prose equivalent of that moment in Avengers where Tony looks up at the Chitauri horde, his HUD shifts to red and he says ‘An army…right.’. Pieces about the relentless shitnado that 2016 has been, about how actually some of it’s gone really well, about bracing for impact for next year and things to do and things to not do.
You know the sort of thing. All useful, all relevant, all well intentioned and absolutely none of it something you haven’t heard or read a dozen times a day since November.
Or the last time a creative whose work helped define you died.
Or any one of the half dozen other catastrophe signifiers we’ve all got on, staring this year down as it enters its final hours with yet more blood on its teeth and no longer even a pretence of an innocent expression.
You don’t need to read that again. You especially don’t need to read that from another educated, cishet white dude.
Instead, just this for next year;
Be kind to other people because the aggregate stress level across pretty much everybody’s social media echo chamber is in the red and the gauge is fit to burst. That old saw about how everyone’s fighting their own battles annoys you right? Me too.
It annoys us because it’s true.
Check in with your people regularly. See if they’re okay. See if they need anything. Get it for them if you can.
Listen to other people and other experiences. Signal boost people who need it. Research things you aren’t sure of. Don’t assume malice when an honest mistake is often dressed the exact same way. Conversely, trust but, when you feel you need to, verify.
Don’t grief police.
If there is one unforgivable, braying act of lazy social media cruelty that deserves to be consigned to the fires of Hell forever more starting NOW it is assuredly that.
So be kind. Do that and you’ve set a bass note for the year that positive things can be built on. Keep doing that and your outlook will expand and improve permanently. It’s not easy but it is doable. The really tough part is this:
Be kind to yourself too.
I have a constellation of whiteboards in the office. One of them is my Daily To Do list. The following items are always on there:
-Eat Some Fruit
It sounds stupid but it works. After winter 2014 when I basically became Gollum I realized just how much daylight lifted my mood. I felt better, I slept better, I relaxed more, I worked better. Not harder. Better.
This time of year there’s incredible pressure to try new things and break old habits and that’s great. But we all set ourselves way too high a standard and when we fall short, we fall all the way. Don’t do that. Work out what you want, set your victory conditions, meet them, reward yourself and repeat them. Slow progress is fine. Slow progress is GREAT. Slow progress is how winning is done. Like the man says, one step, one punch, one round at a time. Keep going. And the best way to keep going is to be kind to yourself.
So, tomorrow, spend some time focusing on you. Work out what you want to do this year, what you want to change and what you want to keep the same. Go buy some new stationary (This ALWAYS works for me) when the shops open again and then, get to it. I will be.
Happy New Year everyone. And, to play us out, the one, the only, Mr John Oliver.