Unless you’re in touch with a better fortune teller than I am, none of us knows — personally or globally — what this new year will bring.
OK, I’ll make a few bold predictions: Hillary Clinton will be elected the first female president of the U.S. Justin Trudeau will madden his critics by continuing to perform well. Donald Trump will never learn from his mistakes.
The end of 2015, with worldwide unrest and horrific terrorist attacks, was sad, tortuous and foreboding. Yet we carry on — or as playwright Samuel Beckett succinctly put it: “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
Babies are born, new jobs acquired, people fall in love, get married, simply go for a walk on a sunny day. Hope finds its way forward.
In the spirit of going on, here are five ideas/concepts that I am taking with me into my new year in the hope they contribute to a creative, politically sane and optimistic 2016.
1. Follow your passion — but only if you’re over 50. Why do we tell young graduates to follow their passion, when half of them don’t even know what their passion is and the other half doubt their passion will lead them to an even modestly financially stable life? Call me critical, but many millennials seem to be professional shape shifters, starting one path of study or career then quickly jumping to another when the earth doesn’t move. They need time to come to terms not only with their talents, but the economic realities of life.
On the other hand, we seasoned boomers have by this time grown into and almost out of our long held careers. We’ve raised families. We’ve loved and lost and have the spousal support payments to prove it. We’ve financed our career ups and downs. We’ve even replaced a few body parts whose warranties expired.
So why shouldn’t we follow our passions, whether it’s trying a new skill we’ve flirted with for years, teaching what we know, or just taking our talent in new and even risky directions? We have nothing to lose but boredom and sleep.
2. You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts. The biggest sea change in our political discourse, enabled by the Internet, has been the proliferation of barefaced lying. It is now accepted as someone else’s “reality” that vaccinations cause autism. They don’t. From climate change denial to viciously false and dangerous charges against Planned Parenthood in the U.S., politicians who once at least paused and contemplated the political fallout before they deliberately “misspoke” now have no shame in lying — they pull out statistics that aren’t real, quote experts who are frauds, and insist that their addled, often ignorant views are a version of the truth. Citizens follow suit. Ironically, it’s never been so easy to catch public liars in mid whopper, but we often don’t bother, so rapid is the news cycle. We need to call out the lies and confront them with facts. Also, don’t retweet, post or otherwise disseminate obvious false information.
3. Deep breath, repeat. When I realized that stress was very bad as I healed from a concussion, I consulted my cousin, a yoga instructor and hands-on healer, who gave me a simple breathing exercise in this order — in and out through the nose, in and out through the mouth, in through the nose, out through the mouth, in through the mouth, out through the nose — which if you do for three minutes or more, you’re bound to be in a better, calmer and even more alert headspace, whether you’re caught in traffic or preparing for a difficult work moment. I recently did it in a doctor’s office and a woman next to me suggested she might join in. Practise random acts of breathing.
4. “What did you read today?” That question was a slogan for the National Reading Campaign and it’s still one of my favourites. It forces you to think, wait, have I read anything today? If I haven’t, I should. The question benefits both writers and readers, and word of mouth is still a great path to a fabulous read, whether it’s a book or a piece of long-form journalism. Books — actual books — are still selling, although I’m now reading half of mine online. And what about re-reading? I found one of my favourite novels ever while recently decluttering my office bookshelf. So my answer to what did you read today is The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard.
5. Ask a personal question. Or three. Curiosity is the most underrated virtue in social discourse, professional life and even among strangers. It’s one of the top complaints I hear from female daters about the (sorry, guys) men they meet after connecting online: “He didn’t ask me a single question about myself.” Everyone likes to be asked something specifically about themselves. What do you do for exercise? What’s your daily routine? What do you like about your job? Why do you believe that?
So here’s a question for you: what’s in your plan to make 2016 a good year? (And you thought I’d never ask.)
Happy New Year.
Judith Timson writes weekly about cultural, social and political issues. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @judithtimson