Year-end thoughts and such

Jamaica Plain, Boston, winter scene (photo: DY)

Various friends and family write annual holiday letters, and it’s a neat way to share the year that is about to pass. However, I cannot get my act together even to send out cards, so these meanderings will have to do!

***

As 2018 comes to an end, it’s impossible for me not to acknowledge the state of public affairs here in the U.S.

I’ve been an amateur student of history and politics for some four decades, and, at times, a political activist. Nothing in my experience or learning approaches the situation we face today. The core fabric of the country is fraying and tearing apart, and it won’t be repaired easily.

The news cycle coming out of the nation’s capital is set to hyper-speed and is shaped by daily tweets and bombasts coming from the White House. Characteristics such as reason, kindness, and understanding are increasingly foreign to the current political culture. It’s all about react, respond, and lash out. It is exhausting and dispiriting simply to be a relative spectator. This is a deeply unsettling time, and it casts a pall over our daily lives.

***

And what of the year’s end on a personal level? Does hanging a new calendar on the kitchen wall also call for looks back and ahead?

Writer and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau has used this time to do an annual review. Here’s the lede from his piece about that personal assessment and planning process:

Every year since 2005, I’ve spent the better part of a week in late December planning my life for the next year. Overall, this is probably the best decision I’ve made in terms of working towards multiple goals simultaneously.

The idea is to create a road map for the year ahead—not a rigid daily schedule, but an overall outline of what matters to me and what I hope to achieve in the next year. I complete this process in bits and pieces over several days, partly because of my ADD brain but also because it helps to think about it slowly. Some of you who have the ability to concentrate on one thing for hours at a time may prefer to do it all at once.

In this essay I’ll take you step-by-step through what I do every December to help plan the next year. . . .

Guillebeau’s annual review process is quite the undertaking, and it’s a bit beyond my inclinations or self-discipline. However, inspired by his example, I will engage in some reflective thinking and planning during the days to come. It may not yield any major revelations or changes, but I’d like to head into 2019 with a good and healthy focus. 

Indeed, when I wasn’t distracted by the news, I had the proverbial full plate this year, and I feel like I am sort of dragging myself to the end of it. I’d like to use some welcomed down time during the coming week to take stock.

Maybe you’d like to do the same. If so, I hope it is time well spent.

***

Among the reasons why I revived this blog is to take closer and more serious looks at the role of Generation Jones (b. 1954-65) in shaping American society during the years to come. We are now squarely into our 50s and 60s. I think this is prime time to consider what Chris Guillebeau has called our “legacy work,” i.e., the lasting, signature contributions that we make to the world.

Of course, a lot of folks have already done some wonderful legacy work, even if they haven’t labeled it as such. It may have been a meaningful career accomplishment. Perhaps it was being a parent or caregiver. Maybe it was a form of community service or a creative endeavor shared with the world.

In any event, I’d like to think that many of us who have entered life’s second half still have plenty of gas in the tank to do remarkable things that contribute to our communities and make a positive difference in the lives of others. We can do so with the benefits of hindsight, experience, and wisdom.

It’s something to ponder as we approach the New Year.

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