I’ve never been one for making resolutions when the calendar year flips over, or really doing much of anything that night except watch the ball drop on television (which is really just a family tradition I’m continuing here for some reason, even though I don’t live in the Eastern time zone any longer). My birthday has always been a time for self-reflection for me, which may be the closest to those end-of-calendar-year feelings most people experience that I get. Just like with my birthday, though, the fact that the tens digit of the year is about to change has kind of attracted my attention a little.
Since I barely have any memories of my first four years, I don’t even know what my family did when the seventies became the eighties, Ten years later, I was going through some of the worst of my family problems when the nineties began, and I don’t think that change of year felt much different from the others to me. Going into a totally new millennium felt big, of course, but all the stuff about potential Y2K problems kind of cast a shadow over the usual celebratory tone of that night; I went back to my bedroom before midnight to watch something “special” USA Network promised for the changeover into the year 2000, but that turned out to be one huge popcorn fart (to the extent that I can’t even find footage of it on YouTube).
When the first moments of 2010 rolled around, though, I wasn’t even two years removed from my father’s death. I’d already marked one new year without him, and so I tried to “stand in” for him when it came to Mom watching the ball drop. I never felt fully comfortable doing that, but I tried my best, and even though this is going to be the fourth new year I mark since Mom’s passing, and not even my first here in Wisconsin, I guess that this change still feels weird, to be beginning my first new decade without my parents.
I can remember being fascinated with the odometer “rolling over” to all-zeroes in my parents’ 1978 Ford Mustang when I was young, and even though I’ve reached a point where those things don’t hold my attention that much, it’s obvious that larger society still places a lot of value on those moments. Whether it’s the Dow Jones Industrial Average or sports streaks, when those zeroes appear at the end of a number that is (or seems) important, people take notice, news stories get run, and even if that number is just one more than the one before it, the cultural value of that change shouldn’t be ignored. The psychological values of “nice, round numbers” may seem overstated to a lot of people, but if people react to them in a different way, then that reaction still means something.
I don’t think I’ve noticed as many news stories about the imminent beginning of the 2020’s, at least compared to what I remember happening ten years ago, but I’ve certainly got a lot more on my mind now than I did back then. Maybe that’s the same for all of us, though. Maybe the craziness of the world — especially when so many events of profound importance are already lined up for the year ahead — is pulling our focus away from what might have otherwise been an occasion that called for more acknowledgement. I know that when I think about everything that’s going to happen in 2020, it just makes me even more anxious than I normally have, and that “normal” has already increased exponentially over the past four years.
After the ball drops tomorrow night, and I’ve watched enough of whatever happens at Times Square afterwards, I may go back to researching my next book. I may play some video games. I might even try going to bed early, if I’m feeling tired. I don’t know if the start of the twenties is going to be that big a deal for me, but I know that surviving 2020, with all the twists and turns that it’s sure to bring, is going to take every ounce of focus and strength that I have. It’s probably a good thing that I’ll wait to be more reflective in a couple of months here when I turn forty-four, because right now I just want to get all this new year’s stuff over with so it won’t be on my mind any longer.