The most popular songs of 2019 are being played on the radio; a compilation of the most tragic events is followed by the most hilarious cat pictures of the year on television. Newspapers, Spotify and Facebook guarantee we remember our “very personal” 2019. The world is being drowned in a flood of nostalgia that comes just after the tsunami of family emotions called Christmas. While we’re desperately trying to keep our inner boats floating, we’re supposed to face the storm called Future. It’s time for resolutions, for new plans and new excitement. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

Thinking about it, all this nostalgia and commercialized emotion that peaks in environmentally disastrous fireworks on the 31st of December are nothing but a way to distract us from an honest review of our year. Caught up in celebrity stories from 2019 and the universal urge to get really drunk, very little people take the time to examine their own fading year.

However, the usually free time around New Year’s Eve is a great chance to let the mind settle, to learn from past experiences and to set reasonable goals for the future. This is not about looking at pictures from last summer’s beach vacation and then deciding to start working out regularly in January. It’s about facing what has happened in our minds recently and which challenges we need to take as we move on.

Praise the seasons

Don’t get me wrong – the concept of New Year’s Eve has its strong benefits. Having a day that marks a new start – a new calendar, new dreams, and big parties – gives us a point of orientation. Imagine all humans living near the equator, not knowing what seasons are. Probably, we wouldn’t have come up with the concept of the year at all. There would be no regular reminder that yet another block of time has gone by – another block of the expected 80 we will experience in total. It would deprive humanity of a recurring moment to collectively examine where we stand in life and where we want it to go.

In a world where more and more people feel lost in a lonely, depressive and meaningless life, every chance to improve our situation is valuable. Luckily, we have seasons in most countries and consequently could choose a day to be the last of every year. That day is our reminder to take a deep breath and face the truth.
Where were we in life exactly one year ago?
Since then, when have we failed or succeeded?
What have we learned about ourselves over the last 12 months?

New Year’s is a chore

Asking ourselves these three simple questions can already be very hard. At least if we’re fully honest. We might not have changed at all and might consider this a failure. We might have gone abroad and become a new person to a far extent. The confusion caused by new worldviews and values might be overwhelming. Whatever you’ve lived through in 2019, there will be parts that are uncomfortable to think about. These sad stories, avoided decisions and impactful experiences, however, are our personal highlights of the year. Unlike top pop hits and celebrity gossip, these stories are fully our own. They are part of our identity, they shape how we perceive ourselves and how we live our days. Our personal year’s highlights define our capacity to make a difference in the world and in other’s lives in 2020. It’s therefore crucial to look at these rather than falling for the comfort of year reviews provided by media outlets.

The Champaign and the dancing at midnight on New Year’s Eve deserve to be more than just a random party. They’re our reward for the courage and honesty it takes to seriously review a fading year. Reflection might not be a physical chore, we don’t sweat like when we’re helping our friend move into their new home. Still, we deserve a reward, just like the beer we share with our friend when all the furniture is set up. We should celebrate our struggles and challenges, our hardships and experiences. Of course, we should also remember the positive moments of 2019, but these are rarely forgotten in the first place.

Share the moment

So we’re all going to sit down for five hours on December 31st with a sheet of paper and reflect until our brains hurt, right? In a world with too much loneliness, this will be counterproductive. Of course, there will be parts of your 2019 that no one but the sheet of paper should know. Many stories, however, are worth sharing with people close to you. While it might take some courage to trust and open up, the additional discomfort has its undeniable benefits. Sharing helps realize you’re not alone, it gives you a feeling of accountability for your goals and it might enable you to dig deeper into last year’s experiences. Why don’t we all meet our call our best friend and take some time to reflect together? Why don’t we enable each other to experience our first honest and productive New Year’s Eve?

Gratitude

Until now, my words were an urge to face the discomfort of seriously reflecting our lives at the end of this year. Looking back at our very personal 2019, however, we will not only find challenges and learnings. The closer we inspect, the more beauty we will discover. All the wonderful moments we have shared with people that are meaningful to us. All the instances in which we were passionately working on a project. All the beauty our senses have perceived in the world.

Concluding the year, we should be grateful for all these wonderful things. Personally, I’m very thankful for my time abroad in the US, for the new worldviews, the inspirational experiences, and the essential learnings. The people I’ve met and who I’ve engaged with are at the core of my own beautiful 2019. I’m sure that everyone has great things to look back at. Let’s take some time to appreciate them.

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