Sean McHugh: Time to highlight what we did best

Thursday December 27, 2012

I’ve been wracking my brain and trying to think of the last time a year came to a close and the consensus was that it had been a good year.

It feels like every year closes with the same refrain "Here’s to 20XX. Good riddance!"

Once the dust and tinsel of Christmas have settled, I suppose we look around and see for the first time the last 12 months as a continuous whole that will go down in history as one single unit. And with this perspective we can view everything that happened and sum it all up with the same syllable we’ve used for as long as I can remember: "Yuck."

At the end of the year, most of the news media trot out the best of lists, the Top 10s, the Year in Reviews, et cetera, and we can get our first real perspective on the year we consign to history. From such a viewpoint the tragedies and horrors we’ve suffered stand out in stark relief, creating a landscape of grief we are always eager to get away from and into the bright future of January.

We tend to forget that no one really enjoys the new year until March, of course.

Even the tradition of New Year’s resolutions smacks of distaste with the old year. A resolution isn’t a goal to be accomplished in the coming year; it’s a correction for something done wrong in the past year.

Instead, we should highlight what we did right and strive to do more of that. Rather than scold ourselves for what we didn’t do, let’s give ourselves a pat on the back for our accomplishments and maybe those new things will come up organically.

To wit, here are some of my New Year’s Continuances:

n In 2012 I learned how to ride a bike and in 2013 I hope to reach the point where I can ride it on a road that cars are allowed to drive on. I also hope to get my balance to the point where I can make the hand signals without falling off. That sort of defeats the purpose of turn signals.

n In 2012 I cut back on online shopping in favor of buying local and in 2013 I want to try to limit my purchases of physical goods to things I can find at local stores.

And if I can’t find what I need locally, I’ll get the stores to order it for me instead of buying into the Faustian bargain that is

I understand that if you spend $150 a month across three independent local businesses it would fix the economy by summer, while that same amount given to Amazon would only contribute to the giant death ray they’re building pointed at Barnes & Noble headquarters.

n In 2012 I wrote a second draft of one of my novels and in 2013, I plan to get the other one to the point where I’ll feel OK letting other humans read it. Currently I’ve restricted it to small bears.

n In 2012 I started to learn Spanish and in 2013 yo voy estudiar hasta de yo se todos las palabras. I’m not sure that says what I want it to say; I don’t have a lot of vocab currently.

n In 2012 I got a new job and in 201 I hope to still have it.

Sure there are things I did not do enough of this past year: I didn’t read nearly enough, haven’t worked hard enough to meet new people, only jumped off the one cliff; but if I focus on failures and try to force myself to improve I’ll start to hate whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing. Then I’d just find myself like one of those people bitterly calling to cancel their online weight-loss membership a week into a three-month term.

I think part of the sense of disgust with the old year comes from the fact that we make plans in January for actions we will take to effect a positive change on the world and be the heroes of our own lives. Yet come December we find ourselves staring at a list of events we were forced to react to.

But hey, 2012 wasn’t all bad.

We landed a robot on Mars this year; that was pretty cool. We also survived the apocalypse, two and a half times by my count. Always bet against Armageddon. If you’re right you get to gloat forever and if you’re wrong you have bigger things to worry about.

Write to Sean McHugh at


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