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Reflection Point

New Year Toast

Happy New Year!

Although, today is a somewhat odd date for a big beginning. It’s not the start of any meteorological season. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, winter is just getting started. Hardly a reason to celebrate.

No religion I can think of holds January 1 as sacred. In fact, here in the US, starting the new year on September 1 would more closely align with a major religious event – the start of football season. All hail the NFL!

Mid-Year Course Correction

New Year Sunrise

Happy New Year. If you live in a part of the world that follows the traditional Gregorian calendar.

January 1 has always seemed like an odd place to put this particular dividing line. The Romans and other ancient cultures positioned the start of their calendars in the spring when nature seemed to be waking up from the winter. March 1 would be more hopeful date following a hard winter.

Of course all of that is based on the Northern Hemisphere, Eurocentric view of the world. Just imagine how celebrating the start of a new year would be different if we were using a calendar created in another part of the world.

I’ve lived and worked most of my life in an academic calendar, so somewhere around September 1 was more the start of a new year than today. This point has always been a welcome break before continuing with the second half (more like two-thirds) of the year.

But, if you think about it, midnight last night was just an artificial dividing line anyway. Today is really not different from yesterday (unless you’re a tax accountant). We divide life into chunks – months, quarters, semesters, years – for convenience and consistency. Life itself flows rather than restarting at particular intervals.

Many people use the start of the new calendar as motivation to make major alterations in their lives: eat better, exercise more, develop better habits. Not me. Certainly not because I have nothing that needs improving. The list seems to grow as I get older and more critical of myself.

However, I’ve lived long enough to know that big changes, executed on a fixed schedule rarely work. For most of us, New Year resolutions are largely abandoned before Groundhog Day.

Better to set goals for ourselves whenever we realize they’re needed, and then make smaller course corrections as required. Like on New Year’s Day.

Anyway, thank you for reading to the end of this random ramble. Let’s all make the next collection of 365 days better than the previous one.


The photo is of the sun rising on the Potomac River, as seen from the Alexandria waterfront, January 1, 2012.

Some Thoughts for a New Year

New Year Sunrise

Although I’ve always thought September 1 would make a much better New Year’s Day, western society has decided today will be that largely artificial dividing line. So, here we are in the year designated as 2018.

So, how will today and the ones that follow be different from the 365 that came before? Unless you came into a big inheritance when the calendar clicked over, I suspect for most of us the answer is not very.

However, after the chaos of 2017 in the US (which spilled over into many other parts of the world), something needs to change. As I wrote in any earlier rant, resistance to negative change can only take you so far. If successful, it really only maintains the status quo. Even with the small positive steps that occasionally pop up.

In 2018, we can continue to complain about what has happened in the past. Or we can plan and work to improve the future. Only one of those is worth the time and effort.

I hope we can find good people to run for leadership positions, at all levels, not just Congress, who understand this. Because real progress is only going to come from clear, creative, positive ideas for improving government and society. Not from trying to scare people. Not from asking for support simply because “I’m not that guy.”.

Maybe in this new period of time known as a year we as a society can move forward instead of ranting in place.


The picture is of sunrise over the Potomac River as seen from the Alexandria waterfront, New Year’s Day, 2012. As I recall, the temperature was much warmer that morning than it is currently.

Opportunities, Not Resolutions

It’s a new year in most (but not all) of the world. A passage point I’ve always felt was in the wrong place. But who am I to argue with four or five billion other people.

For K12 teachers in the US, this is more like half time, a break between the real learning of the fall semester and the test preparation of the spring. Ok, maybe a little cynical but certainly a reality for many kids in the past ten to fifteen years.

This is also a point at which many people offer up resolutions, not unlike sacrifices to the gods of winter, to change something about their lives. Exercise more, eat better, spend time on more worthy pursuits. But one thing I’ve learned over my many new years is, that approach doesn’t work for me. And, I suspect, many others as well, based on the many of those resolutions that are abandoned before the Ides of March.

I think most people rarely submit to substantial internal change without some kind of major outside force demanding that it happen. Something other than an artificial social convention like the beginning of a new calendar.

The most recent instance for me was leaving Fairfax County schools (aka the overly-large school district)1last August after many years in their bureaucracy. In addition to continuing personal projects over the past few months, I’ve also thought a lot about other things I want to do. Getting into a regular routine has been harder than I expected and something that will require more effort.

One goal I set for myself was to do more writing in this space. I thought that would be easy with the extra time available but the process appears to require more than time. I finally decided to make an effort to post something every day in December. Most of the entries probably would have been better if they sat in the draft folder a while longer (and at least a few should have been deleted before hitting publish), but it’s a small start to getting into a new rhythm.

Anyway, enough rambling for now. Whether you view January 1 as the beginning of a new year or just another check-in point on a longer road, I hope the coming 12 months are good ones. Full of new opportunities to take advantage of, not resolutions to be abandoned.

Make Glorious, Amazing Mistakes

Some wonderful inspiration for the new year from a 2012 graduation address by author Neil Gaiman:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Although the talk is great, it’s hard to recommend the book since the graphic design distracts from the message. Watch the video instead.

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