I’ve been thinking a lot about stories lately and how people use them to define how they live. The hipster contrarian who works for a big company but goes “back to his roots” when the workday ends. The rural farmer living the simple, slower life as the world speeds by. None of this is absolutely true because the very nature of stories is they allow us to simplify things and when we do so we don’t get the fine details. Stories are like billboards that you can quickly get the gist of at seventy miles per hour but that don’t tell you much at all.
Our obsession with the new year is all about stories. I’ve long been opposed to New Years and it’s official observance that prevents mail delivery and store openings because, it seems like a really inconsequential holiday. On a micro level we don’t celebrate changing months and on a macro one we don’t commemorate decades. We get ourselves all charged up over a new year because it lets us tell stories about the past year and make up new ones for the upcoming one.
How many Year in Review segments did you see on television? Any or recorded, real or faux news show did one. Magazines and blogs usually do them. It’s nice because we can “Say good-bye to a disappointing 2011” and “Welcome a promising 2012”. Last year wasn’t inherently disappointing, some people did really well. I had friends who had their first child and 2011 was likely the best year of their lives but we like to hear stories and they need characters. A “good” year, a “bad” event.
This year many people tweeted their resolutions for the new year and many of that group will fail and then quit. They write this story for themselves, that they might have tried, failed a few times and gave up and if they haven’t been doing it in June they won’t ever do it in July. Don’t do this. Instead of living your story on a yearly basis because television news and People magazine tell you to, live it on the daily basis. It’s your story to write.