Whenever the end of the year approaches, I begin to feel… odd. I think many people experience a similar melange of anxious melancholy or melancholy anxiety depending on their temperaments. There is the haunting specter of all the things you’d hoped to achieve during the year that you didn’t. It’s clearer in hindsight how you might have made some of it happen. Then there are the things you did achieve that are nearly never as satisfying as when you’d dreamt of them. There’s the pressure to set even more goals that are lofty enough to drive you, but not so grandiose that they drive you insane. It’s the self-assessing that’s built in to this time of year that can get overwhelming when it’s combined with all the other stressors.
Fraught family relationships and their power dynamics are always difficult to manage. The holidays and their demand for “cheer” put quite a fine point on it all, though. Who visits whom, who sits where, who cooks what, who gets what gift and how much should it cost? All the negotiating people have to do is emotionally exhausting. Even if you’ve managed to extricate yourself from most of it by avoiding family gatherings, there’s the guilt. It’s almost impossible to emerge on the other side emotionally unscathed. That’s something else the end of the year reminds you: that you survived.
I’ve had a pretty good year on some fronts, not so much on others. My writing is going quite well here on Medium. People are reading my work, finding value in it, and I’m slowly growing my following. I can feel my writing moving things in my life and hopefully in the lives of my readers. It’s still quite scary to hit the “Publish” button sometimes. I think that’s good. The day that goes away, I’ll know I’m just going through the motions, and it’s time to hang things up.
It’s quite a grandiose thing to do: writing your thoughts down and demanding other people read them. I still can’t quite believe how presumptuous I’m being sometimes. I’ve always been a voracious reader and deeply value other people’s words, and I appreciate writers I enjoy having taken the time to share their thoughts with me. I’m not sure why I find it so strange to be extended the same courtesy. I’ve never been a particularly self-deprecating or self-effacing person, but I think the best thing to have come out of this year was quashing some of those instincts even further.
It’s a challenging time to write about politics pretty much anywhere in the world. Things seem to be coming untethered. The end of 2018 is scary because of the uncertainty 2019 will bring. The problems humanity is facing are existential, and just as transcendental, inspirational leaders are needed, the buffoons and strongmen seem to be consolidating their power. So much time is being frittered away, so many lives are being carelessly destroyed. It’s depressing. I understand why some people tune it all out. I understand why others fall into despair and opt out. The scale of the worsening problems is so vast and each of us by ourselves is so small in comparison. Being humbled like that daily takes a toll on people’s psyches.
Being kinder to myself is something else I got better at in 2018, and I’m taking that with me into 2019. The world is a cruel enough place. There’s no need for me to be beating myself up too. In addition, I need the emotional reserves to keep believing I can make a difference, that maybe something I write can nudge someone into looking at the world from a different perspective. I also think that as many people as possible, using whatever platforms and tools they have, need to speak out against the rising tide of fascism. The simplistic arguments and promises fascism promotes are attractive in a complex, changing, unequal world. The propaganda is everywhere, and traditional journalism keeps face-planting into repeating and spreading it instead of deconstructing the lies. The rest of us have to pick up the slack and try to hold the line.
I’m a bit fearful of what 2019 will bring, but I’m also hopeful and more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time. We are living in dark times, but the light still breaks through. I’m sure my end-of-year anxieties will mount as New Year’s Eve draws closer and more horrible events occur. Nevertheless, I’ll keep writing and keep hoping.