It was George Harrison who once implored us to “ring out the old, ring in the new” when ushering in the New Year. “Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong”, as he astutely put it. For me, the old Grinch, the New Year is the most worthless time of the year. For most people, everything stays the same, nothing changes. Was this year a good year? Will next year be a bad year? Who knows? And it depends on who you are.
I started the year jobless by choice and finished it in a job I have waited a lifetime to find. I am definitely not financially better off, but spiritually I am a millionaire. I started 2015 in the depths of severe clinical depression, I end it not cured – I don’t think I ever will be – but with the Black Dog under control. If there are no major obstacles and shocks along the way, I hope it can stay that way, but life doesn’t always work like that. Life is an accident from beginning to end.
I can heartily recommend this version of semi-retirement. I can see the merits of working hard into late old age, not least for the financial rewards that can buy things like luxury holidays and the material things in life. I can understand why people want to work full time for 48 weeks of the year, but I have been there, done it and I would never do it again. Too many things have happened to me and to others to convince me that working until you drop has anything going for it. One of the drawbacks of growing older – and there are many, although growing older always beats the alternative, if you remain in good health – is the sadness you see along the way. The older you get, the more sadness you see. Relatives and friends have died for as long as I remember. I lost my first friend when I was 12 (so was he) and ever since then accidents and illness have taken their toll. Some young, like friends taken before they had a chance to live their lives, others much older, ravaged by appalling illness.
A friend told me of the passing of his father, the day after he retired from work at the age of 65. The long and happy retirement he had wished for taken away at a stroke, literally a stroke. Healthy, wealthy but, suddenly, dead. No symptoms, no warnings – in fact he knew absolutely nothing about it. Gone. That made me sit up and think. I don’t try to think about the actual nature of my ultimate demise but it reminded that it was inevitable. And I have so much I want to do. I could, I suppose, start doing the things I really want to do when I am 70, but what if? What if things have started to go wrong by then? My mother’s life was already ruined by then, ravaged by what was admittedly self-inflicted ill health (cigarettes). In fact, her health was in tatters long before then. She lived longer than she might have done, but her life after illness struck was not living at all. I am no special case. This could happen to me.
I am not a great fan of this New Year malarkey, though. “It’s just,” as Paul McCartney put it, “another day.” I hope I will still be here tomorrow and if I am everything will be the same. I like the sentiment of “Happy New Year” in the same way that I like “Happy Christmas”. It just means I hope things are good for you. But by next week, it will be as if nothing has changed. The truth is that it won’t have changed.
I have not planned any resolutions for 2016 save for staying alive and doing the best that I can. I plan to lose the weight I have put on this Christmas, I plan to play a lot more golf, I plan to write a lot more but I’d planned all that anyway. I don’t have to wait until midnight. I won’t be joining a gym, I won’t be taking up running, I won’t be engaging in Dry January, either. I’ll continue to live my life and, every day, try to live it better than I did the day before.
When the fireworks have stopped exploding, when Auld Lang Syne has stopped being sung and when Jools Holland puts the lid down on his piano the world will still be turning as it was before. The changing year is, to me, just a reminder that the clock is ticking and it’s ticking for all of us. I’m trying hard to not worry and fret about the things in life that I cannot change. I should have done that many years ago, but it’s never too late. Those with whom I have had age-old arguments, like the powers-that-be at Bristol Rovers, all over.
Happy New Year if that’s your bag. The one thing I have learned is that when something happens, you never start a new life; you just pick up the remnants of the old one and muddle along or carry on just like you did before. Nothing changes when the clock chimes at midnight, unless you give up smoking like I did 22 years ago. Not unless you want them to and you make things happen. Tomorrow is another ordinary day.