“gonna make it through this year” – great lake swimmers (2008)


The truth of the matter is, as Bono sang it, nothing changes on New Year’s Day.  However, humans are motivated and driven by milestones and traditions.  Within them, there is a comfort in the familiar.  A shared, communal experience that allows us to reflect on our lives.  Whether that be reconciling with the past or being optimistic about the future, holidays like New Year’s Day have some symbolic importance even if there may not be any cause-and-effect between the holiday and our personal lives.

A bit of a downer statement to start off a blog about a time when the whole world is celebrating, but I am fine with that.  I recall something the singer Patti Smith said when I saw her speak on a recent book tour this year.  She said she was not afraid to be the downer at the party.  And I really liked that.  There is so much pressure by society to be always happy and optimistic even if you do not feel that way.  The idea being that if you’re acting like a buzzkill, it brings everyone else down and is, therefore, a negative reflection of you.

I don’t mean to be a downer about New Year’s this year, but that is just how I am feeling about it this year.  That is not to say that I am not happy, or I did not have a great year.  I had a good year.  I went on some amazing adventures, met some wonderful people, and did some cool things.  This year was also significant for me because I started to get comfortable with who I am and the progress I have made in my life over the last few years. From a time a few years ago when I was pretty low to now when I am finally reaping the rewards of the investments I have made in my own personal and social progress.  I am feeling like I am finally breaking the chains of people from the past who told me I was just not good enough.  I am not completely at that point, but I am very pleased with progress I have made.

I have a couple of thoughts of why one would be kind of down around New Year’s, especially after all that has happened in 2019.  On a personal level, I had a lot of challenges.  A lame job, a close friend passing away, general anxiety, personal and professional rejections, and a few other things all stood in my way this year from getting what I want.  And not just standing in my way, but sometimes doing their damndest to knock me back a few steps.  I weathered some of them, and am still weathering others, so there is something to be said about how I am still able to fight on, but it just gets so damn tiring sometimes.

Around the world, so much has been happening.  I get depressed, angry, or scared every time I turn on the news. I don’t like feeling that way, but I feel some sort of obligation to know what is happening.  To not be blind to the injustices, even if I may feel powerless to help.  From racially profiled violence, migrant children in cages, the destruction of federal institutions, and the rise of fascist ideology at home and abroad, it can be challenging to be stay positive.  I still am positive, even optimistic, that things will get better.  Mainly because I know deep down that things will get better because of my fundamental belief in the principles of the Enlightenment and the nature of human beings to be empathetic.  But it does get hard.

With all of this, I am trying very hard to put into practice a new belief of living in the moment.  As a big planner, that can be hard.  And I don’t mean planning with regards to figuring out a vacation itinerary.  I also mean planning for the worse or other hypothetical eventualities that only serve to fuck my shit up.

However, I am trying to put more mental energy into the idea that there are things I cannot control.  I have always believed that you cannot help how you feel, but you can help how you react to it.  But, thinking about it more lately, isn’t how you feel also a reaction?  I used to think that mantra meant that reaction was a physical action. Now I am learning it can be a mental one as well.  That me dwelling in a negative headspace, replaying the same thing over and over in my mind, is just as damaging, maybe even more, than a physical act.

So, part of this new practice is to just accept my feelings and actually feel them.  Sometimes I am sad for no reason. It is not a depression, that I know.  But sometimes I am just not as happy or optimistic as I think I should be.  Things will seem a little less bright and I will feel a little less motivated.  This used to frighten me, and I would get such anxiety thinking something was wrong and I would scramble around to find a distraction to make me feel better, but actively trying to stop the negative feeling would only make it worse.  I would breathe life into something until it became a monster.

Now, instead of making it a monster, I treat these feelings like a bad roommate.  I allow myself to be aware of their presence but just go about my day trying not to acknowledge it.  Eventually, this shitty roommate will leave the apartment to go fuck off somewhere.  Just engaging with it would mean I would deal with more bad roommate nonsense.  That big pile of dirty dishes they left behind would just get even bigger, and I have better things to do than clean up after bad roommates.

I did not have a specific song in mind for this week’s blog, so I had to do some research.  I was surprised to find some so many songs about New Year’s that were actually quite pessimistic. None of those really captured the mood of how I was feeling but I did come across one that did.

Great Lake Swimmers is a Canadian folk band that I am only passively familiar with.  I had heard some songs in college that I enjoyed, but I never really ventured out to listen to them further. “Gonna Make It Through This Year,” released in 2008, is a song about feeling stuck, but still fighting on.  In the song, Anthony Dekker sings about feeling stuck under six feet of snow with his feet clamped, almost helpless and with nowhere to go.  But he keeps repeating his mantra that he is gonna make it through this year.  And when he says that, he becomes aware that things will improve, though he is not sure how and where he will end up.  Though, despite being down on his luck, he has a lot to be thankful for this year.

New Year’s Day is certainly a time to celebrate, but you don’t always have to.  I get the pressure to be on during the holidays, but it is just fine not to be as well.  No year is completely amazing.  Every year ebbs and flows, has its ups and down, the good and the bad.  The only thing is that you just cannot make it worse and living in the moment helps with that.  And living with the moment isn’t all about savoring the sweetest things in life, it is also accepting that sometimes you’ll bite into something bitter.

“this will be our year” – the zombies (1968)

This year, my office closed down for the last two weeks of the year. The purpose of this, as communicated to employees, was that we should take the time to refresh and come back after the New Years holiday reenergized and well-rested. However you spent these two weeks, whether it was resting home alone on a staycation watching the snow fall with a warm cup or tea or running around with family, this was meant to be your time to recharge your batteries and for personal reflection.

I spent my first week in Chicago just relaxing and currently, in the second week, am in Kentucky visiting family and friends. It has been fun with a little bit of holiday craziness mixed in, but I did take a lot of time for personal reflection.

When I do take time to reflect on my life and the people around me, I consider a few things. I take into account what I need and want in my life and work on steps I can accomplish to achieve those things. I have very clear goals for 2018 and I know exactly what I need to do to achieve them. It is just a matter of time and patience before that happens.

While working on my own goals that are only relevant to me is great for self-care, personal growth, and emotional development, it is a very insular and singular goal. Taking the time to improve your own life and health is an extremely valuable and underappreciated thing. However, despite that, it is still important to think about others.

The other thing I think about during these times of reflection are the bigger things that seem out of my control that affect the lives of millions of people. Specifically, how the decisions of powerful men in government affect the lives of everyone in the country with the brunt of those decision having negative consequences on women, LGBT, and people of color. 2017 was a difficult year for all of us, but more so for them. So, what will 2018 bring?

2016 saw the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States after a long and brutal campaign against one of the qualified candidates in history who just happened to be a woman. The remainder of the year seemed bleak to the millions of people who voted to keep a racist and fascist out of the White House. While Trump wouldn’t be inaugurated until January, the transition was still problematic and we were all left wondering.

The whole world wondered what would come from this turning page of history. I had no idea. Last year’s New Years song blog post asked that question with Donna Fargo’s “What Will the New Gear Bring?” As it turned out, it brought a lot of bad. Between racist airport bans, a Russian collusion investigation, neglect of American territory ravaged by hurricanes, a tax bill that only benefits corporations, and so much more, we’re left wondering what is next.

There’s no way around it. 2017 was a hard year. If you weren’t a rich white man, it was even harder. Everyone wanted to get through this year so fast. With the constant news alerts of how terrible our leaders are, the news cycle seemed to simultaneously slow and speed time. It was a tedious trial.

However, 2017 had a few good moments. We’re watching Trump prove that he is an awful leader which has finally shown some of his followers that he was nothing more than a con man. There were also amazing victories in local elections where women, people of color, and transgender people defeated the status quo of bad white men. Even in Alabama, in the most contested election of the year, a democrat defeated a racist pedophile in a special election for the senate.

For the latter, we can thank women of color for that one. They came out to the polls despite all efforts to suppress their vote. That’s one of several inspiring stories of people rising up that did come out of 2017. From the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration to now, people are getting civically energized and engaging with government in ways that we desperately need; with leaders who are younger, economically diverse, and from all racial and gender backgrounds.

2018 will be another trial year. However, we have midterm elections in November. And that is giving a lot of people hope. The 2018 midterms will be this country’s first opportunity to see just how well this surge of political uprising has worked. Protesting in the streets is one thing, but turning that anger and passion and actionable government change is a whole other challenge. Will November be a turning point fueled by women and people of color who have had enough? I certainly hope so.

And it is hope that is important here. New Years is a significant event that can motivate people to start fresh and new. To focus on things you want to change for yourself or other around you. And here’s your opportunity to work towards those changes.

Even though 2017 was a garbage fire of a year, I can’t help but still be hopeful that 2018 is when we can really turn things around. To make 2018 one for the history books. To make 2018 where women and people of color lead the way that save this country from the brink of destruction. November is a long time from now, so keeping that momentum going is more important now than ever before. And I’m hopeful that we can do it.

That’s why I wanted this week’s song celebrating New Years to be hopeful instead of bleak. I wanted to set a tone for 2018 as opposed to finding a depressing song that reflected a difficult year. And I found that in “This Will Be Our Year” from the the Zombies’ 1968 classic Odyssey and Oracle.

“This Will Be Our Year” is a short and sweet tune about love bringing two people out of the darkness. For them, it took a long time to come so they could get back into the light. And in that light from the sun’s warmth, they know that this will be their year.

I couldn’t think of a better song for this New Years. 2017 was harder and darker than anyone could’ve imagined. However, 2018 offers a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel. With enough hope and hard work, we can get to that light together, illuminate our lives, and make 2018 our year.

“what will the new year bring?” – donna fargo (1975)


Everyone just seems so tired with 2016.  Between the seemingly endless celebrity deaths, the surprising election results, and personal strife, the past year has earned a disdainful spot in the hearts and minds of a lot of people who are just wanting to move on with their lives.  My social media feed is filled with posts demanding that 2017 be better or behave as if it is some sort of conscious entity that can be controlled.  However, that’s not the truth.  Time is indifferent.

People are exhausted and worried.  And I understand why.  While a new year holds uncertainty, we all want it to be better than the last year.  If you happen to believe all of the editorials and social media posts about what a terrible year was 2016 was, it is easy to become a part of the disillusionment.  And when that happens, people cling desperately to any hope they may have left.  So, something as symbolic as a calendar changing years overnight means so much.  Our society places so much importance in the concept of a fresh start that we seem to think we can relegate the abstract concept of time to fit within our rules.  However, that’s not possible.  I think it was some Irish prophet who said “nothing changes on New Year’s Day.”

I won’t say that people’s worries are unfounded.  The inauguration on January 20th seems to be the specter hanging over the beginning of 2017 and fueling a lot of the worry I am witnessing.  I’m no different.  I am concerned too.  But, that’s a real event with real world consequences.  I think what has become tiresome about the talk of 2016 being so bad concerns the endless posts and articles about celebrity deaths.  If that is your criteria of what makes a year so terrible, you need to redefine your priorities.   Surely, we lost a lot of great people.  And we will never forget them and the influence they have had on our lives.  But, they’re dead and they cannot do anything for us now.

Each year has it’s own ups and downs and 2016 is no exception.  Over the course of every year, there are moments where humanity shines through, moments where darkness settles, and moments where we just don’t know what will happen.  We cannot control what happens over the course of 365 days, but we can choose how we react to it.  If you want to think this year was terrible because of a few celebrity deaths, then do it.  However, that is one small aspect that makes up the complicated fabric of time that we confine to a certain length.  For all those bad things where we place that meaning, there are a lot of great things that happened as well.  As for me, I don’t want to walk into 2017 already afraid of what may or may not happen.  We’re stronger than that as a society.

Acknowledging that life can go in all sorts of directions is important to getting through rough periods.  Put any bad moments in the context that things will get better and you’ll appreciate the good moments more.  And, of course, there will be more dark times.  But you will get through them.  None of knows what will happen.

That is why I love the song “What Will the New Year Bring” by Donna Fargo.  A bit more optimistic than other New Year’s anthems like “New Year’s Day” by U2, Fargo’s sweet country western tune is about having faith that you can survive during times of uncertainty and darkness as long as you have hope to stick together.  There is something so simple to that and it gives me hope.  It is when you start to overthink about what could go wrong, you quit thinking about what is going right and how you can use that when times are bad.

In Fargo’s song, she knows that you must put things in perspective.  The past year was good for her, but the year before was a little rough.  But, that is old news.  What about this new year?  Will it bring us love and joy? Probably.  Will there be more growing pains to add to the ones already weathered? Likely.  That’s just what happens over the course of a year.  You must take the bad with good.

Fargo doesn’t know what the new year will bring, but she still seeks out the positive outcomes.  Though she is asking the question whether her or not her partner will continue to love her the way they do, they key is the way she is thinking.  Frame the uncertainty from a more positive perspective.  All things will end.  Whether it is a marriage, a friendship, or a life, all things must pass.  But why worry?  There’s no use.  Fargo asks if her partner will only love her for a year or two or perhaps even four or five or six hundred years or more.  None of them knows the answer, but they still celebrate the New Year and whatever is in store.

2017 will be no different than 2016.  2017 will be better in some ways, and worse in other ways.  That’s a fact.  But we can get through this.  Let’s not get distracted by celebrity deaths or what’s trending on social media.  Let’s continue to work together to make sure the next year was better than the last.  And if not, then let’s not lose hope and try again.  With love for our friends and neighbors, we can make the impossible possible and the world shine brighter.

“what are you doing new year’s eve?” – nancy wilson (1963)


There is so much optimism surrounding the New Year holiday.  For many, January 1st is a day of significance that serves as the launching point to embrace life more fully by trying something new, rediscovering lost treasure, or accepting the unknown.  It serves as a symbolic representation for rebirth and starting over that inspires us in ways other holidays do not.

For many cynics, New Years Day is just another day.  Why should this day be more important than any for making resolutions and promises to lead a better life?  I don’t share that sentiment, but I see the point. Life is fluid and comes in waves.  Events and situations come up at any given point.  We should be open to the idea of improving our value and self-worth throughout the whole year.  The optimism around New Years is great, but optimism only works if it creates an action.

Beyond the resolutions, New Years Eve serves as the bookend for the holiday season.  Coming a week after Christmas, New Years Eve is the holiday where champagne flows and send off the old while being surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones.  People are still on holiday from work and this last hurrah is the nightcap before the year finally rests.

I’ve never put much stock into New Year’s resolutions.  I think about things I need to approve, start, finish, etc.  However, I know I have to plan those out accordingly as hardly anything stops and starts with each new year.  So, I choose to see New Years as a holiday to spend time with friends and family.  One last party.  One last round of drinks.  One last gathering that embodies the spirit and goodwill of the season.

The 1947 Frank Loesser classic “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” is the perfect song for the spirit of the holiday.  In it, an admirer longingly asks the object of their desire to join them for a New Year’s celebration.  With promises of tender embraces, the singer anxiously awaits to hear that they will not be alone on New Years.  Fighting against doubt and the come-ons from other suitors, the courage to ask is found.

Nancy Wilson covered the song for a single in 1963.  This jazzy ballad with a delicate piano, soft drumming, and hopeful orchestra sets the tone for an elegant black tie affair. I believe this version to the best among all of the different arrangements over the decades.  Wilson’s lilting voice is breathy and flows well.  She runs through all the emotions that go with asking someone out.  The character she adds to the song feels real.

Regardless of your thoughts on the meaning of New Years Eve, reconsider it as a time to celebrate life and love with those around you.  Have some sparkling wine, don your best attire, and live like there is no tomorrow.