New Year Goodbyes
The New Year is a time for Goodbyes–to leave things behind. Here’s a New Year’s column from 2012 on things to say good-bye to as the clock strikes midnight.

Time is supposed to pass more quickly as one ages, but I never really believed them until this year. I’m now old enough that I’m telling my age in terms of decades: “I’m in my forties”. Last week my husband and I also celebrated our twentieth anniversary. Yet it is not just advancing age and milestones that make time pass quickly for me today.

It’s also this feeling I have that life is spinning out of control in a new way, and that the things which once anchored us are slipping away.

Europe is in an economic and democratic crisis. The euphoria of the Arab Spring has turned to despair as fundamentalists have won elections. History seems to be accelerating.

And yet, as Obama’s right hand man said, “we should never let an opportunity go to waste”. Perhaps that’s how we should approach the chaos in our world: it is an opportunity to put first things first again.

At this opening of a chaotic year, then, why don’t we say good-bye to too much debt.

This whole financial crisis was caused by everybody living above their means—even governments. People borrowed too much. Banks lent too much. And governments threw money around as if rules didn’t apply to them.

Maybe this year people will realize that we need to cut back and—gasp!—not buy stuff we can’t afford. With all the uncertainty about stock markets and currencies and recessions, all of which could throw the job market into a tailspin, maybe people will realize we should actually be responsible.

I’m hoping we can also say good-bye to the Kardashians, though I don’t wish them actual harm. I just don’t have a clue who they are, though they seem to grace every magazine cover. I don’t care who is getting married or divorced or having implants. Today too many people today are famous for no good reason. It’s all so meaningless.

Maybe in times of great uncertainty we need something silly to distract us, but I hope that the opposite proves true.

I hope that uncertainty means that we realize we don’t have time for stupidity, and instead we should invest our time in what really matters, so that we have a foundation to weather whatever storms are coming.

That’s why I also hope we’ll say good-bye to this preoccupation our society seems to have with self-fulfillment. I’ll only do something if it makes me happy—and I’ll stop doing it as soon as it doesn’t make me happy. Therefore, I can’t commit to a marriage, and I can’t stay in a marriage, in case I’m not happy. I can’t put my kids first because that would cramp my dreams. If you’re waiting to be happy, you likely never will be, because true happiness comes when we learn how to give, not just when we try to get.

So many families are floundering, which is personally traumatic, but it’s also detrimental to society. Family breakdown is a surefire way to keep poverty entrenched. Marrying wisely and staying married, on the other hand, is one of the best predictors of moving up the income ladder.

In times of economic uncertainty, the last thing we need is family instability.

I hope our society realizes that we’ve had a holiday from reality for the last forty years. We haven’t had world wars—though our military has been busy. We haven’t had depressions. We’ve made incredible economic gains. So people could stop doing what was expected and just do what they wanted.

Where has that gotten us? We’re heavily in debt, with broken families and a ridiculously silly culture. It’s time to say good-bye to silly. Let’s do that in this coming year.

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