New year brings with it a dawn of the old year

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at

It’s a magical time — December 31, about midnight, only a few minutes before January 1. In those crucial seconds, tax deductions hang on clock strokes while calendars, quotas, and fiscal years come to a hard stop.

The old year is dying. A new year is being born. That is what we say. And that is what tradition teaches us.

But is it really? Perhaps it could be that during those crucial seconds when one year replaces another numerically, that it is the old year that is dawning; that is, putting itself in perspective as we reflect on what happened, how it happened, and why it happened.

Looking back enables us to measure our life during that segment of time. How did we spend the last 12 months? Where were we and what did we do?

And within that reflection, we can drill down to contemplate not only where we were, but where we stood, when we stood, even why we stood. In other words, what was important to us last year?

We often show our priorities by building physical or even emotional monuments to those things that matter to us. We crown industry’s importance by the sweat of our brows. We enlarge our family dwellings, schedules, and circles to encompass our growth. We fill our coffers with newly discovered treasures. All provide a yardstick to measure, not so much our worth, as the spot we were at that point in time — a physical immortality.

So instead of focusing on our clean slate, our peek at the cluttered one we are leaving behind can enlighten, even enrich the journey ahead. What can we learn from where we spent our time, money and energy? How are we different one year later? What has touched and shaped our lives?

When we look at the evidences of our lives — our calendars, emails, journals or even Christmas newsletters — we see that some issues grew while others dissolved.

However, there’s one more option to add to our assessments, I’ve discovered. It’s called, “in process” for those simmering issues, awaiting action. I’ve found that the issues that really matter seem to persist until some kind of resolution is made, if only to serve as preparation.

“What is not performance is preparation,” my father used to say, inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings.

And that thought comforts us as many of our pursuits have not come to fruition — yet. We admit some failures, claim some successes, and perhaps can be both inspired and challenged by another of my father’s favorite reminders, “Failure is not fatal nor success final.”

One way or another, with patience and persistence, we can find success or redefine it to fit our circumstance. This year, I’ve decided to allow my sense of urgency to be replaced by a more calming sense of inevitability, as I tend to simmering issues and unmet pursuits.

Happy New Year to you. May your reflections on the dawn of the old year enrich your memories and inspire your dreams.