Ecuadorians have a different take on New Year’s Eve than we do in the States. The practice of burning effigies at midnight, for example, provides a window into it. These effigies are typically made out of paper marchè, are often life-sized, and can carry the likeness of pretty much anyone or anything — cartoon characters, politicians, celebrities, farmers, welders, mythical creatures — all in impressive detail. Burning them at midnight signifies turning away with the bad things that happened in the year that is ending so they won’t carry over into the year that is beginning. If you were to make a list of things in the last year that you would like to put behind you, you will immediately discover what they are doing.
Americans focus more on welcoming the new year in, and includes the practice of making New Year’s resolutions. These are about how they will do better than they did in the past year. “I will read ten books.” “I will be nicer to my mother-in-law.” “I will develop a new skill set to improve my value to the company I work for.”
It’s an interesting difference, these two ways of thinking about it. The Ecuadorians want to bring closure to the old year, and let it recede into the past, freeing them to move on into the new year. Americans tend to focus on how they can be more successful at achieving their goals than they were the previous year. I’ll leave it to you to decide which way you think is the better way.
I am not a fan on New Year’s resolutions. They tend to be small, petty, short-sighted. But I do think New Year’s Eve offers an opportunity to re-assess our lives, to examine the trajectory we have chosen for our lives and to question it. We area all on a journey, a journey that takes us somewhere. Is it the right journey? Will we be able to look back a decade from now and say, “Yes, that was my life lived to the fullest. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Some years ago (I don’t know exactly when), I made choices that put my life on a trajectory that increased my personal income, but at the expense of some of the things I value highly (no, I’m not going to tell you what they are). As a result, I am disappointed with both the journey and the place it has brought me to. So I will use this New Year’s Eve and Day to reflect and reinvent, because I really don’t want to come to the end of my life, look back, and say, “Wow, I sure wasted it.”
Here’s my personal rest-of-my-life resolution. I’m going to get off the body-breaking, soul-numbing, spirit-crushing grind that says, “Work harder, make more money, buy more stuff, and look good doing it.” I’m going to reclaim the essential me. The me I used to know, but lost track of somewhere along the line. It’s time to find him again. ‘Cuz I ain’t gettin’ any younger.
Trueda and I wish you an adventure-filled 2015, in which you are more yourself than you have ever been before.