A New Year, A New Decade

I love reading books, but I’ve gotta be honest. I haven’t really read anything for fun since July.

School sucked me in. Babysitting took up my weekends. The alluring presence of TV sapped the rest of my time away.

But even if I’m not currently reading anything, I still find myself buying more and more books to collect dust on my shelf. I have books I bought in 2015 still sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read.

However, winter break has given me more time to do things. With school out of the way and families not needing me to watch their kids during the holidays, I had no choice but to pick a book to read.

It’s astonishing how someone who writes books forgets how unsatisfying it is for a story to end. No matter how well off the characters are by the end of the story – no matter how well the situation is tied up in the end – it doesn’t change the fact that I will never again experience that story for the first time. Well… not unless I develop some form of amnesia sometime soon.

In the span of six days, I read The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – a three part series, each book at least 600 pages in length, following a wild roller coaster of emotions and events that kept me reading until 2 AM in the morning. (If you haven’t read this series yet and you’re into a science fiction space adventure told in an atypical way – no chapters or paragraphs in this one – then I totally recommend you check these out.)

I finished up the series finale at 2:30 AM, sitting at my kitchen table eating microwaved taquitos because I had forgotten to eat at a regular time. My eyes were glued to the final pages as I finally found out what was going to happen to these six teenagers that had survived increasingly difficult and unsettling circumstances despite all the odds. For six days, these characters were my life. I followed their story with bated breath and shock. I forgot about all the other things I was supposed to be doing – specifically, writing. I remember walking into winter break thinking I’d get a short story or two down on paper while I had the chance. Nope. I convinced myself that avoiding all my other obligations was okay – reading was nearly the same as writing… except, you know, I was observing a story rather than participating in the much harder task of creating one.

In all my scrambling to finish this series and find out how it all turned out, I forgot that I hated the feeling of experiences ending. I got to the final page of the three-part series and the only thing I wanted was to experience the story again. But, alas, I can never experience that story the same way ever again. I already know how it ends.

You might have noticed that in a few days, 2020 is going to begin. The start of a new decade. The death of the ‘10s.

I thought a lot about what I was going to write for this week’s post. The New Year was the obvious topic, but what about the New Year?

New Year’s resolutions? Nah. We all know we give up on those in thirty days anyways.

A reflection of 2019? I could… but I just wrote a recap of the semester last week. And to be honest, I’m not sure I could recap 2019 without repeating myself.

All of last week was spent with my nose in a book. Even if I did come up with something to say, I wouldn’t write it until I was finished reading that series and was sufficiently unfulfilled. But when I finally sat down to write, my mind was still thinking about that story.

The timing couldn’t have been any more perfect.

2019 is coming to a close, this chapter of our lives now finished. We could spend time reflecting and considering what we spent that time doing, but the truth is whether we did great things or mediocre things, there’s no going back. Everything has already been written into the past.

We can never experience 2019 again.

Just like how I can never experience Illuminae the same way ever again.

Is that thought chilling? It is for me.

None of us have any idea what the future holds. We’re walking blindly into a new decade, whether we want to or not. There’s no returning to the dog days of 2019 (and yes, eventually 2019 will look like the good ole dog days). And it makes me a little sad – a little nostalgic.

We all made it through 2019, on way or another. Isn’t that comforting? We made it through 2019. Nothing too terrible happened – I mean, sure, lots of stuff probably went down in all our lives, but we’re still breathing. We’re still heading into a new year, a few more survival stories floating around in our heads.

I have this fixation on not letting things change. I hate change. I hated when my family bought a new car and turned in the old one. I hated when I was forced to go to middle school, and then consequently, high school. I hated changing friend groups. I hated how life stopped being as simple as they were in Kindergarten, when my only worry was who was hogging the swing set.

Yet, for some reason, the onset of a new year doesn’t bother me. I suppose there’s that feeling of nostalgia, but it disappears around the same time I get used to writing a different year on my homework assignments. All I see on January 1st is possibility. I leave the worrying for January 2nd.

When I finish books, all I want is to experience them again. My eyes aren’t exactly open to the possibility that there’s a new story that’s waiting for me. I have that feeling of nostalgia keeping me from experiencing something new.

In 2020, I want to experience something new. Out of all the new years, I think I’ve been dreading this one the most. This is the year when everything changes. This is the year I escape high school. This is the year I’m plunged into a new world as a legal adult. This is the year my life starts – this is the year I finally start heading towards my goals with full force rather than wasting time learning about the mitochondria in biology.

I will never again be able to return to the safety of 2019.

I believe in progress. If I had the choice to stay in the safety of 2019 (where I know exactly what’s going to happen for the entire year, and I know exactly how I’m going to survive it), then I would never progress towards anything. Only in the unknown does anything happen. So 2020 should be good for me – it’s just the right dose of probable events and the unknown to keep me going forward.

I know I’ll graduate in 2020. I know I’ll start college in 2020. But those nitty gritty details – all those people I’ll meet, all the different ways I’ll find to embarrass myself, all the accomplishments I’ll reach – those are just as unknown as the edges of space.

Approach 2020 like a book. Be excited to reach the end, but take your time to understand every word that builds the story. Prepare for wild plot twists and perhaps a few emotional roller coasters. Watch out for the villain and make sure they don’t catch you. And by December 31st, 2020, you’ll have survived another year.

The only catch is that you become so fond of 2020 that you aren’t prepared to let it go. But I think, if any of us are so fond of 2020 that we’d rather skip 2021, we can count 2020 as a success.

I rarely find books I hate. I think out of the hundreds of books I’ve read, I can count on one hand the books I hated with every fiber of my being. And even those books had slivers of redeeming qualities sprinkled throughout.

Whatever occurs in 2020 – whether it’s one of your favorite chapters or your worst – there’s a slim chance it’s going to turn out to be the most dreadful, agonizing experience of all time. Just like most books, it can’t be that bad.

Most people like to talk about hope, or productivity, or happiness for the new year. But let’s be honest. All the years kind of merge together into our brains anyways. Chances are, we’ll give up on our goals. We won’t be happy all the time in 2020.

But 2020 is much like 2019. It’s going to happen. New opportunities will arise. A few problems will be struck down for good. Changes will occur. And it’s more than likely going to be one of the best books you’ve ever read (until the next year, of course).

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