Shreya Sen-Handley | At the end of this year, hit refresh

The Asian Age.  | Shreya Sen-Handley

Opinion, Columnists

In the year’s dying days, let’s celebrate the life we’ve shaped. Commemorate the things we got right, and discount our mistakes

What say we take a leaf out of the blissfully ignorant book of the most average Joe of all, Joey Tribbiani? (Photo By Arrangement)

“So this is Christmas

And what have you done?

Another year over…”

Beautiful, pertinent song though it is, after a year of judging myself harshly (yet again), I don’t feel I want to answer to anyone else (not even John Lennon). Personally it’s been a contented, accomplished year, but I feel a miserable failure when it comes to the account we’ve given of ourselves as humans.

In 2022, the poor became poorer, bigotry and the mistreatment of the marginalised went into overdrive, ignorance, apathy, and cult-mentality thrived, wars not only continued unabated but new ones were ignited where millions died, and the destruction of our glorious planet escalated, with the powerful lining their pockets as they watched it burn from the sidelines.

On the other hand, many of us average Joes did want to make a difference. We’d resolved to help the world at the start of the year, and intermittently, we tried. We donated, recycled, protested, and shed many a tear.

The truth, however, about us everyday folk, is that we can get waylaid despite our best intentions. Our daily struggles with physical and mental illnesses, heartbreak, grief, and financial constraints, interfered with our sincere goal of saving our world.

And sometimes, the world’s problems seemed too large and impossible to solve. We were overwhelmed and almost gave up. But on better days, when we felt more in control, we kicked ourselves for not having done more. And another year whizzed by… sigh.

But our tendency to self-flagellate, especially as we evaluate the year that’s spent, could very well be why we never pick ourselves up enough to effect the improvements we craved. If we can’t be gentler on ourselves, can we be gentler to the planet?

For me, the one positive of the pandemic was the time-out, away from our turbulent everyday existence, that it allowed. With it came the gift of a sliver of perspective that I’ve clung to ever since. With a few things such as my writing, with which I’m consistently diligent, I now know when to stop, when to walk away, and when to hit refresh. Learning to do this has been key to my new contentment.

Of course, I’m not arguing for the abandonment of our responsibilities towards the world for any length of time, quite the opposite. But for this last week of the year, I reckon we should declare a total amnesty towards ourselves and our perceived sins, and relax or revel, or both if we please.

What say we take a leaf out of the blissfully ignorant book of the most average Joe of all, Joey Tribbiani? In this winding-down week, we couldn’t ask for a better Friend, philosopher and guide, or amore life-affirming three-point plan than his catchphrase “How you doin”.

1) How: ‘Hello’ for the Chinese (‘Ni hao’) and Native Americans (according to Hollywood), it’s a smoke signal to let bygones be bygones and begin anew. Embrace all that comes your way in this new year, or as any Bengali worth his ‘noon’ will tell you, whatever life may lob at you “how-how kore kheye niyo”! The poet Tennyson, less intellectual than Joey perchance, also exhorted us to “drink life to the lees”. How else will we have the juice to spruce the world up around us? Well, how now brown cow!

2) You: How ‘bout making it all about you this once? A trite philosophy when touted on social media – self-love, self-partnering, conscious uncoupling, yada yada – but if, unlike at these hot-air hungamas, it wasn’t about trigger-finger ‘likes’ and mass validation (the massier the better),it could be a genuine pick-me-up, right? Slink away from the herd this last week and find yourself a little peace (and a little piece of yourself in the process). Besides, you is more than just solitude; it’s everything you are and can be. Like upbeat, unique, upstanding, undaunted, and unparalleled (if only to your closest friends, but that’s fab, innit?)

3) Doin': Now it might sound like doin’ is exactly what we want to avoid at this festive time; resolute action over words, great deeds over mere good intentions, honest self-care over selfie-carnivals. But using Joey-sense it signifies only this; that every attempt you made to help others this year was worth its weight in year-end treats. As our guru of the good times once declared, “havin’ and holdin’, givin’ and sharin’, doin’ and dreamin”, all of which you did, add up to spiffing feats. So, keep at it (next year, that is).

That you aren’t denying the sorry state of the world, and you’re moved to work for change, are sure  signs you’ll find the zip-zap-zoom to act upon them. But in the year’s dying days, let’s celebrate the life we’ve shaped. Commemorate the things we got right, and discount our mistakes.

Whilst we can’t and shouldn’t forget the horrors of 2022, or our growing socio-economic and environmental problems, in this concluding week we ought to “take it easy” as the Eagles maintained (and Big Birds know best). Quaff that lulling tipple, eat some sinfully scrumptious cake, nap at odd hours, gleefully open presents (recycle, recycle, recycle as well). Most of all, take pleasure in the company you keep, including your own.

To blithely misquote Tennyson once again, for one week only it’s “ours not to reason why, ours but to drink and dine”.