Well, we’re at the end of January, and I still haven’t published my planned new year post.

So let’s change that: Happy New Year!

Marking another transition

The last couple of years I’ve written about how I marked the transitions from 2021 to 2022 and from 2022 to 2023. The start of 2024 brought another such transition, and I marked it in much the same way.

I saw the final sunset of 2023:

The final sunset (Warracknabeal)
The darkness deepens (Warracknabeal)
Pointing forward to a new year (Warracknabeal)

Like last year, I watched an impressive fireworks display at midnight (though this time it was Sydney fireworks on YouTube rather than real life fireworks on a western Victorian beach).

This meant that, also like last year, I was in bed late but still wanted to try and see the first sunrise. And this time I was too far from the coast for the fog to disrupt that plan.

Approaching sunrise (Warracknabeal)

I started that morning to the song of magpies and the laughter of kookaburras. But the first animal I saw was one I think I’d last seen on the Isle of Man 7.5 years before.

I have plenty of rabbits near me, and my parents had talked about seeing hares, but I’d never seen one in Australia. Till now:

A hare (Warracknabeal)

The hare didn’t seem particularly concerned by my presence, but it did head off after a bit, allowing me to continue waiting for the sun to rise properly:

Getting there (Warracknabeal)
And there it is! (Warracknabeal)

It wasn’t just the sunrise, either: The light of the sun was also reflected off a nearly full moon:

The moon! (Warracknabeal)

So I’m not sure what that hare was trying to tell me. Perhaps its a sign that 2024 will contain new and unexpected encounters. Or perhaps it was just a hare doing its own thing without caring too much about me.

In the month since that first sunrise, I’ve seen another 20 sunsets. No more sunrises yet, but I’m sure they will come. After all, last year my first sunrise (well, the first non-foggy sunrise) was mid-March, but that didn’t stop me from ending up with 12, and some great memories with them. This year, I certainly hope to see more sunrises and more interesting birds and animals, though I don’t know where or when.

What’s so special about January 1?

Culturally, we treat a new year as a clear and important boundary. A time for remembering the year that has gone before, and looking forward to the year ahead. And that can be useful.

It’s a time for New Years’ Resolutions (though we’re meant to know that those resolutions won’t actually happen…). Perhaps it can even be a time for starting again. And yet, to me I could see clearly that I was the same person the morning of 1 January as I was the evening of 31 December. I don’t really expect to reinvent my life, and I’m not sure I should.

The truth is that I made changes throughout 2023. Not necessarily big ones, but some of them were significant. If there’s something that’s important enough to me, I won’t wait till the next 1 January comes round: I’ll do it now. And if there’s something I can put off to 1 January, I’m probably going to put it off longer than that. Perhaps until something changes which makes it more urgent or more important to me. Perhaps forever.

I do find a new year a helpful time for thinking about things I might want to do, and where I might want to take my life. Not as New Year’s Resolutions, or as a set-in-stone schedule for a busy year. But as ideas. As dreams. And as goals: Goals with power. It’s not that I’m tied to those goals, like it or not: Just that having them written down makes me more likely to act on those things rather than being more likely to take the path of least resistance.

And yet, I also find that the arbitrary boundaries have their own downsides. At the end of July last year, I was starting to worry about whether I’d achieve everything I wanted to achieve in 2023. That felt way too soon, but I guess my mind was going “OK, now that it’s clearly more than halfway through - what have you actually achieved this year?” And by November or December I was more likely to respond to things I was procrastinating on with “I’ll handle it in 2024”. Whatever it was, I wasn’t going to complete it in 2023, so why even bother starting? (unsurprisingly, perhaps, we’re now a month into 2024 and I don’t think I’ve completed any of those things. I’m not sure I’ve even started any of them).

At the start of the year, I saw some people talking about their hopes for 2024, and others talking about their fears. Some thought they’d be able to thrive in 2024, while for others, it’s all about surviving. For me, it really is a continuation of who I was in 2023. The year will surely contain both unexpected joys and unexpected sorrows. And whatever those happen to look like, I hope to be ready to deal with them.

2024 isn’t somehow going to be “my year”. It’s not going to be the year I magically fix everything I don’t like about myself, or become a completely new person. But I expect (and hope, and plan for) it to contain a lot of things that I enjoy, and a lot of things that I like about myself. And those things don’t change from year to year. Or at least - they do, but as a gradual thing, not as a “I’m retiring Jon 23.0 on the 31 December, and you’ll see the all-new Jon 24.0 in action 1 January”.

The year will contain things that I should do (and I’m not sure how many of those I’ll actually do). It will contain things that I could do (and perhaps I will, perhaps I won’t). It will also contain many things that I want to do. I won’t get to all of those (life is too short), but it seems much more likely that I’ll get those done, even if it comes at the expense of those things I should do (for some value of “should”).

So how has the year been so far?

I knew at the start of the year I’d soon be saying “How did we get to the end of January?” - and now I am. We are actually 8.5% of the way through the year 2024. Soon enough, it’ll be “How did we get a quarter of the way through the year already?”, then “How did we get halfway through the year?”, and before too long “How is it so close to Christmas already?” Time will pass, whether I like it or not.

So there it is: We’re a month in, and I haven’t left Victoria. Just like I didn’t for most of 2023. Instead, I’ve worked week-days, and taken advantage of the long evenings to go exploring after hours and on weekends.

I’ve been to museums and discovered new street art. I’ve wandered along the Yarra and through the Dandenong Ranges. I’ve seen (and photographed) birds I don’t remember seeing before, as well as ones that feel like old friends. I’ve walked through a maze, and seen an impressive fireworks display. I’ve visited the largest display of water flowers in Australia, and the largest model train set in the Southern Hemisphere (both less than an hour from my house).

I went to a concert with Neil Gaiman and the FourPlay Quartet launching their album together (and yes, Neil does read just as beautifully as everyone says he does).

Sure, some of the things I’ve done have been different from the things I did in January 2023. But I think just about any of the activities are things I could see myself doing in January 2023.

Hoping for another good year

I saw this message in a shop window the other day:

Good Year Ahead (Victoria Gardens)

And that’s really what I want (and plan for): Not a year that’s perfect, or a year that’s completely free of pain and sorrow, or the best year that I’ve ever had. Just a good year. Like 2023 and 2022 were, at least for me, in their very different ways.

To the other 91.5% of 2024!