By Zafra Usman
There’s something about the ending of a year that sparks a hint of desperation. A coordinated desire to distill joy out of a series of days. A willful attempt meant to reflect back on 365 days of scrambling to pursue the ultimate human endeavor; to live. To live so effervescently that you forget about the act itself.
Day 1 of 2019, I was wondering if I should post a New Years post on my Instagram, play the charade and pretend I didn’t forget it was New Years until I heard the fireworks at midnight.
Not for a lack of trying, New Years has never been a celebration I have incurred special time for. I have never felt the need for New Years resolutions nor have I ever considered sticking to them longer than the five minutes it takes me to think up a few. Something about the race to midnight and the vigor of joy in the rigidity of time felt contradictory to me.
Every social holiday has an arguably pretentious mascot, Christmas has Santa, Valentines has Cupid, Ramadan has its moon (and occasional lantern). New Years has a mascot too, one that – arguably – undermines its very existence: Time.
Time is regarded in the same way a child regards ‘love’. It’s abstract in the way gravity is abstract; in that, it exists and is proven, but a philosophical, undergrad student could distil it right out of your minds with enough patience and coffee.
But without the definitions of time, the human mind would scramble to function efficiently. The limitations of day and night, tomorrow and today, keep a precarious balance in the human equation; they instill the unfailing capability of individuals to persevere. If I can’t do four circuits of my workout today, I always have tomorrow; if I can’t master French in one month, I always have months more to keep trying; if I can’t call him by 4pm, I always have later tonight.
Day 185 of 2019 and I slept in on my birthday. Time slips away when you’re faced with an adversary as determined as sleep.
One of my favorite songs is ‘Time after Time’ by Cyndi Lauper, it has the sort of candid melancholy that late 00s songs excelled at. “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me, Time after time”; to imply ‘time’ as the subject rather than its units is something that has never been lost to me and I have – ever since – employed its use when time has felt too sharp around the edges.
To declare ‘time after’ is to insinuate time before.
As a race, we are proud but critical; honing our children to prepare for a merciless world, teaching them the woes of wasting precious time. Woes that, if left unchecked, could smother a restless mind. Little do we pause to consider the substance of time and its capability to ensnare a curious mind, with the fervor of a fifteen year old fraught with FOMO, a curious mind all but desires a treasure trove of time vast enough to explore all manner of existence, and to define it and limit its very usage is the antagonist in many an artists’ sob-story.
Day 347 of 2019 is a blizzard of today with a half-hearted drizzle of tomorrow running through its dregs.
New Years is an ending, but it’s a beginning as well. We cling onto the last inches of 365 days of living, in the lead-up to another 365 or 366 of much the same. We recap on the best moments of one year, only to find all the ways to have a better one the next. And if time were not defined by seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months and years; New Years would just be the space between one breath and the next, it would pass us by without anyone the wiser of its crafted significance. Time before followed closely by Time after.