The end of a year is a comforting time. When your calendar runs out of pages, when your vacation days refill themselves, when your magazine subscriptions renew, it is an excuse to take stock of everything. And when you are on a long uphill journey, a moment to look back on how far you’ve come can be a relief.
This moment, this brief feeling of accomplishment, is available to everyone. A year is 365 days, and in 365 days, it is impossible not to have come farther than you were at this point last year in some respect. Your hair will have gotten longer. You will have walked at least a few more miles. You will have experienced some things you have not experienced before. You will own some things you didn’t. You will have some friends you never had, or the friends you did have are closer - or more estranged, and good riddance to them. You fall asleep, you wake up, things happen, you do it again, 365 times. It is an easy achievement, living another year.
But a year is an arbitrary division of time. When you wake up on January 2nd, or on January 7th, or maybe even on February 1st, when it’s clear that your fiercely-made New Year’s resolutions will not keep, you’ll start to wonder if a year is really any kind of accomplishment at all. You are still unable to retire. You still live in the same apartment or house, and drive the same car to the same job. That promotion, that vacation, that goal is still out of your reach.
You start to feel differently about years. Years are not achievements. They are not gained, they do not accumulate. Years, though you don’t realize it, are spent. And everyone only gets a few.
Taking stock then, is a distraction from something that is far more difficult to think about. Wherever you want to go, and wherever you are going, the fact remains: you are not there yet.