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Shell Shocked: The old year gives advice to the New Year

By Staff | Jan 13, 2016

Old man 2015 is on the way out and little, newborn 2016 is exercising its vast lung capacity in advance to get a beat on the New Year. The little feller is hungry for advice and won’t leave the side of the now ancient 2015.

“What can I learn from you, old timer?” asked the new year of the old one. “And why do we years need to start by wearing a diaper and ending with one also?”

“Whoa, little feller,” said 2015 while trying to catch his breath. “I’ll tell you everything I know, but let me sit down first. I’m just one year old and already I feel so ancient. I’m old and tired, but yet content and satisfied. A lot of time passed under my watch. And yet it’s only one year. Why are you so full of energy and excitement while I can now only look back and ponder?”

The little feller, 2016, was indeed excited. He was going to make his grand entrance onto the world stage in no time at all. He sat by the old guy’s knee hoping to learn from his trials and errors, his successes and mistakes and his expectations and surprises.

2015 sighed and said, “The first responsibility you have is to make sure the world stays reasonably intact under your watch. We have an unofficial pact with Mother Nature not to do any crazy things these next 365 days. If she does you will be old before your time.

“Be nice to Mother Nature and she’ll be nice to you. She’s very unpredictable, as you will learn, so don’t aggravate her. Let’s avoid natural disasters under your watch, okay? No tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornados, mudslides, forest fires well, you get it.

“And it would be great if you had more success with the world economy than I had. My year, 2015, will be remembered for terrorism, floods, earthquakes, Justin Bieber, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. But, you have to remember, when I was your age, at the beginning of January, I also sat by the knee of old man 2014 and he told me the same thing. Things did get better under my watch, but there’s much room for improvement.”

2015 sighed deeply at the thought while 2016 was taking furious notes. He glanced at the little one and remembered how much energy he had when he was a baby back at the beginning of last January. He knew that he didn’t control events that evolved during his 12 months. All he could do was to make sure that the passage of time flowed smoothly and that after every sunset came night, and that after night came sunrise and another day.

2015’s job was to make sure that there were 12 months and 24-hours a day. Was it his fault that as early as March he felt so old and wondered if he could make it to the end of December? But these were his thoughts and he didn’t say them aloud to the eager and very young 2016.

But he did say, “Your job is to create hope and enthusiasm for your year, little one. Get them going in the right direction. Build their dreams and their hopes early on. On Jan. 1, when I have breathed my last and am already part of ancient history, you must make them think that there’s nothing they can’t do if they really want something. The slate of last year is wiped clean and you will preside over a new and mighty year. Let your youth prevail and sweep them up with optimism of historic proportions.”

The newborn year had so much energy that he couldn’t sit still. He began to pace quickly in wild anticipation of his actual birthday on Jan. 1 while old 2015 merely watched him in amusement. He thought to himself that’s what I also did 12 months ago. He was amazed at how old he got in only 365 days and no leap year day to boot in 2015. He thought of how lucky the 2016 baby will be because of that extra day that year.

2015 began to think about his legacy. How would he be remembered? Did he leave a strong impression, or was 2015 just a so so year? He decided to leave that question to historians and focused instead on joining the spirits of past years in their great calendar in the sky to debate the merits of events during their watch.

2016 gazed at the elder year and tried to bring him out of his reverie. “But if I have no control over events, or even Mother Nature then what is my greatest contribution? When I look back at the end of 2016 what should I be focusing on to learn if my year is a great one or a poor one?”

So it’s wisdom the little guy is seeking, thought 2015. Well, I’ll give him some. Heck, I asked the same questions of 2014 when I was sitting at his knee.

“Yes, you don’t control events or Mother Nature. But you can get people to understand the importance of time – how to use it and value it. You’re a custodian, not an implementer. All you can do is give them 24-hours a day for 12 months and it’s up to them what they do with it. Remember, that’s your only job, but a very important one. Time does go quickly, heck, I’m only a year old, but feel so ancient. Yes, they call me Father Time, but I wasn’t aware 12 months ago that Father Time could have arthritis in all his joints. You are now Father Time, even though you’re a baby.

“But as humans know, time passes all too quickly. Humans greet us every New Year’s day and love us as they love their own children. For on that first day of the year, we’re children, too. So let’s not disappoint. Remember this sobering thought. At the end of March, you will already have lived 25 percent of your life.”

2016 stopped pacing. “Does it really go that quickly? In three months I will go from newborn to 25 percent of my life? “

“Yes, said 2015, “You will go from New Year baby to Uncle Time and finally to Father Time. By September, you will be old and wise and will become a lame duck year by November. By December, the arthritis will set in, you will no longer shave your long beard, your hair will be fully white and you will be coming to the end.

“Tell them not to waste what you and I have given them. Tell them to love each other, help each other and stay connected. If you do that then maybe, just maybe, the world will be a better place.”

With that old man 2015 heaved another deep sigh, handed the baton to the little guy and began to trudge off.

-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.