A year of significance,

published at 3:11pm on 11/24/06

I recently had a birthday, and because my birthday falls towards the end of the year, I tend to equate an entire calendar year to a single year of my life, those two months not withstanding. I mean really, December, in general, is a complete wash, right? No work happens in the second half of the month, and the entire first half of the month is spent thinking about how it’s going to be so nice when nothing is happening in the second half. That leaves the rest of November which, arguably, is a full month, complete with the onslaught of the Northeast’s wintertime jollies, which for the most part just leave me cold and angry at myself for not having bought myself a winter coat. I’ve lived in this part of the country my entire life and the last time I had a winter coat was when my mother bought me one when I was 10.

So now that my birthday has come and gone, I can say with certainty that I am looking forward to this next year of my life. The official end of my twenties is finally here, we are about to tick into a new calendar year, and I can look back and say that my decision to write off almost all of 2006 is probably not entirely unfounded.

At the beginning of this year, I wrote that I wanted 2006 to be a year of significance. Turns out that 2006 was also the year of breakups for me and for seemingly everyone else that I know. Besides the half-dozen or so long-term dating relationships that came apart this year that I heard about (“oh me? Yeah, my boyfriend and I just broke up. What? Oh, six years…”), this was also the year of at least one divorce in my circle as well as a business relationship that just unraveled. More than any other year in recent memory, this one seemed like a year when everything was falling apart, and very little seemed to be coming together. And I, of course, have a theory about this.

We operate on four year cycles. High school is scheduled to last for four year, as is college. Insert your own four year cycle now as I don’t really have any other examples (the Olympics? World Cup?). And I believe I read somewhere that humans do operate, biologically, on a four year cycle, but that’s entirely a lot of bullshit.

The important thing to remember is that four years ago, we were in the middle of 2002. Now 2002 was a funny year. We were all (and I mean, all) coming out of the trauma of 9/11 and the world seemed like a remarkably different place. In 2002, I posit that everything got stuck in time. We, especially the we of the twenty- and thirty- somethings, decided that it was much safer to hole up in our environments as they were at that exact moment in time – say, early to mid-2002 – and just hang out there for a little while. In a relationship? Wonderful! It is safe and it is not going to fall down on you like a big building or a bag of Anthrax. Safety and security trumped everything, and we locked ourselves into our lives.

If that doesn’t float your boat, think about the economic climate of the world (and specifically of the US) at the time. 2002 saw us at the end of the first dotcom bubble, watching businesses implode, watching paper fortunes evaporate and watching jobs vanish. The last startup I worked at was in 2000. In 2001 the last companies in that first wave were just burning through the rest of their seed money and everyone was saying that it was time to grow up, to cut your hair, to get a real job, and leave the business of business to the big boys. And again, everyone locked themselves down with their collective noses to the grindstone and got to work.

Fast forward four years. We are now, four years later, just emerging from our cocoons. The first thing to note is that the calendar made a jump in 2006 to the latter part of the decade. Remember that the early part of any decade is really a continuation of the previous one. Remember the 80s? They really happened in the early part of the 90s. So everything leading up to, say, 2005, was really just a transition out of the late 1990s. Assuming that 2005 was sort of a limbo year for everyone, 2006 is the first time that you can imagine that the end of the decade is actually approaching. Where I live, right near the university, there are students, children, walking around with class of 2010 t-shirts. There is all of a sudden the realization that if I don’t get my act in gear, the thing that I am working on now (that novel, that degree, that start-up company) take any significant period of time, they could bring me into the next decade. Decade. That’s 10 years of my life, missing, gone.

So we sit here in 2006 with this wakeup call that we have just passed the cusp of the middle of the decade are are rapidly running out of time. And all of a sudden people start emerging from the shells that they started building up in 2002 when they were afraid of change. When they were craving safety. And all of those relationships that were formed in the aftermath of tragedy are finally being evaluated on their own merits and in the context of a much longer period of time (“the rest of my life”) rather than in the immediate context of “I really hope I don’t die tomorrow.” And many of those relationships that had their foundations set in that time of uncertainty found that they couldn’t survive outside of that world. People feel free to evaluate their personal relationships for what they are. People feel free to evaluate their professional relationships and are determining why, exactly, they are doing what they are doing. Is it any surprise that 2006 saw the coming of the second Internet bubble? Everyone is finally waking up to their situations and realizing that if they want to move their lives forward, they’d better do it now before the calendar flips again and we find ourselves in the 20-teens.

How significant was this year for you?

Filed under: Observations, Personal

At 7:09 pm on 11.24.06, Freddie O'Connell said,

This year was much less significant than I had anticipated, but a whole lot more volatile. What’s with that? I know you offer your hypothesis, here, but I wonder if that can explain it.

For the first time since right out of college, 2006 witnessed the biggest mass relocation among my social network of any year since my high school friends all headed off to college.

I also got squeezed out of the company I co-founded as the year began tipping toward its end and just as my 30th birthday approached. So cap that with my inability to accomplish anything discrete (as opposed to continuous, where I seem to thrive), and the year doesn’t personally have a lot of significance.

At 8:44 pm on 11.24.06, Danielle said,

Hmmmm. As a member of the 2006 breakup and nearing-the-zero crews, first I’d like to say: 2010? Dear fucking God.

Every year feels significant. Seriously. It’s faintly ridiculous. So your theory doesn’t hold for me, but the only safe things I’ve chosen since 2002 are (a) staying in Boston and (b) not quitting the day job. Still: Have I played it too safe?

I won’t go on rambling here. I’m at the point in Thanksgiving weekend where you start wondering if a stork left you on the doorstep.

My friend Joe’s favorite Beckett quote: “I can’t go on. [pause] I’ll go on.”

At 2:36 am on 12.13.06, castelle said,


At 9:12 pm on 01.04.07, Katie said,

I never made an association with the whole four-year thing, but 2006 was for certain a moving forward year for me, especially in the realm of getting out of the house and not being afraid anymore.

I also had my first married crush. How come nobody ever tells you about those?

Leave a Reply: