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Embracing 2020 and pondering ways to make it a happier and more peaceful year

by David Schmidt 31 Dec 2019 08:00 PST December 31, 2019
Puget Sound on a rare sunny winter morning, as seen from Sunset Hill Park © Coreen Schmidt

The start of a new year can be defined in a lot of ways. As an elementary-school student, I was always a bit puzzled by the discrepancy between the adult-world calendar and that of the school year. Granted, I was especially fixated on June's arrival (read: the end of regular school and the start of junior sailing lessons) as the end of one year, while September spelled the start of a new year at school, but I couldn't help noticing that my parents looked to January 1 as the start of their next year.

While it's easy to chalk this innocence up as the byproduct of believing that one is entitled to a three-month summer hiatus to sail and generally mess around in boats with one's friends, it's also easy to ponder the end of the year in different, albeit also-adult, ways.

For example, growing up in Connecticut meant that boating was an activity that was defined by the seasons. In May and June, boats repopulated harbors and anchorages, while November's arrival spelled a return to the hard, at least until spring.

My internal calendar was spun again when my wife and I moved from Boston, Massachusetts, where she was a graduate student and where I was a desk editor at a sailing magazine, to our present home in Seattle. I quickly learned that summertime might spell blue skies and dry weather in the Pacific Northwest, but it also typically spells the arrival of big, wind-robbing high-pressure systems. Stranger still, Seattle's big-boat racing calendar generally focuses on the dark and rainy months, as these tend to include the most important ingredient for sailboat racing.

(Even more disorientating was moving to a place with mountains and bodies of water in almost all directions, but we'll save that as fodder for a different conversation.)

And then there's the temptation to mark the years by ski seasons, which further flings any sense of New Year's orientation out the window, but along the way I realized a lesson that I suspect most people already know. Namely, that it's irrelevant what day (or days) marks the end of the old and the start of the new.

Instead, what matters most involves taking a moment or two out of our busy lives to contemplate and appreciate all that unfurled in the last year (however that's defined), ponder what could have gone better, and formulate a game plan for how to do a little bit better next time.

So, as my years start to catch up with me, I've come to accept the intersection of December 31 and January 1 as the end of what's now old and the start of what's new. More importantly, I've also come to embrace this time of year as a chance to consider how to improve the things that are within my control to change, and to try and make peace with macro-level situations that must be left to another day to be rectified (say, Tuesday, November 3, 2020).

As a long-time dog owner, I've also come to appreciate the old saw about old hounds and new tricks, and I often feel the settling of sand within my own hourglass each December as I draft my New Year's resolutions, as they haven't evolved much in almost a decade. They always start with a promise to sail more, log less screen time, get published in at least two new publications, and visit at least one new country, and they quickly progress to ways that I can use my writing skills and capable hands to help the environment and try and make this experiment called civilization at least a little bit more sustainable.

But, to prove to myself and to Sail-World's faithful readership that I haven't become a calcified dinosaur (yet), I've added a new resolution for 2020: Talk to as many people as possible across as many cultural, economic and political divides as possible, while keeping my ears open and my mouth respectfully shut. After all, while sailing might allow us to create crews comprised of friends of similar ilk and mindsets, the real world is far more complex, and an open ear and a kind smile are time-honored skeleton keys that might - just maybe - help restore the world to more civil times.

I'll spare everyone more e-soapbox preaching, but I encourage all readers to take a few quiet minutes and ponder what they can do a bit better in 2020, while also celebrating last year's successes.

True, this world is not without its problems, but as the great poet and sage Robert Hunter (a sad casualty of 2019, I'm afraid) prophetically penned, "once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right."

Sail-World wishes all readers a happy, healthy and successful New Year, and we look forward to seeing you out on the racecourse... hopefully a lot more frequently than we did in 2019.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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