A new year has dawned. The ball dropped in Time’s Square, confetti fell in the streets, kids stayed up late, and just after midnight’s big countdown, the sounds of Auld Lang Syne can be heard somewhere in the world.
“Old long ago” is the song title’s literal meaning—a Scottish tribute to times gone by. It’s a fitting tune for this time of year; as we replace a finished calendar with a fresh one, we can hardly help but look back on the twelve months that have just passed.
Milestones like this have a way of stirring up mental rewinds in us, don’t they? Birthdays, anniversaries, and New Year’s Day—they make us reflect, re-think, regret, and, if we’re very fortunate, rejoice.
It’s amazing the perspective that comes when we take some time to look backwards. Decisions that seemed monumental a year ago can appear petty given what we know today. Moments that seemed insignificant once have come to define us.
People and places that were anonymous in times past are now shaping our lives on a daily basis. We are not where we used to be. We are not who we once were.
I’d bet that backwards thinking like this is what first inspired the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. As people reviewed the events of a year long gone, they were dissatisfied, and they vowed to do better the next time.
You know the drill. Your neighbor will get himself a gym membership, your sister will swear off sweets. Your coworker will start cleaning out her closets; your best friend will pick up Tae Kwon Do.
Your parents will begin taking photography classes, your uncle will start calling more, and your teenagers will ask why their New Year’s Resolution can’t be “skydiving.”
For about a week, people around you—maybe even you, yourself—will be seriously motivated. Then, as things go, life will get rolling again. People will get sore muscles and chocolate cravings. They’ll get tired of their activities, and they’ll find that new hobbies don’t squeeze in easily.
Isn’t that how it happens? Isn’t that how we are? We get caught up in moving forward, and we forget about the backward that got us moving in the first place.
I’ve been thinking lately about the time I’ve been allotted here on this planet. Statistics would suggest that, if I turn out to be normal, I’ll get seventy or so years of life. Just seventy years to look back on—man, I want them to be good ones.
At the end of all this, I’d like for my wife to say that I was a good man, that I treated her with love and respect. I’d like for my kids to say that they were happy to grow up in the Seaborn home.
I hope they’ll have cherished memories. I hope we all—them, her, me—will reflect with fondness on the life we shared. That’s the kind of thing I’m living for. That’s what I’m looking forward to.
But in order to live forward to that kind of life, I need to remember to look backward. I need to reflect on my mistakes and learn to change them. I need to recall my shortcomings and improve them.
I need to rejoice in good times and work to keep them going. I need to remember triumphs and celebrate them. I need to peek at the past as my feet plod out the present.
A new year has dawned. This is a day for goals, plans, and resolutions. But it should also be a day of remembering. We have a year to look back on, full of old moments and old memories and old mistakes.
If we’ll learn to look backward with the right perspective, our auld lang syne can propel us to live forward. To glimpse the fresh newness of today, a glance at yesterday is often all it takes.