2022 – A Word For The Year
I know that everyone’s inboxes and social media feeds get a bit flooded with New Year-themed blogs and end-of-year roundups around this time, so apologies for sending another one, but I took a couple of weeks away from this newsletter over Christmas and thought New Year’s Day was a good opportunity to check back in with you all and share some thoughts. How are you all doing? Did you have good Christmases? I hope everybody’s doing well.
For about five years I used to write a two-part New Year’s blog every year in which I set specific work goals or targets for the year to come, and looked back on the previous year’s goals or targets to see how I did at them. It was mostly just an exercise in giving myself some sort of public accountability to help me follow through on the projects and ideas and intentions that mattered to me, but after five years, a combination of a global pandemic and a Pixar movie made me decide that specific goal-oriented thinking around the New Year is an unhelpful way of structuring your life and your time and your energy – you can read the final one of those blogs here.
These days, I’ve borrowed an approach that my girlfriend Miranda and her family use, which is to choose a word for the year to come and to try to live that year according to the implications and associations of that word. Miranda’s word for 2020 was “Courage,” and apparently if she had chosen a different word we would never have met. My word for 2021 was “Appreciate,” and that choice had a lot to do with my letting go of goal-oriented thinking. As I’ve talked about in this newsletter a few times, I have a habit of measuring my time by the things I get done, and to put a lot of mental energy into wondering what’s coming next. I’m always telling myself to do as much as possible now so that it can help bring me more stuff that I can do in the future. Choosing “Appreciate” was a conscious effort to get better at tuning out from that mindset and tuning more into how my life felt minute by minute and day by day, to sit in it and acknowledge what I had, and to be happy and proud of that. To borrow Philippa Perry’s excellent ideas on the four modes of human existence, I wanted to move the focus of my life away from my habitual preoccupation with doing and towards the more neglected modes of being, thinking and feeling. I think it opened the door to a very different sort of year to the ones I’m used to – I have come out of it feeling calmer, happier, prouder, but I do regret not having been more active in some regards. I wish I’d gone on more adventures this year, but I’m proud of the growth I managed to do in myself thanks to choosing this word.
This is just a picture of a deer I met just before Christmas, just to break things up a bit.
My word for 2022 is “Dedicate.” I’m hoping this word will show me the way back towards being more active in the choices I make and the things I pursue over the year, while still holding onto my decision from last year to not just chase after busy-ness for the sake of busy-ness. I have a habit in my work to have an idea, and then to get that idea down and out in some form – as a sketch, as a script, as a live bit, as a short film, whatever – and for it to be good enough for me to get it done and to learn the lessons that come from having done it, but not necessarily for it to be good enough for me to really take pride in it. To this day, I think I’ve made two pieces of work I still feel genuinely, unabashedly proud of when I look back on them, and they were my 2019 show and my radio special. Both of them were projects where I didn’t just content myself with getting something to be just about good enough and then going “That’ll do,” but where I sat with the idea for longer and said “What if this wasn’t done? What if I worked harder? What more can I do with this to make it stand out?” Dedicating yourself to your work produces better results. For me, “Dedicate” is about a return to being busy, to being active, to being productive, but a promise to myself to sit with an idea for longer, to not chase after the easiest route to completion, to do that little bit more. But I like it as a word because it’s not exclusively work-related, and it’s a principle I can apply across my life – I can dedicate myself more to my friendships and relationships, to my family, to my free time, to travel, to whatever I want. But with all of it, I want to live this year responding to the prompt “What if I dedicated my whole heart to this?” I’m excited to see where the word takes me!
What about you guys? Do any of you already do something like this with the New Year? Or do you go down the more traditional, goal-oriented Resolutions route? What were your highlights of 2021? What are your big plans for 2022? I’d love to hear from you all! I’ll send another Tape next week with more specific details of what I’m up to this year, for those of you who’d like to know where you can follow what I’m working on, but for now, I’d love to hear from you all! I hope you all had great Christmases and New Year’s.
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – No idea, been trying my best not to think about it, it’s been Christmas.
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – Hugh Grant’s performance in Death To 2021 is the performance of the year, even if it is a carbon copy of Sam Nicoresti’s performance as Dr. Lincoln Subwoofer in the Weirdos Hallowe’en show (pretty sure this is a coincidence, don’t think I spotted Hugh in the audience).
Book Of The Week – Just started The Denial Of Death by Ernest Becker and it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s about the idea that humankind is defined by its dual nature as simultaneously an immortal symbolic creature and a mortal animal creature, so we all dedicate ourselves to symbolic “immortality projects” dictated by the values of our culture in order to deny our awareness of our own death. There’s also loads of stuff about farts in it, which is great news for my new show, because I was worried the sheer amount of fart gags in it meant it lacked philosophical weight, but clearly this is territory where I should back myself.
Album Of The Week – Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins by Sparks. I’ve never got properly into Sparks before because I didn’t love their landmark album Kimono My House, but Edgar Wright’s film The Sparks Brothers made me delve a bit deeper, and it turns out I love their later stuff. This album was a mid-90s resurgence of sorts, and includes the great “When Do I Get To Sing “My Way?”” on it.
Film Of The Week – Really loved Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story. Go see it, it needs your support because it’s not doing too great because it doesn’t have Spider-Man in it (but boy, there’s an idea).
Thanks for reading! I’ll be back to regular weekly emails on Thursdays starting this week, so take care of yourselves in the meantime and see you all soon,
PS Here’s me pretending to be a nutcracker.