There’s a tendency at this time of year to act a little bizarre. In the space of 24 hours we leap from gorging on Lindor chocolate truffles while being chronically attached to the ‘play’ button on the TV remote, to deciding we are going to redefine our career, put a stop to the climate crisis and morph our bodies into something resembling Beyonce’s doppleganger.
It’s a pressure. Just last week, one of my friends called me to say her daughter had split with her boyfriend and hadn’t stopped crying all night, the dog had eaten a family bar of Cadbury’s and had been rushed to the vets, while her husband had announced his business was making radical redundancies. ‘It’s not fair,’ she wailed, ‘We’re only a few days into 2020. Happy new year!!!!!!’ I quietly reminded her that’s it’s only a date - good things and bad things can happen to us at any time. Just because it’s a new year, it doesn’t mean that magically everything is golden.
Even so, I am actually that woman who relishes this symbolic fresh start. I know, I know, I’ve just claimed that it’s a bit of a nonsense, but I love lists, and magazine stories which say, ’25 Reasons To Be Cheerful’ and guides that recommend what we should be watching, reading and listening to (see below). I am a sucker for the pristine pages of a new diary, and the hour or so I spend every January, filling in my noteworthy dates and upcoming events, provides me with such an intense level of pleasure it’s almost visceral. I asked my husband if he thought this behaviour meant I was ‘odd’. He assured me that there are plenty of other things that highlight my oddness, and if this gives me with such joy, then why knock it? And, there lies the rub.
If making plans, at whatever time of the year, is your thing, then go with it. But, if organising yourself according to a certain date gives you the heebie jeebies, then acknowledge this too. We’re all different, and there is no ‘next step’ that suits the majority. Perhaps the most important thing, here, is to have an element of clarity on your personal goals, which may be as loose as getting to the end of January without even noticing the time passing (that’s something for the schedule mongers like myself to think about).
Lucy Sheridan, who calls herself a Comparison Coach, encourages her clients to stop falling into the negative trap of comparing your achievements to others. She talks about having a core personal principle, a ‘compass word’, to help set you on the right path and guide your own decision-making. For example, a compass word might be ‘peace’ or ‘adventure’. And that will decide if you want to carve out more quiet time for yourself, or maybe you’re veering towards upping the excitement factor…
If there’s one thing we can all be certain of – even me – is that however much we might plan ahead, the unexpected is going to happen. That’s life. But what really helps us cope is the acceptance that a curve ball doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It is not something I find easy, and I have worked hard to ease up on my default setting, which is to attempt to micro manage everything.
As we move into a new year - and a new decade - rather than adhere to a set menu, there is much to be gained by embracing the surprises that inevitably come along. So, let’s unite in our desire to collectively move forward, while relishing the fact that we are different beasts who walk a unique path. And by embracing the everyday risks that are likely to come our way, we are truly fulfilling the potential to be exactly who we want. Surely that’s resolution enough.
And for those (like me) who relish a few recommendations for the year ahead, here are some of the highlights to look out for in 2020:
A Suitable Boy (BBC1)
An epic period drama that promises to glean a ton of attention, it’s a story set in post-partition India about one family’s quest to find ‘a suitable boy’ for their daughter.
Normal People (BBC3)
Sally Rooney’s novel about an on-going and unusual romance between two school friends stormed the literary world. This TV adaptation promises to be equally compelling.
This Is Going to Hurt (TBC)
The best-selling medical memoir by ex junior doctor, Adam Kay is laugh-out-loud stuff. After the TV version, you will never see the NHS in the same way again.
An adaptation of the David Nicholls’ novel about a couple and their difficult divorce - something the wife wants more than her husband.
The Personal History of David Copperfield (Jan)
A real hoot of a movie with Dev Patel as the lead man.
Directed by Armando Iannucci, who has already proved his satirical track record with In The Thick of It.
This South Korean movie won the Cannes Palme d’Or and looks at the complicated (and bizarre) web of family dynamics.
Uncut Gems (Jan)
Adam Sandler plays a gems dealer with a gambling addiction who is searching for the quick-fix way out. A lesson in ‘less is more’.
West Side Story (Dec)
The classic gets a new twist with direction from Steven Spielberg. It’s going to be glorious.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
A devastating tale of a mother and her eight-year-old son trying to escape a drugs cartel across the US-Mexico border.
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo and Jamie Chang
Translated from Korean, it has sold over a million copies in its native country. It tells the story of a stay-at-home mum who struggles with her lot in life.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
There has been much hype around this novel, which focuses on a 25-year-old black babysitter who gets accused of kidnapping her white toddler charge. Marketed as ‘a provocative page-turner’.
Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Shortlisted for the 2019 Costa Novel Award, this novel looks at mental health through the lens of a recently married young couple.
Dear Life: A Doctor’s Story of Love and Loss by Rachel Clarke
A tender memoir about the death of her father, and how to cope with life’s hurdles.
Sleeping with David Baddiel
All about sleep and the lack of it. A must for insomniacs.
Host Adrienne Herbert speaks to various innovators, coaches and creatives to reap an insight into their worlds.
Postcards from Midlife
Magazine editors, Lorraine Candy and Trish Halpin discuss the dilemmas that women face while navigating their midlife journeys.
Michael Clark (Barbican, London, June-Aug)
An exhibition of the maestro’s spectacular dance and choreography talent.
Picasso & Paper (Royal Academy, London, Jan-April)
Spanning a career of over 80 years and 300 glorious works on paper!
Andy Warhol (Tate Modern, London, March-Sept)
Iconic and ubiquitous, it’s a must-see.
Marina Abramovic (Royal Academy, London, Sept-Dec)
A retrospective of this impressive performance artist. Truly innovative.
Grace Jones (Southbank Centre, London, June)
Be a Slave to the Rhythm. Believe it or not, Ms Jones is 71, still astounding, and curating this summer’s Meltdown festival.
Billie Eilish (touring from July)
For a taster, watch her on YouTube singing to James Corden in his car. Completely mesmerising.
Sunday in the Park with George (Savoy, London, June-Sept)
Hollywood A-lister, Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Stephen Sondheim’s musical about the painter, Georges Seurat.
All of Us (National Theatre, London, March-May)
Starring the stand up comedian, Francesca Martinez, who has cerebral palsy, this promises to both entertain and enlighten.
Endgame (Old Vic, London, Jan-March)
Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Cummings together in Samuel Beckett’s revered play set after an apocalyptic disaster.