I love the beginning of the year. There’s the newness and hopefulness of all the good intentions, goals and aspirations. You can see your life spread out in front of you, full of possibility. It’s a marker in time that reminds us to look backwards and reflect on the past, what went well and what maybe didn’t.
In 2001, I started a habit of writing an end-of-year summary about my past year. The habit started after my sister told me how our great-aunt, Kaki, did the same thing every year. We have a stack of Kaki’s writing, spanning from the year she got married in 1936 until the year she died in 1988.
I try to set aside a little time around the New Year to sit down and browse through them. It’s so comforting to have this piece of her. I can see what her life was like, long before I knew her, and it’s all in her own voice. I know some of the people she writes about, but most I never met. Her husband, Horace, died before I was born, but I feel close to them, and get a glimpse of what our family was like then.
It spans from the excitement of the first few years of their marriage, to the heartbreak of losing babies, and Horace’s time in the military during World War II. She details the many community, church and civic involvements she had, her travels, and family events. My sisters and I make appearances in later years. Like a little kid, I love flipping to 1979 and re-reading what she says about when I was born, the Christmases she spent with us and other events that included her great-nieces.
I like reading it from my perspective now as an adult compared to how I saw her when I was younger and remember her now. I can appreciate how involved she was in service to her community, and seeing that dedication is such an inspiration for me. That is why I like to read through these pages each year. When I read the stories of her life, I’m reminded of how I’m writing my own right now.
So I write about this past year and we all look ahead to the next, I try to remember how many stories have been written before us and how many stories will be written after us. There are stories of hope and inspiration, of loss and sadness, of family and gratitude. They are all splendid in their own right, but our own story – that is one we get to create.