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On Planning for an Uncertain Year

On Planning for an Uncertain Year

January is a weird time. Normally around this time, our collective NYE hangover ends and we get back to work, re-energized and excited to plan for the year ahead. For most of us, January is the month of valiant effort: a time to pick up a new hobby, make healthy eating choices, or ease up on some bad habits. Or, if you’re me, a time to fall back into the habits we swore to banish back in the days when the the promise of a new year made everything feel possible. My excuse is that I never actually get around to making New Year’s Resolutions until well into January, and my goldfish memory basically ensures that I tend to make my best reflecting on the past year about a month into the new one. Usually I blame the rush of the holidays. But this isn't exactly an ordinary January.

green notebook


There’s no getting around the fact that most of this year will be spent processing the collective trauma of the year that shall not be named (ok, 2020). It’s rare for a year to pass without it changing everyone in some way, but never before have we been so aware of the changes affecting everyone around us.The pandemic swept in like the world’s most destructive tsunami, leaving no stone unturned in its wake.

 Processing all this change, all while walking into the unknown of a new year, requires a certain amount of courage, and we all do this in our own ways. Personally, I am not counting this last year as my age. I just refuse. I don’t care what anyone says, if the most exciting thing I did all was watch a Korean soap opera, it does not count. I look forward to celebrating my second 28th birthday on March 31st 2021, and nobody can tell me otherwise!!


In times as confusing as ours it can seem silly, even pointless, to plan anything. Why bother, when so many things are changing? How do we know what to aim for when the goal posts keep changing? When I set about buying my annual planner, I had to ask myself if I was just wasting time and money on something completely pointless.

With a pandemic still raging on and vaccines approaching in the not-so-immediate future, who knows if we’ll even have events to plan for? Is it worth applying for that fellowship, or scrolling through that dating app, or even focusing your energies on a new hobby if we don’t know when the rug will be pulled from our feet next? How do we plan for a future we can’t envision?

tray and books

And yet time moves forward. The days get colder, trees shed their leaves, birthdays come and go (not for me, though!). We notice the changes more than we did before. The present is still very much with us. For a few days now I’ve started using the spaces in my planner where I’d write my to-do list to record my daily routine. Some days are simple (stretched, bought a coffee from La Colombe) some are more memorable (finished my first freelance project, bought a karaoke machine). I take pride in recording the little victories.

Recording our present reminds us that the steps we take now are the building blocks we will use to achieve our goals in the future. No day goes to waste, even if it feels the same as yesterday.

noritake jawn

We’re tough on ourselves when we fail to accomplish that New Year’s resolution, or when we miss out on that promotion, or when we see our friends succeed where we have failed. But we often forget that behind every failure there is a lot of forgotten hard work.

The outcome does not validate the effort. Just as noting our future goals can help set our intentions, recording our actions remind us that there is intention behind every small choice we make. That we are often doing enough, if not more, than we give ourselves credit for.


When it came time to pick my 2021 planner, I surprised myself and bought a monthly planner. Usually I prefer a weekly planner I can fill with to-do lists and reminders to pay my bills. But I don’t need so much planning. Now my planner is filled with neighborhood walks, favorite movies, and soup recipes. It looks like a record of my actual life, not the one I wish I were leading. There’s space, finally, to fill in with what I want more of in my life. If something keeps showing up, whether it’s a friend who always texts back or a song I can’t stop listening to, I know it’s worth keeping.

Except the bills. Those are still there. We can’t have everything.

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