New Year's Eve is always a bright and shining celebration, whether we're talking neon in New York's Times Square or a lap on cross-country skis beneath Antarctica's midnight sun. Actually, at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station — a collection of dormitories, laboratories, Quonset hut garages and massive telescopes hunched against drifting snow — the holiday is so relentlessly glittery you'd have to watch a ball drop through a pair of tinted goggles. That is, if there were a ball. As I found out a few winters ago, there's not.
There is instead a two-mile-thick ice cap upon which even extremophile bacteria can't survive and katabatic winds rushing over sastrugi wastelands. There are dozens of revving snowmobiles and more mugs of hot chocolate than a child's thirsty fantasy could absorb. There are 250 scientists and laborers from all across the globe, each in desperate need of a break from the never-ending workload that defines life in Antarctica.
And, on that note, there's one other thing: a crazy party. In the parlance of my high school days at Champlain Valley Union, we would call it "a friggin' rager."
I secured my passage to the Great White South — the bottom of the world — as any self-respecting Vermonter would: I took a job shoveling snow. Boy jeezum, talk about never ending. It was a four-month stint with the U.S. Antarctic Program, and only 10 of us were hired for this minimum-wage honor from more than a thousand applicants. My uncle, a pragmatic Yankee with an achy lumbar spine, laughed when he heard of my post-college career choice, saying, "That's what plows are for, aren't they?"
To which I responded, "Nah, it's what philosophy degrees are for, duh."
The endeavor was Sisyphean and then some: 60-hour weeks, physical exhaustion, a numbness of the toes that threatened to rise into my very brain cells. Nevertheless, I did find the occasional moment — mostly over meals of peas and sirloins in the galley — to pursue the intellectual topics that had drawn me to the Pole. My interest in Antarctica was environmental, sociological, anthropological. What's it like for humans to set up shop in the deadest place on Earth? How do the fierce elemental conditions permeate the community's social life? What stories do the members of this strange experiment share?
Antarctica is one huge exclamation mark, one huge superlative, anomalous in so many ways. According to the 53 signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty, established in 1959, the continent is reserved for the peaceful conduct of scientific research — no standing armies, no resource extraction, no ownership. In light of this wonderfully utopian, small-world-after-all nongovernment, I found myself repeatedly asking tablemates the same question: "Would you please pass the coffee, and, by the way, now that we're living together, I'm curious to know what holidays your culture and mine both observe?"
All agreed on the answer, whether offered by a Japanese dark-matter astrophysicist, a Swedish glaciologist-cum-surrealist poet or a Kiwi forklift operator with a staggeringly long and frosty beard: The world celebrates the countdown, the ticking clock, and big, fat drunken kiss. Gregorian calendar or not, the whole world celebrates New Year's Eve.
Sounds nice, right? But it gets tricky. Let's recall that the geographic South Pole is that spot on the globe where all lines of longitude converge — that pinprick in the frigid vastness that transcends the system of time zones superimposed on the physical reality of our planet.
Further complicating the search for an exact instant we might agree to label "January 1" is the pesky reality of high austral summer: 24-hour sunlight. Without paying close attention to your watch, which you would have last set in New Zealand, you might find the so-called New Year slipping by unnoticed, just another blinding white hour in the middle of a night that looks like day.
Polies are a resourceful and determined bunch, though, and mere metaphysical space-time confusion didn't stand in the way of our much-anticipated party. I drank a beer with Gus, the dogsledding Alaskan carpenter, and a wee dram of Irish whiskey with Terry, the depraved but kindhearted electrician's foreman. Then it was another beer with an Indian engineer whose name I didn't catch, then back to Terry, then to Jonas, then to Tomo and Laura and a woman I nicknamed Ice Panda Princess. After this, I made the decision to nip the binge drinking in the bud and head out for a solo ski.
Negative 30 degrees. A thousand miles of clean emptiness stretching in every direction. What better place to reflect on a year passed and a new one just beginning?
Well, it turned out that I didn't make it quite as far as I intended. Geared up and ready for solitude, for the ultimate blank slate and fresh start — "This year I resolve to up my compassion, boost my generosity and generally kick more ass!" — I skied over to the windowless tent salvaged from the Korean War that serves as the local dive bar and smoking lounge. Hoping to pat a few friends on the back, maybe knock down a quick shot of whatever was handy, I entered the hovel's cloudy, cancerous dimness. By 4 a.m., I was dancing shirtless in my Nordic boots.
When I finally extracted myself from the wreckage of that Antarctic bash, there was the sun, huge and constant as ever. With its unflinching Cyclopean glare, it seemed to accuse me of debauchery. I went for a half-hour ski, pushing hard into the sparkling nothingness, breathing heavily against my balaclava, trying to sweat out my sins. Sure, I fell over more than once, and, yeah, the track I laid was hardly straight. But somehow my personal messiness failed to mar the purity and perfection and beauty of the scene.
For a few vivid minutes, I felt myself a part of the polar clarity, a nameless snowflake, sibling to the infinite, child of the ice. Was it the booze at work? I'd like to think it was the place itself — Terra Antarctica, a far more primal and powerful substance to imbibe.
This year I'll usher in the New Year from the Northern Hemisphere, from good ol' Vermont, and, boy jeezum, there's no place I'd rather be. But that's not to say a part of me won't linger — won't always linger — in the frozen memories of a once-in-a-lifetime bacchanal at the bottom of the world.
So if you don't see me at First Night, shivering my butt alongside the Dancing Dragon Parade and the face-painted children, you'll know why. I'll be skiing laps in the snowy fields of Addison County, a rising moon filling in for my dropping mirror ball and midnight sun.
The idea isn't to re-create a past experience. It's to remember. To get out there in the wind, the same wind that rushes over the Pole and the entire world, the same wind that blows through all our years — past, present, future. To tip back a mini-bottle of something stiff. To salute the season and the cold. To recall that fleeting glimpse of limitless potential, of bright, shining openness, and keep on going forward, always forward into another lap.
And in case you were wondering: No, a hangover in Antarctica is not any different from one in Burlington or Rutland or Montpelier. This, too, is universal. We're in it together, friends.
The New Year stands before us like a fresh chapter in a book.
Once you’re done with your year-end reflection for the year that’s ending, it’s time to look forward to the year that’s about to start. What will you write for the next chapter of your life? It’s entirely up to you. Take the first step to make sure that it’s a great chapter by setting New Year’s resolutions.
You’ll find 29 ideas for your New Year’s resolutions, below.
1. Start a Meditation Practice.
There are scientific studies that show the many benefits of meditating. To name just a few, meditating helps to improve your mood, it reduces stress, it lessens anxiety, and it even increases your brain’s grey matter — which is involved in muscle control, sensory perception, decision making, and self-control. In addition, once you get the hang of it, meditating is easy to do.
2. Learn Something New Each Day.
Set the resolution to learn something new every day in order to have a better understanding of the world and how it works. Fortunately, the internet makes it incredibly easy to learn new things. Here are three sites you can try:
- Subscribe to Wikipedia’s Featured Article mailing list – you’ll receive an email each morning containing Wikipedia’s featured article for that day.
- Watch a CrashCourse video on YouTube. CrashCourse is an educational YouTube channel started by the Green brothers, Hank Green and John Green. Each video is about 15 minutes long and they cover subjects such as literature, biology, history, economics, and so on. The cherry on top is that the videos are fun to watch.
- Watch a TED Talk every morning while you eat breakfast. Here are the 20 Best Ted Talks to get you started.
3. Pick Up a Hobby.
Did you know that having a hobby is good for you? Hobbies can lower your stress levels, boost your brain power, improve your ability to focus, and more. Therefore, in 2018, start a new hobby. If you’re looking for ideas for hobbies to try, here are 16 Hobbies That Will Improve Your Quality of Life.
4. Play More.
Play is an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults. In addition, it can make you more creative and productive. Bring more play into your life by making it a New Year’s resolution.
In case it’s been so long since you allowed yourself to play that you’ve forgotten how, here are 10 Ways to Play More and Have More Fun As an Adult.
5. Eat Fewer Calories.
There are many reasons why most of us should set a resolution of eating fewer calories. The most obvious reason is to lose weight. After all, carrying excess weight puts us at a greater risk of a whole range of serious health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
With all of the contradictory information out there on what to eat, sometimes it’s hard to decide what to do when you want to lose weight. I try to keep things simple. When I want to lose weight, I just eat less. I recommend you do the same. If you gained weight in 2017, resolve to eat smaller portions in 2018.
In addition, as I wrote in my post 17 Ways to Slow Down Aging and Live Longer, people eating a restricted diet live longer and endure fewer age-related diseases. Try eating until you’re satisfied, instead of full. Also, eat more slowly to allow your body to send you cues about fullness.
Other reasons for eating less are ethical–that is, social justice, animal rights issues, and environmental concerns–but we won’t go into those here.
6. Write a Business Plan.
Make 2018 the year you stop thinking about starting a business and you start taking action –it’s OK if it’s a small business on the side. The first step to take is to write a business plan. Once you get your ideas down on paper, you’ll be that much more motivated to turn those ideas into reality.
7. Move More.
It doesn’t matter what you choose to do: join a sports team; get a pedometer and take at least 10,000 steps a day; get up every 20 minutes and stretch; or join a dance class. Just move! Living a sedentary life dumbs you down, it makes it more likely that you’ll be overweight, and it puts you at a higher risk of depression.
Think of the following quote from the movie “Madagascar“: “Move it nice and sweet and sassy, alright!”
8. Read More Books.
I’ll definitely be reading lots of books in 2018, and I encourage you to do the same. If you need some convincing on this one, here are 13 Ways Reading Will Improve Your Life. This year, I’m reading the 12 most important books of Russian literature.
In fact, I created a 365-Day project for reading Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”–which is a book of prodigious length (roughly 1300 pages long).
9. Be More Grateful.
If you haven’t climbed aboard the gratitude bandwagon yet, this is the year to do it. There are studies that show that gratitude can make you 25% happier. Think about that for a second: you can be 25% happier simply by taking the time to count your blessings and think of all the good things in you life!
Being grateful will also help you to overcome adversity, improve the quality of your sleep, and allow you to get along better with others. For next year, resolve to be more grateful. Here are some gratitude exercises to get you started.
10. Stop Procrastinating.
If you didn’t achieve your goals this year, procrastination was the likely culprit. Make 2018 the year you stop procrastinating and start getting things done. This will help you to ensure that you won’t be sitting there at the end of next year wondering why you never got around to working on your goals.
11. Set Aside On-Hour-A-Day to Achieve Your Dreams.
Stop telling yourself that you simply don’t have the time to work on your dreams. Whatever your dreams are–whether it’s to make more money so you can redecorate your home, learn to play an instrument, have a positive impact on the world, and so on–you can accomplish those dreams in just one-hour-a-day.
If you devote one-hour-a-day to achieving your most important dream in 2018, by the end of the year you’ll have devoted 365 hours to that dream. Not bad!
12. Spend More Time In Nature.
Humans were not made to be cooped up inside all day. Spending time in nature makes you happier, it boosts your immune system, and it even makes you more creative. Resolve that next year you’ll be spending more time outside (and just opening the windows more often doesn’t count).
13. Start Doing Planks Every Day.
Doing plank exercises every day is a great way to strengthen your core. This article on Lifehack will show you how to do a plank, and it also includes an easy five-minute plank routine you can try. (Doing planks every day is on my list of resolutions for 2018, by the way.)
14. Enjoy the Little Things.
Living life to the fullest doesn’t just mean setting big goals like going bungee jumping or learning to scuba dive. It also includes learning to enjoy the little things. That is, learning to appreciate life’s simple pleasures, such as the following:
- Going outside at night to look at the stars.
- Going to a pet shop to “ooh” and “aah” at the puppies and kittens.
- Walking barefoot in the grass.
If you want more ideas, here are 50 Simple Ways to Celebrate and Enjoy Life. Include as many of these as you can in your 2018 to-do list.
15. Become More Confident.
Confidence can be defined as your belief in your own abilities and in your capacity to get what you want. In turn, the importance of confidence cannot be overstated. Confident people are happier, more relaxed, more likely to take chances, and more likely to succeed.
Fortunately, there are ways to become more confident. These include giving yourself credit for what you do, cultivating your inner advocate, and taking consistent action toward the achievement of your goals. Make 2018 the year your confidence soars (but don’t get too cocky, because nobody likes that).
16. Be More Conscientious.
In addition to being confident, you need to be conscientious. In fact, research shows that conscientiousness is the personality trait that is most often linked to success. You can start by being more punctual, becoming more organized, and being more thoughtful of others. Become more conscientious in the year that is to come.
17. Increase Your Charisma.
Charisma isn’t just important in the political arena, but in all aspects of life. After all, let’s face it: charismatic people are more likely to get what they want. This includes everything from dates, to job promotions. Because charisma is a skill, and not a character trait, it can be learned. Make 2018 the year your charisma skyrockets.
18. Increase Your IQ.
As I wrote in my post, How to Make Yourself Smarter In One-Hour-A-Day, new studies show that, contrary to popular belief, you can make yourself smarter. So, for 2018, why not set the resolution to raise your IQ? Enhancing your brain’s capacity to plan, reason, and solve problems is always a good thing.
19. Increase Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ).
Daniel Goleman coined the term emotional intelligence in his 1996 bestselling book ,”Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”. In a nutshell, emotional intelligence is a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships.
Set the resolution to increase your EQ, along with your IQ, and in 2018 you’ll be unstoppable.
20. Learn a New Skill.
What have you always wanted to learn to do? Do you want to learn to play an instrument, code, knit, whittle? The possibilities are endless. Take advantage of all of the information that exists out there on how to learn new skills quickly and reach the end of 2018 with a couple of new skills under your belt.
21. Bring More Peace Into Your Life.
I think I can safely say that we all want more peace in our lives. And by this I mean more inner peace, contentment, and serenity. Resolve to bring more peace into your life in the year that’s about to begin by accepting what is, practicing non-judgement, and teaching your mind to become still.
22. Be Kinder to Yourself.
You may not be able to control how kind other people are to you, but you can always control how kind you are to yourself. This upcoming year, set the resolution to believe in yourself, respect yourself, and treat yourself well. As I wrote in my post, 17 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself, be a good companion to yourself.
In fact, take it even further. Make 2018 the year you fall in love with yourself.
23. Create a Positive Attitude.
Having a positive attitude opens your mind to new possibilities, it makes you more resilient, and it can even help you to live longer. Greet the New Year with a smile and resolve to stay positive, no matter what happens. Here are some tips and techniques that will help you.
24. Strengthen Your Personal Relationship.
Don’t make all of your resolutions career or fitness oriented. Include that special someone in your life in your resolutions. In addition, let them know what you’ll be doing: “Hey, honey, guess what? We’re strengthening our relationship this year!” Here are 18 ideas on what to do.
25. Tame Your Monkey Mind
Life isn’t easy when there’s a monkey in your head. Specially if that monkey won’t stop screeching and jumping uncontrollably from one branch to another (and eating all those bananas).
Make this the year you finally lasso that monkey and get it to sit still. How? Here are 10 Ways to Tame Your Monkey Mind and Stop Mental Chatter.
26. Keep a Journal
Journaling is a powerful life tool. It can help you to organize your thoughts, plan how to achieve your goals, and get in touch with your true feelings and wants. If you choose to add “Keep a Journal” to your New Year’s resolutions, here are two journaling techniques you can try.
27. Get Your Documents In Order.
There are certain documents that every adult should have. This includes things such as a will, a durable power of attorney, and a letter of instruction. If your documents aren’t in order, make it a New Year’s Resolution to get them ready in the coming year.
Plan a vacation. The world is a beautiful place, and there are many things to see. Next year, visit a country you’ve always wanted to see. If you’re not sure how you would achieve a goal to travel in 2018, here’s what to do.
Set the resolution to do good for others in the upcoming year. After all, you won’t just be benefiting those you help; you’ll also be benefiting yourself. Volunteering can give you a sense of purpose, make your life more meaningful, increase your self-esteem, and make you happier. In 2018, get a helper’s high by volunteering.
30. Start a Blog.
A great way to start the New Year is by launching a blog. Register a domain name (it can be your name and last name, e.g. mattsmith.com) and pay for a year of hosting. This will allow you to do things like the following:
- Create a portfolio of your work which you can show to prospective employers or clients.
- Blog as a hobby (you can blog about anything that interests you, such as cooking, traveling, or video games).
- As a way to document a journey — a weight loss journey, a home renovation project, a journey to financial independence, and so on.
- You can monetize your blog and create additional sources of income.
With Bluehost, for less than $75 you can get a domain name and a year of hosting. You can find out moreon how to start a blog here.
A New Year is like a blank notebook. You get to write anything you want in it. Fill the first page of your notebook with your New Year’s resolutions. Use the 29 ideas above for inspiration. Live your best life by setting resolutions to make 2017 your best year ever.
Read Next:10 Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions
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