The Hopes and Fears of All the Years Night Thread

I like this time of year. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a kind of dead zone, a whole country full of people running out the clock. I live with a level of constant background anxiety, and during this week only, I get to feel like everyone knows how I feel.

Sometime in the last few decades, expectations for the future soured; the certainty that next year would be better than this year dimmed. The glorious hopes America had after World War II gave way to fatigue, and ultimately cynicism. My favorite summary of that evolution is here:

The love of chrome-and-glass modern restaurants is probably due to one place, which I’ve mentioned before – the Erie Jr. in Detroit Lakes, MN. It had a counter, a high ceiling, plastic booths in vivid hues, a roof that looked like it space ships could dock in the back, and it had that space-age vibe that shimmered off so many new things when I was very young. We had a keen sense of the future then; we knew the toys we had today would be the tools of the future. You know how you put your hand out the window when you were going fast, and undulated it up and down like a dolphin, riding the oncoming wind? The future felt like that. The future was a chrome-trimmed triangular window in the front of dad’s car, and it had its own knob to open it up. The future was a hamburger under a light fixture that looked like an atom. The future was going to be awesome.

Or, more succinctly:

The futurism of the 1950s and early ’60s looks cartoonish to modern eyes; we can’t take it seriously. But there’s a forlorn quality to the eroded Googie architecture and rusted-out luxury cars of the Fallout games. Which is the greater failure, to hope big and look like a chump when it all falls apart, or to expect the worst and nod with grim satisfaction when you get it?

2017 has been a hard year, as many years are, and it has taken a lot from us, as many years do. But I don’t like writing off entire years for the satisfaction of being angry. I think it’s possible to be honest with ourselves without giving up hope for the promise of tomorrow. We can live with the anxiety without succumbing to it.

There’s still one whole day of 2017 left. Make it the best you can.