The start of a New Year is always an appropriate time for a little self-reflection, and perhaps making some resolutions for the year to come. Given that it has been a little while since I’ve posted something on the blog, my first resolution is to establish a more regular rhythm of writing. Over the last few months I have been travelling a great deal, creating a lack of routine, and the absence of a familiar place to work. As I sit at my desk at home writing this now there’s a certain degree of focus on the task in hand that has been missing of late. However, I think the experience has also highlighted for me what a useful personal discipline a routine of writing is, regardless of limitations: taking the time to set out my thoughts and ideas about conducting, music, and the intersection between the two gives a little space each week for some regular, meaningful self-reflection.
Pausing to consider what has happened and what is to come is a common pastime as the calendars roll over into a new year. I've always rather enjoyed those “Year in Review” articles and shows that appear during the week between Christmas and the New Year. Though I imagine that these are produced frantically in the early days of December to let journalists enjoy some time off during the slow news period after Christmas, I think they can provide a service to all of us in focusing our attention on the significant milestones of the year gone by. And given how Christmas can make it feel that time is going very quickly (doesn’t it seem like only yesterday that you or your child were bursting with anticipation to tear off the wrapping paper from a much anticipated gift?) these reviews tend to have the opposite effect, revealing just how much has been packed into the space of 365 days.
The companions of the annual reviews are the articles that make predictions for the next twelve months. I imagine that in a year where expert prediction has – at least in the field of politics – taken a pretty severe blow to its reputation, commentators are probably hedging their bets, aware that the unexpected can and might well come to pass again. Nevertheless, informed predictions tend to be a fairly reliable because more often than not the patterns of human behaviour can be guessed at from passed examples. I wonder, though, if predictions for the New Year and the idea of making a New Year’s resolution aren’t in opposition. Doesn’t the resolution suggest that we find something significant enough in the arbitrary changing of the calendar year to stir our willpower into making a change to our usual, predictable, way of doing things?
I imagine that these two ideas operate in such radically different spheres that few political commentators have given much thought to the way that world leaders’ New Year’s resolutions might shape policy in 2017. But – call it the optimism of a New Year – I think it is good to be reminded of the fact that predictions are not prescriptions: be that in the field of world events, or in the aims and goals of our professional lives. In carving out a little time to review achievements of the year past – performances given, new pieces learned, breakthroughs in old pieces – I’ve found an interesting mix of satisfaction in work achieved, and the desire to tackle, head-on, more or bigger challenges in the year ahead. When the final days of 2017 come around and we consider our own “Year in Review”, what are the unpredictable things that we going to be able look back on with pride, knowing that we made them happen?