2022 is almost over, and very few of us will be celebrating the last year – in fact, the last three years – of our very bizarre lives on planet Earth.
I could take up your whole day by listing the ways some humans have made the planet much worse for others – lockdowns; masking kids; letting old people die alone in cold, dark hospitals; making us all dumber; bringing the words ‘expert’ and ‘science’ into disrepute; destroying businesses, and making us all suspicious of a cough like never before – but I won’t. Suffice it to say that, with all the new information emerging and the benefit of hindsight, they fucked up. To those brave people who questioned things, refused to be bullied, were called conspiracy theorists and knew from the start that governments could only make things worse – well done! You have the bragging rights, and you don’t have to regret taking a vaccine that, it turns out, didn’t do the things they said it would.
The things that we could enjoy mid-pandemic and which continue to bring us happiness and satisfaction now, are the things that were clearly outside the political realm: family, friends, relaxation, jokes, love, spiritual growth, sex, exercise, music, pets, our homes, food, meaningful work and many others. If the past few months have taught me anything, it’s that I spent a lot of time and energy on things that weren’t making my life much better, and sometimes making it considerably worse.
Anyone who hasn’t listened to my morning show for a few years would be forgiven for thinking I was still a brash, argumentative, angry, demagogue who had an opinion on everything. Maybe I’m just getting old, but maybe I’m also starting to accept that certain battles aren’t worth fighting. The small victories of winning an argument or proving a point bear very little fruit compared to the satisfaction of staying out of them. I hope I haven’t become boring, but these days I feel less susceptible to taking a position if I don’t have one – or making one up just so I can share it on social media… you could say time has mellowed me. For some this will come as a relief, I’m sure.
There are upsides and downsides to this realisation, one I suspect many have come to since the madness of lockdowns and COVID. The truth is, I’m not that invested in the Ukraine/Russia conflict (and though I’m still interested in it, it doesn’t stir any emotion in me). I don’t care about race politics like I once did: Julius Malema can say anything he wants and I don’t think I’d be incensed like I might once have been. Outrage on social media means absolutely nothing to me anymore, and neither does any trending topic. If I don’t find it funny or thought-provoking, it’s wallpaper. The same is true for advertising.
The upside is that I value time spent with the people I love, and the people who can teach me things. I have finally learnt to be present. No longer do I wish I was somewhere else, doing something else, or scrolling mindlessly through Instagram. I will admit, this still happens, but my total screen time is down to 25% of what it was. Prince Harry and Demi Lovato might be pouring their hearts out about mental illness, but if they just put their phones down, they’d be twice as happy and half as annoying. I tell people that I love them; I compliment people when they look nice; I make time for those I care about and I keep my diary clear of things I don’t like. The old me couldn’t do any of those things and always blamed externalities.
The point of me telling you this, is that I’m pretty sure you’ve been through some personal development arc yourself. Change and difficult times produce extraordinary results in all of us, and no doubt you’d be able to list many things that have altered your life. It’s worth thinking about what brings you joy – and what pulls you down – because you can make decisions right now that will make life more worthwhile… and you probably didn’t need a pandemic to make them.