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a lovely someone recently shared with me an 104 year old article, written by political theorist Antonio Gramsci, titled “I Hate New Year’s Day.”

I hate these fixed-term New Years that end up turning life and the human spirit into a sort of business with a final statement and a balance sheet and a budget for the up-and-coming management. It makes us lose all sense of continuity, both in life and in spirit.

Antonio Gramsi, trans. Matilda Colarossi, “CAPODANNO” in Sotto la Mole, January 1, 1916

leave it to the italian to harsh your buzz, eh? though Gramsci, as usual, is right. i remember distinctly being asked in a side yard on pardee street when it was my eighth birthday “do you feel older?” and thinking quite hard (for an eight year old). after a moment i said “nope!” and ran off. my biography wouldn’t be that engaging. what i mean to convey though, is that i think as children we have a strong sense of continuity which is slowly disrupted by our increasingly regimented lives.

as covid has broken down the last barriers between ourselves and our work (the very walls of our homes), however, even this regimented sense of time has began to dissolve. work has been (for me at least) simply always on. i caught myself running an MCMC on christmas eve, alone on my family’s living room couch. not a creature was stirring, and neither was my parameter space apparently. in this way too, all that is solid melts into air. we become stuck, our minds regimented and our time unregimented, allowing our sanity to slip through the drain and our bodies to remain on the shop floor, always in service of production.

even now, on new years eve, that most hallowed of days, i sit on my bed in the middle of my family’s upstairs living room and spend my time plunking away at my research, my poster for the next AAS conference. not that i expected much, what with a pandemic on and all, but still.

I want to come to terms with who I am every day, and innovate myself every day. No scheduled periods of rest. I want to choose my breaks myself, when I am drunk with frenetic activity and want to draw on my animality to regain strength. No spiritual ‘travettism’. I would like every hour of my life to be a new one, and yet in continuity with the preceding hours. No festivities played in collective compulsory rhythm, to be shared with total strangers I could care less about. We don’t have to be festive just because our grandfathers’ grandfathers, etc. were

ibid.

as I write, 2020 comes to a close. an arbitrary period of time which has held so much pain and grief and anger. the clocks on the pacific seaboard turn over into a new year. certainly not all is dour and bad. the previous year has held its multitudes. but i think, in honoring Gramsci’s sentiment, i will not shelve those memories and look towards 2021 as something new. i will not resolve myself to do anything but that which i need and i desire to do. i will flow between these moments gathering momentum, becoming more and more a human with each passing breath. at least, i can only hope that is what i will do.

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Author: willb

I'm Will, an undergraduate astronomer studying transition disks, direct imaging, and planet accretion and formation at the Follette Lab at Amherst College. I use they/them/theirs pronouns.

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