Five years ago, on my 60th birthday, I had a brainwave and launched a Big Decade, with the intention of running different Big Years for ten years. Each Big Year would impose a daily, obsessive requirement or activity, for 365 days. I saw my Big Decade as one way to inject energy into my 60s.
I decided yesterday, on my 65th birthday, to call it quits after five years. It has been half a Big Decade and that’s the end of it.
Why abandon what has been both meaningful and fun? Well, I’ve changed. At age 60, I sought huge challenges: a Big Year of tough hikes, a Big Year of long pilgrimages, a Big Year of daily birdwatching. Now I’d like to commit the second half of my 60s to writing and family (one delightful surprise in my life has been the arrival of five grandchildren), while still occasionally hiking, birdwatching, etc. At age 60, I promised myself a Rock Music Big Year, in which I listened daily, followed by Reading and Movie Big Years; I did the first and the other two are now part of regular life with my review blog (ReadListenWatch.com). At age 60, I wanted to dedicate a year to battling coal, the scourge of climate change, and another year devoted to the Greens. I’ve moved on from those days and now Extinction Rebellion is the go, and it’s something that can’t be obsessive, it waxes and wanes. And what has also become clear to me is that writing, especially the nuclear book, has to remain central (I have in fact run six “writing” Big Years over the last half decade), not just a daily “must do,” but embedded deep into the cracks of every day.
Let me tell you that the Big Half Decade has been marvelous and I commend to you the idea of daily obsession, focus, and grit, but this discipline hasn’t always worked as well as I’d imagined it would. If I narrate the half decade, you’ll get the picture. 2016 was Jogging (which worked brilliantly, that was the fittest I’ve ever been) and Writing (only partially successful). 2017 saw Fitness (expanding into cycling which worked well until I broke down) and Writing (once more a mixed bag) and Rock Music (wunderbar, such joy!). In 2018, I ran a Big Year called 1,000 (i.e. a thousand words a day, didn’t work), a Freshness Big Year (based around a holistic approach to fitness, a minor flop), a Big Year of learning how to self-publish books (tick!) and a Stillness Big Year (just ten minutes of meditation a day, a success that I haven’t kept up). In 2019, I retreated into myself with two writing projects, the nuclear book plus research on a new birding/climate change book; much useful work eventuated but also much dispirited flailing. I began 2020 with a Parkrun Big Year, which was halted by Covid-19, and a Big Year devoted to Extinction Rebellion (Covid also scrunched this but in any case, I discovered daily obsession is not the way to do activism). More recently, I’ve gone back to a Writing Big Year (motivating but I’m motivated not by the Big Year concept but by love of the work) and a daily habit of improving vocabulary with unusual words (fun but hardly revolutionary).
All in all, my 2015 brainwave sometimes delivered significant results but often sent me down blind alleys or even distracted me from what I should have been doing. I rue none of it but keeping it going until age 70 no longer makes sense.
So … no more. No more Big Years. No more blog. This is the final post.