Another January debuts another strange-numbered year. When you buy something online and fill in your credit card details, there’s usually a pull-down menu for expiration month and year; the list of years is often long, with incomprehensible numbers like 2020, 2028, 2033, etc. We can’t even imagine what our lives will be like then. Will we finally have jetpacks? Will all the glaciers have melted? Will credit cards even still exist?
Yes, 2018 was once an exotic concept too. I remember when my daughter was born calculating that she’d graduate high school in the next century, in a year called 2016. Back then we worried about Y2K crashing our clunky computers, but surely by 2016 we’d be flying in spaceships and my daughter would be taking classes on the moon. By 2018 she might be attending the University of Mars.
Instead, 2018 arrives as pretty much every year does, offering small changes and a reassuring—though slightly disappointing—sense of continuity, of sameness, of ordinary life. Our problems and struggles carry over, as do our relationships, hopes, and plans. To its credit, January does offer a window of opportunity to dream of better times ahead and make resolutions.
What will 2018 bring? It’s risky to proclaim any period “pivotal” or “crucial,” but it’s natural to wish it so—if a year can be pivotal, we imagine our own part in it might be pivotal as well. But I believe 2018 will be a truly significant year. National and local elections will determine if the movement headed by President Trump expands or stalls, and the run-up to November will be even uglier and more divisive. Ohio picks a new Governor and hosts a high-profile Senate race. International order in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East will face huge challenges.
The level of uncertainty in our daily lives today—from government leadership to weather patterns—is unsettling, and not in a “this is exciting!” surprise party kind of way. The big question to be answered in 2018 is whether the collective stress we’re feeling will lead to positive or negative change.
When does the first spaceship leave for Mars?