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A Day of Reckoning

Well, we survived!

I’m not talking about finals last semester, not about Aunt Bessie’s inescapable cheek-pinches over Christmas dinner and not even about the cork-popping, peach-dropping, hangover- inducing hullaballoo we all know and love: New Year’s.

No, the recently averted catastrophe to which I refer is a new year of a different sort – none other than the apocalypse that never was: the last cycle of the Mayan long count calendar ending on Dec. 21, 2012.

Try to think back to this time last year. Remember when everything seemed so possibly finite for once?

Remember when 2012-related documentaries were showing up left and right on your Netflix recommendations and you just couldn’t get enough of them? Theorists from around the globe presented two opposing, yet equally exciting, outcomes of this date. The more extreme of these – the complete and total annihilation of life on polar-shifted and/or solar- flared Earth – raised the spirits of closet sociopaths (like me) everywhere with the hope that all those injustices may finally be accounted for. Meanwhile, the more conservative conjecture – the complete and total reordering of the social consciousness – enriched the outlook of peace-loving vegans (like me) everywhere, believing that everyone would suddenly wake up to a higher level of understanding. With either scenario, it felt good just to have something to look forward to, to know that no matter what, your life had meaning because this life-altering event was going to happen during your lifetime. Oh, how great the prospect of change, of hope, feels; Obama knows we’ll vote for it every time.

Now, do you remember hearing anything about this event on the day that never was to be, Dec. 22, 2012? No? Well, neither did I. The most promising “end of the world
as we know it” event of my lifetime (including you, Y2K) came and went with little more than a few tweets of 140 or fewer characters. Where were the survivor stories? Where were the moving pictures of celebratory riots in crowded European streets? Where was the news about 2012? It simply was not there.

At first I wanted to blame the media for not covering it. “What about the end of the world, NPR?” I exclaimed silently to the radio. But then I realized that the lack of coverage was not the media’s fault. How could they report on it when nothing at all happened? No, they are not to blame and neither are the Mayans, nor 2012 itself (though it could have been a better year overall, I won’t hold grudges). No, the blame goes to people like me.

The blame goes to all the people, not just the closet sociopaths and peace-loving vegans, but anyone naïve enough, anyone empty enough to put their faith in something like 2012 – something as manufactured as a date in our miniscule human measurement of time – to change their life. How gullible must I have been to trust that an asteroid or the storm of all storms would suddenly appear and wipe out Earth and all my self- doubt with it? How feeble must I have been to believe that a certain tick of the clock would, overnight, magically fulfill my sense of myself?

It’s embarrassing to admit, but admit it I must: I wanted 2012 to happen because I was too incompetent to change my life by my own esteem. So this year before you’ve broken all your resolutions, when that trip to the gym seems too darn daunting, when you get that craving for a steak on Meatless Monday, remember that nothing – not even the apocalypse – can change life for you. Remember the words of someone much wiser than me, Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” It’s that simple.