An exclusive interview with the old year

One year ago, Year School allowed yours truly to interview 2014, as he prepared to take over as the year. I check back on him just as festivities touting his replacement, 2015, wrap up.

Good morning again, 2014

Good morning to you too, Niko.

I hope I'm not disturbing. I mean, I know these celebrations can be hectic.

I'm tired, yes, but then again, I don't really do as much this time around. It's 2015's turn to strut out. I just sit there waving everybody goodbye.

But nobody notices you. I mean, they want to see you go.

I can't blame them. It's been a depressing past few months. This Ebola thing got out of hand, these public beheadings, all these planes falling out of the sky.

You did tell me, last time we talked, that you don't really have control over these things. You just let them in, do some checking to see if they're any good, and that's it. I think the term you used was quality control.

Yeah, I did say that. And we're all taught, at Year School, to not be overly attached to these people, that you can't favor one over the other. But you spend all this time with these people and you can't help but be attached, somehow.


Well, maybe that's too strong a term. But there's definitely a sense of familiarity. Seven billion people or so, and they do mostly the same things every day. Sooner or later you notice the little things and you sort of go "aww shucks!" on them.

So fondness.

Maybe that is a better term.

But you can't let that get in the way of your work.

Exactly. But sometimes I wish I could have done something to, you know, make things a little better for them.

But this is the "2014, please be good to me" thing you pretty much frowned upon the last time we talked.

I know I sound confused, Niko. I think I'm just tired.

I understand. It's been a pretty, well, a pretty bad year, as you said.

And here's the thing: I know I cannot do anything about it. Well, most things. But almost all of these things, I am powerless to change.

Right, because all you do is make sure everything is in order.

Also, because these things don't just happen because I came alone. These things, these things take time. Say, that ISIS thing. Nobody will tell you that just came up in 2014. It's something that's been stewing for a long time. It just happened that it went boom under my watch.

And all the years that came before you couldn't have done something about it?

Well, they couldn't, because, again, it's not their job.

But they could secretly nudge things towards something more palatable, more favorable?

We cannot dictate things, but, you know, we do try.

I'm surprised. I had the impression that you couldn't do anything about anything.

That's what we know, but eventually you do get used to your surroundings and you learn to game the system, so to speak. But not too much. You only delay the inevitable. You can't stop something from happening.

So, ISIS, they would still happen?

The specifics will be different, slightly, yes.


I can't tell you what happened there because I'm not clear on that myself, but I'm pretty confident it's not a freak accident. We don't believe in freak accidents, us years.

The Ice Bucket Challenge?

You think that was terrible?

It just got ridiculous as it went viral. Noble cause taken over by narcissists.

I can see that, but I'd like to look at it this way: it's people being optimistic that they can bring change to the world they live in.

Nothing wrong with that. Again, the whole "please be good to me" thing you didn't quite like last time.

True. But again, we don't believe in freak accidents. We don't believe in things happening instantly, relatively. You don't just get the girl. You don't just get the girl to forgive you.

This whole feminist resurgence was also under your watch.

It sounds like a revolution, but things hardly work like that. Change takes a while.

Not everybody wants that.

You're right. People see a change in chapter, people demand that something new and better happen. I know I said us years should never go political, but I'll use that as an example, if you may.

Go on.

When elections roll by - and this happens everywhere - those who run always say they will effect change, and the impression they make is that, in the limited time they have, they can turn things around for the better. Well, that is improbable, of course. You can't do anything that quickly.

But they have to sound heroic. That's how they get what they want.

Precisely. We all want to see things change as soon as possible. I don't know. Maybe we get impatient as we get too familiar with our surroundings.

Right, like, you only get a year to deal with us, and we get all our lives to deal with, well...

That sounds about right.

Yeah, I do get that feeling too. We all want an escape from whatever once in a while. It's why we go on vacation, it's why we call ourselves wanderlusts, if that is the right term for it.

Routines start off tediously, and then get interesting, and then get cute, and then get boring again, especially when nothing seems to change.

But things do change.

Yes. Well, I haven't seen it myself, really, since we only get to work for so long, and we don't see everything. But - we're told this over and over again in Year School - the reason we can't do so much is because change has to be gradual. It has to be sure, and it has to be certain. And for you, it's glacial. You won't see what you really want to see in your lifetime. These things take years. Decades. Centuries.

What about the "fast pace of change" people talk about?

Another way to make things go down your throat better.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you.

But not everybody sees that.


That's the interesting thing I noticed from you guys. Instant change. You want it because when you do get it, you can get back to... to that wanderlust thing you mentioned, am I right?

Well, that's just one of those things. We want to look awesome. We have interesting lives.

Right, but that's not what you're - I'm saying this for myself, not as some ejected year - that's not what you're here for. You're not just here to make the most of your time. You're workers, toiling away towards a goal you will never meet, towards a benefit you will never get. You're working merely in the hope that the people that follow you, that will descend from you, will actually experience those things you'll never be aware about.

But that's assuming we are, well, altruistic enough for that. We aren't. We want to enjoy. Why would we work for something we can't get?

And that's the thing right there, Niko.

Well. You, well, you could've done something to make us realize that, yes?

Nah, too fast a change. Revolutions, you know, they do not happen most of the time.

But sometimes they do.

Revolutions run for far longer than that. After the victory comes the rebuilding, the reestablishing. And people will be dissatisfied and the cycle begins again.

You're not saying this to distance yourself from all the depressing things that happened under your watch, huh?

I still feel responsible for it, sometimes, but I have no choice.

At least it's all over for you now.

Yeah, there is at least that.


I haven't really thought of it yet. Things are still going on as we speak. I want to make that recovery operation in Indonesia go faster.

That plane crash was sad. I heard it while in Singapore. It just seems so terrible, and just right after Christmas at that.

Singapore's different, I notice. They're not celebrating 2015's entry as much as they're celebrating their birthday. And they get a Korean boy band for it.

Kuala Lumpur was weird. Fireworks, yes, but I heard a lot more honking than popping.

Well, it rained the afternoon before midnight, so it was weird all over.

How did the Philippines do it?

People still got injured.

They never learn, huh.

I told you. Revolutions do not happen.

So, anything you can tell me about 2015?

He looks pretty optimistic. His kind, he was exposed to these people thinking they can change the world with an ice bucket and a couple of listicles that will blow your mind. I'm afraid he's not well-equipped for this.

But you train fourteen years. That should be enough.

Yeah, well, I hope he passes through, but he - as with you lot - you need to be much stronger than that. You need to suck it up more. You need to be more realistic.

I'm sure a lot more people are like that. Those people you describe tend to be part of a particular demographic, the sort of people that will, no matter what, proclaim it's been a good year, just to keep themselves up.

Know what, maybe you're right.

And your responses...

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