Happy New Year (how long can we be saying this? This has been debated since the days of Seinfeld, and I’m not sure we’re closer to consensus)!
2024 is upon us, and for many, we welcome it with much fanfare and an abundance of hopes and dreams to be fulfilled. We bid adieu to what was, in the tech and corporate realm, a crushing year filled with layoffs and/or the looming threat of them. In fact, despite widespread layoff activity in 2022, 2023 was actually crowned the layoff winner. We saw nearly 262,000 tech workers lose their jobs in 2023, versus nearly 165,000 in 2022. 2024 is likewise off to an ominous start, with several high profile startups like Bird shuttering altogether. And the announcement about the upcoming Google layoffs for people in Ad Sales due to AI doesn't exactly warm my heart, either. I anticipate a lot of solopreneurs and entrepreneurs springing up in 2024 - necessity is the mother of invention, right? And these last few years have taught me that corporate employment is not the safety net I'd always thought it to be.
So, perhaps your 2023 was spent toiling away in hopes of avoiding the RIF layoff list or picking up the slack from a lot of departing colleagues who were never backfilled. Maybe you were panic-applying to jobs with 4,874 applicants only to hear crickets. Maybe you were able to pause, and then networked your way towards landing a great role. Ideally you stayed employed in a job you actually liked and were able to provide for you and your family. If you’re like me, you took your time after your layoff in 2022 (which was a privilege) to find the “right” role, only to get there and realize on day one that you’d made a grave, grave error and you were absolutely in the wrong place - the most toxic of your career, even! And then your role vanished three months later (in suspicious proximity to telling your boss your concerns about gender issues at the organization, I might note).
However 2023 went for you - and I hope it was better than it was for many of us - 2024 is now here. And given its warm welcome, it got me thinking something: this type of passage of time is welcomed by most of us, but you know what tends not to be? Our birthdays. Just why IS that? Why is one considered a fresh slate, a rebirth of sorts, while the other is met with resistance and denial?
Maybe the fact we all celebrate together makes it less personal, whereas our birthdays are really marked by us alone (and our parents, if they’re around and in our lives). Perhaps this is why the birthday brings a reckoning with mortality whereas the New Year brings champagne flutes and gym memberships. Ultimately, I sense this revulsion about getting older is mostly due to a deep-seated ageism nestled within us. If we weren't constantly bombarded with this concept that our best days are behind us, and the message that we must to hit some pillar of achievement by some arbitrary age, I think we might feel differently about our birthdays.
But what if we thought about our birthdays in the same way as we do the new year? What if we welcomed the chance to mark another year? What if we celebrated the past year of our lives - the good, the bad, the growth - and moved into the next one with excitement rather than dread?
I want to challenge us all to reframe our birthdays as the gift they are, rather than a punchline. After all, getting older IS the goal, right? The alternative sure sucks.
Happy New Year, and this year, I hope you really, truly have a happy birthday, whenever it happens.