I hear from many people that this year is one they would like to forget, to get it over with and move on to the next one as quickly as possible. It’s as if all the bad things that have happened can be blamed on COVID-19, and the turning of the year can miraculously erase the negatives, and make things positive. That our world has changed is without a doubt, but how quickly it will go back to normal, whatever that is, depends on things already in play.


Here are a few positive things I have taken from 2020:


–          Science when combined with human expertise and innovation is awesome: we have a vaccine less than a year after we knew we had a virus

–          Our ability to carry on as normal with the aid of technology and adjustment is testament to the ingenuity and compassion of the human race

–          Shipping works, and works very well, despite all that has been thrown at crew and managers

–          Books, television, films, seminars have taken on new levels of importance

–          The capacity to enjoy the simple things in life has been enhanced, and when all this is over, whenever that is, the enjoyment of the more complicated things will be even sweeter


That is not to say that there haven’t been negatives. It has been an uncomfortable year for me, as I come to terms with the limits of what can be achieved by simply existing and being around. Real success requires real effort, and changing how I do and think about things requires first a sometimes painful examination of the ways I was doing and thinking about things, and concluding that if I was not completely wrong, then I was at least misguided and relied too heavily on wishful thinking. Wanting change is not the same as making change happen. Making change happen involves coming out of our comfort zone, harder in these days of self-isolation.


The short cut to change is of course New Year Resolutions, but the word resolution has more than one meaning:


–          resolving to do something

–          adopting a resolution (like the IMO)

–          being determined

–          resolving a problem

–          reaching a harmonious state (in music and in life)

–          seeing things clearer, like a high-resolution TV

–          the gradual change from something vague or uncertain into something more definite

–          separating a solution into its original constituent parts, as in chemistry


Funnily enough, the origin of the word, in English at least, is from the Latin resolvere which means to loosen or release. And in fact I want to loosen the straightjacket of New Years’ Resolutions away from the strictness of getting fit and giving up smoking – which tend to fall away after a few days – to encompass all the other meanings of the word.


The success of resolving a problem, for example, depends on how accurately you frame the issue. Being unhappy is a problem in itself, but usually too big to deal with in one go. It is only when we start to define the causes of our unhappiness that we can then move on to dealing with them. Having the courage to face these causes is tough, but this too relies on resolution, the determination to get there. We may even have to break things further down into their constituent parts in otder to see things clearer, to pin-point the definite issues from the vague and obscure mess before us.


So to sum up:  once we have resolved to resolve something, by resolving it to then bring the separate parts it into greater resolution, we can then resolve to bring these separate parts to together to a final sweet resolution. Then it will have been resolved. If this seems a little complicated, then you can see why many of our New Year Resolutions fail.


Needless to say, there are four, concrete things in my life that I want to do in the New Year, which are achievable even in these COVID times. I will not share them with you for the simple reason I don’t want you to come up to me half way through February and ask me how they are going. They are vague enough to be able to be reached by incremental improvement, i.e. I won’t have failed if I light up a cigarette, or open a bottle of wine, but they are strict enough so that I can’t make any excuses if there is no improvement at all. Improvement in all of these areas will improve the quality of life of myself and those around me.


The end of the year, or the new year, is also a time to, if not make predictions, then at least to have an opinion about what will happen in the future. I will leave that until next week’s blog, where I will marshal all I have read and heard recently in these slower, seasonal days. But if anyone this time last year had predicted that we would be spending Christmas in lockdown, or in fact if anyone said what lockdown was, then they would have been considered crazy. The future is unknown.


I hope the New Year will lead to our shackles being loosened so we can be released back into the world, and use that freedom to make it, and perhaps at the same time ourselves, a little bit better. It’s not much, but 2020 has taught me one thing: we are fortunate to be, and to remain, on this planet, and I for one will not let that opportunity go to waste.


Simon Ward