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Liz Neumark

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A New Year That Feels Slightly... Used

Posted: 01/04/12 07:22 PM ET

You know how sometimes just saying the numbers of the New Year feels so awkward, it kind of gets stuck in your throat coming out? Not the case with 2012. In fact, it almost feels like a familiar, if not slightly used, year. As well it should! We have been talking about 2012 for a long time.

The Mayan Long Count Calendar interpreted 2012 as the end of a specific cycle marked by cataclysmic events, though others interpret it as the start of a new era of spiritual transformation. In either case, 2012 was on the radar as potentially trouble hundreds of years ago.

More recently, there was the 2012 Olympic Summer Games bid -- where our passions were stirred, either for or against, the transformation and re-visioning of our city, to make it an appropriate destination for the world's athletes. That was some mighty intense wooing. And it's funny how 2012 seemed then to be so far off, a distant dream. The year was 2005.

Then there is the 2012 Battle for the White House -- a race that seems to have begun about four years ago, for both Republicans and Democrats. (Are we already hearing the distant drumbeats of 2016?) By the time someone gets to the November finish line, he/she will be exhausted, not to mention our ennui (or disgust) with the process.

In the business area, we prayed that salvation would have arrived. The Great Recession, which started long enough ago, was to have been a distant memory by 2012, marked by the return of healthy budgets and reduced unemployment. We hoped the wreckage of 2008 required 2 to 3 years to clean up and mend. Instead, today's WSJ quotes Bridgewater CEO Robert Prince's economic forecast "... (it) will probably take 15 to 20 years to work through and we're just four years in."

2012 has arrived with baggage and expectations. Nonetheless, I am an optimist and find the familiarity with this year somewhat reassuring. (When you know someone, it makes being together a little easier.) I am looking forward to some new business projects this year, opportunities that we have worked diligently to develop. It seems like people are looking for dependable relationships. It is about trust that transcends purely financial performance - because it is about building a solid foundation with integrity -- that will last into the future.

And yet, as I think about all 2012 might hold for us, it is the graceful end of 2011 that sets the tone for what is ahead.

The winding down of 2011 was not frenetic. It seemed like all New York was ready for a collective work stoppage. And if Great Performances is the barometer of business activity, then we can report that all sectors were quiet. We watched 2011, a year of radical upswings and dizzying plummets, leave us right back where we started. As the last two weeks approached, we "filled our plates" with enjoyable moments, savoring the good before plunging into the challenges of a new year.

The Latke Festival was the kick-off event. An old fashioned celebration of a traditional food a.k.a. comfort food with just enough 21st century pizazz and star power (chefs of course) to make it chic. The lowly potato pancake was gussied up in 17 unimaginably creative ways; finally, the belle of the ball.

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The following day was our in-house kitchen staff holiday lunch, a celebration for the team that feeds everyone else. It was a love filled meal, everyone grateful for work and workplace family. Another busy season was under our belt.

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The very next day, a smaller crew at work and an informal sandwich fest in the kitchen as things unwind and we began to relax. It is the home stretch.

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One of the final events of the year was a dinner between the final performances of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the Park Avenue Armory, in accordance with his Legacy Plan developed before his death in 2009. After the final performance of a two-year international Legacy Tour, the company disbanded with support and resources for career transition for its dancers, musicians and staff. It was a deeply historic evening filled with bittersweet and complex emotional moments. On the cusp of the end of one year and the beginning of another, a deliberate and poignant conclusion for a brilliant and inspirational career dovetailed with a journey into the unknown. A perfect metaphor.

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Into the embrace of 2012 we plunge, a new year burdened with a legacy of dreams, aspirations and superstitions. It is a year that has been through the wringer before its first sunrise -- but that's okay, so have we. It's a good match and I am inspired by the extraordinarily sweet and real final weeks of the old year, as though it has quietly prepared us for what lies ahead.

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