03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Decade is Starting Anew -- Maybe We Will Too

Maybe it's because our current decade dawned with our dot-com bubble busted, that disputed election, and an unfathomable attack on American soil. Or it could be that so much of our attention in the following years was devoted to news too dire to digest (Iraq's consequences) or fluff too digestible to be relevant (Britney's crotch). Maybe the extraordinary successes of the 1990s (which saw, as if by magic, a Cold War fizzle and wallets fatten) left us with a hangover.

Or maybe it's because these 10 years have been so difficult to define; even before the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and even the hardly explicable 1990s ended, we knew what they meant.

But whatever the reason, the unnamed, awkward decade ending in 2010 seems to have served mostly as a default hiatus from our, ahem, real lives. That isn't to suggest that it's been stagnant. After all, a war is raging and the financial markets have jerked us up and down. There's renewed fervor attached to national politics. Technological breakthroughs have ushered in new models for the creation and distribution of media that have changed our information society on a Gutenberg scale.

Yet very little seems to have really happened. There is, more than anything else, anticipation of what's next, in a culture that's accelerating ever faster with each passing month. But anticipation means waiting. That is, until the calendar flips to 2011. Just as health clubs swell and cigarette sales plummet briefly every January, every decade begins with the promise of change. The decade is starting anew, and maybe the country will too. [That's a line from Sondheim, in case you care.]

It wasn't supposed to be this way, though! Very rarely are grand plans announced and then achieved tidily and within the arbitrary bookends of a decade, like the space race of the 1960s. But it does seem as though, rather than answering the proverbial call, we've collectively hit the hold button. In a certain way, the unusual nature of the last two decades might help to explain why the momentous shift into the twentyteens is sneaking below the radar. The beginning of this decade, which didn't get revved up until 1991, was a watershed period, as Communism had its Garbo moment and speculation was rampant concerning the end of one century and what would bridge us to the next. Then Y2K hype dominated the turn of the next decade. But what really sets apart this leap to 2010? Perhaps we have created mass inhalation.

Distraction fuels procrastination, and every trend suggests that the world is finding more and more ways to shorten its attention span and overload any leftover senses.

How easy it becomes, then, to look up every now and then from our PDAs to say that we'll be sure to get to "it"--whether "it" means committing to alternative energy policies or getting smarter or doing that Living Will or rethinking estate tax or hitting a treadmill how about once--when 2010 rolls around this week.

People have been waiting to start anew. I have. To take up the challenges--big & small--that have been put off for a while. It's as though we've wandered through a haze and begun to see it lift, but won't really be able to get on with progress until we have "excuse" of a new decade.

So there -- you have it.

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