At the end of every year since 2000, I’ve invited readers to look back on the last twelve months of their lives and reflect on what has been important, defining or constant during that particular year, and then sum their year up in just 24 words. Embracing the constraint of summing up the last year in a handful of words helps to focus what has really mattered.
In December of 2000, I met an old friend for dinner. We hadn’t seen each other in nine years, and hadn’t been in contact for eight. With only a few hours on a chilly evening in London to catch up before his plane left for Canada, we shared our stories in breathless bursts. So much had happened. We had to narrow it down to the essentials.
The best brief biography I’ve ever heard was for a mayfly:
Born. Eat. Shag. Die.
Because Ephemeroptera lives only for twenty-four hours, the summary of its life is refreshingly straightforward: To the point. The stuff that matters. Just the essentials.
I realised on the way home from the restaurant that there’s nothing quite like embracing the constraint of brevity (whether time or wordcount) when summing up the last year of your life to make you re-examine your priorities, or focus on what has affected you or was important to you over the last twelve months.
When I got home from seeing my friend, inspired by my evening and the biography of a mayfly bumping around in my head, I asked readers of this site to sum up the last year of their lives in just a handful of words. The Mayfly Project was born.
Due to popular demand, I’ve been running the Mayfly Project at the end of every year since then (here’s the 2006 edition, and here’s what happened in 2007 and 2008). It seems that people have got a lot to say or rather, that a lot of people have got not a lot to say: twenty-four words, to be precise, reflecting the mayfly’s short lifespan.
Another year has passed, and it’s back again.
Scroll down to sum up your 2011 in twenty-four words. But before you do, check:
- Is it twenty four words?
- Does it sum up the last year of your life?
If the answer to either of those is no, you’re going to look silly.