Humans are resilient, whether we feel we are or not. We are undeniably the most advanced species on Earth intellectually; our brains have the ability to adapt to the dynamic environments around us, specializing our responses to various stimuli so that we might best overcome adversity and bounce back spiritedly when we fail to do so.
One year is enough time for us to be exposed to countless circumstances that require reactions of all sorts. Considered, spontaneous. Systematic, reflexive. Over the course of 365 days, we withstand four seasons, we make friends and lose them, give birth, experience death, start school or graduate. We might travel, or say “yes” to something scary, taking a leap of faith to start a completely new job in a completely new place, or begin dating a stranger with an interesting story.
One year is enough time for us to establish a habit or practice that can change our entire sentience.
There’s a line in the movie The Devil Wears Prada in which aspiring journalist Andy is assured that spending one year toughing out a difficult job that a million girls would kill for would ensure a solid future in her field. Just one year. One year of hell, certainly, but making a sacrifice for 52 weeks can mean that you’re setting yourself up for the rest of your life to exceed your every expectation.
In academia, surviving two semesters of difficult coursework proves that focus, application of knowledge and GPA are directly correlated. A fiscal year’s profit affects a company’s risks during the next.
Anyone can withstand a romantic relationship for a year, given favorable circumstances. Those first twelve months are often an extended honeymoon stage in which a couple discovers whether or not each partner can tolerate the other for a future, more substantial period of time. Real life difficulties typically do not get in the way because the pair has not yet been exposed to anything outside of that one year. That time is enough for a person to have some amount of impact on you but only scratch the surface in terms of getting to know you and your life on a grander scale.
See, this is where the idea of a year only being a year gets difficult. Yes, that time holds so much potential in terms of room for life to change. But it’s also so exclusive in that it is finite; we know when a year will end because it is measurable. It sounds like a long period of time, but the fact is, it's not. It’s not something to brag about in any sort of relationship, as every amount of time is relative. It is, however, a limit we are given in terms of what we can accomplish. It caps us—the good, the bad, the ugly. Everything measured in “years” is given an expiration date of sorts, as the first will differ from the second, and so on.
It’s nice to think of a year as a deadline for more difficult duties. Fictional Andy did it while working for Miranda Priestly, and undergraduate seniors applying to grad programs can, too. High school juniors dreading their AP- and application-heavy schedules will survive 12 months. Employees wishing to transfer after paying their dues at a company only have 26 pay periods remaining.
As we enter into yet another September, another autumn in which many of us head back to school, let us consider the power of one year. Significantly, trivially… a year changes lives. One year can bring struggle, or bliss—neither of which can be guaranteed to “pay off.” The reality is, whatever sensations we experience will end, that is certain—the nature of time is a resolute reminder that nothing will ever stay the same because we are always moving on towards the new, the future. A year brings separation from people and places and positions in life, but it also delivers us to exactly where we need to be. All change will change.