20 Reasons Why 2014 Will Be Better for Us All
Optimism is Reader's Digest's middle name, so we reached out to thought leaders, authors, and experts in various fields to make our case. Some wrote from the heart, while others thought globally. Some were serious; others, funny. But they all agreed—2014 will be a very good year.
Hope Makes a Comeback
It has to be better because even with all the awful things in 2013—the Boston Marathon massacre, floods in India, an NSA scandal, the Trayvon Martin case—still the world got excited over what? The birth of a baby. A royal baby, admittedly. But a baby. That’s because hope, no matter how buried, wants to find the light of day and rises from within us until it does.
—Mitch Albom, author of The First Phone Call from Heaven
The Stars Shine Brighter
Mark your calendars: This year will offer sky watchers far more celestial delights than 2013. On April 14, Mars will make its closest approach to Earth since 2008. That same night, we’ll have a ringside seat to see a total lunar eclipse. On October 23, the moon will return the favor, casting its own shadow across North America to produce a partial eclipse of the sun. But the most dramatic event should come on May 24, when our planet is expected to sweep through a slew of dusty trails left behind by a comet, resulting in an amazing display of shooting stars.
—Joe Rao, guest lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City
Our Heroes are Coming Home
As a libertarian, I’m tempted to say, “Because the U.S. government will have permanently shut down.” But that would be cynical, and I’m trying to be less cynical as I get older. My godson, who serves as a helicopter pilot in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (the unit that got Osama bin Laden), just returned home from yet another very dangerous tour of duty. It was his last overseas tour in harm’s way. So 2014 will be better than 2013 because I will no longer have to worry about my godson dying for his country.
—Christopher Buckley, whose book But Enough About You will be published in 2014
Medical Marijuana Flourishes
In 2014, more states will be taking up legislation to make it easier for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana. As a doctor, I’m fascinated by the possibilities. So far, the evidence of its benefits is anecdotal, but I’ve seen amazing individual cases of children with life-threatening seizure disorders that can be kept under control only with the use of a certain strain of cannabis—taken by mouth, not smoked.
—Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Emmy Award–winning chief medical correspondent for CNN
Kids Connect Globally
What’s happening with youth and technology is going to only get better. All our silly streamlined texting and obsessions with our phones means we’re connecting in a global language. When kids all over the world come together to play Grand Theft Auto online, they’ll be shooting each other up digitally, not on the streets. And no kid is going to agree to go to war with a country that has a member of his World of Warcraft clan in it.
—Comedian Bo Burnham, whose new book is Egghead
Small-Town America Roars Back
Communities are turning their backs on mall-centric, automobile-focused growth in favor of walkable neighborhoods. The reason? To accommodate Millennials and seniors alike, two groups who tend to prefer jobs and entertainment in close proximity and enjoy the health benefits of walking. More and more towns will relocate schools, banks, shops, restaurants, theaters, and offices closer to homes and build wider sidewalks and thinner car lanes to encourage strolling over driving. The result: thriving, homey, safer town centers of the sort our grandparents might remember.
—Dan Burden, executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
Trees Stand Tall
This will be a great year for sequoias and redwoods. We will be attempting something that has never been tried on a large scale before: planting thousands of clones from old-growth giants around the world, helping to restore our global forests. Why these behemoths? Sequoias can breathe in CO2 faster and more effectively than almost any other species on earth, mitigating the adverse effects of climate change.
—David Milarch, cofounder of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, which locates, clones, and archives tree genetics
Washington Airs Out
This year will be better because we’ll get rid of politicians. I predict this: They raise hundreds of millions of dollars for their 2014 congressional campaigns, it dawns on them just how much money that is, and they run off with it, seeking asylum in Ecuador.
—P.J. O’Rourke, author of The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again)
Our Vocabulary Improves
Every year I think, That’s it for interesting words; we can’t possibly top this. Yet we always do. I suspect nocializing—“being preoccupied with a mobile device while in company”—will be popular. Might it eventually be consigned to the dustbin of usage? Sure. But what is certain: Never second-guess our language.
—Fiona McPherson, senior editor of the Oxford English Dictionary
No More Smurfettes
In 1991, Katha Pollitt coined the term the Smurfette Principle to explain a curious phenomenon in pop culture: “a group of male buddies … accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined.” In the two decades since, there were many “firsts”—think Hillary Clinton’s legitimate bid for president in 2008 and Kathryn Bigelow’s winning the Best Director Oscar in 2010. But in many areas, women were still “onlys”—the only comedian in the lineup or the only keynote at the tech conference.
That’s changing. Look around: Women are everywhere—leading, making, doing. It is virtually impossible to ignore the fiercely talented women swelling the ranks in every industry: Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Tina Fey, Shonda Rhimes, Lena Dunham, Gwen Ifill, Mellody Hobson, Anne Sweeney, Ursula Burns, Elizabeth Warren, Susan Collins. There are more, of course, and that is the point. In 2014, these lists will be more notable for how impossible it is to include everyone.
—Rachel Sklar, co-founder of TheLi.st
Baby Names Get Classier
The two most notable baby names of 2013—young Prince George Alexander Louis and little North West, daughter of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West—conspire to nudge baby naming in a positive direction next year. Quirky classics like George seem more appealing, while outrageous names, like North, chosen primarily to be trendy, seem more cruel than cool.
—Pamela Redmond Satran, cocreator of nameberry.com
An Ode to 2014
We’ll sit under the apple tree
and keep each other company,
wrapped in diamonds and furs.
Drier or wetter,
it’s bound to be better.
Unless, that is, it turns out worse.—Garrison Keillor, creator of A Prairie Home Companion and author of O, What a Luxury
A Great Generation Takes Shape
This is the year the last Boomers will reach 50. We’re celebrating because we’re in the process of redeeming our youthful legacy as we reinvent lifestyles and find new ways to stay productive and give back. I think we’ll be known as the innovation generation.
—Jane Pauley, former talk show host and author of Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life
The War Against Terror is Funded
Despite the enormous threat that terrorism represents, there has been little attempt to put an infrastructure in place to take it head-on. Until now. In 2014, thanks to anti-extremist organizations, along with Secretary of State John Kerry’s Global Counterterrorism Forum, society will finally have the resources, money, and time invested to challenge extremist viewpoints.
—Maajid Nawaz, author of Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism
• Addicts and alcoholics seek and then, miraculously, sustain recovery.
• Poets pop up on the bestseller lists, and Hollywood makes films for all of us non-pubescents.
• Prison cells once occupied by the poor are occupied instead by the 21st-century robber barons, who can afford lawyers.
• Hair grows back on my head.
• In those age-old battles—compassion vs. indifference, love vs. hatred—compassion and love emerge victorious.
Sure, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. As John Lennon sang: Imagine.
—Wally Lamb, author of We Are Water
We’ll Be Stylin’
As big-box retailers become omnipresent, consumers seem more inclined to find their unique style. Self-expression—from fashion to art—and showing off through digital media will only get bigger. If looking at a picture of someone’s newly invented cocktail isn’t your bag, it’s easy to find people doing interesting things. It’s never been a better time to be creative.
—Cynthia Rowley, fashion designer
I’ll Get a Dog
After several years of illness and sorrow, I’ll celebrate life. First step? A sheepdog puppy. When every leaf and tree is brand-new
to your canine companion, you start to see the world with different eyes too. Bring on the long walks, nights by the fire, and real loyalty.
—Alice Hoffman, whose book Survival Lessons is available now
Our Intellect Grows
More and more people are talking to one another online this year. Consider Twitter alone: We write about 400 million tweets a day, and that’s projected to grow by about one third in 2014. Critics say this is just narcissistic rambling, but that’s shortsighted. In reality, it’s what I call public thinking: We now broadcast our ideas, hunches, and questions and then connect with like-minded people to get answers. Studies show that when we write for an audience, the pressure to seem clever works. We think more deeply and work harder at being smart.
—Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better
Gratitude Goes Global
What do people around the world have in common? We’re done with being saturated in negative energy from all the economic and political crises that have occupied us all for years. We crave something better and are interested in learning how to find it. We are not ignoring reality; instead, we know that collective optimism lifts the global malaise.
—David Mezzapelle, author of Contagious Optimism