March Forth

March ForthPart of my 20 in 2020 series.

Many of us remember Carl Sagan, a famous American astronomer, cosmologist, author, and producer of the show CosmosSasha Sagan is the daughter of Carl, and she wrote a wonderful book about rituals for finding meaning in our unlikely world entitled For Small Creatures Such As We. In the book, Sagan looks to create a set of rituals for her secular family that honor the joy and significance of each experience without relying entirely on a religious framework.

For-Small-Creatures-Such-as-We_Main-1While I enjoyed the entire book on living a secular life while still trying to acknowledge rituals and traditions within a family unit, one passage resonated with me for a longer period. Well into chapter five on confession and atonement she writes about celebrating rituals and traditions for some redemption or rebirth—decorating the Christmas tree each year, for example, or those traditions that happen only once in a lifetime like baptisms and funerals. She also speaks of possibly making up her own secular holiday to atone or celebrate, and she chose the one I have unofficially followed for many years now: March Forth.
“My mother and I have often thought that March 4th would be a good date for such a secular holiday. When you say it out loud, in English, it sounds like a bold command. It’s a pun that seems to cry out a directive to improve or ‘evolve.’ In a footnote to the book Pale Blue Dot, [Carl Sagan] describes the events of March 4, 1953 BCE, when the five planets visible to the naked eye aligned perfectly, ‘strung out like jewels on a necklace near the great square in the constellation Pegasus.’ This was observable in China and may have been ‘the starting point for the planetary cycles of the ancient Chinese astronomers.’ Up until that moment, they had a completely different view of the universe and our place in it, but faced with new evidence, they changed their worldview, abandoning what no longer made sense.” 
Sagan goes on to write “My brain cannot help drawing connections between the verb march and the month March, the adverb forth and numerical term fourth. It’s nothing more than a happy coincidence, but if it hadn’t been for this event it would have been another. March 4th is as good a day as any to repent. This needn’t be a day to beat ourselves up for being human but instead shake off what we can no longer stand up to scrutiny, and to bravely march forth into the personal and philosophical unknown.”
When you say it out loud, in English, it sounds like a bold command. It’s a pun that seems to cry out a directive to improve or ‘evolve.’
I have been recognizing March 4th as a kick-in-the-butt motivational holiday for many years. When I was younger, I used this day on more than one occasion as a starting point for a diet. For many reasons, notwithstanding the mention above by Sagan, this date is much better for atonement than, say, January 1st. So many people announce New Year’s resolutions to exercise more or eat less, but in the dead of winter you are more sedentary and homebound by default, and neither of those things is as attainable as in springtime, during warmer weather and more opportunities for exercising outdoors. Springtime is by its very definition a time of rebirth, with new sightings of animals, buds on plants and trees, lawns peeking out from the snow and greening up, and so much more. The warmth of longer days pulls you toward the idea of wanting to get out and move; a much more natural motivator than the gray harsh cold of the shorter days of winter. Thus, march forth.

Several years ago at my last place of employment, a workmate was fired on March 2nd. The following day, the bulk of his workload was dumped on me in a very unprofessional manner by my supervisor, who basically tried to blame me for that person being let go. My manager’s behavior and actions challenged me to decide if I wanted to continue on in my role there, in what I suddenly perceived as a more toxic environment. After a night of mulling it over, I chose to rise up and power through the situation—on March 4th—and will always remember that day of coming into work with a new set of goals for myself as a person. A few years later, the recession hit and we experienced some layoffs and pay cuts the last week of February due to losing a large client. I was not let go, but took a cut in pay and again was assigned some additional work of those who were let go. Once again on March 4th, I chose to march forth, but to proceed with caution and really started to take a close look at my career and where I was headed.

I get motivated to do something—anything—to improve upon what I currently have.
Later that year, I started to retool so I could be better prepared to leave on my own power instead of being blindsided by a future layoff. I started applying for jobs and went back to college at the age of forty to get an IT degree and learn web development. I began networking with others on several platforms to develop relationships and connections. From there, I took a job at UW-Madison as a production worker and more recently a supervisor, taking me down an entirely different path of leadership and growth that I never could have imagined before taking those actions.
In the past few years, March 4th has come more quietly, but the corners of my mouth curl up slightly and I get motivated to do something—anything—to improve upon what I currently have. As my “inner planets” align and adjust my worldview each spring, I strive for change and to evolve into something more than I was before.

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