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New Year Same Us

I’ve always been a fan of ushering in a new year. For many—myself included—it brings a sense of renewed hope. A clean slate. A whole new year to find different ways to make new mistakes and to learn from them. I like the idea of being new again.

It feels like there is such a buzz in the air this time of the year, like the people on the TV and your friends on social media are all saying, “It is time to shed the old versions of ourselves, and be new again.” And while, I am a big believer that anyone can wake up one day and be new all over, I do think there is something very important about accepting our past selves into our new one as we go forward.

I have a couple new year’s traditions I’d like to share with my fellow writers. I especially like to take this sense of newness and revisit some of my all-time favorites. I take this time of looking forward and remember to also look back.

In the first month of the year, I like to reread some of my favorite short stories. I started with Donald Barthelme’s “The School.” If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. My favorite part of the story is when the main character is being bombarded with questions from his students. They are asking him some very tough things, and his only response is to tell them the truth which is he does not know the answer. And so, they ask him well, who does? And our main character replies with “Nobody knows.” One of my favorite lines in a short story ever. Nobody knows. There is something truly profound in admitting that there are lots of questions that have no real answer. And by the same token, there is comfort in knowing that there are some unknowable things in life.

The buzz of the new year can be harmful to us. It feels like we are repainted houses. While fresh paint may hide the layers underneath, it doesn’t erase the old ones. I can pretend to be someone completely different when the clock strikes midnight on a new year, but that feels false. Like there is some shame in who I was before midnight.

The soft romantic side of me loves the movie Pride & Prejudice (2005). You know, the one with Keira Knightly? I find myself drifting back to it in the light of the new year. As a way to say, even though I am brand new and I could do anything, there are still parts of me that are the same and will remain the same my whole life. And in a world that is filled with uncertainties, it is nice to know that regardless, I know myself.

Socrates declared that the unexamined life was not worth living and that true wisdom is knowing what you do not know. So, without getting too philosophical on you (too late I know), my advice to you while we bask in the newness of the year is to reconnect with your past selves. To level with them. To accept them as parts of you. To celebrate the promise of a new year, and to also celebrate the acceptance of who you are and who you will remain until your dying days.

We cannot thrive going forward if we forget who we are and the things that first inspired us to do the things we love. If anything, we should be celebrating our past at the new year. Thankful that our past self was smart enough to keep us alive. Revisiting some of my favorite things grounds me in my newness. I get to reconnect with a beautiful piece of work, and I get to feel inspired by it all over again. So, seek out the things you love. Remember them. Hold them close to your heart as you face the uncertainties ahead.

Here we are in the new year, ready to be new but to also take our past selves into the future too. And even though, nobody knows what will happen, at least we know that wherever life takes us, we will face it with accumulated acceptance of all of our past and presents selves coexisting inside of us. Happy New Year!

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