Our celebration of the New Year is a peculiar thing. We invest it with all kinds of magic and believe it will somehow change everything.
The coming of a new year gives us the ability to imagine that we can wipe the slate clear and start all over. We arise, full of good intentions and alcohol-induced resolve, to create resolutions and decide on what goals we will pursue.
That’s nonsense, of course. For one thing, life is full of beginnings and endings. Every birth, every death, every graduation, every bar mitzvah, every christening, every wedding, every divorce — all of them represent new beginnings of one sort or another. Beginnings are sprinkled throughout any life, and every one of them offers an opportunity to start all over again in one way or another.
Most of the time, we don’t take advantage of all those opportunities. That’s because of another peculiarity of us peculiar humans. The sad fact of the matter is that we usually lose our enthusiasm for all those new beginnings … fairly quickly, much of the time. Here we are, six days into the new year and its already feeling stale and dishearteningly normal. Never mind verve and resolve. Today was just another hump day, like hundreds we’ve lived through and thousands more that reside in the misty future.
No doubt I sound like a terrible cynic to you but really I’m not. I believe in chasing dreams and starting over. If you ever had any doubts about that, stop and consider that I’m fighting to get into a graduate program to get a doctorate in anthropology, which can take as much as 10 years, when I’ll be fifty-seven years old before I get started. If that’s not optimism, I don’t know what is!
Here’s the thing, though: if I reach any of my goals or all of my goals — whether we’re talking about getting fit or losing weight or mastering my hemoglobin A1C or getting into graduate school or moving south — it’ll be through hard work and sheer grit, personal sacrifice and study … no magic involved. And that’s the way I want it.
See life has taught me that I feel best about the accomplishments I earned, the stuff that doesn’t come easily. If it’s that easy, how much have I really accomplished after all? Walking doesn’t mean very much these days, because I’m pretty good at it and I’ve had lots of practice. But if you’re 11 months old, walking is a major accomplishment. Next chance you get, watch an almost-but-mot-quite walking human being. It’s really hard work learning to walk.
So when they finally get it and all the grown-ups in the room ooo and aahh and make other congratulatory noises of varying degrees of loudness, baby grins in excitement and you can just see that they are tickled pink that they accomplished what they were working on after all that hard work.
And there wasn’t a silly hat or a sparkler or an adult beverage involved anywhere. No new beginnings or resolutions or anything but sweat equity.
So, try not to be too disappointed that your life has returned to normal and your resolutions are already feeling stale. This is the part where you get to see how much you really want it … isn’t it?