by Sanaa Humayun
This time of year makes everyone ponder change. A new year means a new beginning, a fresh start. I want to believe this, to buy into this idea that when the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve your slate is immediately wiped clean, and all your transgressions from the previous year are forgiven. But really, what makes January 1st any different from the day before it?
2016 was a hard year for many, myself included. For me it was a year of change, not all of which was necessarily good. The dreamer in me wants to immerse myself in New Year’s resolutions, to believe that 2017 is somehow sentient and will hear my desperate prayers and be kind to me. I want to put all my faith into the dawn of the New Year, as though time isn’t continuous, as though when 2017 hits something in the air changes and allows me to be a different, less flawed person. But regardless of the New Year, I’m still the same me. Putting so much stock in 2017 as a catalyst for change makes me less accountable for my actions. 2016 was a terrible year for so many people not because the year itself chose to be terrible, but because people acted terribly, so why would 2017 be any different? The flaws that plagued me then still exist now; that doesn’t change. The only way that things get better is if I actively try to be better, not because the year is over, but because I genuinely want to improve myself.
This is not to dismiss the idea of New Year’s resolutions as a whole – change is scary, and admitting that you are unhappy with your life or parts of yourself is hard. It takes courage to admit that you want to be better, and even more to take real steps to achieve that. When change is normalized, as it is with New Year’s resolutions, it gives people an easier way of taking the first steps. While it’s true that 2016 was a terrible year for many because of the actions of other people, and that doesn’t change just because more time has passed, the start of the new year gives people hope, and encourages them to treat each other more kindly.
Despite my cynicism towards New Year’s resolutions, I still have them (I’m a sucker for clichés). For me, I’m going to focus on moving forward. Hard things happen, and it becomes so easy to dwell on them, to become overwhelmed by grief and stress and sadness and to not realize that every change has its positives. Though I know that the new year does not actually mean a new beginning, that the first day of the new year is not actually different from the one before it, part of me still sees it that way. Maybe the significance we set in it makes it different – maybe because we universally treat the new year as a fresh start it becomes as such. I know that my problems won’t magically disappear when the clock strikes twelve, but there’s some comfort in the connected-ness of that moment, of knowing that every person is experiencing the same feeling in that moment, as they look forward to their new opportunities – hope. Maybe i am still the same flawed person, regardless of what year it is. But hope is a powerful thing, and who’s to say what it can do?
Banner photography courtesy of Zosia Czarnecka.