New Year, New Beginnings

It’s a brand new year. A brand new day. All our troubles and problems are so last year. Let’s welcome the new year with hope in our hearts and dreams in our eyes
Last Updated 31 December 2018, 19:30 IST

The wise say life is lived in-between the pauses – like the one right after we exhale, and before we inhale. Every ending is just another beginning. There really is no better time than the first day of the year to breathe this in.

Whether the year that just went by was good, bad or ugly for you, if you look deep within yourself, only a singular truth emerges – you are not the person you were at the beginning of last year, just like you will not be the person you are now at the end of this year.

When a year ends (or begins), even those of us who practice the Scarlett ‘O’ Hara brand of nonchalant optimism and declare tomorrow is another day, feel a stirring – a sigh of relief or a tinge of longing – even as the excitement of the new tugs at our heart and the unknowns send up a tingle.

In fact, the best time to understand what we truly want from ourselves is when something ends – a door closes, a chapter concludes, or a candle snuffs out. Learning to dwell in that little pause before the next begins is to become skilled at both clinging on and letting go. We are all always coming to an end of something, be it a job, an experience, a relationship, or even a moment; wisdom lies in figuring out how to make these endings hold up the beginnings.

Beginnings are magical, but…

But no matter how many quotations you read on Pinterest about the magic of beginnings, or how many articles (like this one) you end up reading on New Year, beginnings are notoriously hard and often resemble kites that take off with much fanfare to only get stuck at the first electric wire they encounter. We make determined resolutions, we begin, we stumble and we stop. And then we take all our baggage and go on long guilt trips for the rest of the year.

Digital entrepreneur Suraj Kaggere says this is precisely why he stopped making resolutions. “Whenever I failed to stick to my resolutions (which was almost always), I felt a deep sense of regret. Over the years, I have understood that instead of some grandiose plan, small and incremental positive changes work best for me.”

Freelance journalist Sheetal Vyas agrees with this sentiment. “A decade ago, the new year meant resolving to exercise more or be disciplined... kept at it for a week at the most. Around eight years ago, something happened in my life; it shifted my attention to what was inside than outside. My inner landscape is so exciting now that I am constantly on the watch,” she says.

Nevertheless, Sheetal sees great merit in the date. “After all, Janus, after whom January is named, is the two-headed god of transitions. He looks back and looks forward, effectively telling us what we all should do, too.” For her though, every natural transition – phases of the moon, the change of seasons as well as the sun’s run across the hemispheres – is an opportunity to “go beyond the cycles”, as she puts it and take stock.

Learning from the past

Poets and philosophers have often reiterated that taking stock must necessarily involve applying the lessons life has taught us to what we do in the future. But this is easier said than done, as we all realise.

Acceptance helps. “2018 taught me to accept wholeheartedly the futility of feeling happy or sad about anything that is external and not within my control. I notice this acceptance has certainly made me more content,” says Suraj.

But others like stay-at-home mom Bangaru Kamakshi are brisk and pragmatic about their life lessons. “I don’t set much store in mulling too much about resolutions. Circumstances in 2018 warned me to be more careful about my health and that is exactly what I am going to concentrate on next year!” she says matter-of-factly. She is also planning to update her knowledge in AI and Robotics to keep up with her busy teen. “I do not have to wait for any date to do so!”

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What are your goals for 2019?

Aspiring author and former IT professional Sheena has quite the opposite view. She says she always looks forward to the new year to “chisel out” her resolutions and it “invigorates her spirit” to do so. “For me, new beginnings mean literally starting over on a clean slate. I hate baggage of any form.” As for applying lessons learnt in the year gone by, Sheena says though she gets nervous when the time approaches to take stock, she does revisit her resolutions’ sheet to strike off the ones that are complete and fine-tune the ones that can be carried over to the New Year. “I have found this exercise particularly useful, and being organised helps greatly,” she says.

Begin anew every moment

However, comprehending the paradox of endings and beginnings is not effortless for everyone. Many a time, we take a wrong turn believing it to be the right path. But in reality, there isn’t really any wrong turn — each path teaches us a lesson if we are willing to learn, eventually helping us find that moment of clarity we seek. That said, there’s no point in beating ourselves about our choices, or wishing we had made different ones, precisely because it is now behind us.

Often, we either do not realise this or refuse to accept it and end up desperately trying to write a story that has already ended. It is at these times that we ought to remember that sometimes it is okay to keep the pen down. It is alright to not wrestle with a closed door. Clinging on to it may blind you to the window on the other side. As mindfulness practitioners say, the biggest truth is that there is no better time than the moment you are in to begin anew. The dawn of a new year, at best, can only create the right setting; the rest, as they say, is all within you.

(Published 31 December 2018, 19:30 IST)

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