It’s a new year—again. That means New Year’s resolutions—again. It’s ironic that a holiday meant to be representative of opportunity, fresh starts, and new beginnings is so repetitive and predictable. Despite sounding like the Scrooge of #2k16, I actually subscribe to the belief that the new year can be an inspiring symbolic marker. But I also believe that limiting that kind of power to one day—as if it has a monopoly on optimism and restoration—discourages the masses and sets the bulk of us up for failure.
In the early morning of the first day of January 2015, just after the glittery ball in Times Square dropped, an estimated 564,000 people remained homeless. At the end of 2015, 7.9 million Americans were unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over 40,000 citizens never even made a resolutions list for 2016, because they committed suicide before 2015’s end. The point of these grim statistics: New Year’s Eve is no different from any other day out of the year. It still contains misfortune. Dec. 31 is not a day of cosmic grace or good fortune for everyone.
That reality is one we should find solace in, rather than disturbance, because it means you—the individual who still has misfortune and feels unprepared for the fresh new year—are not alone. At the start of 2015, I had just returned from studying abroad. The opportunity was marvelous, of course, but it was also far more difficult and disorienting than I anticipated. I wound up returning home feeling confused about who I was, what I was doing, and where I was going next. I didn’t feel invigorated by the start of a new year, I didn’t feel festive. I felt depressed. Social media only makes these feelings worse, because it’s a place that filter out unseemly emotions in favor of wide smiles, perfect poses, and people who always seem to be achieving more success than you.
I decided to pierce through that manic online energy and wrote about my own disillusionment with the so called “magic” of New Year’s Eve. And I did something drastic—I told my friends and family to wait.
“To everyone who does not feel ready for the beginning of a new year, to everyone who does not feel invigorated by the date and does not feel like tomorrow holds the promise they are looking for, to everyone who is feeling less than festive today; don't rush your new year.”
I told them to wait for a day where they truly felt ready to grab life by the reins and start their lives anew. Maybe they weren’t empowered enough to quit their desk job, run a marathon, and fall in love starting on Jan. 1. But they might be ready in March, or May, or November. I vowed to live my life on a different timeline and encouraged others to do the same. Jan. 1 would not be the start of my new year, but when I finally felt ready, I would turn the page and usher in my own new beginning. Around 80 friends liked my Facebook status, and a few even reached out to me personally to share their own reasons for resenting New Year’s Eve.
Chances are we all pulled ourselves together and attended the evening’s festivities anyway. I know I did. I woke up the next morning, however, with no unrealistic expectations for myself and thus, no opportunities for failure or self-criticism. That was the beauty of refusing to conform—it alleviated pressure.
This is not to say that the standard start of the pagan new year can’t be a well-intentioned and positive marker for people. It provides a very necessary motivation for some individuals to cut old ties, better themselves, and complete a long, thumb-marked bucketlist. But for a holiday that is supposed to provide a sense of hope and fulfillment, it does too much to increase feelings of comparison and resulting mediocrity. As students, we also have a unique opportunity to clean the slate and start over every fall and spring academic term. These can be even more transformative mile markers than the new year, since they come with new courses, clubs, and social circles—and this is the only time in our life where that kind of reset will keep occurring.
The truth is that every day of the year provides a new beginning and chance for resolve. That’s a far more comforting concept. So no matter where you are at the start of this January—perhaps in a position of relapse, of emotional distress, or confusion—remember that when you’re ready, you can flip the switch on your own glittery ball and celebrate your very own new beginning.