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New Year, New Beginnings

I’ve always found it odd that January is the poster child for new beginnings. 

January is long, dark, and dry. 

January sends out calls for hibernation. 

January wants us to burrow ourselves inside of her, planted like seeds, not quite ready for harvest. 

Still, it’s the time of the year when we are purchasing new planners, setting grand intentions, and making lofty plans with others as we exclaim, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” just to wake up on the first day of the year and feel the call to return to routine, to rest, and to recover from the holidays. 

From a young age, I feel like we are taught to look to birthdays and holidays as permission for new beginnings. When you’re a kid, there are so many “beginnings” you have yet to experience, whether it’s reaching the age you might start losing teeth, the age you can finally learn to drive, or the age your parents will allow you to begin dating. During adolescence, each birthday is an offering of a new, varied stage of your human development. 

When I was about to turn twenty-one, I remember people telling me that it was the “last important birthday.” 

The last? Really? Surely there would be more important birthdays. 

I think what people were trying to tell me was that every birthday beyond twenty-one didn’t come with any perks, and in fact, some birthdays in the future come with milestones that aren’t as fun.

Loss of insurance. Health screenings. You get the gist.  

It’s interesting to me because that sentiment gets offered at a time when life is wildly unstable. 

When I turned twenty-one, I put so much undue pressure on myself surrounding how “together” my life was supposed to feel. I was standing on unsteady ground from huge life changes including walking away from a high-demand religion, packing my bags to move to Tokyo, Japan for a dream job, and ending a relationship with someone I had talked about marriage with. 

I had a vibrant, scary, and exciting new beginning ahead of me as I stepped fully into the unknown, thinking that the unknown was something I’d only have to brave once.

Naive. Naive. Naive.  

Now as I head into 2024, the year where I will begin the last year of my 20s, I realize more and more that life is a constant process of beginning again and that you will never max out of important days. 

On my 22nd birthday, I danced through Tokyo with friends.

On my 23rd birthday, I rehearsed an original rock opera.

On my 24th birthday, I celebrated with my cast as we put on the world premiere of that rock opera.

On my 25th birthday, a dear out-of-state friend surprised me and we spent the sweetest week together.

On my 26th birthday, I ate dinner surrounded by family and loved ones.

On my 27th birthday, I sang and danced at karaoke with a new lover.

On my 28th birthday, my lover gave me a beautiful painting and we danced together again, and again.

As I get older, the days that feel most important to me seem to carry such sweet simplicity. 

Not every day offers a visible milestone, other than the birthday that allowed me to rent a car, but each day offered me a chance to reconnect with myself and explore who I want to be. 

New beginnings will beckon to us from the cradle to the grave. 

Sometimes in large ways. Sometimes in small ways. 

Sometimes our new beginnings will be taking a new daily multivitamin in hopes it helps with fatigue.

Other times, our new beginnings will be diving head first into various unknowns. 

It seems like as we get older, and the “important” birthdays pass, we look to days like New Year’s Eve to permit ourselves to dream of a new beginning. Once we have lost all of our baby teeth, learned to drive, and are old enough to drink, we have to take it upon ourselves to use our creativity in looking for offerings that give us permission to try, think, do, be, or believe something new. 

Some of these offerings will seem a little more pressing. 

Maybe a relationship isn’t working out and you need to figure out how to grow in new ways.

Maybe your job is exhausting you and there’s a different career path you’ve always wanted to try.

Maybe you want to explore being a parent or getting a pet. 

Some offerings feel a little more subtle and like an invitation. 

New beginnings are Mondays in February that feel pink.

New beginnings are watching embers simmer during the final campfire of Summer.

New beginnings are the touch of a hand you’ve been waiting to hold.

Even if people tell you that you’ve already had your most important birthday, the worst fate you could suffer is believing you’re out of chances to begin again. 

There’s no age limit for experience. 

There’s no expiration date on being able to begin. 

Take dance classes at 40.

Adopt a kid at 50.

Go back to school at 60.

Fall in love at 80.

The world is beckoning to you. The world wants you to keep playing. 

There are no concrete rules unless you decide that there are. 

So, what offerings do you feel around you, right now?

I still stand by what I said earlier, it feels odd that January is the poster child for new beginnings, but it also makes sense. January leaves us dull and exhausted. January makes us yearn for lighter days.

January is the harbinger of new beginnings because she calls upon us to rest and reserve our energy, and only in welcoming her stillness can we catch the glimmers of our next new beginnings. 

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