New Year’s Day
“Nothing changes on New Year’s Day”
When I was in high school, I remember obsessing about which song I would listen to first in a given year. “New Year’s Day” by U2 was always in the running, as was “New Year” by the Breeders. “The New Year” by Death Cab for Cutie emerged as a contender after it was released. I somehow thought that picking out the right song would send me into the new year with some sort of mojo. The whole thing had an air of superstition.
Now that I’m older, I spend less time focused on which song to listen to and more time on what to feed the family for New Year’s Day dinner (cloven-hoofed animals and you’ll “keep moving forward” during the year; poultry and “your luck will fly out the window”). This is most definitely superstitious!
The mere thought of New Year’s Day comes with the requisite thoughts of New Year’s resolutions. On the surface, they seem like a great idea. In practice, they’re much harder. Where I live, January is a bleak month. The daylight is short and the weather is cold. So committing to a New Year’s resolution that involves “more swimming” or “more running” can be even harder to make happen when you won’t really have the opportunity to do it for awhile. (OK — you can swim or run in a gym, but that’s not the point.)
My brother-in-law once said that the only day to quit anything is January 1st. That way, you can remember how long it’s been since you’ve done the thing you quit. But that’s one end of the change spectrum — refusing to do a thing anymore. What about the other end of the spectrum — where we actually want to start a new habit?
Starting something is easy. Sticking with it is much more challenging. The truth is that for some new behavior to stick, it has to become a habit. It has to become natural. It’s easy to say anything on December 31st — especially if you have a few drinks in your system. It’s much harder to follow through on those commitments in the harsh light of February.
A common theme in two of the songs I mentioned above is that nothing changes just because the calendar rolls over. For many of us, life continues as it was. But for just as many of us, New Year’s Day forces us to take stock of the last year we’ve lived and decide whether we’re satisfied. We can make a change on any day, but something about the calendar reading January 1st makes it more appealing. The date forces us to reflect and take aegis.
For the old axiom of “out with the old, in with the new” to actually come true, it requires that we let go of the old thing to welcome the new thing. And that’s change. Whether that change is some sort of new behavior, or getting rid of your favorite pair of jeans that now has too many holes in it to be worn outside of the house. We need to let go of old things to give ourselves enough space to welcome new things.
Here’s to a year full of new adventures.
U2 - “New Year’s Day”
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