Quote of the Day

Monday, January 18, 2010

so this is the new year*

So here we find ourselves in 2010. A new year, a time of universal hopefulness and idealism, when anything seems possible in the shiny new 12 months lying before us like our own personal yellow brick road. What exactly is it about a New Year that seems to make zealous optimists out of even the most jaded and cynical of us? That has people going crazy with resolutions, making promises to themselves, many of which are sure to be forgotten in a few months, after the shine of glitter confetti and sound of noisemakers has faded into the distance?

I guess as a species we've always loved a blank slate. It's why wealthy folk paid the church for indulgences in the Middle Ages (sorry peasants, guess you're screwed!), why Catholics have Confession, why new jobs and new apartments and new relationships are so exciting. It's a fresh beginning. And so the New Year lays before us like a phoenix reborn in glorious feather regalia, a symbol of hope and renewal. A chance to leave behind all the mistakes, all the disappointment, frustration, half-assing and heartache of the past 12 months (after desperately attempting to squeeze in the greatest possible amount of champagne and debauchery into the one last night of the year, of course).

But the truth is that the turning of a calendar page to January 1st can't magically absolve us or erase the past. And it shouldn't, because the past is something to remember and learn from, both the good and the bad. Of course we all want the next year to be better than the last, but merely hoping it will be so doesn't do a damn thing. The only way to make sure that happens is to learn from the mistakes and wrong turns of the past and do our very best not to repeat them, and to continue with the positive steps made in the last year.

Personally, my new year began with something that felt vaguely like a kick in the gut, but I refuse to believe this can be indicative of what lays ahead for the year as a whole. The truth is that it will probably be like just about every year before it: some good and some bad, lots of frustration and lots of laughter, odd adventures, stressful times and perfect lazy days, triumphs and failures, some betrayal and hopefully more loyalty, a little heartache, a little love and a good amount of joy.

I don't know, perhaps the fact that 2010 was ushered in by a Blue Moon has some astrological or astronomical significance, maybe it means this year will be unique, one to remember above the rest. Or maybe not. But like everyone else, I have to believe that this year will be great, that it will be the best year yet. Not because of a lunar phenomenon, not because I think that all the mistakes and sorrows of the past have been erased, or because I think this year won't bring any. But rather because whatever life and circumstance have in store for me in the next 12 months, I know I have the ability to make this year great.

Because, like everyone else, I have the choice to be happy; the choice to learn from my missteps, to think positively, to make things happen and to accept the things that don't, to grab onto the good things that come my way and learn to let go of the things that drag my heart down. I've been thinking a lot about free will and choice lately, after reading East of Eden, and it has occurred to me that free will has to be either the greatest gift from God or the greatest invention of Humankind (depending, I guess, on where your theological predilections lie). Because it sets us free; it gives us that choice, and in choice there is power.

Sure, we often don't get a say in what happens to us, the things life throws at us. There are many things in life we have no control over. But we do get to choose how we react, and what we do with what we're given. We have the choice to take opportunities or dismiss them, to give up or persist, to hold grudges or forgive, to love or hate. It's pretty amazing if you think about it: the tremendous power we hold without even realizing it most of the time. And while at times the responsibility of having that choice may seem more like a curse, that is what puts us ultimately in control of our own destiny and gives us the ability to be happy, successful...whatever we want to be.

So I guess my most important New Year's resolution is this: to make the choice to take control of my life and exercise my free will to be happy. To not let anything or anyone take the joy out of me, not let anyone make the sun seem less bright or the world less beautiful through my eyes, whether by their negativity or stupidity or by their inability to love or appreciate or accept me. And reversely I resolve to the best of my ability not to do the same to others, to not be anyone's metaphorical anchor or fire extinguisher. While writing this I was reminded of the old song they used to have us sing in elementary school:

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bush? O NO! I'm gonna let it shine."

Apparently it's actually an old children's gospel song, and if that's true than it must certainly be the best thing my Catholic school education left me with. Although I think the original meaning of the song had to do with spreading the "light" of God's word, whereas my personal interpretation is more about finding joy within yourself, staying true to who you are and letting your unique spirit shine through. So friends, I hope with all of my heart that this year you let your light shine (l
et it shine, let it shine, let it shine). And make it a good one. Because fuck circumstance, you have the choice and the power to make it happen.

As for me, I am throwing myself into 2010 head first, perhaps a little more disillusioned (and hopefully a little bit wiser), but no less convinced of the beauty and goodness in the world, and more determined than ever to fully embrace it.

*title borrowed from a Death Cab for Cutie song I vaguely remember

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