Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year!

Well 2012 is over and we're in a new year (a year which has has four sequential numbers as its digits! 0, 1, 2, and 3!). In the weeks leading up to the end of 2012 I saw a whole bunch of lists and whatnot everywhere from CNN to Sportscenter looking back at the past year. Hell, Facebook even told me what my top 20 moments were for the year (they probably tried to tell you yours too!).

I didn't really stop to reflect on my own year until after the ball dropped and friends went back home after gathering to celebrate. But thinking about it, 2012 was a really great year in my life, personally.

I started the year with the most functional "family vacation" I've ever been on to celebrate my girlfriend's birthday, and I got to pet a freakin' dolphin as a bonus! Then at the end of February came a single week of awesome which included getting accepted into Cornell, learning I would be getting a SUNY Chancellor's Award, attending a Sigma Tau Delta (yup, the English honors society's abbreviation is STD...) conference where my essay was recognized as best in its category ($!), and spending a wonderful time with wonderful people in New Orleans (though a friend and I might have gotten lost trying to find the Backstreet Cultural Museum...). And then after that week I could wrap up my career at Geneseo by just reveling in a place where I had found home with folks I had found to be family. After graduation came a last-minute decision to embark on a road trip from Long Island to Texas with some friends ("The best trip ever!"), and then I got to begin my graduate studies at Cornell University. Keeping things to one paragraph, all in all 2012 was a great ride! I am extremely humbled by my luck and grateful for all of my sources of support in my life, and thankful to  everyone who helped make this such a great year for me on a personal level.

My aunt and uncle lost their house in Breezy Point during Sandy.
And at the same time, I remember some of the not-so-great things about 2012, including our gridlocked politics in the U.S., violence around the world in places like Syria, the sixteen mass shootings in our own country, and natural disasters such as earthquakes in the Middle East and Phillipines and Hurricane Sandy. I remember that for many people, 2012 held its share of tragedies, or at least was not necessarily the best year of their lives. 

But I also remember Chimamanda Adichie's TED talk, which has been more influential on me than I can express, on "The Danger of the Single Story," and I stop myself before thinking that for some people 2012 was nothing but a tragic year, as if human experience can be squished into a single dimension. That is not to diminish the terrible events of 2012, but to simply recognize that while individuals cannot escape their contexts and environments, they are not defined by these things.

And so I'm now thinking about what it means to celebrate New Year's Eve/Day. We perform this new beginning, and yet there is no cleaning of the slate, no reset button which sets up a brand new year -- just the continuation of moments. So the performance of it all seems a little empty, doesn't it? 

As someone who is admittedly suspicious of celebrations of holidays, I do think celebrating New Year's is a valuable and meaningful performance. No, we don't get to wipe the slate clean and start over as if the new is separate from the old, but we can for just a moment resolve to work towards beginning anew, even as we must continue to live with the same responsibilities we had the previous calendar year. We can begin again as if for the first time, while at the same time we remain grounded in the inescapable continuum from past to future which we call the present. We can, for a moment, embody contradiction.

And I think that in that moment of contradiction, in that moment in which we can simultaneously start over again and keep on swimming the same stream of time we can find our potential to negotiate another embodied contradiction. While our individual lives may seem small in comparison to the world at large and yet infinitely important to our own emotional well-being, we can assert our miniscule individuality as a mechanism for affecting our environments at large. We can embody the contradiction of the smallness and the profundity of individuality, and that is humbling.

So here's to a new year that's both brand new and just a continuation of the very old. There's nothing new under the sun, but each day is itself a different day. At least I think so.      



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