Farheen Nahvi writes about the unnecessary pressures a new year brings.
I started 2019 in a place so different than where I find myself now that it’s making me wonder whether it's any use at all to have a new plan for a new year. It was supposed to be a radically different year, but what I failed to realise then was that my absolutes aren't how other people live, and my life isn't in isolation from the world. But not all benefits are materially harvested; sometimes the best things to happen to us are lessons. So this is what I’ve learned, and what I hope might be just the thing you need today.
The significance of a new year in the human psyche is apparent in the way we think of it as a new start. We all excitedly wait for a terrible year to be over, so we can start afresh and break the cycle of misfortune-only to fall into the same pattern of dwindling hope and a descent into despair. If only the first day of the year had gone right; if only I had started on the right foot this year; if only, if only…
We place so much weight on the first of January every year to be the most perfect day in existence, that if it isn't, we condemn our whole year to misery. We set up resolutions towards our betterment for a new year, and then feel terrible when we cannot immediately follow a completely new routine. We make promises about accepting that we are the masters of our own emotions, and then sink into despair of our own making when we cannot switch to being happy at the drop of a hat. We expect so much from a new calendar, that we seal the disappointment that's delivered a few days later.
So what will be different about 2020? Perhaps we can all start with taking a deep breath, absorbing the freshness of January, and smiling; we got to a new day. There is nothing wrong with having resolutions and wanting to improve yourself, but the pressure of starting immediately, and thinking that if any old habits you want to get rid of surface in the new year is just a disaster- that’s what makes us spiral back into the pit we wished to climb out of in the first place. New habits take a while to stick, and starting slow is the only way we can make sure that we continue; not because of new year adrenaline, but because we want to develop a long-lasting ethic.
If you miss the January 1st deadline, the entire year is still ahead of you. What we need to remember, is that every day is a new day, and if we're so determined on the first of January, we can be determined any other day of the year as well. As the grand scheme of epiphanies go, I did not reach this conclusion out of abstraction, but when I tried to make a positive change in my life last January, and again in June, and then again this holiday season, when I picked up writing again- it wasn't impossible after all.
Maybe what we all need to really work for this new year is to stop feeling bad for ourselves, and stop evaluating our worth through somebody else's eyes. We do not owe anyone our perfection, and any changes we want should be for us alone. Even if it is what helps our relationships, we should be able to start the 'reform' on our own. Nothing anyone ever says will make you want to change your circumstances and improve if you do not believe it yourself; I had heard this several times in the previous years (coming from well-meaning places), but never really wanted to move away from the comfort that comes with the consistency of self-destruction, not until I really wanted to, and I'm still working my way out. When we start doing things for ourselves, we do it at our pace, and we do it right; working according to someone else's timeline will bring us nothing but despair.
I could not have imagined I would have the year that I had, and as we are wont to do, when the first major thing went wrong, I labeled the entire year 'bad'. But it wasn't just bad; there was always a penny where I lost a dollar, and the silver linings are the memories I want to take into this year.
So have a happy, better, kinder new year, and let's try to make every day of 2020 a new day for the new beginning we all want.