New Year’s Day is the adult version of starting a new school year. It’s our chance to forget the failures of the previous twelve months, all of the bickering, all of the nagging notions that we just don’t measure up. It’s the ultimate Do Over. The one time we can say with all sincerity that this time will be different.
This time, we’ll get it right.
But I’ve always been reluctant to embrace this day, mostly because I have my doubts that I’ll get it right. The turning of the calendar page is an easy thing to do eleven times out of the twelve, but that last time is exceedingly difficult.
I suppose it has much to do with the fact that for much of the year I felt as if I were moving toward something, whether a date or a season. Yet with the turn of December to January there is no more moving toward. There is only the End and the inevitable question it will ask—What now?
Those two words carry a weight that in some way burdens us all on this day. It’s the reason some choose to welcome the New Year with drink and celebration, and others with a quiet sense of reflection. Because no matter who we are and no matter how aware of it we happen to be, some part of us is at this moment pondering that question.
It’s a question that when answered tells more than just our opinion, but the state of our lives.
I’ve had years spent in the mire, neck deep in sadness and despair. When I’ve been laid naked before my days to suffer the bitterness of its sharp winds and biting cold. I’ve neither run nor walked to many a new year, but clawed my way. And the question on those firsts of Januaries past was the same as all of them, though with a simple emphasis that betrayed the feebleness of my soul.
What else can happen to me? How much more can God allow me to hurt?
There’s little doubt that life is a big thing and I am rather small. The tides of chance and circumstance can either carry me to distant shores or draw me to the depths. There is much that lies beyond my ability to either predict or control. I am at fate’s mercy. Not free, but bound to chance.
And there have been years when Day One feels like sweet water in a parched desert, a signpost in my life’s wilderness that says while I may not have found home, I am headed in the right direction. It is at once a gentle calm and a sparking fire that allows me to keep my feet firmly planted yet reach higher than myself.
Those are the years when victory, no matter how small or inconsequential, is assured. When the road may not be smooth and sloping gently downward, but is nonetheless straight and sure.
Those are the years when that question is asked with anticipation instead of dread. What now? becomes What now! And that makes all the difference in the world.
Too many of us live under the false assumption that life is good or bad. It’s neither. Life is simply a mirror to our own selves, reflecting back to us the image we shine into it.
I suppose it would be easy to say that January 1 is nothing more than a date. That there is nothing new about us today that was not present yesterday. But I don’t think that’s true. If every day is a gift, then this day has a bow that is a little bigger. There is an air that all things have been made new and that there is much more behind us than before. This, to me, is a source of comfort. We can change nothing about the past twelve months, but we can do plenty with the twelve months ahead.
We have 365 days to make our lives. Eight thousand seven hundred and sixty hours at our disposal. What will we do with them? Will we spend them as we have in the past, with fear and trembling? Or will we instead see them for what they truly are, our defining moments?
Will we shrink and say What now? or will we find the courage to say What now!