I have a common New Year’s story for you. It starts with an evening of carnivalesque revelry, of glitter and alcohol, of photographs and finger foods. It ends with a chorus of declarations of hope for the New Year, of promises to do things better and to make the next year even better than the last. It’s an evening with a lot of hope; there’s no one who doesn’t love the idea of a fresh start.
The fresh start begins with closed shop windows and quiet streets. Everyone sleeps off the night before. People bustle in their kitchens, cleaning up the messes, eventually floating over to big desk chairs in front of their computer screens to keep refreshing the e-mail inboxes for work e-mails that won’t arrive, at least not until tomorrow. The hope still lingers, and it’s supplemented by the creeping reminder that the very next day – January 2nd – will be another calendar day where we’re all still responsible for the things we promised we would be even before a New Year began.
The resolutions we set and remain mindful of on the 31st and 1st don’t disappear entirely perhaps, but they go forgotten. Yet this is not the kind of forgetting one does with misplaced car keys. This is often a willful forgetting, a forgetting done because it’s much more convenient to forget than to remember. It’s much easier to say, “I forgot my last year’s New Year’s Resolution” than to assert “I didn’t succeed” or even worse, “I didn’t feel like following through.”
These aren’t stories with resolutions of their own. Rather, they’re beginnings to familiar stories, cliches really, that remind me how much I, too, fall into the typical traps and patterns of New Year traditions. On the one hand, I find New Years’ Eve, the idea of celebrating all of the possibilities of the year to come, to be one of the most joyous, reflective holidays of the year. Yet it’s one of these holidays with a severe letdown, a booming crash after skating through holidays. Above all, it’s sobering.
I’ve been particularly sobered by the realization that this coming year is going to mean much more than the years prior. This is the year where I really will be forced to define for myself who I want to be in the university. How do I want to define myself? How will I produce work to show that I can define myself in the ways I so desire?
I’m afraid. So, my New Year’s Resolution turns out to be quite simple: Don’t Be Afraid. Be Courageous.
New Year’s Resolutions have a particular way of sounding maddeningly cliche, and my resolution falls into this unfortunate trap, but I think I (and I don’t think i’m the only graduate student in this position) have been so caught up in anxieties of who and where I will be in the next few years that I have not tackled who I am and want to be right now. I have been afraid of the outcomes of my choices before I have even made the choices in the first place. Hence, I resolve to tackle my time in graduate school with courage, to make it through and finish what I’ve started, and not worry about the outcomes, not yet. This doesn’t mean I should turn a blind eye to the reality of higher education, but that I should still make the most of the opportunities I have, relish them, and allow these opportunities to be positive, proud moments for me in 2014.