Two writers consider the importance of new beginnings.
Leah Simmons Wood
In a society that demands for us to strive for flawlessness, New Years always seems to be the perfect time to make That Big Change. 2018 is no exception, with January EVEN starting on a Monday – new year, new month, new week, new day… new me? I think not. Self-improvement comes from self-acceptance and learning, and is something that we should aim for consistently, throughout, in whatever way it means for each person as an individual.
For me personally, this means accepting and loving my body, as for the past four years I have been struggling with the insecurities that develop alongside eating disorders. It also means standing by my own morals, even if at times doing so means isolating myself. I grew up in, and still return to, a community in which many sexist attitudes prevail; although the people that make up this community are people I grew up around, have known my entire life and therefore have a certain degree of affection for, I often struggle to feel at ease around them. I’ve reached a point, however, where I’d rather not endure conversations and actions I find unacceptable and rude, and either get up and leave or speak out; although it’s difficult as far as resolutions go, I’m going to try do this more.
To deal with issues related to body image, on the other hand, I think the general focus for women should be to aim for self-acceptance rather than for an unattainable ideal. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her “Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Points” emphasizes the importance of health in order to feel confident and strong in a largely belittling and challenging society. Lastly, I’m going to try to engage in more feminist literature, from Zadie Smith to Virginia Woolf, in order to make myself more aware of the struggles encountered by women over the course of history and ongoing in the present day. This intends to be a long-term realistic pursuit, not just an over-ambitious, overnight New Years whim.
‘New year, new me’. Over the past few years, this phrase has been drilled into me, but what does it actually mean? Am I meant to change my appearance, my attitudes, my beliefs? What is it exactly that’s expected of me?
I cannot for the life of me remember a single New Years resolution, or a conscious change I wished to make from last year, let alone the years before that. But what I do remember from each New Years are the parties and the people that make them as wild, enjoyable and memorable as they are. For me, New Years is not about the resolutions and unkept promises we convince ourselves we need to make, but a reminder of all the success and failures I have been through in the year previous, and how I would not achieve half as much as I do without the support of my friends.
Whether I have been toasting on a balcony at the Southbank Centre, watching the fireworks light up the night sky, or eating cold Dominos and roast potatoes at 4am on the 1st of January, these moments all share the magic of feeling loved and supported by my friends. New Years may be widely regarded as a time for self-reflection, but first and foremost, for me anyway, it’s about remembering the joy and support that people bring in to our lives.
While self-reflection is important, I have never been able to change who I am within a day. Maybe my hair though. The point is, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and everything that makes me who I am, includes the experiences of bad decisions and misguided beliefs. Who I am now is a comparatively different person to who I was five years ago, but that change wasn’t instantaneous. Self-improvement is an ongoing journey, and that journey starts with accepting who you are, flaws and all. If January 1st is the day you do that, than I’m here to full on support you, and if it’s halfway through the year, then that’s fine too.
Resolutions don’t have to be confined to New Years, but at the same time, you are in no way obligated to have them. If I say I’m going to stop eating cheese, my friends will probably still try and help me even if they know it’s a lie. Yes, that may be because they’ve witnessed first hand how gassy it can make me, but that is what I love about New Years – the reminder of ongoing support and love from healthy friendships.
Illustration by Rivka Cocker.