The concept of a new year and new beginnings has almost always been lost on me. I feel the same way about birthdays. I remember when I was younger, I would wake up on my birthday and my parents and relatives would ask me if I felt a year older. Of course I didn’t feel a year older, after all, I was only 10 hours older than I was when I went to bed the night before. It can be difficult to really experience the passing of time, for ourselves, when we only acknowledge the accumulation of our time, on our birthdays. One night I went to bed and I was 9 years old. When I woke up this morning, I was 40 years old. I feel older this morning than I did 31 years ago, but all the days in between? I don’t know if I was actively keeping track.
I remember this time last year, people seemed so excited for 2021- for no reason other than it wouldn’t be 2020. But what did that mean? The difference between 2020 and 2021 was quite literally the passing of 1 second. Did we all really think that the passing of one second on a clock was going to undo everything we experienced in 2020? Did we believe that when we woke up on January 1, 2021 we would all feel differently? I think we wanted to believe that. I think we hoped for that. More than anything, really, I think we all hoped life would just be better in 2021; maybe even go back to feeling, dare I say, normal?
That concept isn’t specific to 2020 heading into 2021, but it really does highlight how much we glorify looking forward to something- even if we don’t know what it is. Or how much we unknowingly look to the future to deliver us something better. Or sometimes, how comforting it can be to look anywhere else, for anything else, as long as it’s not where we are, what we have, or what we feel right now. I think it might be impossible to experience ourselves moment to moment all the time (I say “might” because I don’t believe in impossible), and even if it is possible, I’m not sure that’s the best thing for any of us. A little bit of balance can go a very long way.
We all woke up this morning to a new month in a new year, but remember, yesterday, last month, and last year are only a few seconds behind us. We will never be able to control time- it will continue to pass whether we experience the minutes and hours of our days or if we only really happen to notice when the calendar flips from one month or year to the next. What we can control is what we do with and how we spend our time. I’ll be honest- I want to be way better at that. I deserve (we all deserve) to feel like I am living my days and not just existing on auto-pilot. I also have to keep in mind that one day I’ll see my older brother again and will have to explain to him why I didn’t do so many of the things I wanted to do with all of the time I was given. He was a big guy so it’s a conversation I’d like to avoid if I could.
So it’s January 1, 2022 and I wish all of you a happy and a healthy new…day.
Larry Mergentime and Jen Schwartz are COPE Co-Presidents