New journals. New years. New homes, jobs, semesters, wardrobes–even last names. We’re all looking for new beginnings, those occasional opportunities to change with the help of a symbolic transition.
Over the summer, I came to a place where I craved a fresh start. I had filled up a little green journal with my anxieties about the future. I wrote good things too–things I learned from God, accounts of splendid days at Disney or a park or a friend’s house–but the overarching theme of my journal was an existential one; I didn’t know who I was or why I was or where I was going. Everything I was passionate about was no longer interesting to me. I didn’t garden. I barely wrote. I struggled to read. Spring semester gave me little time for introversion, and it left me sapped of any energy to do the things that I loved. Summer gave me time to myself to spend contemplating the questions that I had left unanswered, as well as time for introspection, a necessity for me in small doses.
I took a large dose. I’m not easily bored. I can lounge in a hammock and get lost in my imagination for hours without feeling the need for music or television or books. It came to a point where my dad actually bought me several skeins of yarn to knit a blanket so that I would have something productive to do. I need these times on occasion to recharge, like a battery plugged into the wall. But a battery is charged to be used, and, like I said, I took in a lot more than I let out. Moses didn’t stay on the mountaintop. Neither did Jesus, for that matter. We recharge, we reflect, and then we are to go. With so much inward-searching and self-awareness, I no longer had a vision of who I was.
It seems like the opposite would be true, but look too closely at anything and you’ll get lost in the minute details—the fine fibers of an afghan, the speckled colors of a painting, the bumpy texture of a brick on a house. A book becomes a chapter becomes a page becomes a sentence becomes a single word. We must learn to look outward and upward. I lost interest in my passions because my passions were not within me but outside of me. I realized that we are compilations of many things, including our personalities and thoughts and imaginations that live within us, but it is by living and being that we become. If we are to be writers, we must write. If we are to be makers, as Plato would say, then we must make. If we are to be anything, we mustn’t spend so much time mustering up mere thoughts of being. We must be.
There came a point when I needed all things to be made new. I finished up that green journal and bought myself a new one bound in leather. This new journal symbolized a lot for me. It was beautiful, and it was thick with hundreds of blank pages to fill. The other journal looked small in comparison—a mere chapter in my life. I imagined that this new journal was the novel of the beginning stages of my adulthood, full of promise. It was like I had bought a book that hadn’t been written yet, and there was no peaking in the back. One day I would look upon the inked pages and see a story that unraveled right in front of me, and I had a hope for my future that I had not had in a long time. This was a moment of turning around for me. Though the journal was symbolic of this transition, it was my decision to change that mattered, and it is a decision that must be made every day.
Yesterday I turned 22. I feel like I am now officially in my twenties. It’s like I’ve been climbing over a fence the past two years and I’ve finally dropped face-down on the other side. I feel old. I feel like there are things I should have done that I haven’t and things I have done that I shouldn’t have. This is a yet another chance for a new beginning.
And yet I’m realizing how funny it is that we create these moments for ourselves to turn around, like that list of new-years resolutions we never get to or that prayer we say once and forget the next day. The truth is that the opportunities for new beginnings are always around us, and that few things can truly be made new in an instant. Coming into my senior year of college, I thought everything would be new. I thought I would be done with panic attacks and negative thinking and mornings without prayer time, etc. I was wrong. Last week I realized I’m still the same, fragile human being who stared at the ceiling last summer. Those things don’t just change because my surroundings have changed, just like my journal entries even now can feel like re-runs of episodes I thought I’d never play again. As humans, we fail, but that doesn’t mean we’ve ruined our chances of being made new. I might trip up several times a day, but as long as I continue getting up or turning around, embracing every opportunity to fix my eyes back on God or my goal, then I am not trapped in my failures. Sometimes the power to be made new does not come from my strength. It is all God’s Spirit within me that is working. But the choice to allow Him to do this is mine, and I must continually be open to it.
New beginnings are every step we take in the right direction. They are alarms set for 7am every morning. They are sunrises painting our eyelids red and our determination to wake and rise. They are prayers in the mornings to focus our thoughts, prayers throughout the day to remind us, and prayers in the evenings to remind us again. They are the constant “yes” we say to God whenever He asks, “Will you follow me here?” They are not always a drastic change in direction. Sometimes they are the moments when we stand still in the middle of our paths and decide to keep going the same way we set out from the start.
New beginnings, essentially, are hours, minutes, and seconds away from us, and all we have to do is move into them. Take those quiet hours to reflect and introspect—then go. Live. Become. Follow.
There is something to be said for habits. One thing I have chosen as a new beginning for each day is to pray the prayer of St. Francis, a beautiful prayer that lifts your eyes off of yourself and onto others. To conclude, I’d like to share this prayer so that maybe you, too, can join me in starting a new, transforming habit.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O. Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born into eternal life.