January 1st used to feel magical. This was the chance for things to be different. I could be a whole new me. Depending on the year, I might imagine someone who had more friends, who fell in love, who figured out what she was going to do with her life, or someone who just felt content. Each year, a new journal sat before me, white pages staring back, the first page a symbol of a new beginning. My list would begin: “I will write every day, quit smoking, exercise, eat better, not worry about what others think…”
I always had a plan, a schedule detailing how I was going to create my new life. It was my new start, and I really thought the magic of the New Year would help it all be.
I might keep my resolutions for a week or two, but I never felt different. After the adrenaline of “my new start” faded, I was still the same me dealing with the same things I wished were different.
Perhaps I wasn’t unhappy enough or perhaps living in a state of always wanting something more and different felt safe. Either way, I didn’t understand or maybe want to see how much work and time change took. Of course, my first 27 years, things did often change, but I had to let go of friendships and seek good ones. I had to quit smoking three times before it stuck, and after four career changes in three years, I’d find where I fit. These things didn’t happen, of course, because a huge ball dropped, because a new list was started in a journal, or because I wanted it right now. I had to be intentional and put time and energy into making things better.
It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized just how much of my energy was necessary for my relationships, with others and myself, to thrive. After my son’s birth, it soon became clear if I wasn’t intentional with how I created space in my life, things like my marriage, friendships, and self-care wouldn’t sustain themselves. Suddenly, the way I lived and how I took care of myself changed. It mattered if I got sleep and was able to be calm and patient. It mattered if my husband and I carved out time for each other. It mattered if we ate well, if we spent our money wisely, if I gave myself time. I had to start putting in the hard work, and I couldn’t worry about what day of the month it was or even what hour of the day, because when things got off track, which they did and still do, if I waited until some magical start of the year that never is or was, my whole life would fall apart.
I no longer see January 1st or even the beginning of the day as a new start. I restart, try again, be a better me, any time of the day. Some days, when we’ve had a particularly rough start, I’ll say to my three-year-old, her face pushed up against mine, “Can we just start again?” She’ll smile, and I’ll whisper, “Good Morning, Sophie,” and we begin again. We take a big collective breath to center ourselves back into the place we want to be.
The day no longer has to start at 6 am or when we wake. It isn’t ruined if the morning is chaotic or even if dinner is burned or bedtime never seems to end. There is always a chance to stop, to take a deep breath, to quiet the mind, and say to myself, “Recharge, restart, begin again.” It takes intentional work to remember this, but the rewards, well, they aren’t magic—they’re real.