New Year, New Start?

The January blog topic for WriYe is quite open to interpretation I feel. The prompt is:

“(Re)starting fresh, for a new year, new story or after a writing break.”

Now I am both late to this topic and perfectly on time. You see the new year is a boundary time, it’s where you can put the past in the rear-view and ‘start again’. Obviously you can do that at anytime but with the turn of a calendar, and potentially millions of other people doing the same thing, there is a certain weight to it. If 2022 didn’t go well, then that’s ok because 2023 is a fresh start! That kind of thinking.

I struggle with boundary times as they make me reflective. I get torn between the hope of the possibility that maybe the future will be better/different, and being depressed and hopeless over how the past hasn’t been what I wanted, and that another year has gone by and I’m still no closer to my dreams etc. So I guess essentially what I’m saying is the whole “new year, new start” thing is something I feel very keenly. If life is about chances, then I guess psychologically speaking a new year does feel like a new chance. Every year when I do my retrospective and then my plan, I say that I want the upcoming year to be different.

So why did I say I am both late and on time?

Because my ‘fresh start’ already feels like it has crashed and burned and that can bring in the (re)start part of the prompt, and also just address the fickle nature of ‘fresh starts’ in general.

Brains suck (at least mine does). Intellectually I know many things and yet my brain still gives me massive grief. I know that just because something doesn’t go well initially, doesn’t mean it can’t come right in the end. That just because a ‘fresh start’ stumbles a little, doesn’t make the entire endeavour a failure. Life is a journey right? So there will be slow starts, stumbles, some back tracking etc. among the (hopefully) steady plodding march forwards.

I moved house last year. I pinned a lot of hopes on that. Intellectually I knew I was still going to be me whatever my address was, and that living in my own house was not going to erase my mental illness, but I hoped anyway. I hoped that I would become this new happy person, and that I would be productive and accomplish my dreams. So naturally when I didn’t transform into a different, healthy and happy person, I got disappointed. I felt like I had ‘wasted’ the opportunity my new house had given me. Intellectually I know I am still living here, I love living here and it is so much better for me. I didn’t get off to a running start but that doesn’t mean all is lost. I can start again right now, today even.

And the same is true when it comes to the ‘new year’.

I made up my plan for 2023 and for Q1 and pretty much immediately it went off the rails. I didn’t feel well, my depression (I never know whether to say spiked or slumped?) got much worse. All my plans for the year felt like were going up in smoke, and that just fed the depression. Who was I kidding making those plans? It didn’t mattered, nothing mattered, it was all pointless, I was never going to be able to do it anyway. Why even bother? etc. etc.

Now when I started the new year I wasn’t starting a new story. I had also been on a bit of a writing break as I hadn’t written anything since the end of NaNo in November. So (re)starting after a break but with an old story. I don’t know if the break contributed to the problems (it is NEVER advisable to take a break during drafting and yet somehow I always do it anyway). I was frustrated because I had managed to write during NaNo but I wasn’t getting on with it now in January. Being a started story there was weight to it I guess, but being fully outlined etc. I didn’t have the excuse of not knowing what I was doing, so pros and cons with that.

On Day 21 (so yesterday) I managed to have a good day (the first pretty much this month). I decided to try a different schedule and I think perhaps my brain was finally ready to say yes, rather than just no. One of those “stars align” things. Maybe it will all fall to pieces again on Monday (tomorrow), or maybe it will be the beginning of something better. As I tried something different we could say that the 21st was a fresh start. I was starting again after an experiment in schedule which hadn’t worked for the first three weeks of January.

I guess ultimately what I am saying is that fresh starts are what you make of them. They can be positive, about letting go of past mistakes and not letting the weight of the past drag you down. A line in the sand, move on, another chance etc. They can also be a stick to beat yourself with when they don’t go as planned. ‘I screwed up again, I am so useless, I always do this’ etc. But the new year isn’t the only ‘fresh start’ around. It has a lot of weight to it but every day is a new day, another chance – a fresh start, if that’s what you need.

In Q4 last year I did a lot of thinking about what served me, and tried to let go of the things that didn’t. Take what helps and leave the rest basically. So fresh starts can be great but if they curse more than they cure, then don’t worry about them.

Life is a never ending battle. Everything is a fight and nothing is easy. It’s hard and sometimes we lose, we just lose, and it is harder every time to get back up and try again. Which is why I try and remember this, which a friend sent me once.

Possibly a little divergent there at the end from the ‘fresh start’ prompt but I feel it’s part of it. Fresh starts come with a lot of expectations and a lot of moving parts. A new year, a new you, right? I’m sure that was a tagline for something. So if you start off a fresh start being like “I want to exercise, and read every day, and write every day, and do these art courses, and, and, and…” or perhaps that’s just me? Anyway, it’s not surprising that the fresh start falters. So nail down one thing at a time, and hopefully it’ll shake out in the end.

Fresh starts are kinda synonymous with ‘day one’ in my mind, but it’s a bit like how a wedding leads to a marriage. Some people think the wedding is everything, but I have always personally believed that it’s the rest of their life together that really matters. And so it goes with a fresh start. It’s about trying to set up the future, not about how well the first day/week etc. goes. This is something else I know intellectually and utterly fail to apply. Like I said brains suck, or at least mine does.

Bumper sticker time – “The only way to fail a fresh start is to give up and stop. Doesn’t matter how many times you fall down, so long as you keep fighting.”

Good luck this year. May 2023 and the ‘fresh start’ it offers (eventually) turn out how you hope 🙂