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Four Beginnings

January

My year begins four times every 365 days, therefore, I have four chances to get it right.  It restarted six days ago, complete with reflection and resolutions.  The four of us wrote out the high and low points of our year and sealed the pages into an envelope to open and reflect upon next January 1st when we do it all over again.

It is strange to have the year restart in the middle of winter (well, our winter, Southern Hemispherers) when everything is dead outside.  The landscape right now is brown and white, muddy and icy.  It doesn’t feel like a natural restart in the same way, let’s say, spring feels like a good time to restart.  But perhaps it’s only because I always have babies on the mind.

September

I was a student for 21 years overlapping with being a teacher for nine.  So for 27 years, my year mentally began around Labour Day and ended soon after Memorial Day, with those intervening months feeling like a ravine of time that I fell into between school years.  I still prefer calendars where the first page is September instead of January.  I can’t mentally plan out 2014, but I can plan out the 2013-to-2014 school year.

There were a few years between when teaching ended and the twins began school, and even though no one in the house was tied to that typical educational calendar, I still found myself thinking in terms of September to June.  Is it so deeply ingrained in me that I’ll still be thinking that way in my sixties, when the twins are out of college, or will this restart fade away by the time the loans are paid off?  Will summer always feel like a valley, a dip in the year, between two plateaus of time?

Rosh HaShanah

My spiritual restart falls between September and October when the Jewish calendar year comes to an end and begins again with Rosh HaShanah — which literally translates to “head of the year.”  It aligns closely with that educational calendar, a second vote for an autumal start.

I guess I’ve always wondered about religions that don’t have a spiritual reset; a day on the calendar where you reflect on the past year.  I mean, yes, there is the secular January 1st, but that isn’t really the same thing.  There isn’t ritual associated with January 1st unless you count congregating in Time Square (or watching people congregate in Time Square on television).  It isn’t a time period where people ask for forgiveness or try to atone for their wrong-doings.  Rosh HaShanah isn’t a big party — we have that a few weeks later with Simchat Torah.  It’s an introspective, quiet time, punctuated by services and familial meals.

I didn’t appreciate it much when I was younger.  I do now.

June

My year mentally resets on my birthday, when I add another number to my age.  I am turning 40 this year.  I keep having dreams where I realize I’m 40. (And in all of my dreams, I start calling out hokey things such as “good lordy, I’m 40!”  Perhaps my subconscious has to release these sayings so I don’t call them out in the real world.)  I’m okay with aging in my dreams, but when I’m awake, I’m not so great with accepting the fact that I’ll be in a new decade.  Not that I want the alternative.

My thirties have been great.  I’m sure my forties will be too, but I remember being little and 40 sounding so old.  40 is middle aged.  Spalding Gray called it the Bermuda Triangle of Health, where your body starts to break down.  I don’t want my body to break down or change.  Being 40 isn’t cool.  There was a television show called Thirtysomething.  There was never a show called Fortysomething.

I have a fear of being less vital, less needed.  Everyone wants to know their place, and being needed is about knowing your place, knowing where you should be.  In my thirties, I knew exactly where I was needed.  The forties look a lot more amorphous.

But that year doesn’t restart for a few months.

What are your yearly restarts?

19 comments

1 Clare { 01.06.14 at 8:19 am }

Definitely the fall school start and new years. I also pause during the summer months when we are in the northern hemi and note or anniversary. Switching hemispheres so often has wrecked my sense of seasons flowing into each other. As hard as the past few years have been, the seasons and sense of seasonal food and seasonal holiday treats had been wonderful for me here in Italy. I also always reflect during travel. I love train rides and flights for the forced reflection ride. And when I visit home and see how big the trees and kids are!

2 Catwoman73 { 01.06.14 at 8:23 am }

The new year and my birthday are pretty close together, so I consider the entire month of January to be a time of renewal. But that is really my only reset time.

As for turning 40- it’s not so bad. In fact, there is something magical about being 40, just like there is something magical about being 20 or 30. Check this out:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendy-fontaine/40-things-i-can-do-at-40-that-i-couldnt-do-when-i-was-20_b_4537538.html

3 Ana { 01.06.14 at 10:06 am }

I agree with you that cold dreary January is a kind of sucky time for a “fresh start”, though this year we did get some fresh clean snow pretty soon after the year began. But I go with it, because its pretty pervasive in the culture, I can’t read about everyone’s resolutions and not itch to create my own! Work-wise, throughout my 7 years of training, July 1st marked the start of the next level. July 1st is still the transition time on our academic calendar…but it doesn’t really feel personally like a time to restart, given that its smack in the middle of summer. My birthday is in late May and I like to reflect then, as well. So with January and May, I get two fresh starts a year.
I hear you on 40. I’ve got a couple more years to go, but already having dreams about it. 40 is the new 30, though, right?

4 Northern Star { 01.06.14 at 10:09 am }

As always, you made me laugh … Dreaming about saying good lordy I’m 40! Priceless.

Restarts… Definitely January, probably spring equinox and September. I like this concept and am going to consider this further!

5 Kacey { 01.06.14 at 11:44 am }

I’d say most of the same ones. January for lifestyle changes, birthdays are always a time of contemplating goals, September (or actually the last half of August) is when I usually end up reorganizing the house and deep cleaning to prep for our new homeschool year. Instead of Rosh HaShanah my 4th restart would probably be our wedding anniversary, a time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going together.

6 a { 01.06.14 at 11:55 am }

I don’t really get into that reset notion, since I left school. Life for me is more of a straight line. I can start new things at any time. So all this fascination with wrapping up the old year and making resolutions for the new just sort of gets on my nerves. Bah humbug! (Yes, I know I’m odd)

7 Ellen K. { 01.06.14 at 12:51 pm }

At first I thought 4 seemed like a lot, and then I started counting:
January: traditional New Year, which is a holiday I really enjoy. We try not to take most decorations down before Epiphany, so today is my house’s re-set day. : )
February: My birthday on the 10th. This varies in actual importance among the other dates.
August: Start of the school year. When the girls entered preschool, I started using an academic year planner again. July is when we start paying tuition again, LOL.
November: The girls’ day of birth; a very significant reference point.

8 Turia { 01.06.14 at 12:56 pm }

The whole new year in January thing never really meant much for me. Q. and I usually go to bed well before midnight, and the most notice I take is I have to get a new calendar on the wall, and I have to remember to write a new date on things. My new year always always starts in September for the same reason as you- I’ve been a student or a teacher for my whole life, so I think in terms of an academic year.

9 loribeth { 01.06.14 at 2:21 pm }

Like Catwoman, my birthday falls relatively close to the new year (even Ukrainian New Year, lol), so January as a month of new beginnings resonates with me. And for whatever reason, September/back to school does too, even though I have no children and it’s been 30 years since I last had to worry about back to school stuff for myself (in grad school).

The only other date I can think of that launches a new year/cycle for me every year is Feb. 8th. Feb. 8, 1998, was my LMP date in my pregnancy with Katie, and every year when it rolls around, it signals yet another year of mentally and emotionally reliving my pregnancy — March 22, when I got a BFP; the day I went for that ill-fated six-month prenatal visit and ultrasound (Aug. 5), the day I delivered her (Aug. 7), the day of her funeral (Aug. 19) & my November due date(s) (14th, 20th or 25th, take your pick). And then I get a couple of weeks respite before the cycle begins again. The dates no longer hold quite the power that they once did… but I will never forget them, I think.

P.S. If you think being 40 isn’t cool in this society, wait until you hit 50…. :p 😉

10 Tiara { 01.06.14 at 2:55 pm }

When I was in school, September felt like a reset time, time to try to do better, change, etc…I always had such high hopes that each school year would be better than the last, that all the growing I’d done in the summer would be recognized by my peers…after being out of school for so long, my birthday (in October) took over as that time. I sort of think of my birthday as the point to look forward & decide where I want to go & New Year’s as a time to look back & evaluate where I’ve been, what I’ve accomplished.

11 Valery Valentina { 01.06.14 at 2:57 pm }

-thanks catwoman73 for the link 😉
My 40th birthday was my BFP, so definitely a milestone. And for now I’m believing I’ve started the better half of my life. Grateful for my health and for my parents still being around. And confident enough that when an acquaintance of my father asked if I was his sister, to smile and admit to a family resemblance (and not feel like I look like 68)

12 Pepper { 01.06.14 at 5:14 pm }

My yearly restarts are almost the same, with the exception of Rosh HaShanah. January, of course. Spring/summer, because my birthday is in May and my daughter’s is in April so it’s a time of new beginnings for most of the family. And September, because once a teacher (for ten years after many years of my own schooling) always a teacher.

That was actually the strangest time for me, the first September after my daughter was born, and I didn’t go “back to school” for the first time in 30 years. 30 years is a long time to do something and then suddenly… I just didn’t. And even though it felt so good and so right, it was also really odd.

13 Laurel Regan { 01.06.14 at 5:34 pm }

FWIW… at the time, I thought my twenties were the best decade ever. Then it turned out that it was actually my thirties that were the best. Now, having just turned 47, I’ve discovered that I was wrong in both previous cases: truly my FORTIES are, by far, my favourite decade EVER. And I’m dreading my 50s. 😉

14 Katie { 01.06.14 at 7:03 pm }

I love the idea of multiple beginnings and I also resonate much more with the academic calendar. Because I work with kids, I’m pretty sure this will all influence me more. Winter break is simple a slight pause between my birthday in April and the beginning of a new school year.

Also, I’m here, and raising my hand a day late.

15 md { 01.07.14 at 2:52 am }

multiple restarts, what a cool notion. even though i have always felt this notion of ‘another year’ and setting some goals during january and my birthday, writing it out makes it seem much cooler and more weighty. you have inspired me to think through my restarts more, and perhaps write them out!

16 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 01.07.14 at 8:40 am }

Wishing you happy 40th in advance!

Apparently in one’s forties one gets a lot less angsty about these sorts of things. I’m looking forward to that part, at least. Now if you’ll excuse, me, I have a back ache I’d rather not admit to for another few years…

17 Elizabeth { 01.07.14 at 9:32 am }

Until we moved to Colombia, I had the same mental re-set in the fall. Now, even though I’m technically still in school, I have to remind myself in August that a new semester is starting soon and I need to get my In Absentia status in order. But for most of my remembered life I’ve thought it extremely awkward that the calendar year resets in the middle of the school year.

This past year I made all my new year’s resolutions in March, when I turned 40.

I think liturgical Christian traditions start the year during Advent (the 4 Sundays preceding Christmas), but most Protestants in the US aren’t very liturgical and don’t really practice that.

18 Elizabeth { 01.07.14 at 9:33 am }

I mean, they might practice Advent, but not think of it as the beginning of a new year in any way.

19 Lauren { 01.07.14 at 10:15 pm }

September, September, September. That’s as another former teacher, who is also Jewish, with a birthday in September, that month is big.

My oldest son’s birthday is also in September, and the beginning of October was when our lives changed with a fateful ultrasound with Noah. So fall is my big change.

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