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The Other New Year’s

September 6, 2010

After a brutally hot and humid August, a dramatic and welcome cool front has hit town this weekend, making the unofficial start of fall feel more like the official start of fall.  The breezy mid-sixties weather feels positively autumnal, and so do I.  I’ve always loved this time of year.  This is partly because early fall and late spring are the only times when the weather exacerbates neither my aggravated pitta nature nor my Raynaud’s Syndrome (i.e. the only time of year I’m truly comfortable).  This is when my hair stops frizzing, skin clears up, and cats stop shedding.  Well, the shedding slows, at least.  But more importantly, I love Late Summer because I love a new beginning.

My favorite holiday is probably New Year’s.  Despite the cold and the dark and the 10 holiday pounds I’ve usually gained by January 1st, I absolutely love the idea of a fresh start, even though really there’s No Such Thing.  The first is no different than the 31st before it, nor than the 2nd after it, yet still it feels for all the world like a chance to make things right.  Ironic, since I’ll typically make something wrong before the night is over.  But I digress – I love New Year’s because I love getting a new calendar and a new planner, and I love sitting back and reflecting on what I want to do better in the coming year.

My 2010 resolution was probably my best ever.  It was a little challenging, yet totally achievable.  It would require effort all year, improving my chances that it would inspire long-term change.  It would be healthy and would feel good.  And it would be measured only by its intention and execution, and not by any external results.  I would practice yoga every day, even if only for 5 minutes.  I would get on my mat every. single. day.  At the time I set this goal, my Ashtanga practice was faltering.  I was attending maybe two or three classes a week and not practicing at home at all.  I was getting fat again, and feeling generally crappy.  I wasn’t eating that well or really caring for myself in the least.  While I haven’t met it entirely, I have basically kept with the spirit of my resolution so far this year.  And frankly I think if you remember your New Year’s resolutions come September, you’ve already gone above and beyond what most people even attempt.

Early in the year, carrying out my resolve usually meant literally 10-15 minutes of gentle stretching most days, with a couple of classes thrown in each week.  Eventually I’ve worked my way up to 4-6 classes a week, with 1-2 days of gentle practice at home.  I have missed a few days, but only since my practice has gotten back to a point where I’m doing full primary series often enough that a day off is healthy, rather than lazy.  After a very sluggish 2009, my practice finally feels good again, and while I’m still working the primary series, I can feel progress all over it – in the ease of certain postures, in the steadiness of my vinyasa.

While I love New Year’s for the potential inherent in a new calendar, I really feel the sense of newness in September.  Perhaps it’s the residual effect of 20 years aligned to academic calendars, but as soon as the heat breaks, I want to clean my slate and start something new.  I want to buy notebooks, make lists, wear sweaters, carry a backpack.  I want to learn something new, try something new, do something new, forget the old.  Perhaps it’s the sense of promise in the air, or just that the oppressive heat of August made me so sluggish that I’m just excited that I can move and think again.  Maybe it’s a sugar rush from the apple cider.  Regardless of its origins, this season I want more than ever to shift back into a school year, to treat this month as a new beginning, rather than just another four weeks of normality.  I am jealous of those starting anew.

After two years of thinking about it, I’ve finally begun looking seriously at going back to school.  It’s a frightening prospect, because what I’m really talking about here is giving up the career I’ve put so much into (so much anger, lately) for 11 years in order to study what I love, knowing full well that if I do so, my last year in this current job will probably be the most lucrative between now and … ever.  What I’m considering here is giving up a pretty nice paycheck for the opportunity to study my fool ass off for 2-4 more years in order to make less money in the future than I do now.

Put that way, it sounds stupid.  So let me put it another way: I’ve hated my job for as long as I’ve had it.  I was such a good programmer, such a good analyst, that I’ve gotten myself promoted right out of the work I liked into managerial work I despise.  I left a job I didn’t mind in order to chase opportunity, and end up working for an employer I do not respect in an industry I loathe.  My work has no meaning whatsoever beyond the cozy paycheck and crappy insurance, yet these things keep me coming back, day after day, week after week, year after year.  It wears on my psyche, my relationships, and the grotesque knots in my shoulders.

Somebody once observed about me that while I eventually seem to grasp what’s Not Good Enough, I don’t seem to be particularly adept at figuring out what is Good.  This goes for just about every aspect of my life, from take-out food to relationships, and my work is no exception.  I too often define what I want by eliminating from a list of possibilities the things I’m pretty sure I don’t want.  With the exception of the odd food craving, I rarely know what I do want at any given point in time, nor am I great at making a complete list of possibilities.  I can’t even tell you where I want to go for dinner unless you list three restaurants and I shoot down two of them.  I haven’t figured out just yet what this says about me, but I’m sure it’s not great.

So the fact that I have a bona fide interest for once I suppose means I should pursue it.  After all, I’ve been evading the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” for 33 years, so now that I have an answer, I guess I need to move toward it.  And maybe at this point next year I’ll be shopping for new notebooks again.

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