“How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me?” — Leonard Cohen
My father worked for a glass company. To advance in his career we had to move. Often. With each move I was the new kid on the block. The new kid in school. Scrambling to make new friends, to understand the ins and outs of a new place.
Fast forward a few years and I marry a man who decided to make the U.S. Coast Guard his career. Over the next 31 years we moved, on average, every two years. With each move I was the new person in the community. The new person at my work. Scrambling to make new friends, to understand the ins and outs of a new place.
With the arrival of COVID we all have been forced to experience a lot of new things. New ways to navigate safely in the world. New ways to connect with friends, work, school, scrambling to understand the ins and outs of this new normal.
I can speak only for myself, but I am plain weary of new, of new beginnings. I would love to just pause in place for a bit, to not constantly be asked to adapt to something new. Unfortunately for me, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins Sept. 25. Followed in 10 days by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. These High Holy Days ask us to begin anew as better people. To reflect on the past year, make amends for our misdeeds, and emerge ready to tackle a new year.
So how can I reconcile this being compelled to begin anew with my bone weary desire to just be in stasis for a bit? As I reflect on the past during the High Holy Days, I am also going to reframe how I think.
Instead of focusing on the difficulties of past moves and new endeavors, I will find the positives. Every time we moved when I was a child, I started school with a clean slate. Teachers had no expectations of me and therefore I could be the student I needed and wanted to be. Same with making friends; no shared past means no preconceived notions, for myself or my new friends. We were given the opportunity to grow together into a friendship. I am blessed with the ability to travel across the states without ever staying in a hotel because of the new, now old, friends scattered throughout the country, all thanks to the endless uprooting as a child and adult.
My career resume is encyclopedic. I was able to regularly reinvent myself while remaining more or less in my chosen field. I’ve had jobs as an education specialist in places and with organizations I would have never imagined. Experiences as far ranging as riding in a buffalo round-up in the Badlands of South Dakota to writing a Chesapeake Bay oystering curriculum. It has been terrifically creative, fulfilling and the source of great memories and tales to spin.
As loath as I am to give COVID any positive marks, it has forced us to embrace new technology, which in turn has somehow brought us all closer while apart. It made us realize that a lot of our time pre-COVID was spent on unnecessary things or in inefficient ways. It framed for us the things that are truly important; family, friends, and health. It brought out the creative side in us as we baked and cooked our way through lockdown like fledgling Julia Childs or embraced learning new skills. I decided to learn to play the banjo, something I have wanted to do for decades, but never followed through with until COVID made me very aware of the finite and capricious nature of life. Seize the day is no longer a worn out platitude, but a truth.
Lest this tip into toxic positivity, let me restate – I am weary of new, of new beginnings. I fully acknowledge that being new, beginning again, is often difficult. Beginning anew however, will also bring such richness, growth, and fullness into our lives. In ways we may have never anticipated.
As I settle into a New Year I am going to afford myself the grace to be weary. I am also going to allow myself the opportunity to look forward to the new with hope, joy, and the anticipation of growth. I wish for you the same.
• Patricia Turner Custard, Congregation Sukkat Shalom board member. ”Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.