New beginnings

Every year I am surprised by how many new beginnings there can be in a single year. To put it more accurately, every year I am surprised to find how many times I can give myself a fresh start, a clean slate, a blank page upon which to scribble all my newest (or oldest) hopes and dreams. There’s New Year’s Day on January 1st to make new resolutions or revise old ones; Chinese New Year to remind myself of the new years’ resolutions I’ve forgotten already; my birthday in March as the real start of a new year in my life, where I’ll inevitably learn to follow my resolutions; the beginning of Lent, where I reflect on my idols and distractions and resolve to be a more humble, more faithful, more restful, more diligent, all around better human being; Easter, where I realize that I cannot do any of those previous things well at all and am awed by the grace that saves and loves nonetheless, and I resolve to be all those things still through grace, God-willing; the beginning of the summer, where I resolve to be productive; the first day of the school year, where I resolve to be productive; and… let’s be honest, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I’m counting my losses, stuffing my face, and waiting for the next New Year to give me another chance at meeting all my resolutions.

This isn’t the first time I’ve reflected on this personal cycle of renewing promises made to myself; I’ve consciously or unconsciously followed this cycle for many years, and I’ve occasionally joked about it with friends. In all seriousness though, I am glad that there is no limit to the new beginnings I give myself each year. It reminds me of my tendency to fail, but also of my persistence in the face of repeated failure. I need these new beginnings in order to push myself to continue doing or trying to do whatever difficult new task is before me, to tell myself that it’s never too late to start again. Each time this happens, a little bit more gets done, and by the end of the year, after my nine or ten false starts or discontinued attempts, the progress inevitably accumulates and I can look back on something I did not expect to accomplish or create, something of which I can be proud. Pieces of writing, for example, in the form of blog posts or poems or crazy fragments of dreams (I should publish those someday). This is my first (already-strained) attempt to keep my resolution of writing on the first of each month. Perhaps I have rambled a lot about almost nothing, but it is something that I will be thankful for later, and maybe it is something that will resonate with others as well.

On a related note, today is not only the beginning of a new month, but also the beginning of my stay in a new house with a new family (I am renting a room in a family’s house near the high school where I am student teaching this semester), and the third day of the beginning of my student teaching experience! I am incredibly thankful to be here, to be blessed with a great school where I can learn to teach better, to have found a place where I can have my own room and a desk to work at (Finally! Oh how I have underappreciated free college furniture in the past), and to get to know a lovely new family over the course of the next four months.

This is a new beginning. I know it will not be all roses and sunshine, as I am already so tired and it is already past my suddenly-so-early bedtime. However, I am optimistic that when I look back on this two, three, four months (summer!)–or more–in the future, I will smile and say, If only I’d known at the beginning how far I would come! How happy I would be! How much I would live and love and learn! I say this now to myself to brace against the waves of busyness and exhaustion and negativity that are bound to come: Remember yourself on the first Tuesday night in Andong, having taught your first “Terrible Tuesday” and moved into a foreign household, feeling utterly incompetent, lonely, tired, and having no idea what the next day would hold or how you would survive the next four months before Christmas, and crying yourself to sleep. Remember that ten months later you cried inconsolably because you could not bear to leave that place; you loved it so much. That even now you wish you had told those around you more often that you loved them.

In this new beginning, with new students and colleagues and homestay-like family, I want to love harder and regret less, speak up and show up, go the extra mile in every opportunity to serve and hold nothing back.


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