January has long been noted as the logical time to make profound and meaningful resolutions — to snack less and walk more, to quit being lazy and start being a better person. January also falls during a holiday season, it is the coldest and darkest part of the year, and it is mere weeks away from my birthday making it the exact time on my calendar when I want to snack more and walk less, to wallow in laziness and simply maintain my overall mediocrity. Any resolutions I might make for the coming year’s activities are typically long forgotten by the time I am consistently writing the date with the correct year.
Consider, though, an ideal fresh start opportunity that is already ingrained in the psyche of everyone who was ever a student — the beginning of the school year. There is no other time in a kid’s year when they clomp on sidewalks in stiff shoes and wsk-wsk-wsk down halls in rigid blue jeans with a backpack stuffed with pens with caps and spiral notebooks with crisp clean covers. Surrounded by all that newness, it’s hard to imagine you’re not standing on the precipice of greatness.
September should be the new January. Students of all ages realize this. Families of students realize this. Even those past their student years and not part of any back-to-school grind are completely aware of the magical properties of the perfect set of markers found only in the back-to-school aisle. September has potential and promise painted all over it.
Coming down from my summer high of fewer obligations, less erranding, and a later morning alarm, I feel the potential September offers despite my lack of clompy shoes and wsk-wsk-y jeans. September offers January’s promise of a clean slate without the distraction of fudge and cookies the neighbor dropped by on Christmas Eve.
I’m no stranger to the allure of the clean slate, but past experience tells me that merely shifting my grandiose and idealized New Year’s resolutions to September isn’t going to offer me any greater potential for success. September resolutions are in danger of being long forgotten by the time I reliably remember my kids’ current grade. Resolutions with measurable goals to hit – or more likely miss – abound in advice from other people, who are all successful, happy, self-loving, actualized, organized, hair-never-on-fire, book-available-now-wherever-you-purchase-books people. Resolutions are presented as intermediate steps on a map to greater achievement. “Do these things to achieve those things,” is the message I receive, but where is my map?
Mystery author Kelli Stanley describes a middle-aged character as “lost somewhere between 40 and 60,” which stirs the underpants-hung-for-public-display feeling in me. As I perch in the middle of these lost years, is it obvious I have completely fouled up my navigation? Do others see me lost in weeds and spare a quick kind thought on their way by?
Considering the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “Not all who wander are lost,” an idea grows that I don’t need a map. I don’t even necessarily need to know where I’m going, I just need to be able to see right in front of me. Before maps, sailors navigated effectively with the stars, so I could find my own beacon to illuminate the path and keep me away from cliffs and dragons. Rather than resolutions, a guiding principle could light my way through the year.
And so, my guiding principle for this year has taken the form of a simple one-word theme; Shine. Fittingly, I’m shining with pride at successfully isolating a single word vague enough to apply to a variety of instances, but still specific enough to provide guidance and meaning.
My graduating high schooler having his appropriate time to shine, or regular body movement that always gives me a healthy shine; the opportunities for me to choose to shine abound. I will say goodbye to obligations that bog me down — nothing beats a shiny clean work surface, thereby making room for projects that bring me joy — nothing shinier than a polished finished product.
Shine meets my vagueness requirement. Shine meets my specificity requirement. Shine will be my North Star in navigating the year — a touchstone for my activities but not mandating my route.
September really is the new January. I’m ready to put a shine on it.