Blank Slates

Blank Slates

In my thirty years I don’t think I’ve kept a New Year’s resolution for more than a week – and that’s being generous. Last year, at the start of 2017, I promised myself that I would write every single day, even if it were only a few sentences in my journal. By January 5th, I had already accidentally skipped a day. Did I fail at my resolution? Technically, yes. But my heart and my mind were in the right place: I aimed to stick to a new habit that I believed would help me grow. I was looking forward, as so many of us do in early January, from an excited and determined standpoint. 

There’s something to be said about that ambition, that drive that we have at the start of every year. It’s something that so many of us share. And even if only for a day, people around the world are united by the desire to make a change. No matter how small, we look to improve our lives or hearts in some way.

We look at the New Year as a new beginning, a clean slate without anything scribbled on it. The clock striking midnight is our chance to begin afresh. But as we all know, our lives do not cease being problematic or messy according to the calendar. Hardly ever do we find a moment of clarity free from any conflict. Yet we are still able to find a place within our hearts where we can long beyond that. We can still look forward, hopeful for something new.

January is a month of newness in many ways. It marks the beginning of a new calendar year. For many businesses, January also brings the start of a new fiscal year, as well, and organisations often use the New Year as a time to institute new policies. People frequently come into the first month of the year with new plans or expectations—a new gym membership, a new savings account, a new hobby to start, or a new personal goal. There’s plenty of discussion about which types of resolutions are good or helpful or healthy and which ones aren’t, but most people can generally agree on the basic premise. We like fresh starts. We like clean slates. We like chances to start over, to try again.

Now, I don’t want to hate on New Year’s resolutions, but I think we deserve more than just one shot at a fresh start each year. I think any given moment can be a chance to start again. Last week, I met up with a friend that I hadn’t seen for some time. They grabbed a coffee, and myself, a green tea, love myself a great tea. We talked for a bit, and I asked how his day was going. He answered, “Well, the first today was pretty shitty, but the second today has been great!”

I was confused, so he explained. My friend has struggled with addiction in the past and has been in recovery for the last few years. He admitted to me that earlier that morning he had made some unhealthy choices. Since he didn’t want his day to be defined by those choices, he decided to start it over. He told me he sat down, had some lunch, meditated, took a walk, and gave himself a fresh start.

When it comes to the areas in which we struggle, it can be very difficult to move past rough patches or mistakes. Sometimes it’s hard to move forward because we sit in denial. Sometimes it’s hard to move forward because we get stuck in a shame cycle, beating ourselves up. Sometimes it’s hard to move forward because we genuinely just aren’t sure how. But the idea of setting all that aside for a moment and deciding to give myself a fresh start—that’s something I can endorse wholly.

That concept of starting fresh can look very different from person to person. The fresh start could be like my friend’s: an opportunity to “reset” and move forward after a slip-up. It could be choosing a new strategy to deal with a struggle. It could be the moment you reach out to someone for help.

Or maybe it’s the moment you start to repair a relationship or the moment you decide to let go of one. Maybe it’s the moment you choose to confront something you’ve been avoiding or the moment you recommit to loving yourself.

Maybe you decide to start over in the middle of a day or right away in the morning.  Or maybe it’s right before bed. But that’s the beauty of it—it can be any day, any time.

We cannot change the things that have happened to us. We cannot change where we went or fix the plans we made that went astray. But understanding this can also help us realise that, at any given moment, we are free. 

We aren’t just blank slates at the beginning of a new year, when we start a new job, or after moving to a new city. We are blank slates every day. You are not who you were last week, last month, or last year. Time propels us onward, and we are constantly moving forward, whether we want to be propelled or not. Because of this, we have the freedom to reach for where we want to go and who we want to be. 

You can’t always imagine what’s around the corner, but don’t let that scare you. It will be probably a mix of beauty and pain, of fear and love. Have faith in yourself and your story. Know that you have grown into exactly who you need to be to handle whatever comes next. 

No matter what lies behind you, take comfort in the fact that it doesn’t have to lie ahead of you. Sure, maybe some of our ghosts will reappear down the road. Maybe we’ll find ourselves troubled by tough relationships that still haven’t fully healed. Maybe we’ll see the resurgence of issues within ourselves that we thought were fully resolved. 

But we are no longer who we once were when we lived those parts of our pasts. We must continue to promise ourselves that we will tackle it the best we know how and never lose sight of the path ahead. 

You know that feeling that you get when you know that you’re on the verge of something new and amazing? When we remember that we are always moving forward in some small way, we can feel that feeling every day. 

We have to keep looking ahead, and we have to make the conscious choice to do so every day. Let your heart push you forward. Before you know it, you’re moving faster and further than you ever imagined.

Sure, you can make a New Year’s resolution and get that clean slate at the start of the year. But you can also have that clean slate right now. It’s not too early or too late. Right now is the perfect time.

I invite you to look at your life and see where you want a fresh start. Be honest about the struggles you’ve been afraid to share. Talk to the person you’ve been anxious to talk to. Make the appointment you’ve been putting off. Give yourself permission to move past the places you feel stuck. Whether it’s a small shift in attitude or a huge change in lifestyle, you deserve the fresh start. You deserve a second, fifth, and one hundredth chance. Don’t give up on yourself.

Because whether it was the moment the fireworks went off on January 1st or if it will be halfway through the year…Today is never too late to be brand new.



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