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Looking Up: Beginnings, Endings and Reality Checks

I’m a sucker for new beginnings. It’s an affection that has revealed itself in various ways: all of my diaries since third grade have highly exclamatory first entries, I restarted the Pokemon Game Boy games dozens of times and finished zero and I’ve been faithful to the tradition of writing New Year’s resolutions since I can remember. I always saw perfection in future potential.

Somehow, though, I simultaneously developed a raging intolerance for The End. The phrase “I’m bad at endings” became a repeat resident on the tip of my tongue around birthdays and the anxious ends of school years. Perhaps because I’ve become so deeply invested in present experiences and in the people I care about around me (which also means a bad habit of neglecting important e-mails during vacations), partings are always severe. And I actually imagine a 5-year-old Nina still out in the world, living out a scene from a well-known photograph taken in a country I feel was left too unexpectedly. I have stores of memories of majorly tearful farewells to family in Korea or family in California. You see? No goodbye I ever made was a trivial or clear-cut matter.

I suppose my love of beginnings and my reaction to endings are at heart one and the same: I’m really conscious of discontinuity. It explains my emphasis on proper goodbyes and my enthusiasm for Day Ones. If something was changing, I had to address it by either big, fat tears or big, shiny proclamations. They had to be big—big enough to acknowledge the important and ambiguous possibilities in change.

It was only recently, however, sometime last week, that I revisited this…little perspective of mine. It was when the words “New Year’s resolutions” began their annual entrances into the conversations around me; I noticed, unexpectedly, a bit of scuff on the pedestal of the words. I thought a bit longer and harder on the general life-cycle of most resolutions: sudden dramatic births, then mid-life crises, then quiet resignations. But why? Because one-day demolitions of lifelong habits usually fail. Because our lives aren’t montage sequences or sharply-cut collages. Because some things in our life may change drastically, but not all of them can.

And unexpectedly, that is all very reassuring.

Thus, my train of thought turned an avenue: I considered with furrowed brow how my freak-outs were also a severe disregard for pillars of my life that had so thankfully stuck around. Like safety and security and never truly needing a thing. I suddenly understood how dangerous it was that I so easily forgot these privileges and was instead constantly feeling crises. In my ruts of overreaction, I forgot the blessings of my family’s constant love or my friends’ loyalty—truths that wouldn’t be erased by brief spells of separation. Relatedly, as I thought of my past New Year’s attempts to destroy fatal personality flaws, I realized I never wrote a resolution to keep an aspect of myself that I liked. In both ways, I so often ignored the long-term parts of my life that I should have appreciated; I rather easily exchanged them for (over)doses of drama.

Okay, I just thought of a resolution—perhaps the only one going in my diary this year: <I>keep check on reality/avoid going overboard<P>. Not bad, huh? It’s definitely a unique step for me. Especially because as this year progresses, I find myself growing particularly nervous about The End of college, The End of career-free thinking and all of that stuff. But The End of the World won’t come from those things (though I do graduate in 2012! Uh-oh?), and emotional explosions waste energy. I’m quite positive that just as before, I can look forward to another cornucopia year of adventures, even if they don’t all seem fabulous at first glance. Just being here again is a bullet on that list of realities we all can be grateful for. Yes, times come, times go and times change in super important ways. But between the episodes, it’s good to remember how certain great parts of our lives have stayed reliably the same…and no fondness for the melodramatic can shake that.

One wonderful, certain thing that hasn’t changed is your way to reach Nina whenever you wish, at ninamc@stanford.edu. And, after all, she still sends you her best New Year greetings!

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