As the New Year approaches, we inevitably analyze not only the past year, but ourselves; our accomplishments, our triumphs, our struggles, and our personalities.
Many of us look to the New Year as a gateway to restart, a free opportunity to right our wrongs and reflect upon the stupid things we have done so we don’t do them again, or the great things we have done so we can continue to thrive. I think this year especially, people will look to the next twelve months with optimistic pessimism, if that makes any sense. Even though this past year has been filled with so much heartache and anxiety, there have been glimmers of hope that may or may not turn out to be façades. And this is what I mean by optimistic pessimism, in that during these times, people really need to force sentiments of hope. Perhaps by saying that I’m being too pessimistic.
The amazing element about self-reflection, however, is that unique places around the world each have a different meaning on what it indicates to change, or to better yourself.
Ever since I left for college in New York, I spend every New Year in Egypt. And every year, I spend time with my fellow classmates from high school, who I essentially see once per year. It’s always amazing to perceive how they have changed from the last time I’ve crossed paths with them; their personalities, their values, and simply the way they act. Since all of us live in a variety of diverse places around the world, seeing the impact their new homes have on them is truly fascinating to observe. It gives us a somewhat vague representation of the culture that they now inhabit.
I have friends who have had the privilege to spend their first three years of university in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Italy. Although I can’t say for sure how each location affected their personality, I can definitely say that it has given them a priceless perspective of life, and a surplus of open-mindedness. The countless stories they have told speak volumes to the value of seeing new places and meeting new people. They are now more open than ever to leave their comfort zones and try as many new things as possible.
Given that I have grown up with them, I naturally have an image of who I know them as, and contrasting that with the people they have become can be both amazing and overwhelming.
These encounters always make me reflect on the ways I have changed. New York is a city that can be quite tough on you, especially if you’re a student. It has made me more reserved, and has taught me to cherish my close relationships, as they become increasingly more difficult to create as we grow older. In New York, people are doing their own thing, and moving there from a very closely knit community was hard to adjust to in the beginning. It’s also helped me understand how important time to myself can be, and also how overwhelming it can be at the same time.
As people change, however, I always ask myself: Is change the result of continuous self-reflection, or do people look at themselves at singular times in their lives and consciously change themselves?
Personally, I like to see myself as a novel I’m endlessly writing. With each new experience, or new areas I visit, a new chapter is born. Like narrative plots, Changes to my personality and values will happen smoothly without over-analysis. If there’s a part of myself I’m not proud of, I can simply make edits. The only difference is, self-reflection is a thing of beauty in that there is no deadline for it, unlike a novel.