“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
I stopped into a small Trader Joe’s market yesterday. It was New Year’s Eve day, and the place was crowded with shoppers who’d be preparing feasts for friends later that night. It was a party atmosphere. Carts were loaded and people were chattering enthusiastically with strangers, their conversations focused mainly around these feasts: food preparation and presentation, how best to combine flavors, timing. They seemed so happy for each other and inspired by shared ideas.
As the cashier checked out my items, he asked if I had plans for the holiday. I told him I’d be home with my child and his friend; that I’d probably write and then watch a movie. He admitted that he, too, would be doing nothing spectacular on New Year’s Eve, but that he enjoyed the idea of the holiday because it afforded some glimmer of hope and newness. A chance to start again.
This time of year is charged with a moment when so many people across the globe, from all walks of life, own even some small piece of their fate. Regardless of social status, geographical location, political affiliation, or religion, we practice this ritual of taking a personal inventory, assessing who we’ve been, how we’ve lived, the choices we’ve made and wish to change.
Often, these moments of reflection are flavored with shame or remorse. For just a second, though, we set the emotion aside and look at who we are right now.
It’s kind of magical really: This brief time when we stop blaming outside forces or other people and look inward, to see the ways we can change some belief or practice in order to be better. We take just a step away from the emotion that often clouds our judgement and justifies our circumstances in order to make clearer resolutions; promises to ourselves to do it better this year, to be different, to get out of our own way.
It almost doesn’t matter if we keep all those resolutions. Just the act of introspection, coupled with that sense of responsibility, makes us better people.