Beginnings and other messy notions

It’s a new year. It has been for eight days now, and I, like so many well-meaning people, am struggling to keep to resolutions. This is in part because my resolution is a very systemic one, amounting to develop a routine.

I do well with routines. Some of my most productive times have been very routine-based. The difference between those times and now is that those past routines developed naturally, whereas now I’m attempting to engineer a routine.

I’m entering what I hope will be my final semester of my undergraduate studies, this one primarily dedicated to finishing my second major in psychology. I have a final piece of my creative writing major to finish too, though, in the form of a Capstone project, an open-ended assignment meant to encourage individual and one-on-one work with a professor. Last year, I helped a friend of mine make a short film for his Capstone by plunging into a cold river to play a corpse. Now, I come up with something of my own.

It’s hard to ignore the thrill of a fresh start—a new year, a new semester, a new project, a new notebook, a new pen, whatever. Also hard to ignore, at least for me, is the pressure a fresh start presents. (My notebooks, for example, all have a blank first page, because I never know how to “dedicate” them and so skip to the second page to spare myself the stress of finding a worthy opening.) Starting a new anything can feel like being a small child who’s given a nice outfit and told, “Don’t get this dirty!” I’ve never understood the appeal of $236 Versace jeans for eight-year-olds. I’m supposedly an adult of some sort, and even I can’t be trusted to keep jeans from getting dirty, so maintaining the pristine condition of the new year? Daunting.

Only here’s the thing: It isn’t about keeping things pristine. It’s about finding your dirt wisely—or, if not wisely, deliberately.

At least, this is my theory.

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