It’s the beginning of the school year, a time of year when many of you are probably starting something new, whether at a new school, a new grade, new classes, new activities, or meeting new people. Even some things which you’ve done in the past – for instance, a band you were in, or a club – are likely restarting for the school year. In addition, coming up on the Jewish calendar is Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of Jewish new year.
So I thought this would be a good time to discuss new starts, something all of us face throughout or lives in one dimension or another.
Beginning something new can be exciting, intimidating, or, often, some combination thereof, but it always represents some sort of change, major or minor. This fall, I'm starting two new classes (college Abnormal Psychology and AP Music Theory), starting a new year with several musical ensembles I'm returning to, getting accustomed to a new schedule that includes not only my own activities but knowing when my siblings' activities are as well and when my parents are each working, and thinking about what I want to do next year in terms of college.
There's another kind of new beginning that has less to do with external schedule and more to do with internal values and sense of self. As a Jew, on Rosh Hashanah I will be following a tradition called tashlich. When doing tashlich, we throw pieces of bread into running water. The bread crumbs symbolize the mistakes we've made in the past year. As we watch them float away downstream, we imagine letting the things we've done wrong float away, leaving us with a “fresh slate" to start filling up for the new year. Of course, in reality getting to that “fresh slate”, if possible at all, involves a lot more than just throwing stale bread into a river. That’s why, in the time leading up to Rosh Hashanah, Judaism teaches that we should put a special emphasis on teshuvah, which is Hebrew for “return” or repentance; apologizing to people we’ve hurt, intentionally or unintentionally, and doing what we can to make amends and make up for whatever we said or did, and also privately “apologizing” for the things that haven’t necessarily harmed anyone in particular other than ourselves, but we still wish he hadn’t thought, said, or done.
New beginnings are always happening, whether in the form of an activity you haven’t done before, a new person you meet, or just a continuation of something “old” – even with something you’ve done before, or people you’ve known for years, you can still change your behavior, try something extra, take on a new role, or otherwise add a fresh twist to whatever it is. For me, some of the most obvious life-changing fresh starts have been when each of my younger siblings were born, learning something big (like reading, or being able to ride a bike) or when I took on a new role that was important to me (such as a Sister to Sister mentor for NMG, which began just a few short months ago!), but other things like starting new classes, meeting new people, and getting my first email were also big ones. And in puberty, of course, there are always new things coming at you, some good, some not-so-good, from your first period to mood swings.
But enough of my rambling: Let’s get to the discussion part of this! I’ve given some examples of things that I consider new, and beginnings that have been important to me.
In your life, what new beginnings have made an impact on you – and what impacts have you made to create new beginnings? How do you feel when you start something new: Nervous, eager, or in between? Are you starting anything new now or recently that you’re excited about, or can you think of any ones in the past?
Please, join in on this brand-new (or age-old, depending how you look at it!) discussion topic. :D