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Keerthi Sridharan

2018: To New Beginnings

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2018: To New Beginnings

Source:Sinchen.Lin (CC BY 2.0)

Is time socially constructed? If so, why do we make new year resolutions? Having said goodbye to the bumpy year of 2017, how should we keep making progress?

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2018: To New Beginnings

By Keerthi Sridharan
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At 11 pm on the 31st of December, I gathered a friend, a fleece jacket, and a hot drink - the essentials - and headed to stake out the best place to look at the fireworks. An hour before midnight, as we eventually learned, is way too late to start this; the sea of people in Xinyi had had the exact same idea as us, only much, much sooner. Even so, we found a miniscule patch of grass, set down our jackets as blankets, and settled in to watch the festivities unfold.

It’s so easy to think of time as some great intangible villain, cutting long nights short and demanding that good things end. It’s easier still to dismiss time as a social construct, something that has no standing in the ‘real’ world. The general trend towards the end of the year is one of rejection and nonconformity; people want to differentiate themselves from the ‘rest’ of the world, and the easiest way to do that is to say that the 101 light show isn’t worth it, or that the concept of a new year is useless, or - for my more maudlin friends - that the only productive use of anyone’s time is to constantly ponder mortality.

That is to say, the closer we get to the end of the year, the more occurrences there are of people who, to put it simply, find problems with other people’s happiness.

The idea that time is fake isn’t a new-age edgy concept anymore - society is made up of various social constructs, and they’re what give us comfort in a world that seems otherwise overrun by tragedy and hopelessness.

2017 wasn’t a great year, in so many ways. People have suffered through the last twelve months, against all the odds; I see no inherent cardinal sin in celebrating that.

Image: Pixabay

The fireworks seemed to end as quickly as they’d begun, but we stayed on the grass for a good half hour afterwards, watching people seek out chicken and pork skewers, sitting back and listening to the city, wide awake in the middle of the night. All around me were the things that I’ve come to hold so dear about spending the New Year in Taipei - the smell of street food cooking, the yells of delighted children chasing after each other, and the lights of sparklers held in tiny fists in my periphery. We watched, slowly, as things started to go back to normal. As more and more time passed, we began noticing the piles of discarded bottles and trash on the streets, rather than the exuberant, ecstatic partygoers who had left them behind.

People ended up back at their houses, the trash was cleaned up, and Taipei welcomed 2018 with a fresh wash of rain. With the New Year comes new resolutions, new promises, and new “me”s, which are all met with skepticism and disdain from the same people who refuse to celebrate the year’s end. What is the point, people ask, of writing out a list of ways to improve yourself if you’re just going to go back to the ‘same old you’ in a week or two?

The point is, of course, that you’re taking the time to write out that list in the first place. Self-criticism is an invaluable skill, and productive self-criticism can lead to genuine progress in terms of simply becoming a better person. As to why one should do that on the first day of the year, as opposed to any other day, that part’s simple - it’s so much easier to sit down and reflect when you know that everyone around you is doing the same. So get out your to-do lists and your rolls of washi tape and your .05 muji pens. And a day, a week, a month from now, if you aren’t where you thought you’d be with everything you’re trying to accomplish, tell yourself that at least you tried. And then keep trying.

Edited by: Shawn Chou

Keerthi Sridharan is an 18-year-old poet, writer and musician currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English at Oberlin College. She has lived in Chennai, New Delhi, Beijing, Hong Kong, Fiji, Washington, D.C., and most recently, Taipei.


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