27 December 2015

New Year's Note: What The New Year Means To Me

Let’s all think of the New Year as the greatest gift of all. 
By Daniel Goh

In its newness, the New Year is something sparkling clean and elegant, because so blank and new, like a freshly unboxed diary for you to fill in with all the business of the year to come. There’s nothing like crisp, new paper (the smell of it, the feel of it) to make one feel cleansed and ready to do something good. If Christmas is that gaudy, cheaply cheerful commercial item, store-bought, slightly shop-worn, sloppy with drink and eating, glittering with the vulgarity of ostentation and materialism, then the New Year is pristine, freshly-laundered, optimistic. This year, you will get it right; This year, you will finally shed those negative vibes, those dark days and sally forth with energy and luck.

This idea of the New Year was formed when I was still little (so many decades ago!) and going to school was a huge to-do. In great ceremony, the weeks in December marked shopping sprees with mother. Bundles of new textbooks from a growing forbidding list, which we bought from a mission bookstore in Coleman Street, still un-dog-eared, the edges still sharp, filled with things to be learned (I would quickly flip through the books uncomprehendingly when I got home, in awe that I would be learn those things before the year was up). Then, new uniforms were bought from a shop that specialized in school uniforms in Peninsula Plaza, snowy white new shirts with the collars still stiff, and the always too-long blue shorts (I was a precocious dresser!) and down the road new canvas shoes from Bata, new socks with too-tight elastic that caused red welts around my legs for weeks until they grew slack and slightly grey. Handkerchiefs (yes, we used those in the good old days), water bottle, schoolbag were all bought in People’s Park; and this I enjoyed the most, because I got to exercise my fledgling taste for cutesy stuff: I would be entranced with my haul of new matching sets of stationery (pencils, pencil case, eraser, sharpener, notebooks, sketchpad – one year it was all yellow smiley faces, another year all My Melody).

My taste changed with each passing year, and you could see it in the stationery style. I suppose that is called growing up, or growing old. Each subsequent New Year, until today, remains a marker of change for me. Each New Year sees the letting go of old aesthetics and old ideals and ideas, and an embrace of new ones. Each New Year is a chance to shed the outmoded, the tried-but-untrue, the feckless, the negative, the weak (both people, and things). Each New Year, we put on a new moral crisp collar, and pull up new psychological socks. We arm ourselves with a year of new knowledge, we grow taller, we reach new heights.

And that is the real magic of the New Year. Not another round of champagne or fireworks or shopping; Not another holiday, not another calorie spree. The New Year is the greatest gift of all for being another chance to fill your days with meaningful, positive, constructive, beautiful, creative new work, and fill your mind with new ideas and inspiration, and your life with nice, interesting people.
Beginning right here, right now, with this.

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