“Mile-Long Mixtapes”: Ep. #3
by Kellie M. Beck
Can we ever really start over?
Today, (the day I’m writing this) is oddly enough the Lunar New Year. While it may not be traditionally celebrated the same as the calendar new year, January 1st, it is a celebration of newness.
From what I can tell, we, as human beings, really, really love newness. We celebrate every new year, every new age we turn. We celebrate our times with our families over the holidays by giving one another new things. Every new school year, we buy our children new jeans, new shoes, new clothes. And while some of this serves a distinct purpose, (I mean, c’mon– kids outgrow their clothes at the speed of light!) newness has become a trait of modernity that I can’t help but feel at odds with.
Why? Because newness, in the largest sense, doesn’t exist.
I’m sure it can’t be just me– the idea of starting over is borderline seductive. And maybe that’s just because we never really get to start over– it evades us as does perfection. A fresh start is a version of perfection. But if we spend all our time pretending to start over at every new job, new semester, or every new year– when will we ever give ourselves the chance to grow?
What if we all agreed that newness was impossible to achieve? I think of Walter Benjamin’s idea of what he calls “the aura”. The aura describes the appeal of aged things– how they have been altered by time is what makes them beautiful to us. I think of the old houses of Ann Arbor, or on a grander scale, the cathedral of Notre Dame. We find them beautiful for their aura.
I genuinely hope the same concept can be applied to you and I.
When we relinquish our desires to be new, what is left of us? The only other option for change, if we cannot start over, is to grow. I think about it like a great painting– if we throw away every canvas in which we make a mark we do not like, we will never have a masterpiece. But if we choose to stay, and reckon with what marks we have made on the page, we have the ability then to move past them.