OK, it’s January, the month of beginnings. The month for beginning your health kick, your new notebook, your new era of personal growth, your… tax return. But isn’t January, in fact, named after the two-faced god? Janus is the beginning and the end (and the doorway ‘twixt the two!) Janus has insight in both directions, and, at this time of year, so should we.
I talked about the problem of false endings yesterday. Endings are compelling because they represent such satisfaction, and one reason we keep procrastinating is because we want to skip to the finishing line in the hope that delicious sense of earned-ness is somehow there all the time, waiting for us. Of course, we end up feeling empty and like a horrible cheat, because satisfaction – the real joy of finishing – can only be built by doing the time.
Addicted to starting
But today I want to talk about Janus’s other concern: the glittering appeal of new beginnings. Beginnings are extremely motivating, no doubt about that. They will give us a short-term push that can get us quite far, and when we begin to run out of steam, another beginning may give us our next push — like changing gears in a car (why are my metaphors always about driving?).
Some people live like this for years, moving from place to place, job to job, person to person. Perhaps it works for a few, but from what I’ve seen, there’s often a deep underlying dissatisfaction. In fact, there’s usually a strong desire to stop the vehicle and get out (may as well stick with the car metaphor now). These people often want to break the cycle, on some level harbouring a dream that they will eventually stop being at the mercy of the sparkle and be able to make their own choices, free of this addiction to novelty.
Stationary not stationery
It is an addiction and it’s easy to see how it develops, because everywhere we look the message is reinforced. But a new year does not have to mean a ‘new you’! The urge to constantly start things, to travel to new cities, or to crack open clean new notebooks that you’ll never actually finish, feeds the panicky energy of procrastination. And of course that energy is the absolute lifeblood of online platforms like Instagram.
The first step is recognising you’ve already started. You’re almost certainly not ready to start afresh; you’ve got an existing story to honour. Absorbing this, and sitting quietly with the journey you’re already on will reap far greater rewards.
You’re almost certainly not ready to start afresh; you’ve got an existing story to honour.
Here’s another way of looking at it: we live in a wasteful world, and novelty is held in ridiculously high esteem. Recycle yourself. The internet doesn’t have the answers for you, nor do the shops. Look to your own past for resources, references and lessons. Our world leaders don’t have Janus’s insights and won’t look back through the door to study the teachings of history, but we can change things from an individual level, perhaps.
Let go of the idealisation of shiny perfection, stop denying the past and embrace what we really are. We are everything we have ever been – a complete story. It’s fine to have not been born yesterday. Better than fine. Constant reinvention is a colossal, wasteful, ineffective mess. It’s also a real lie, because it denies time!
What part of your story can you continue this month? What part of your identity can you revisit, surface and explore afresh?