It is 2016 and The Menace returns! And to ring in the New Year, it is only appropriate to review the Old – which was itself filled with lots of ‘new’:
- New degree, and one level up!
- New job
- New friends
- New flat in a new town (more on that later)
- New travels
- New language
But I have learned something very important about new-ness in 2015. Not all that is new is happy. Or welcome. Or healthy.
2015 can be seen as familiarly dichotic: Old Half and New Half.
In the Old Half, I continued my studies at King’s College London. I lived in the same flat in Hackney. I continued to not run – leg injuries of 2014 still smarting – and I wore the same tired wardrobe. I visited old favourite museums and galleries. I saw new theatre productions with the same old band of people. I attended lectures that blew my mind, that filled me with anger, or outrage, or happiness, or thoughtfulness, etc. I shared life, laughter and good meals with the same flatmates and friends. And I picked up the odd new addition here and there. Per usual.
Life was good.
The New Half brought newness. I finished my dissertation and thereby my degree. I landed a new job and gained new responsibilities (not to mention bureaucracy and other quotidien drama). I visited new countries, Denmark and Gabon, and learned of their histories and politics and cultural values. I moved from my dear flat in Hackney to a new flat in an old converted church in a new town with an old history in a new part of the country. I shared space with a new flatmate (and then another and then another)…and the bright shiny optimism of newness quickly turned to rust.
I hated this newness.
This newness was uninspiring. Old things I loved were no longer enjoyable. New opportunities were no longer interesting. Travel for the sake of adventure had not so much lost its appeal as been replaced by travel as a means of desperate escape from the doldrums. The intrigue of self-indulgent study, the pleasant retreat of reading, the creative outlet of writing, the relief of cooking and enjoying good food, even the thrill of regular exercise had evaporated within weeks. My soul died a little and my body began to shut down. This was not newness I had known before. This was unhappy, unwelcome, unhealthy.
I needed a new newness. In short, a new normal. And so I went to find it.
2016 has brought still more newness: a new town (Oxford) with a new flat and flatmate and a new commute to work. By extension that means I now have to find new friends, new local hangouts and new activities to occupy my time. But so far this is good newness.
For the first time since the Old Half of 2015, there is a return to optimism, albeit a bit tempered by my New Half experience, still fresh in my mind.
I feel comfortable. I am content. And I have learned the variable quality of newness.