New year, same me

Lili Bidwell 19 January 2017

New year, new me – or, at least, that’s what they say. The beginning of a new year heralds the inevitable influx of New Year resolutions and, subsequently, the pressure for a change in calendar to mark the change in responsibility and maturity of a person. I began 2017 flying back to England for the new term – the first time I have ever flown alone. It is a seemingly small milestone, to be sure, but as I traversed the corridors of Heathrow myself, I wondered whether this precedent officially made me the independent, capable, jet-setting university student that I would like to imagine being.

Yet, these are more words on a page than fleshed-out truth. While I may have successfully made it back to Cambridge in one piece, checking off a list of ‘todo’ things, things that are supposed to represent increased maturity and wisdom, does not necessarily equate to feeling it. This, at least for me, is the footnote on growing up: no matter how much you go through, how much you learn, there are times when I still feel so inexplicably young. Eighteen, of course, is no great age, but eight-year old me used to think that when I were a decade older, I would finally be responsible, collected, sophisticated, in a way befitting my age. But, still, there are times when I feel like I am eight again, navigating a world as nebulous and confusing as ever. 2016 was a year for growth and change, a year when starting university, in particular, meant having to learn to adapt. But while I did, it was also a year for insecurities, old and new, for uncertainty and for consternation.

There were times that I found the courage to push my boundaries, and then there were – more often than I would care to admit – other times when I did not, when I retreated instead into comfortably familiar territory. As the past year drew to a close and demanded a period of introspection, I wondered how much I really had changed between its New Year and now. Insecurities and childhood uncertainty are not shed as easily as leaves in autumn; some things are infinitely more immutable. But I am learning to come to terms with that.

The New Year is not a timer waiting to be reset, a piece of mechanic allowing you to switch like clockwork from one person to another. Eight-year old me thought that I would be put-together when I was eighteen, but eight-year old me was forgetting that we two are the same person, that I would still be growing as much now as I was then. A completely sophisticated and mature person, in retrospect, would have felt more like a distant, fictional character than a future self. Growing up and maturing does mean learning and becoming more capable, but it is also about being afraid and unsure. People, after all, are composed of contradictions, can grow while remaining the same, can be brave and still retreat. So I’m throwing the “new year, new me” adage out of the window. 2017 will probably be as perplexing and terrifying as 2016 often was, but if the latter year has taught me anything, it will be that fear is nothing to be afraid of. Even if nothing changes, that is not an issue, I am happy where I am right now.