By Catherine Perkins, First Year Classics with Archaeology and Theology
All I remember about New Year growing up, when I was too young to really appreciate the excitement, optimism and hope that comes with the dawn of a new year, was that suddenly, on 1st of January, everyone had a ‘new me’. The phrase of the season, year after year was: ‘new year, new me.’ It was everywhere. Advertising created hooks into the ‘new you,’ showing off new low-fat Greek yoghurts with a slender actor lounging by a pool in a dreamy all-inclusive resort somewhere in the Archipelago (which was more likely some dreary studio, round the back of Watford). Or, perhaps through romance, luxury and laughter, they encouraged you to live the life you dream, and not to feel guilty about plunging into your pockets to buy that new flash car. Chevrolet inspired you to Find New Roads; Honda showed you The Power of Dreams; Hyundai caught you with New Thinking, New Possibilities; Renault told you to Drive the Change. They capitalised on innovation, hope, and self-renewal.
It’s not surprising, with the discourse of change around us, that many of us still feel pressure to find a New Me with the New Year.
But this year, for the first time, I noticed a difference: social media was precipitating a shift in that discourse and pressure. Scrolling through Facebook or Instagram on those lazy afternoons in the hazy time-void that exists between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, it seemed to be “New Year, Same Me” was the caption of the season. “New Year, Same Crew.” “New Year, Same Friends.” “New Year, Same Sofa.” “New Year, Same Dissertation.” “New Year, Same Smile.” These were all examples that popped up on my screen. I expect I’m not alone.
There are two ways to look at this shift. Perhaps it is nihilistic. Have we lost the potential that a new year brings? Perhaps we are scared of change and the vulnerability it may bring. Have we lost the power of hope? And – in a year that’s brought more acts of terror, allegations of state-sponsored poisonings, a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, and little progression on where we will stand on 29th March when we will officially leave the EU, deal or not – perhaps we have every right to feel nihilistic.
But, personally, I don’t think that a similar mentality was behind “New Year, Same me.” I would say, rather, that it can act as a noticeable indication of how far society has come in promoting individuality, and understanding who people are by nature, rather than the image in which they clothe themselves.
Nobody is perfect. If we choose to make a change in our lives, then it’s exactly that: a choice.
We may all recognise aspects of our lives that can be improved. The New Year may be a catalyst in provoking a mental shift, or reinvigorating you to work towards your own personal goals, and that’s no bad thing. But, nobody is perfect. If we choose to make a change in our lives, then it’s exactly that: a choice. And if we do make that choice, one change won’t alter the essence of who we are. Likewise, if we don’t make a choice to change or to find a ‘new me,’ we shouldn’t feel guilty or down on account of social pressure to self-renew our physique, habits or lifestyle. Our personality and our worth are never going to be defined by the boxes we tick, or define the labels that those boxes represent.
If we choose to make a change, we do so in the knowledge that, at heart, we remain the same selves we are, and we should cherish that.
However, it perhaps comes as no surprise, that, despite “New Year, Same Me,” the most common New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. Perhaps we can’t change that year on year, at the dawn of the New Year, it’s what roughly 70% of the population would like to achieve. But I think what we are gradually achieving is the realisation that what is more important is our sense of self, which remains unchanged. I think that is something to be very proud of indeed.
Rather than focus on what we want to change this New Year, perhaps we can focus on what we’re proud of in ourselves. We can ask that, if anything, what we achieve this year is a continued sense of pride in how we live, day by day. We can cherish the small things, and the aspects of someone’s personality that are unique to them, without constantly striving for distant goals or resolutions which can lead us to lose sight of the very ‘me’ drowning in the midst of an unnecessary pressure to change.
Perhaps we should go with Mercedes Benz, knowing we are Unlike any other.
Catherine Perkins is a first year student studying Classics with Theology and Archaeology. She is the Social Media Officer for the John’s SJCR and also works as a Durham Student Ambassador. In her spare time Catherine enjoys singing in the Chad’s Choir, playing the cello with JMS, writing, exploring the local area and tutoring. Catherine is also a Type 1 Diabetic, and raises awareness about living with Type 1 Diabetes, and those living with invisible disabilities. If you can’t find her in the college library, she’ll usually be in the Cathedral, or finishing her assessment of which café in Durham serves the best tea and scones!