Monday, September 06, 2010

Thoughts on (my) New Year’s Eve

As I have blogged many times in the past (at least once a year, it seems to me), for me the new year starts not on January first, but the day after Labour Day. My entire life since the age of about four has been tied to the rhythms of the school year, and when I recall important events in my life I don't think "Oh, that happened in fall of 1986" or "I did that in 2003," I think "that happened in grade nine" and "I did that in year six of my PhD." January first—and its drunken sibling, December 31st—always feel anticlimactic to me, and I have disliked New Year's Eve for reasons I never articulated to myself until my friend Gregg did it for me. In one of his many moments of earthy wisdom, he observed that there are two days a year we are under great pressure to enjoy: the first is our birthday, the second is New Year's. Birthdays are easy, if you have good friends and/or family, and don't get too freaked out about aging—the day is all about you. But as Gregg sagely observed, New Year's Eve is everybody's birthday, and the every-man-for-himself partying that happens often carries a tinge of desperation.

And for me, it's not the true beginning of the year. One of the things I love about my job is that I remain plugged into this annual cycle in which, as you come off the heat and languor of the summer, you look forward to the crisp weather of autumn and the energy of a new school year. Northrop Frye, in his magisterial work on archetypes in literary archetypes, associates autumn with "myths of the fall, dying gods, violent death and sacrifice" and the isolation of the hero, with tragedy and elegy as its representative genres. I like to imagine however that this was at odds with what Frye, a lifelong academic, experienced on a yearly basis—knowing that these archetypes are rooted in our mythic and agrarian origins, but that September for us bookish scholastic types evokes feelings of renewal and rebirth. Autumn, in other words, is the academic's spring.

At any rate, I've been lax on this blog for the last three weeks or so, and hope to rectify that as the term begins. To all those about to begin a school year, I salute you.

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