Monday, January 12, 2009

There's no such thing as a fresh start

It's the beginning of a new year - technically. For many people, the new year begins in September when summer vacation ends. This is true for teachers and people with kids, and often it's true for people with long summer holidays or summer properties. Some people welcome spring as a real beginning, when the snow melts and things start to grow again.

The truth is: we all come from somewhere. Even a new baby carries genetic memory with genetic potential. There are no fresh starts; maybe there are not really any beginnings at all.

That doesn't mean that we give up on change or hope or the excitement of the first day of school. Tomorrow I start school again, and I am already experiencing butterflies. I love first days. I love the illusion of starting with a clean slate, an empty notebook, a blank page. It's an illusion that makes change attractive.

It's an illusion. The reality is that I come to school carrying memories - some of them light, and some of them hard on my shoulders. So do my students. The reality is that this January is very fresh (if we mean cold and snowy) and also very old (if we mean it carries the weight of the past with it). We are living out the consequences of economics and politics that started long ago.

It's good we do not have a fresh start. We would not know what to do with a new beginning. Our learning depends on connecting with our experience: what we have made with our pasts - whatever our pasts - is the possibility for meaning.

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