I spent part of my New Year’s Eve in a cemetery, and I’ll give you two reasons why that’s not creepy: A) my next novel is a horror story, and I was looking for inspiration and B) symbolically speaking, there’s no better place to think about the passage of time. Let me explain. Each passing year is like the people buried underneath each tombstone; if we knew them, we could relive their memories again and again, but nevertheless, nothing we could ever do will bring them back. We can never relive the years behind us. Rest in Peace, 2015.
But today, January 1st, is a day of hope. It’s a day of fresh starts and new beginnings for the calendar year as well as everyone who wishes to have a new look on life. We can look at 2016 as a fresh set of open doors, and, no, I’m not pulling that analogy out of thin air. I was specifically thinking of the Roman god, Janus.
Janus might have been big stuff back in ancient Rome, but in modern times, he has three major claims to fame. One: if someone accuses you of betraying them, they might call you the old-timey expression “two-faced Janus,” the explanation for which should be evident from Janus’ picture above. Two: the month of January. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a Roman god influenced the name of something on our calendar, but the reason why is directly related to our third and final item: janitors.
What? Yes, as it turns out, the word “janitor” is derived from the name “Janus.” Janus was the god of passages and doorways, and the people that we associate with overseeing the halls and doorways of our modern buildings now bear his name. Furthermore, the reason why Janus was associated with January (and why I’m writing about him today) is because he was the god of transitions and beginnings and endings: the doorways of life, so to speak. This is why the Romans portrayed Janus with two faces: one to look behind at the past and one to look forward at the new.
Now, let’s bring this conversation full circle. Today, January 1st, is the one day each year when society has trained us not only to look ahead to the future, but also to reflect on what we’ve done in the past. And both are equally important. If you fixate on the past, you run the risk of wasting today’s time on something that no longer exists. Yet, if you never reflect on your past, you run the risk of repeating your own mistakes. Truly, only three days exist: yesterday, today, and tomorrow; and we’re only able to live in one of them. So, I recommend that we reflect upon our yesterdays so that we may change something today, creating a better tomorrow. In other words, we should make some resolutions.
But, in my humble opinion, we should seek to live every day as a new beginning – as cliché as that sounds. Every day is an opportunity for change, not just something we save for January 1st. I opened this post with the cemetery analogy, stating that every year gone by has gone to its death, but, in truth, each day is like this as well. We only have the ability to live in the present, and any attempts to relive the past just as we remember them will often end in the pain of disappointment. But, with the death of each day comes the birth of a new one: an opportunity to change, an opportunity to live.
So, today – and all other days – we should be like Janus, remembering the past and looking forward to the future. We have names for doing too much of each of these things: regret and worry. In this new year, my resolution is to strike a balance, making an effort to convert my regret into reflection and my worry into foresight. I resolve to live in today, and if I don’t like my life the way it is today, I’ll resolve to change it for the sake of a more pleasant tomorrow. Life is too short to sacrifice on things you can’t change. You can’t change yesterday, and the only way to change the future is by acting today… by making every moment of your life matter.
I’d like to finish this post by quoting the ever-poignant words of John Keating, portrayed by Robin Williams in The Dead Poet’s Society: “make your lives extraordinary… carpe diem… seize the day!”
Featured image – Image courtesy of McGee Monuments, http://nearsay.com/c/94635/67943/remember-your-loved-ones-over-the-holidays-with-these-headstone-decoration-ideas
Janus – Image courtesy of Groume, ©2011, http://www.flickr.com/photos/groume/5975429093
Dead Poet’s Society video – courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9EjOCyyCWg