On beginnings

Feb. 21, 2017, 7:52 a.m.

I recently came across a poem by the Internet poet “atticus” that goes, “At the beginning there was nothing but love and stardust. My heart yearns to begin again.” I loved this idea of starting again, of allowing yourself the time and space to step back and create a new beginning.

One of my dorm-mates recently ran excitedly into the dining room exclaiming that she had just found her wallet after it having been lost the whole morning. When asked how she found it, she replied that all she had had to do was physically walk out of the room, close the door and then re-enter. Coming back in with fresh eyes allowed her to very quickly realize that she had left her wallet on her desk.

While this might seem like a fairly insignificant anecdote, the underlying lesson is fairly valuable. We’ve all heard of the clichéd importance of “starting fresh” — of “re-vamping” our lives when we seem to be stuck in a routine. But to me, these phrases have always seemed somewhat enigmatic: What exactly does it mean to start over, to begin again?

To me, this simple lesson can have many applications in our everyday lives. For example, when I came home from school for winter break, I was amazed at how healthy it felt to have time to myself to reflect on my first quarter at Stanford and begin to look forward to the coming winter term.

While many good things had come out of my first quarter at Stanford (great classes, fun dorm friends, new favorite books) it was extremely valuable to view my next quarter at Stanford as a kind of new beginning — a chance to re-start and enter the quarter with new goals and aspirations. Breaking up our lives by actively creating these new beginnings for ourselves can make life more of a constant reflection, allowing us to work on things in the past we wish we could have done better.

It also makes for a more forgiving life. If, for example, I performed fairly poorly on a midterm for a class, by actively framing the aftermath of this grade as a chance to start anew and perhaps approach the next assignment differently, it makes me focus less on the perceived failure and allows for a more healthy redirection of energy.

As cheesy as this might sound, whenever I hear the phrase “begin again,” I can’t help but think of Taylor Swift’s song on her album “Red,” with the lyrics: “I’ve been spending the last eight months/Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end/But on a Wednesday in a café, I watched it begin again.” This might seem like your average Taylor Swift song, full of lyrics about complicated love sagas and tragic break-ups, but I have always particularly enjoyed this song specifically because it provides the listener with hope.

No matter what context, part of the magic in new beginnings is that sometimes we can’t actually orchestrate them ourselves. While this can be frustrating, it’s also reassuring.

My best friend likes to say to me frequently that “everything happens for a reason,” whether that be in terms of failed relationships or less-than-stellar exam scores, and while I usually roll my eyes at her in anguish, there’s a lot of truth in this statement. When it’s difficult to actively create new beginnings for ourselves, it is sometimes just as helpful to simply trust in the power of time in creating those beginnings for us.

I think it’s safe to say that the transition to college life is not exactly easy for most students. For me, it was definitely overwhelming at first to try to navigate a changing social scene, college level classes and the maze that is Stanford’s campus, all while trying to stay caught up on sleep.

But one of the things that kept me sane throughout this period of rocky transition was this “re-start” mindset: allowing myself opportunities to let go of past mistakes or people that I didn’t need in my life and starting anew. And with a combination of my own mental framing and a little faith in the passing of time itself, the power of new beginnings did indeed help me adjust to my freshman year at Stanford.  


Contact Julie Plummer at jplummer ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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