My maternal grandmother taught me embroidery when I was ten or so and along the way, I’ve added needlepoint and knitting to my set of handicraft skills. This means that most of the time I have one or more projects in progress, whether or not I’m actively working on them. And year after year, project after project, it’s always true the best part is the beginning. Beginnings are full of potential. The yarn is unsnarled and there are no dropped stitches to be fixed. The embroidery threads are neat and the cloth or canvas pristine. (And the pictures of the results are always beautiful.) It’s fun to begin.
One of the things I have always appreciated about the calendar of higher education is that there are multiple beginnings. New semesters, new calendar years, new academic years. Each is as shiny and new as that project you just started. Each beginning gives us another chance to do our best work and create something amazing with and for the people around us. I think it’s one of the reasons we like to celebrate New Year. Not the parties necessarily, but that moment when the calendar changes, when we change, (or forget to change) the year we write or type on documents, and when, for a moment, everything feels possible.
This year I imagine that newness feels a bit different as we continue into a new semester facing the on-going, and in many places, worsening realities of COVID-19. The challenges of managing our work during a pandemic haven’t lessened. However, I have no doubt that everyone has learned something from the past few months that will help the spring semester go more smoothly. And it is still a new semester, which means an opportunity to try something different – in your work from home set-up, for campus programs and services, and in the way you think about this on-going challenge that we face.
Whether you like creating resolutions for the New Year, picking a word to focus on in the coming year, or simply getting re-started on a non-holiday routine, I encourage you to take a moment and enjoy the reality of beginning anew. In a needlework/knitting project, taking some time in the beginning to make sure you have the right supplies and tools to accomplish your task is time well spent. In our work, pausing here as the spring semester begins to make sure you have or can create what you need to do your job well, is also worth the time. Embrace the fun of beginning the important work that you do each day and remind yourself that today even if it’s not true that anything is possible, there’s usually more potential than we acknowledge to create something amazing. To paraphrase Andy Offutt Irwin: Don’t be afraid to make this year amazing.