"Happy New Year!"

Why do we even say that? “Happy New Year!” What even is the point? Doesn’t it sometimes feel like such a vapid, vacuous ritual that serves no actual point? I mean, what makes 1st January 2024 any different from 31st December 2023, or from the day before that, or from a day in the month before that? What really, truly is the difference? More to it, what really, truly is the point? Other than taking down that old branded calendar and replacing it with a new branded calendar? Or replacing one worn-out diary with another that just has slightly different numbers, but representing the same points of stress and tension that those to-do lists brought from the year past?

What even is the point?

What even is the point, when the bills remain the same? Same, if not higher, because apparently inflation is a thing we must live with? When rent is still due on the 5th? When the taxman is still demanding - nay, forcefully extracting - their dues? When the school will still demand extra money for school trips they never notified us about in advance?

Happy New Year?

What even is the point, when so many can't say it to their loved ones? What even is the point, when the new calendar is a reminder of a life that has to be lived without a loved one? What even is the point, when fireworks light up the sky for some, as fire is rained down from the skies for others?

What even is the point? What even is the point of doing this same thing year after year, when it really does feel like new year, same shit, ad nauseam? What's the point of that same same countdown we do to "usher in the new year"? Does this "new year" even know it’s being ushered in? Does it even know that it’s the creation of a random human centuries ago that all of us just eventually said, “Ok, we’ll just use that one”? (Well, I say “all of us”…)

And yet.

And yet, I’m reminded, that all this - the congragating, the counting down, WhatsApp forwards, the ritual of it all... it all stems from hope - even if it’s just an ember. That ember of hope that refuses to go out, however much water is doused upon it. Because that hope, that defiance in the face of the odds against us, always remains at the very core of our spirit.

So perhaps the point isn’t watching the fireworks exploding against the velvety skies. Perhaps the point isn’t the calendar turning and the bills remaining.

Perhaps the point is that even as we can no longer say it to those loved ones we dearly miss, a part of us can call back to the memories we have of them and with them, and crack a gentle smile as a tear rolls down our cheeks.

Perhaps the point isn't that a new calendar magics away the hurdles, the hardship, and the pain - perhaps the point is that it allows us to hope anew. Not a promise of sunshine and rainbows all the way through, but a quiet acknowledgment that there’s the chance that something could change in our favour. A chance to say to ourselves, “Yes, things may be tough, but maybe, just maybe, they can be different."

So even if it means using these seemingly random markers in time to rejuvenate that fire from that single, solitary ember, that hope remains true.

And with all this, for me, perhaps it’s not exactly “Happy New Year”, but more “Hello, 2024."

Hello, 2024 - even with the familiar woes of old, we walk with the lessons learned.

Hello, 2024 - even with the battles fought, still we stand.

Hello, 2024 - even with loved ones lost, echoes of their presence resonate, and the love shared remains.

Hello, 2024. An acknowledgement of the weight of past burdens, but our spirits still unencumbered.

Hello, 2024. Not a wish into the void, but a promise to ourselves. To keep moving. To keep fighting. To tend to that ember until it becomes a roaring flame.

Hello, 2024. A reminder that for as long as the river flows, we will be free.

And so here we stand. Not only because we can, not only because we must, but also because we choose to. Amidst the hurdles, amidst the stumbles, we keep making that choice. Today, and every day.

So: Hello, 2024.