Sitting here at my laptop typing away at 8:34 pm with a loosely, albeit deliciously poured decaf cappuccino, I find that in this new year, everything is simultaneously new, yet not at all.
Fatherhood laid in wait for 10 months — or nearly a lifetime, depending on how you look at it, only to swiftly alter my world. Nearly eight weeks into it and every day feels new: the way my daughter's eyes seem to roll around in her skull until she focuses on my eyes, or the reflection of the light in my glasses, captivates my own with similar strength; when I pull my finger across the bottom of her barefoot, only to have her toes curl over my fingernail like lungs pulling in every bit of oxygen before slowly letting go; the way small bits of dandruff get caught up in the whisps of her blonde-ish brown hair; cute expressions of pain cause her face to scrunch and contort as her body learns how to process milk and wind; the gentle coos of her voice that give way to either small bursts of what can only be understood as laughter, or alternatively, the high-pitched screams of hunger and exhaustion. Every day is a new day with a daughter.
The year is new, at least that's what my phone tells me. I'm not sure any of us would really know what day or year it is after the one we've all endured if it were not for our digital accountability partners — or taskmasters — keeping us constantly updated. Notifications flood into my locked screen to passionately, but politely and with emojis, let me know of the newest news post that needs to be seen or newsletter written or end of the year/beginning of the year sale. Each message is designed to be new, and in many ways, is but feels indistinguishable from the previous 957 that I received the day before.
My relationships are the same as they were; it seems. Most of my best friends live across the world, thousands of miles away. Zoom calls have drudged on so long now that FaceTime feels somewhat new and adventurous. We've come full-circle. One of my closest friends, who is not a gamer or the type to spend frivolously, told me he's getting into VR. That is new. Maybe I'll get a set of my own, and we'll hang out in virtual cinemas since COVID-19 has shuttered all the others worth visiting. My parents remain in a different state, surrounded by farmlands dedicated to potatoes and others purchased to evolve into dairies for Chobani or warehouses for Amazon. They still don't enjoy being around people, yet their favorite place to be is Costco. It's confusing. My wife and I remain married, just now learning how to be married and parents. It's both novel and normal.
The world continues to be in flux. Political upheaval and pluralism divide and unite people who are close enough to be blood relatives. Social media continues to provoke misinformed YouTube videos while delighting with year-end recaps of the best animal blunders caught on camera. America still believes the world revolves around itself, or at least half of it does. Wars and rumors of war continue to rage across the planet: this country is at war with this one, this government is determined to overthrow the other, and everyone is at war with the coronavirus and its new, quicker sibling.
As the page turns on another year, it brings with it the same newness and predictability that the turn of a physical page in a novel carries with it: there is an expectancy that a new piece of information that pushes the story forward, leaving the previous pages behind will show up; hope lingers in the senses of the finger where it touches the edge of the paper. Excitement and anticipation are in the turn, all while knowing that practically speaking, the pages will be relatively the same as the ones before them: words will fill the page from top to bottom and be read left to right; there will be page numbers and line breaks; perhaps a new chapter title or footnote will arrive; the text will all be formatted in the same way as the previous words had been; everything is new while at the same time nothing is.
Should we expect that just because the page has turned that the book is somehow over or the volume completed? Perhaps we really did arrive at the end of that particular bit. Some will let out a sigh of relief if so. Others, eager for the next book or series of books, might be eaten up in anticipation and angst. I myself will wake up tomorrow knowing that I will still be a husband, and now a father as well. I will still try to practice the way of Christ. God-willing, I will make my morning americano, read the Bible, make breakfast, let the dog out, spend too much time on my phone looking at other people's lives while wishing mine were different — or the same. The day will be new, and my experiences as well, but nothing will be that new, and certainly no more so than anything else has been throughout history.
There is nothing new under the sun.