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New Year, New Me

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Ashley Kolpak photo

Ever since my late teens and into my twenties, this motto “New Year, New Me” echoes loudly in my mind this time of year. I’m both a terribly sentimental and superstitious person, so New Year’s also tends to elicit my most ambitious activity seen all year round. It’s simple enough most of the time. Work out more. Be a better friend, sister, daughter. Do more of what I enjoy. Give back. And then some. 

And so propelling through January, driven by this motivation, I’ve been trying to do the normal, day-to-day stuff with a little more umph, a little more purpose. I’m kidding myself, aren’t I? And this is all in preparation for the personal milestone that looms large for me at the end of the month...my birthday. I’m turning 26 this year. No comment. 

This past Christmas eve, I attended, for my third time no less, the Matzo Bash. It’s a gleeful gathering of my friends and an immense crowd of every single person I grew up with, all under one roof. For a social butterfly like myself, it’s an interesting opportunity to kibitz the night away (an open bar does not hinder such a situation). By Christmas eve, the thoughts of what the new year will bring and what last year taught are under full rumination by most. What shape will the new year take in our lives? How can we best prepare to expect the unexpected? 

I started talking to a guy a couple of years older than me, who grew up here but made a rather thrilling pilgrimage to the West Coast not too long ago. A web/app developer, he just screamed “2013” to me. Young, entrepreneurial, living a life of his own invention. He very clearly had a “look”...a cross between a curly Jew fro and a ‘80s French pompadour ‘do that he was definitely pulling off. As we chit-chatted, he talked about his ultimate 2013 goal: living the life of a renaissance man.

I looked at him. This was a conversation at a party, but even still he was very committed to this notion. A renaissance man, he said. He tries to reinvent himself as often as he can. Whether it be a change of style, a new activity, anything. Anything in the name of being shiny and new. Skeptically, my first thought was, “does this guy think he’s Madonna?” But I took a step back (New Year’s resolution #1401: be more thoughtful). 

Could I be a renaissance girl/woman/what have you? Would I even want to be? I joyfully listened to my new friend list activities like skateboarding, surfing, making short films, attending short story readings and I let my own imagination run a little wild. It’s not too far-fetched. Looking back at my twenties thus far, two of those birthdays were spent in France. I’ve been running between Champaign, Chicago, the North burbs and France for the last seven or eight years. Everywhere I go, I’m a little bit different, by nature. Everywhere I go, I try new things. Is that reinvention? 

He talked about his favorite story-telling hour at Hopleaf and I thought about the book I want to write (at some point before I’m thirty). I looked at my friends scattered about the room, I thought about my family, my job, and how everyone has these thoughts from time to time. So I bid my new friend adieu, and went back to enjoying the evening with the rest of the group.

So here’s to 2013, may it bring something special to all of us. Here’s to having fun while you’re young, making the most of opportunities, caring for others and appreciating the good. 

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