Crossroads are a wonderful place to be because you have so many options. You can go forward, return the way you came, or go in a new direction.
Not long ago, I worked as a receptionist in a museum. Every day, about five minutes before closing time, the sound system would play a slow, romantic song over the museum’s loudspeakers. It was a signal for us employees to gather our things, turn off lights and screens, shut down exhibits, and make our way home. The lyrics were in a foreign language, but there was one English sentence in the chorus: “Let go, let go, it’s time to say goodbye.”
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire, and he told his boss of his plans to leave and live a more leisurely life with his wife. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.
The contractor was sorry to see such a good worker go, and he asked the carpenter to build just one more house as a personal favor.
One of my most pleasant childhood memories is lying on the bench beneath Grandma’s grape arbor on a hot summer day and munching on fresh grapes. Years later, when I was moving to a vineyard in Italy, I envisioned many comfy benches to lie on. To my shock, we arrived to what looked like barren fields. Only the tiniest stubbly heads appeared above the roots. It was explained to me that the vines were cut back to the ground each year after the harvest to increase their yield. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it was a fruitful field.
For the last 12 years, I worked as a freelance contractor for a project that I was passionate about. Due to some recent changes, though, this project shut down. I feel the emptiness, like a hole in my stomach, and I’ve been trying to figure out what’s next.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know yet.
But I do know a few things …
We can learn a lot about coping with change from the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof.1 The story takes place at the beginning of the 20th century and features a Jewish family suffering from poverty and religious persecution in the south of Russia. The father, Tevye, complains about having five daughters and no sons, not the ideal distribution on a farm. To make matters worse, his three older daughters picked husbands he didn’t approve of, one of them an Orthodox goy. Throughout the story, whenever there is trouble or change in the air, a man playing a fiddle on a roof appears to him in a vision.
One of my favorite books when I was growing up was Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. The novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood. There were analogies with my family since I also had sisters, and the youngest one, born premature, reminded me a lot of frail and sweet Beth. It took no time for me to identify with Jo and her strong, emotional personality, her boyish ways, her love for literature, her initial rejection of the idea of marriage, and so on. She was my secret role model.
My husband and I moved to Canada a few years ago after 30 years abroad. During those years, I had lived, worked, and traveled throughout the Americas without ever returning to the place of my birth for any length of time.
Each new year brings with it many things. It’s full of freshness, growth, and new experiences. It’s full of second chances, forgiveness, and opportunities to try again. It’s also full of tests, challenges, and its share of difficulties and problems.
The most important thing in your new year is your relationship with Me. Because with Me at your side, you’re guaranteed to make it through whatever this new year may hold.
The end of a year is a good time to take stock of things, a chance for us to reflect on all that has happened over the last twelve months. It can be a bittersweet time, as there are experiences and people that have moved into our past.