Advent: (n.) a coming into place, view, or being; onset, beginning, commencement, start
It starts with a train.
Every year when I was little, my mom would buy my sister and me those chocolate Advent calendars they sell at the supermarket. Each day in December was assigned a door, and behind each door was a tiny chocolate square. The first of December was always marked by a piece of chocolate shaped as a toy train.
I remember learning about the Advent season in CCD. Back then, Advent meant poinsettias and purple tablecloths and Christmas songs at midnight mass. I’m not quite sure what it means to me now.
On December first of this year, I was on a train going back to BU. At the end of the month, I’ll be back on that same train making my way home. The first time I took that train was in August. That was the first time I had stepped foot on campus as a college freshman. The girl standing on the platform on that summer afternoon is a complete stranger to me now.
Something magical must have happened on those trips from Penn Station to South Station and back again.
It’s weird to be reflecting on that now – on how much things have changed in just one semester. I look back on the past year, on both the good and the bad. And as 2013 draws to a close, all I can think about are poinsettias and purple tablecloths and chocolates shaped like trains.
The New Year is just around the corner. I have never been one to make resolutions. Supposedly, now is the time for “turning over a new leaf.” I have always wondered why people think getting a fresh start is just as easy as changing the last digit of today’s date. It doesn’t matter whether you decide to change zip codes or dye your hair or go by a different name. They will follow you from city to city. Your demons and insecurities. Your baggage. Those decisions you still call mistakes.You can never truly wipe the slate clean.
There are people in this world who believe in phoenix fire. They live on one-way tickets and back-up plans. They hold themselves with one hand on the escape hatch. They cling to the words “better” and “elsewhere” as if they were life rafts. They are learning this the hard way.
I know now that advent marks the beginning of a lifelong process. It’s not so much rebirth as it is reinvention. It’s both the starting and the finish line. It can’t be confined to a single event. Sometimes it starts with a change in zip code. Sometimes it starts with a train.
Years will pass. Trains will come and go. You can’t bulldoze over your life completely, but you can build on the façade that was always there.