• Ariana Friedlander

What you leave behind


While I was packing to leave New Zealand after my three-month trek there many years ago, I methodically went through my things. Some items I chose to leave behind, while other things I would return with, mementos of my travels that had more sentimental value than anything else.

I thought I had covered all my bases. But when I went through airport security I was stopped. Apparently, my Swiss army knife did not get transferred into my checked bag as I had intended.

As the airport security guard removed my contraband I enthused, "well hopefully it can be put to good use by someone here."

"I'm afraid not" he informed me, "everything we retrieve gets sent to a trash compactor."

I too was crushed; this perfectly good multi-purpose tool was going to be wasted.

Whenever we go through a transition, there are things we leave behind and things we carry with us. The New Year is no different. It marks the passage through a threshold, from one point-in-time to another.

In many ways, the New Year is completely arbitrary. We are all, always passing from one minute to the next, or we are no longer living.


And yet the symbolism of the change from one year to another has been celebrated for centuries and across different cultures. As humans, we need to create meaning out of life, and traditions to celebrate transitions are one way we do that.

One tradition I have enjoyed for the last few New Year's is the fire communion. To write on a piece of paper the things that I want to leave behind than set it aflame. It's a fulfilling and symbolic act of release to watch the paper catch fire than evaporate into the air. Every time I do it, I feel just a little bit lighter.


I have never heard such collective anticipation for the New Year as I have for the dawning of 2021. It seems everyone is eager to bid adieu to 2020. It has been a challenging year that has revealed so much, including showing us what we are capable of handling (more than we might have imagined).

In order to reap the benefits of this transition, it is essential that we approach the New Year mindfully and with intention. To reflect on the things we want to leave behind and symbolically release them.

Such an exercise is more powerful when we get beyond the obvious answers - like wanting to leave behind COVID, masks, physical distancing, etc. etc. etc. These are things that we have no control over. Instead, when we reflect on the things we want to leave behind that are within our control - anxiety, fear, self-doubt, loneliness, regret, dissatisfaction - we are setting ourselves up to experience the positive change we so desire.

I was just talking with a friend whose eight-year-old son was lamenting the end of 2020. For him, this was a year of tremendous, positive growth that he does not want to leave behind.

While 2020 has presented many unexpected challenges, there have also been some silver linings. As we set our sights on things getting better in 2021 it's equally important to be mindful and intentional of what we want to carry forward. To identify the gifts that 2020 has bestowed upon us and put them in our checked bags so they don't get taken away from us as we pass the threshold into a post COVID world.

Do you hope for things to be better in 2021? Join me for the New Years Day Journal Jam and start your year off with momentum to make 2021 everything 2020 was not!

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