Is September the Start of the New Year?

While January has traditionally been the time to make resolutions or set goals for the year, September is often the time we think about how we are actually going to live our lives for the year. Why are we drawn to thinking about our goals more in the fall than in the middle of the winter, I wonder.

In a typical year, September is a month of starts. But what about this September, which is so different from other Septembers.

September starts the school year for most people. And for some of us, that was always a wonderful time, getting ready for school, buying supplies, getting new clothes, and anticipating making new friends. And for me, who loved school, the beginning of September was also my birthday so I was, in fact, starting a new year of my life.

But this year school may be virtual, it may happen only a few days a week, or it may not start at all. In certain ways, the start of school in September is a sign that we’re saying goodbye to the wonderful days of summer and getting ourselves ready for a more serious schedule. Wonderful days of summer? Not so much this year.

For some people, our days in September are just a continuation of our days in August and our days in July and days in June. For people with children, this September can be a fraught time as they have to decide how to negotiate the school year: in person, online, or a combination of both. For people who are going back to work, this September is full of many of the same issues. How safe is it to get together again? How much of school and work depends on social interaction? What’s best for my child, my job, my family? The start of school and the return to work have more worrying overtones this year. All these decisions make us realize all that we have we lost in these last few months. As a wise woman I know said, “We will grieve. And then we will step forward across the threshold into what lies ahead.”

Can you learn a new skill? September has always been a good time to try something new. Can you expand your network of friends and colleagues? Maybe this isn’t the time to see more people, maybe this is the time to continue to hunker down in your own pod. Can you set boundaries? In our world right now, that’s a great skill to have. Knowing who can come into your life and whom it’s best to stay away from can be life changing. Can you get organized? Life at home, life online, life lived mostly indoors requires a great deal of organization. September is the time to do all of these things, to make our lives better than they have been.

For the Jewish faith, the start of the new year is in September and consists of two important days, called High Holy Days. Rosh Hashanah, which means “head of the year” – its been called the “spiritual birthday of the world” – and Yom Kippur, which means “day of cleansing” and, although the new year compels us to both be ourselves and be a part of self-discovery, most of the prayers during Rosh Hashanah are prayers for the health of the world. September is the time to think about the condition of our world, about climate change, about inequality, about the corona virus, about our personal integrity. All faiths require us to think about what we’re doing to help make the world a better place and September, especially this September, seems exactly the right time to contemplate the state of our world.

September is the time to think about our behavior, our cumulative behavior: what makes us better people individually and helps us create a world we all can live in and thrive in. A teacher posted on Facebook this week, twelve days into her first year of virtual teaching, “There are so many opportunities to love and serve one another.” What a great epigraph for this September.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

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