President’s Column: Reflections on the New Year

Jayne FonashMany of us in this profession live and breathe by at least two calendars: an academic-year calendar and a Gregorian calendar. There are, in fact, four types of calendars, at least 85 calendar variations, nine groups of variant month names, 12 non-standard weeks, 11 calendaring and timekeeping standards, and 12 regional and historic calendar groups. Many of us are in the midst of marking our own religious, cultural, and other end-of-year holidays and commemorations. Among the seven major religions of the world alone, there are 29 holidays between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15.

In my own family, we celebrate Christmas followed by the New Year on Jan 1. The anticipation of the New Year has always been for me a time of remembrance; a time to take stock of where I have come during the previous 12 months and to contemplate where I am headed. While I have been blessed with much to celebrate over the years, I always pause to recall the New Year’s Day when my mother died. Thirty-eight years later I take great joy in looking around the room at the generations who now follow in her footsteps.

In my day job I anticipate, sometimes with great caution, the unfolding of the new academic year beginning in late August. A friend once commented to me that I was fortunate to work in education, where there is a clear opportunity every year to reassess and start over with new students and new goals. A “do-over,” as our students might say, that often focuses on data, dollars, and outcomes.  

Through good years and bad, I have always been able to find a balance of realism and optimism as each new year unfolds. As I reflect on the academic year unfolding for all of us, amid changes and challenges, I remain optimistic that NACAC and the work of our profession will adapt, persevere, and continue to serve students. I am reminded, as many of us tackle so many important questions, that there is far more that unites us than divides us.

All of which serves to reinforce my belief that we have multiple opportunities in our lives to reassess and reprioritize. Many of us will take stock of the past year and resolve to make changes in the calendar year ahead. As lovely as the holidays can be, they can also make people feel alone and depressed. As an educator and former therapist, I have learned to be mindful that not everyone’s holidays are joyful, and I have strived over the years to reach out to students and colleagues who needed something much different than a “Happy Holidays” greeting.

So, to all of my colleagues and friends, I wish to say: Whatever is beautiful. Whatever is meaningful. Whatever brings you happiness. I hope that it will be yours this holiday season and throughout the coming year, and that you will find yourself in the company of those you hold dear. 

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