New Year’s Eve is often a time for reflection, and it’s particularly so for me this year.
That’s because fifteen years ago tonight, I moved to Toronto to start my life anew.
I’ve often said I was born at the same moment my daughter was, in June of 1996. That’s my way of describing the complete changes in my life and in myself that began with her arrival. But it’s probably more accurate to say her birth was the moment my truer self was conceived; I wasn’t actually born until New Year’s day of 1997.
My (re)birth was, as births often are, a struggle and a mess. I was a father living away from his child; a husband about to be divorced; a dreamer whose dreams had failed. It was a pathetic state to be in, and it was mostly my fault. It was certainly entirely my responsibility to make it better.
I was twenty-seven years old, and I needed to start all over again. So I did. I asked people to call me David, rather than Dave, to put the past that much further behind me. “David” means “beloved of God.” Having spent much of my youth angry, in cynical alienation from my own good fortune, I needed to remember the blessing inherent in my name.
My parents stood behind me, as they’ve always done, though I only began to realize it properly at that moment. Close friends rallied to set me on my feet, and when I took my first wobbling steps along a straighter path, a thousand unseen hands reached out to help.
In an incredible turn of events, I learned that the old home I had landed in —where I was sleeping on my uncle’s couch as he renovated the place to sell it— had been in the family since it was built in 1888. With nothing but debt to my name I swore I’d someday buy it and make it lovely.
The journey from that point was first excruciating, then difficult, then challenging, then satisfying, then exhilarating as, over the course of years, I put my life habits in order and began to make headway.
Five years later, I managed to buy that beloved old house I still live in today, and I’ve been grateful for its warmth and its special story ever since.
My daughter has grown into a bright and elegant young lady, one who has taught me to love and to be smart and silly and accepting and indeed, to be young myself even as she gets older.
The folks have happily retired to the west coast, where they live the dream of walks in the woods and travels around the world.
Relationships have come and gone, each a stage in my evolution I suppose, but the one I’m in now is the one forever. I know it because it’s as natural to me as breathing, and yet I still give thanks for it as if it were a gift of providence. After all, it is.
I have a community all around me, good honest work to do daily, the CD I’ve always wanted to make heading for the manufacturers, and a novel in the making. Forgive me if that sounds like bragging; it’s just that fifteen years ago I could not have imagined such wonders. They are miracles to me.
Fifteen times the New Year has tolled for me here. That’s fifteen mid-winters to turn toward the inward things, lose the self and find the centre of the soul. Fifteen years to see the seed that lives in the heart of things sprout and turn toward the sun.
Fifteen years of new beginnings, and each day is a birthday. I try to celebrate them all, but this one’s special.
May all your days be as blessed as these ones have been for me.
Happy New Year!