Year of the Bird

Depending on how you choose to translate it, we are now in the Year of the Rooster (or Cock, which of course has spawned all kinds of sex jokes both in Chinese and English).

“I’m calling it the Year of the Chicken,” a fellow American friend of mine said. “Chickens are blah. That’s how I feel right now.”

Years can mean whatever we choose to make them mean, since we are the makers of our own traditions. For year of the Ram, I told myself that I would persist and be tougher, like the Ram. For the Monkey, I decided that it would be a year of more mischievous glee and flexibility. The year of the Rooster…well, I’m not sure yet.

For me, Chinese New Year is a second chance to reflect on my year, but more specifically my time in China. I started a tradition in 2015 in which on the first day of CNY, I think of four major regrets from the year and release them into the elements. One in the wind, one in the sea, one in the earth (preferably on a mountain) and one aflame. After releasing them, I tell myself “Okay, you’re done stewing over them. Regrets…gone!” and even though it’s a very arbitrary ceremony, there is something to be said about physically casting aside something that holds you back.

Last year, I had to whittle down my list of regrets. I was working in a hostel on a beach in Southern China, and I recall watching the waves roll in and out, washing away the sand no matter the shape.

But this year, I didn’t have any regrets.

Obviously, there have been tiny things I’ve regretted, like “Man, I shouldn’t have eaten that last piece of pizza,” or “Wow, I shouldn’t have said that,” but I’m talking about real regrets. Things you play over and over in your head until you’re haunted by the faults of yesterday. And I know, as an American facing a Trump presidency, there ought to be tons of regrets stewing in my head (and all I can say about that is: A wall? Censorship? Less emphasis on environment? Gee, for someone who rails against China so much, Trump sure is sounding a lot like China!) I know that a lot has happened in the past year, and that there have been moments that I haven’t handled well.

Yet…for once in my life, they aren’t weighing me down or holding me back.

I don’t know if every year can be this way, but I hope anyone reading this knows the feeling of being at peace with our decisions. I hope you know the clean feeling I got when I stood deep in the trees and the whisper of leaves on wind, running my hand through a stream. I hope this next year brings a sense of a strut, like the Rooster, in which we can feel confident in our steps, even if they are aimless. I hope we can make whatever traditions we can out of ourselves and find meaning even in made-up rituals. I hope that even if the Year of the Rooster is more like the Year of the Cock, we can laugh about it and make jokes together.

I hope that this time next year, we can be regret-free.

Happy New Year.