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New academic year means new opportunities

I know that the New Year is a different time for different people, but for me it has always been September. The hazards I suppose of spending too much time in school or around people in school or walking around campus.


New Year, new expectations, new worries, new hope, new pain: it is all wrapped up in there somewhere — whether you are starting something completely new, like being a freshman away from home in the big city for the first time, or whether you find yourself coming back to something for yet another year and wondering if this time things will be different.


See, here is a secret that I wish I had thought of sooner in my life: we get to start over. Constantly, forever, for whatever reason, we get to start over. I have friends and acquaintances who tell me that they are stuck. There are those who say that life has passed them by. Some even find themselves doing something they never imagined nor wanted to do but just cannot seem to stop. For some reason, when I point out to these people that they can just start again and do it differently, they tell me that they can’t.


So what do you think? Here you are, on a big campus, with lots of new people, perhaps even in a new city; how do you want to reinvent yourself? Because you can; because you should; because life is more than you imagine when you set something in stone. 


I work as a chaplain, and that usually means no one will talk to me at parties. They have this conception that I must be, I don’t know, holier than they are … that I would never swear, that I would never drink, smoke, gamble, tell jokes, or whatever … people have preconceived notions of what they believe I am. Often, this is even truer if you are religious … you expect someone who works for the church to be something better … somehow freer of sin than the rest of us. 


I left the church to work as a writer because I wanted a little time off from this. Trust me, no one thinks a writer is better than them. It was an amazing experience to be able to be something different for a little while. I love that side of my life. 


But the thing is, I believe in making life better not only for myself, but for other people as well. That is why I find myself on a university campus doing something religion-y again, but it does not mean I fit into the boxes other people create for me to inhabit. I choose to reinvent myself with each and every New Year I find myself encountering — and I think that is what life is all about.


Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Confucius, even Albert Einstein and Russell Brand … the religious philosophers and prophets of every worldview have always felt this to be true. They knew we could change. They encouraged us to change. Whether it was saying something simple like “go and sin no more” or whether they were talking about spending years of contemplation in the search for inner peace, people have always known that one can simply decide to try again. 


So take this time as an opportunity, give it some thought and ask yourself what you would like to do differently this year. How could you be more authentically yourself? What is it that you wish you could be — because you can! 


Happy New Year!

– Brett Anningson, UNB chaplain 

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