The New Year, we are always told, is all about new beginnings. One year is over, with all its highs and lows, its pain and pleasure, its joys and sorrows. And not many people will be sorry to see 2009 – the year defined by the global economic meltdown – end. So, we are now free to start over with a clean slate, make a fresh start in the New Year, in the hope that this one will be a little better for us.
So I thought that I would devote my first column of 2010 to this very theme: new beginnings.
The phrase can mean many different things to different people. For some it may signify a new job, for others a new relationship. Or it may mean a fresh new take on life itself, a new way of looking at old problems, old issues that have plagued you these many years.
But even if none of the above seems on the horizon as 2010 begins, there’s no reason why you can’t usher in the New Year with something new. To help you along, here’s a list of my suggestions.
* Take a good look at yourself. What is it that you would like to change? Your bad temper? Your unpunctuality? Your gluttony? Your greed? The way you take the people in your life for granted? Your propensity to give up when the going gets tough? Choose one character trait that makes you a worse person than you could be. And make a promise to ditch that character trait this New Year. You may not be able to reinvent yourself as an entirely new person, but you can try to be a better version of your current self.
* Get adventurous in the kitchen. Buy a few cook books and experiment with new cuisines, new dishes every weekend. If it’s Melanzane Parmigiana one week, turn to Massaman Curry the second. Then on to Khao Suey and Chicken Kiev. And so on. Not every dish will be a hit, and not everyone will take to each one, but at least you will be opening yourself up to brand new flavors. At least some of them are bound to stick.
* Not that you have to plumb your inner Nigella to sample new culinary delights. You could do that just as well if you are eating out. Instead of sticking to the same old Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurants you frequent, cast your net a little wider and further. Walk into that small Tibetan restaurant you pass every day and sample the momos. Instead of ordering the same chocolate fondant at your favourite French restaurant, give a chance to the warm soufflé. Your taste-buds will enjoy the little shake-up.
* Make one new change (at least) in the way you look. It could be a new hair cut, brand new highlights, a different hair colour or just a different shade of lipstick. If you’ve stuck to wearing striped shirts to office all your working life, shift to checks and patterns. If you live in black, inject a judicious mix of colour in your wardrobe. It doesn’t have to be something drastic. You can still look like yourself at the end of the day, but a newer, fresher you.
* Expand your horizons with a new reading list. Old favourites are all very well, and God knows, I re-read my own every few years. And like most people I have a long line of authors whom I gravitate to every time I’m in a bookshop: Donna Leon, Val McDermid, Daniel Silva, Tracey Chevalier, Alice Sebold, P D James, Elizabeth George are just some of the names on my list. But take courage and step away from old friends to make new ones. Browse through the shelves, read the jackets, make a choice and go home with someone new. Who knows, you may well make a new best friend.
* Don’t be a creature of habit. Change your fitness routine to incorporate something new. Instead of pounding away on the treadmill, try a cross-trainer instead. Take up a new sport. A brisk game of tennis or squash is a great cardio-vascular work-out, and much more fun than taking endless rounds of the park. Or if that’s too much commitment, just sign up for a new exercise class. Try yoga, dabble in a spot of Pilates and you’ll soon discover muscle groups that you never thought existed.
* Widen your horizons when it comes to travel. Ignore those old haunts like London, New York, or even Bangkok and Singapore, and try and see a little more of the world. You could start with little-known destinations in India that offer an adrenalin rush to an adventurous traveller and then explore the rest of the world. Steer clear of the five-star circuit and stay in smaller, more personal boutique hotels that have a distinct personality rather than cookie-cutter perfection.
* Make a resolution to try something new every single day (or every week, if the first seems too daunting). It doesn’t have to be something terribly important or significant; any small little thing will do. A new flavour of ice-cream, a new nail colour, a new author, a new holiday destination. That’s all you really need to inject something new into this New Year.
And a very happy 2010 to all of you.