Next week is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and while I do love me some apples dipped in honey, my favorite culinary tradition of the holiday by far is the blessing over a “new fruit” — a fruit you’ve never had before. Because you get unofficial extra points if the fruit is also one you’ve never heard of, my mom and I would scope out the produce aisle for the prickliest, lumpiest, tartest or most bizarrely colored fruit to serve to our guests.
One could argue that eating mangosteen or lakoocha starts the year off with the intention to be adventurous and try new things, but really novelty is the clear objective of this ritual. Other aspects of the holiday draw attention to ideas of cycles and fresh starts, but not this one. Horned melons aside, there’s something inherently enticing about the idea of new beginnings and new years, the talk of resolutions and back to school shopping.
For a while after I arrived on campus this year, the novel swept me up — little things like recognizing people I hadn’t seen for months as I walked down Chapel and being able to eat leftovers from dinner for lunch in my apartment. Now, a month into my third year at Yale, I’m piecing together the nuances of the new and the novel. The fact that I’ve spent two years doing things at Yale and in New Haven doesn’t take away from the things yet to be done, but I have a fear of approaching life as a bucket list rather than an organic set of decisions. No longer the wide-eyed underclassman (except every single time I walk into Sterling), I’m both afraid of losing that sense of continual discovery and also hesitant to make the year about thrill seeking.
Last weekend, I drove to Guilford for dinner with a group of friends, and while the dinner was delicious, the setting lovely and the company of course delightful, honestly, just leaving New Haven for a few hours made the evening. In addition to some leftover salmon, my takeaway was not to find more destination dining options, but rather to be more aware of New Haven’s proximity to opportunities for new experiences in a more general sense. I didn’t have to feel pressured to come up with a to-do list. Instead, the ultimate goal would simply be the feeling that arises in unfamiliar territory. The Place (which happens to also be the name of the restaurant) was novel to a kitsch degree, the feeling rather than the place carried more importance, and the feeling was new.
This distinction between new and novel carries over to interactions with people as well. The other day I confessed to a friend, “I feel like I’m not doing a good job of making new friends in my classes.” I’d become accustomed to meals with classmates before or after section and always leaving the room in conversation. I missed this.
“Shut up,” she said. “You have enough friends.” And in a way, she’s right. I have plenty of really wonderful people in my life, yet there remains the desire for a new tone of conversation or a new set of topics.
Perhaps these types of interactions fall closer to the new fruit category, existing in large part for a touch of novelty rather than true new friendships. I’d been caught in a situation of unintended thrill seeking. Friendship should not, in fact, be about novelty. It’s misguided to seek out the new in fruits, fun or friends for the sake of newness. We hang out with new people because we want them to become long-term friends. It’s counterproductive to divide friends into categories of “new” and “old.” Similarly, we explore new interests because we want them to become habits (think New Year’s resolutions of the exercise variety). With this is mind, I’ve tried to reject novelties and instead endeavor to form new routines. Friendships develop. Rather than occur as isolated events, outings to new places extend the borders of my routine. Viewed in this way, we can reject the novel in favor of a new with a focus on dynamic routines. And really, how sweet it is.
Caroline Sydney is a junior in Silliman College. Her columns run on Fridays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.