A New Years Interview 

by Shannon Barkley-Nakajima (Surbiton High School)

2022. The New Year has knocked on our doorstep earlier than expected and it has become evident how many of us have decided to spend time reflecting and mapping out some personal goals for the future. For some, this looked like an opportunity to regain control over habits and routines or to set ambitious goals for the next 365 days. Whilst for others, it is simply the joy of spending time with family and friends or just a much awaited fresh start, that truly resembles what the New Year means to them!

 This annual magical day follows closely behind another much celebrated festivity- Christmas! After the uplifting Christmas 2021 had brought to many- given the previous year of lockdowns and isolation- we can be grateful to end the year on a high note. The moment when families and friends could finally reunite and reflect on the cheery spirit many of us had almost forgotten, was beautiful to witness.

Fortunately, what many of us can be eternally grateful for, is how New Years gives us  another reason to unite with our loved ones and remind ourselves of even the small, yet precious and memorable moments we were lucky enough to experience throughout the year, with its challenges and all!  A fresh calendar introduces a new chapter in our yet to be told stories in the book of our lives…

 The expression of pure joy that lit up the faces of the nation, never ceases to reignite the community spirit; millions of tv screens around the country lit up with festivities of cheer, from the colourful fireworks to the amazing drone displays that were cleverly conducted. It was a delight to see people watching the phenomenal celebration in awe, as I’m sure many, including myself were mesmerised by images of the magnificent and vibrant display.

As the countdown commenced at the midnight hour, the instant rush of excitement that had started to kick in, filled the air and our hearts, as everyone started to count down the last few seconds and wave our goodbyes to 2021. In that very moment we saw the new door opening to 2022 which brought everyone together again, reflecting a truly unique and special experience, of a mixture of emotions we feel only that once a year.

After interviewing 4 close friends and their relatives located locally in Kingston, who fortunately got to spend some time with their loved ones this year, I posed the question,  ‘If you celebrate New Years, which year do you think was your favourite or most memorable and why?’

 I received a mixed response: 1 from 2017, 1 from 2019 and 2 from 2022. One reason from Sophia Kadera (73) was that,  ‘My daughter announced she was pregnant with my grandson then and introduced me to her baby bump on New Years 2017. I remember it like yesterday; it was two surprises in one. I hadn’t cried for a good while until then and by far, I can confidently say it has to have been my favourite New Years. I love being a a grandmother!’ 

During the interview, it was interesting and noticeable that despite the more difficult hurdles some faced, I received mainly positive comments and how everyone made an effort to find something they showed gratitude towards and commented on something they particularly found a high and a positive in 2021, as well as their New Years resolutions for 2022.

It was also delightful to see that in our unique cultures differences from food to tradition, and how it was clear that those whom were lucky to celebrate the New Years in the comfort of their loved ones, found that their newest favourite memory of New Years was this year’s. However, others whom shared that they had sadly lost a loved one or were coping through some difficult times with loneliness and depression this year, reflected on their past highlights and what they wish for the new year. 

Agreeing with 29 year old, Yelin Clark, who reviewed 2022 as her favourite New Years, Chloe Smith (14) spoke from a young teenager’s point of view as she interestingly stated, ‘This year by far. I spent most of 2020 and 2021 in lockdown, remote learning or isolating and I sadly couldn’t spend New Years with my family either of these years. However, this year my family’s feeling a little more hopeful and optimistic as restrictions are starting to lift… but we’ll see! I can’t complain though, the support I received was amazing and I was a student who at the end if the day just really missed seeing her friends!’ 

Mother of 3, Laura Sheridan (48) says how, ‘My café didn’t do well in 2020 and it hit an all time low in 2021, although I started picking myself back up and getting to work in the kitchen again after a few lazy weekends. After I started to have faith again, business started turning around as our customer base picked up and students visited more frequently after we could open again,’ indicating how even in the lows of 2021 and even 2020, she slowly started losing hope but didn’t give up, found alternatives and now is happier than ever she made the decision to keep following her passion!

After trying to move her business online, her passion for baking didn’t stop and now her excitement for the New Year has hit an all time peak as business is thriving and my customers whom a majority were students, started returning again after remote learning stopped for them which helped a lot and I can imagine the kids had long awaited the return from the bore of staying at home for hours on end.’

She stated how, ‘Honestly, I'm lucky I have my kitchen and my co-workers because without it and their support, I don't think I could've got through meditating and weekly yoga classes is what got me through it all. I made myself find even small things I was grateful for everyday and jotted it down. It really made a difference to my attitude and during the times when I nearly lost all hope. Meditating made me realise how grateful I should be and I will definitely continue to make it part of my routine and take the positive habit along with what I have learnt onto 2022 and just keep practising. I think finding time for yourself separate from your work life is really important. But all the best and cheers, happy new year!’ Her advice presents how through struggle, finding ways to cope such as meditating and making the time to journal every day or so can be a great New Years Resolution, that will make all the difference when incorporated in your daily routine.

Last but not least,  James Oakley (34) a local primary school teacher responded with how he personally he treasures New Years 2019 for the reasons being, ‘Yeah, 2019 was probably the most normal and enjoyable New Years as life before this pandemic was much more stress-free for all I think. Although,I was really impressed with this year’s celebrations in London whilst I watched it virtually from home. It's nice to see people where they can, put on a fireworks display, it’s usually always extra exciting for the kids to watch! I think 2022 will be a really good year and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future!’ He followed up by saying, ‘ I do think it would be ridiculous though, to put aside the world suffering and others who may not be feeling as cheery spirited as we may be, so I try to always keep that in mind like how fortunate I am,’ presenting a humble perspective how it is important to stay aware in a world and society where you can easily forget basic privileges we may take for granted at times.

All 4 Kingstonians I interviewed had clearly conveyed the message along that whatever year it was, they found that they enjoyed reflecting on and picking out key moments in the year that made them feel super grateful for where they are now and how far they had come in the previous 365 days. Most importantly, they all expressed how hope is what drove them to keep going and continue to work hard in the future! Similarly, they all stated their love for the special day and the celebrations they fortunately got to experience on New Years, as well as their appreciation for 2021 as that chapter closed. Hence, year after year, it is apparent that we learn new lessons and get to know ourselves a little bit better, in which is my personal aim is find a way to take time out of my day to reflect, dream big and follow my passions.

Happy New Year and may 2022 bring you joy, laughter, happiness and even more merrymaking memories!