Until October, Rod Stewart was my favourite musician. I first heard his song, Time, en route to France for a meeting of editors who were telling uplifting stories about how ordinary people were making a positive impact in their societies.
We called it impact journalism and although it did not catch as much as we would have wished, it still routinely influences the choices we make in our profession.
My respect for Stewart was enhanced when I read his book, Rod, The Autobiography. He writes as well as he sings. “Obviously I was a mistake. Definitely some kind of oversight in the family planning department. An ‘unforced error’, they might call it in tennis.” Lyrical prose all the way.
My loyalty was divided in October after Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Flabbergasted by the uncommon choice, I looked for his songs... and his books. And that was when I first heard The Times They Are A-Changing, arguably one of his best known numbers, although he has a rich and rewarding repertoire.
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are
The beauty with listening to this song, especially at this time, has everything to do with the ending of the old year and the anticipation with which we are all looking forward to the new one. With this change comes the hopes of a fresh beginning and the prospects of turning a new leaf, both in our private lives and in the public sphere.
This impending switch is the reason many of us make resolutions, which are, at the end of the day, statements about our hopes, aspirations, and plans for the future. It is not by coincidence that the end of the year comes with festivities. Even the most miserly among us finds a reason to throw caution to the wind and indulge.
After all, we expect that when reality hits in January and austerity becomes our constant companion, the weight we gain from the excesses of December will be shed in the hustles of January, when outstanding bills will make Mt Kenya look like a molehill.
I always find this duality of life fascinating. When the festive season comes, we gorge. And when it ends and we have to scrounge for days on end, we become more stoic than the soldiers of ancient Sparta.
Yet, this is the essence of change.
The old is a comfort zone. It is familiar. There are hardly any surprises it can throw at us. We have been there and seen it all.
The new, however, is a different ball game altogether. It makes the heart race. It is like a first date, brimming with the nectar of promise, yet dripping with the thin sweat of anxiety.
The new year is an invitation to take on fresh challenges after saying our not-so-gentle goodbyes to the old flame that is the ending one. Like all transitions, this is a time of struggle. It is difficult to let go of old ties, yet it is not easy to turn a blind eye to new ones. But, as Stewart says in his song, time waits for no one.
This transition, from the old year to the new always reminds me of the slaves who, at the behest of American plantation owners, indulged in wining and merry-making during Christmas festivities. And, as the New Year was dawning, they would be nursing terrible hangovers while their bodies would be weary from all the gyrations of the days of merriment.
For them, the splitting headaches, bloated stomachs, and aching muscles served as a warning on the dangers of freedom. It made them long for bondage.
But those who appreciated the true taste of freedom yearned for it more desperately. When history was written, those who grasped for the fruit of freedom became the true heroes of their time. They dared to become agents of change and for this, we celebrate them to this day.
The other day someone published an illustration on Facebook in which a speaker asked his audience how many wanted change. All raised their hands. When he asked; “How many want to change?” hardly any hand went up.
Change is easy to yearn for. Nothing is easier. However, it is harder to embrace. Yet, as the old adage says, unless one is willing to lose sight of the shores, one is unlikely to discover new lands.
Merry Christmas to you and Happy New Year. And remember, much as the times are a-changin’, change begins with you.
Mr Mbugua is the deputy managing editor of the Daily Nation. [email protected]