The Tabula Rasa

By Kassidi McKayla Kaminski

Kassidi McKayla Kaminski is a sophomore studying Psychology in the Liberal Arts Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin. After graduation she hopes to attend law school and is currently a member of Delta Gamma and a Young Life leader at Reagan High School.

always said that I didn’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. If you want to change something about yourself so badly, there’s no reason to wait until the next calendar year to do so.  But I realized last year that there’s a more symbolic, psychological need for New Year’s resolutions.

Philosopher John Locke encouraged the idea that all humans are born with a “tabula rasa,” or a blank slate, meaning that an individual’s mental prowess is established through experience and perception. I think many of us view New Year’s like a “tabula rasa,” a clean slate to forget about the previous year’s events and to keep moving forward.

This is precisely how I felt about 2016. At the end of every year, I write a reflection in order to collect my thoughts and establish my position on the coming year. In order to examine the progress I’ve made in 2017, I looked back on the words I penned on 2016.  This is what I wrote:

There’s a reason I’m so infatuated with words. The power of the pen (or in today’s equivalent: the keyboard) to manipulate and adapt the alphabet and its members’ connotations bequeaths unto humans an unparalleled power. We establish our habits and rules based on books that have instructed us on the order in which to live. Our parents read us rudimentary literature before bedtime, and we received awards in lower education for our reading milestones. We have been inundated with slogans highlighting the importance and enjoyment of reading since before the womb, an instilled truth that does not deteriorate with age.

Of equal importance, we are taught the value of a good book. Some books are meant to be treasured and bookmarked with warm nostalgia, while others upon completion are met with raw, intense feelings of pain, sorrow, perplexity and animosity. Those are the books you put back on the shelf and never give a second glance. They’ve ransacked the crevices of your soul and procured the pieces you pray tirelessly to never confront.

I think 2016 is one of those books. And from the abundance of internet memes and grievances from those around me, I know I’m not entertaining a solo catharsis party. After a tumultuous, painful, unpredictable and downright bizarre 12 months, we find ourselves mummified in a state of hopefulness antagonized by fear and fighting dismissive anger overshadowing a need for reflection.

But where’s the benefit – albeit slight – we can reap from this past year if we don’t pause for a moment in the midst of our bitterness and discuss this latest novel’s takeaways?

To those who have lost someone in 2016: ignite your pain and emptiness in a flame that reaches your farthest influence with overwhelming love and compassion. Show others how much you love them. Be present.

To those who wallow in disappointment over this year’s turn of events: do everything in your power to focus on the positives of the present and politely tell next year’s circumstances to take a hike.  Love your fellow man despite what the next year might hold.

To those who wait anxiously in fear of 2017 because of the harrowing events of 2016: your voice matters. Pursue that which revives your slumbering soul.  Raise your voice louder and louder until it’s magnified only by an echoing choir. Use your passion to love others.

That’s all that’s left to do, really. Love each other. The greatest of all love stories has already been told. Nothing will surpass the love God showed us when He gave His only Son as the payment for our transgressions and the willingness with which Jesus gave His life for our past, present, and future sufferings. How blessed are we to be at the center of this love story’s epilogue, a transcending record of Christ’s love permeating throughout the fellow man through its imbuement in our very nature? We are the bookend to the greatest story to ever enrapture mankind.

We are the future.
We are the ambassadors.
We are the epilogue.
We control the fate of the ellipses.
Here’s to you, 2017: the year of…

Me and my best friend Caleigh. I can always count on her to be my permanent workout buddy and help me attempt to be healthy.

So, what was 2017 the year of? As I search my heart for the same impassioned rhetoric that elucidated last year’s reflection, I find that the chaotic waters I felt in my soul have long since quelled. My passion from this year stems not from pain but from excitement. Contentment and confidence blanket those waters and invite me to relish in the peace.

For me, 2017 was the year of taking care of myself. I learned how to prioritize my mental and physical health realizing that I couldn’t love people fully until I loved myself first.  Out of overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks, and if my heart isn’t full of love and compassion for myself, my mouth cannot speak love into the life of another.

One dream I discovered this year is my dream to pursue a law career through New York University.  I now understand why the Schulyer sisters call New York City “the greatest city in the world.”

As humans we crave homogeneity. We gravitate towards those who reflect our values and personalities. But this year I felt a great conviction to upset the sameness and also surround myself with people who are quite different than I. How else can one expect to grow? In a world that is so clearly divided, it’s imperative to pursue the understanding of others’ perspectives.  Peace cannot be achieved without empathetic effort.

2017 was the year of discovering my dreams and goals for life. I unearthed passions I didn’t know I had and felt my soul yearn for something in a way it hadn’t for quite a while. Dreams are necessary to remind us of our God-given talents and passions and how they can be used for the betterment of the world. No one else can value the size of your dreams; they are far too personal to be defined by someone who can’t envision them.

Above all 2017 was the year of understanding the importance of constant change. Bringing positive change to your life doesn’t have to wait until January 1st. In fact, a key mark to maturity is someone who is constantly bettering themselves through the conflict and trials they face.

My sweet friend Bodie, the believer in “To become light, we must burn.”

My dear friend Bodie lives by the quote, “To become light, we must burn.”  I take that to mean that our personal sufferings are meant to shape us into the versions of ourselves that bring the most goodness into this world. In other words, God uses the trials you face and the burdens you carry, though painful in the moment, to burn away any unwholesome habits or flaws to reveal the strength and goodness of the masterpiece of you He has created underneath.

Give the coming “tabula rasa” and freedom over your psychological misgivings. Allow it time to cleanse the ill feelings you’ve been harboring over the past year in order to give 2018 a fair chance. But be vigilant for opportunities to positively change yourself over the coming year. Be open to change, be quick to love, and above all, don’t be afraid to burn.