It’s that time of year where I’m not sure where I stand. Am I at the beginning or the end? Depending on how you look at it, both, I guess.

For anyone who is a student, teacher or parent of a student, it certainly is the beginningI’m standing at a time of reflection and introspection of the year. The hustle and bustle of buying books and school supplies. Pencils are sharpened, and notebooks are full of unused pages. Everything appears clean, shiny and new. I remember how as a student, I looked forward to the new academic year with curiosity, wondering how it would be. Now, as a mother of young schoolchildren, I share in their excitement, while praying for good teachers and a positive learning experience.

Yes, as I get my children ready for school, it certainly feels like I’m standing at the beginning of the road.

But at the same time, this beginning corresponds with an end because this “beginning” takes place in the last month of the Jewish calendar, Elul. So I guess that spiritually, I’m at an end. I’m standing at a time of reflection and introspection. I look back during the month. I look back at all that I did or didn’t do this past year. What areas I need to work on. What relationships I need to strengthen. I reflect on what I did that I shouldn’t have done and what I didn’t do that I should have.

I guess I’m both at a beginning and at an end.

In the very month that we end the year, we intensify our preparation for the new one. There are customs during the month of Elul to blow the shofar and to say selichot (a series of penitential prayers and liturgy) to stir the heart and remind us that Rosh Hashanah is near. Our end is just the beginning, and our beginning is dependent on the end. It’s beautiful because as one stage in our lives ends, another begins. And each stage builds upon the previous one; it doesn’t impede it.

A client came to me recently with great fears of getting married. Another one came with great fears of having a baby. For different reasons, there were fears. And you know what? It’s OK to have fears. It’s normal. Fears remind you that you are vulnerable and need G‑d’s help; still, they shouldn’t paralyze you.

Life isn’t about walking in a straight line and getting past every experience. Life is about coming full circle. You come back to a fear over and over again, like a merry-go-round, round and round. You come back, you confront it, you call out to G‑d to help you, you work on it and keep going.

It’s about realizing that an end is a beginning. One stage of life ends, but another one begins. Each stage prepares you for the next. One experience gave you exactly what you needed to handle the following one. Isn’t that beautiful?

I think about all this as I prepare challah for RoshOne stage of life ends, but another one begins Hashanah. During the year, my challahs are braided and shaped into a straight line, but in the tradition of Rosh Hashanah, I make them round like a circle.

During most of the year, all that I concentrate on is going forward—getting from one point to the next. My focus is a straight line. Something difficult or challenging comes up, and all I want to do is erase it or leave it behind. But as the New Year approaches, I realize that all my destinations are connected. If I were to just go forward and erase what happened in the past, it’s as though I would be belittling the reason behind the experience. I come back to things in a circle in order to move forward. I reflect on the past so that I can grow and make changes, as I pray and prepare for the future.

Yes, I’m standing on a road, a circular road that is both the end and also the beginning.