Is there a word like “scrooge”, except for all holidays instead of just for Christmas? Hallowe’en, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving – hell, even my birthday, most of the tI’m not a curmudgeon, and I wouldn’t say I’m a kill-joy; I have no problem with other people having fun or getting into the spirit of whatever season we’re dealing with.
I just personally have a really hard time matching my feelings to an arbitrary calendar date, whether those feelings are supposed to be spooky, romantic, thankful or, in this case, resolute. I also don’t really like fireworks, and I can’t really drink anymore, and I am not a fan of standing in the cold or watching other people stand in the cold on TV. Suffice it to say, I’m not so big on New Years.
And I’ve always hated the idea of New Years Resolutions. They almost always feel contrived and artificial, born out of a sense of obligation to social norms rather than out of anyone’s real desires or needs, and we all know that nobody follows through with them anyway. The idea is so prevalent that the “buy a three month gym membership so that you can start in January and give up in March” thing is a running cultural joke.
“Aha,” we say. “It is the 1st of January, all of a sudden I see with perfect clarity and will create a plan in the next five minutes that I will adhere to for the next 365 days.”
ON THE OTHER HAND …
I am a really big fan of hacking your brain to get it to do what you want, and taking advantages of resources that are available. That isn’t going to work when the goal is something that everyone expects to fail; “I’m going to try to eat better” is basically pointless, because you were either going to do it already or you’ll start failing when the people around you start giving up. Same thing with “I’m going to lose x pounds” or “I’m going to wake up early and make breakfast every day” … no one around you is going to hold you accountable to that sort of promise, because so many people mean well and then drop out that you’re just another statistic. And if you know that nobody else cares, you lose any external assistance with meeting your own goal.
Likewise, resolving to do something that you think you should do but don’t actually want to do is pretty much dead before it begins. Either you’re the sort of person who can motivate themselves with willpower and a sense of duty alone (if you are, can I have some?) or you’re the sort of person who wants to be better than they are, but can’t actually ever seem to make it happen because willpower and a sense of duty are great but when you’re spending those things on being a productive member of society or being kind to your family or getting through the day without dissolving in a puddle of depression, your willpower already has its work cut out for it.
But there are some things that can really benefit from some New Years attention. Little things, usually, the kinds of things that seem harder than they are, that will actually lead to concrete, observable improvements in your life without costing more than you have to give. The sorts of things that just need a little push to get going, and maybe some loving attention for the first steps of the journey. Maybe “take the stairs at work at least once a day” or “dump the spare change in my pocket into a savings jar at the end of the week”.
Yes, they seem small and kind of stupid … and that’s probably because they are, because sometimes the small kind of stupid things are important, and at a time when everyone tends to think in these grand sweeping arcs, paying attention to the little things is especially important.
They’re also useful, because it’s often easier to bring people in to help you with the little things. It’s a lot easier to convince a roommate to dump their spare change sometimes than it is to convince them to go vegetarian; coworkers might take the stairs with you sometimes when they wouldn’t be willing to give up going out to lunch every day.
There are a lot of things that I want to accomplish in the next year: make a certain amount of progress with my writing, do some paid work, get my health into a better place and keep improving my diet. I’d like to build my sense of personal style and learn how to wear bright lipstick again. None of those things are resolutions, though. They’re important, and if I work at it, I’ll be able to achieve what I can, and no amount of arbitrary promises will keep me from failing if something really gets in the way.
I am, however, going to make two resolutions:
- I will write every day.
- I will try keeping a journal and see how that goes.
Now, writing every day doesn’t mean that I’m going to end up producing something that will go into a novel. It might be a blog post, or maybe a character sketch or a ‘what-if’ scene or some kind of self-insert wish fulfillment fanfiction, I have no idea. The point isn’t what gets written, it’s that anything gets written at all. The only way to get better at something is to practice, and I know that, and so now I’ve gone and made it official. Maybe I’ll start some kind of hashtag thing so I can keep track for myself, and then people can pretend they care when they follow me on twitter!
As for the journal … I have no idea how that one will go. I’ve never been the kind of girl who kept a diary, and I’m definitely not going to start that now. But I’ve seen enough writers I admire talk about how jotting things down each day helps them with their work later on that it seems like it’s worth trying, so I’m going to give it a shot! No hashtags for that one, just a crappy spiral-bound notebook that I bought for Spanish class and never ended up using.
At the end of the day, I guess I see the beginning of a new year as a chance to check in with yourself and see what you struggle with, what you’re striving for, and what’s important to you. It’s a chance to be honest in a kind of way you don’t get very often, and if you use it wisely, it can be a chance to take yourself by the hand and give yourself a little push in the right direction.
So don’t waste it on a gym membership or a juicer, I guess.
UPDATE: see how it’s going here!