It was years ago that I once and for all gave up the notion of making New Year’s Resolutions. Of all the resolutions I’ve made in my life, never have I accomplished a single one the whole year through. And I know that this is common – it’s even a running joke. But when I set out to do something, it’s not with the intent to chime into the humor of all of us collectively failing at the improvements we’d like to see in our lives.
For me, it was almost as if making the resolution made it less likely for me to succeed than if I’d just let it be. One year I made the resolution to feed myself daily. Didn’t happen. Didn’t even happen for a month. Sometimes I forget to even do the basic things, like eating. I couldn’t even turn a dumb everyone-does-this-daily sort of thing into a lasting resolution.
So I quit.
I’ve gone several years now without even thinking about it, it’s simply not a thing for me.
This year isn’t any different. In two and a half hours we will be wrong to write 2015 on our papers and documents. It will be 2016. But that will be all that has changed.
Don’t get me wrong, I love New Years – it’s my favorite holiday probably. What’s not to love about the anticipation of something new, and maybe a stolen kiss at midnight to start out a year? But even the allure of that has dimmed slightly. When I wake up tomorrow I will be the exact same person who went to bed too late tonight. I won’t be stronger or wiser or more resolute. I won’t have answers I don’t have now. I may even be worse off – though I’m crossing my fingers that the wine I’m drinking leaves me without a hangover.
But all this said, there’s more. There’s something I’m starting to realize.
Instead of making resolutions for the coming year, which I think I will never do again, I’m starting a new New Year’s tradition for myself.
When I look back at the past year I’m going to man up and be honest with myself. “I didn’t do this” and “I should’ve done that” won’t get my anywhere unless I face myself and admit why those things happened or didn’t happen. I won’t be able to stick to something new unless I know why the last thing I tried didn’t stick. What it comes down to is facing my faults.
Now, that may be the sort of thing that makes you reverse your way into the kitchen and get the corkscrew out to pop the cork on that second bottle, and you wouldn’t be alone in that.
You are your toughest critic. You are the person in your life that is hardest to face, hardest to stop lying to, hardest to admit your failings to. But if there’s a time to do it, it’s now. It’s now, while we feel like there’s a huge open book of a year lying ahead of us, untampered with and waiting to be written. It’s now while we feel like the future holds endless possibilities and we haven’t fucked any of it up yet.
I lost friendships this year. My resolution isn’t to find better friends. My lesson is that I need to be a better friend, so that I can rest 100% sure that if I lose a friendship this coming year, it’s not on me.
This year I let people who needed help fend for themselves because I didn’t know what to do. My resolution isn’t to beat myself up for my mistakes and take a step back from friends in case I hurt them. My lesson is that I should have trusted my gut, and when I’m faced with that sort of thing in the future, I’ll know how to handle myself.
I didn’t take good care of myself this year. My resolution isn’t to get back to that diet or to go to the gym daily or to get to bed every night at 10. My lesson is that when I don’t listen to my own needs, I get sick and weak and depressed. My lesson is that I need to pay attention to myself as much as I pay attention to others, because I deserve to be healthy and happy.
I passed up a lot of good opportunities this year. My resolution isn’t to say yes to everything that comes my way. My lesson is that sometimes it’s necessary to say no to the best thing that’s ever happened to you, but sometimes I have to remember that I should pursue what makes me happy and allow it to happen when it comes my way. My lesson is to stop punishing myself by denying my own desires on account of others, at least under normal circumstances.
Hang on, I’ll be right back, my wine glass is empty…
Okay, I’m back.
I faced a lot of internal conflict this year. My resolution isn’t to make up my mind and get on with it. My resolution isn’t to just pick something and stick with it. My lesson is that my desires and interests and intentions and passions will change. They will be influenced by everything that comes and goes from my life. They will be stumped by circumstances that are out of my control, and that I will allow that to happen because it’s natural. My lesson is that it’s okay not to know what will happen tomorrow or in a month or a year or a lifetime. It’s okay not to be settled on one outcome, but to be ready for anything. My lesson is that this is what going with the flow is.
So I’m going to take all of these lessons, and instead of making resolutions about how to act upon them, I’m just going to let myself settle into these realizations. I’m going to look at them head on with no dishonesty and I’m just going to sit with them until I’m comfortable with them, until I’m comfortable with the mistakes I’ve made and the regrets I have. Not until that’s done will I be able to do anything constructive with this information.
And once I’ve digested it, resolutions won’t be necessary, because I’ll have learned. I’ll be a slightly different person from the person who made those mistakes. That’s what we assume of ourselves as we enter a new year isn’t it? That we’re a new person, ready to try new things? Well I know me, and I know I wont’ be ready to try those new things with gusto until I’ve really changed something within. And that doesn’t happen by making resolutions on December 31st. That happens by looking back on the last 365.25+ days and picking up what’s left of that and making it into something better.
In the morning it’ll be January 1st, 2016. I’ll be me. I’ll be the me that’s learning something from 2015, and 2014, and 2013, and… so on. And once I’ve learned what I set out to, I’ll be able to do more with 2016 than if I made all the resolutions in the world.
Here’s to my new tradition – Year One.