The First Problem? You’re Making a Resolution

When I was in my early 20s (and mid-20s and basically up until two years ago) I needed to have a New Year's resolution. Needed one. Needed. One. Do you get this? I needed one or I WOULD DIE. I mean, without the bold declaration that I was starting again; that I wasn't good enough and that I needed to be better, and that this day — January 1 — would signal a transformation from regular human being to the super hero and/or Better Human(TM) I imagined myself becoming, I was nothing. If not for resolutions, I would never, ever be able to grow into who I wanted to be.

"What are your resolutions?!" I would ask loudly, ready to pounce with my own answers: write more! Do better work! Travel! Stop worrying! Not care what people thought! Read a book a week! Eat prunes! (One of these is not true. I'll let you guess which.) "Do you hear me?!" I'd want to scream at the moon. "I AM GOING TO BE BETTER NOW."

Which is absurd for about 4924824 reasons. First, one day does not make a difference. I mean, it can in terms of getting news that can and/or will shape your life, but to decide to change because of a specific day? No thank you. Who cares that it's January 1? It's a day off. It's a day you can see several matinees back-to-back and feel nothing bold cold, hard, pride that you're now a little more familiar with potential Oscar contenders. It's a day you can rest assured that AT LEAST Starbucks will be open because staying inside your actual house is making you feel stir-crazy. It's a day you can rest easier knowing that donuts and coffee are an acceptable breakfast (JK they are every day, anyway). It's a day. And if we need a day to signal the beginning of the rest of your life, then I don't know, you guys. We've got a situation on our hands.

Of course, I love me a symbolic occasion. I like birthdays and I like Christmas and most other holidays, and I love the feeling of fresh starts. But so help me, January 1 will not signal a "new" me. I like the actual me. The "new" me is always a dick who has to make a bunch of lists that are supposed to add up to a sense of accomplishment. (One year I tried writing down every good thing that happened to me. I had to throw it away about three weeks later because my life had become, "SHOULD I PUT THIS ON THE NICE THING LIST OR WHAT?" instead of enjoying the nice things, and that's embarrassing, and we know that.) The "new" me has to reflect on the day that just passed and think, "Is this staying true to my plans for the year?" The "new" me cared way too much. She was basically Monica from Friends, but with the weird eccentricities of Gunther. Can you imagine hanging out with that person? Of course not, because you're of sound mental mind.

Resolutions create pressure that shouldn't otherwise exist. "I HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS" is not a thing. Says who? A day? You? You, on a day? And why not now? If there's something SO dire that the start of a new year is the only way you can tackle it, then why not tackle it immediately? Or why not build up to what you're hoping to achieve over time? "ON JANUARY 1ST I WILL BECOME SOMEBODY I LIKE" is the feeling I had the most. So what was making me shitty then? A lot of things! All of which returned once the novelty of a New Year wore off.

Because that's the thing: "fixing" problems because one day says you should is not going to fix those problems. For years I kept doing the same self-destructive things because my reason to chane was topical. "Because it's a new year" eventually stops being a reason to stop doing anything. Soon it will be June. And guess what: none of us will give a shit about the promises we made in January. (I know I don't. I still have self-destructive tendencies and I certainly won't vow to stop indulging in them because the calendar changes.)

So I figure if you want to change something, change it. Now. Why? Because you want to. New Year's resolutions (and declaring them) is just a conversation topic. You never hear somebody say, "I turned my life around because it was January 1, 2014." (And if you did, I want to meet them because they go against everything I understand, and I want to hear about it.) You hear people say they made changes "because it was time" or "I needed to." January 1 only sets us up to fail. Or at least that's what I learned from the Friends episode where Ross wears leather pants.

Which is arguably the most realistic representation of New Year's I've ever seen. (Leather pants scenes exclusively.)  

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, new year's resolutions, new years, NYE, resolutions, self help

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