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How To Make It Through The Year In One Piece

Today in America, the Democrats take the House. Which is a cool and exciting thing: for the last two years, we’ve played witness to . . . well, we’ve all been watching the news, so we know what we’ve seen and that a shift in power is necessary. But it’s also only January 2019 and that means we’ve still got nearly two years of US election coverage to go. Which seems almost bearable until you remember that the Canadian elections will take place this year — and on top of that Brexit’s still in-process over in England. So very quickly, exhaustion feels like a super-cute understatement for the way we’re all feeling even reading this paragraph.

Especially when you add plans for personal development alongside any of it.

There’s a lot of pressure to make a fresh start in January. We make lists of the things we hope to achieve, we make grandiose statements we hope will be true, and we tell ourselves that we can and will be better because time has passed and that’s how growth and change work. And I am bad at being soft: I don’t like to take it easy, and I’m not good at biding my time. I like to commit to resolutions or the idea of them with the power of a freight train, and usually while reminding everybody else to take a deep breath as I personally deprive myself of taking one because I don’t have the time.

Which is a lie. I absolutely have the time. (A fact: if you don’t make time to breathe you will perish.) But when looking at the things I want and the things this year will bring and the emotional reckoning two years of election coverage will deliver, it’s easier to micromanage myself than it is to acknowledge the big picture and the mental stamina it will take to get through it. It’s easier to focus on self improvement than it is to focus on survival. Because looking at years feels long. It’s daunting. It’s awful. But pledging to make 2019 magical under the umbrella of my career (or whatever) seems workable. Because yes, the idea of political attack ads for months on end makes me want to openly weep, but look: I have a new planner.

The thing is, to survive the world we live in means learning to be softer. Not on bullshit that deserves being called out, but on our own expectations. To make it through 2019 (and 2020 and beyond), you have to allow space for yourself to mess up without declaring everything else a write-off. Resolutions need a footnote: “And if this doesn’t work out, well it’s fine — we’re all still here.” Points for trying are necessary. Especially since growing and learning takes time and you can’t undo years’ worth of patterns by the changing of a clock or calendar page. Extremes aren’t sustainable. One day at a time? That’s what will take you through what promises to be another year. That’s what will afford you the option of taking a seat for a second so you can catch your breath before soldiering on. The freight train can run away and crash. But your own steps on your own time and on your own terms are something you can — amidst the garbage fire of the next two years — actually count on.

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