By the time you reach the first day of the New Year, you have spent the past five weeks indulging in every kind of excess, good and bad. You gave thanks; you lit candles; you sat in traffic; you stood in line; you ate too much; you spent too much; you observed something you didn’t necessarily believe in, or maybe started believing in something you hadn’t before observed. You created new memories, and celebrated old ones. You toasted to the year gone by, and now you’re ready to spend the next eleven months trying to uphold some sort of new resolve. In other words, it’s time to consider making a New Year’s resolution.
The New Year’s resolution evokes a variety of extreme opinions, and is often the bane of holiday dinner table talk. Some refuse to participate, either staking the claim that we should spend every day trying to better ourselves, or are instantly self-defeating, resigning themselves to inevitable failure. And yet others make unrealistic goals for themselves that seem more like punishment than working towards self-improvement, such as extreme dieting and exercise.
While I was never much of a joiner, New Year’s resolutions have done me a lot of good over the past few years. At 12:00AM on January 1, 2006, I looked into the eyes of my then boyfriend and thought to myself “All of this needs to change.” I was unhappy with just about everything in my life at that time, including my appearance, my career goals, and my living situation. I looked closely at myself and decided to set my first real New Year’s Resolution: to stop lying. It was so simple. Stop lying to my boyfriend, stop lying to my friends and family, and most importantly, stop lying to myself. Within a week, my boyfriend and I were broken up, I began to lose the excess weight I had gained, and my relationships improved. I still don’t lie, although I have discovered very crafty ways to tell the truth.
While the basic function of the New Year’s resolution is to improve your life in some way, it also offers us all an opportunity to examine ways in which we can truly transform our lives. It’s true you should live to be your best self every day, but by taking time once a year to really closely examine what that means enables you to be more specific. If you’re looking to lose weight, it’s not just about eating better and going to the gym; it’s about what sort of day-to-day habits you need to change.
In 2009, my resolution was no more hangovers. After a few heavy benders, and nearly vomiting on a well known folk singer at work, I decided that the ‘fun’ to ‘not fun’ ratio ebbed towards the not fun. But I also had to hone in on what number of drinks put me over the edge, what kinds of drinks would make me sick, and what sort of experience was I seeking by drinking alcohol. These days I never have more than three drinks on an outing, never do shots, and only drink hard drinks with club soda, wine or beer. In becoming more aware of this aspect of my behavior, my life improved drastically. I save a lot of money, and feel more energetic.
My writing this column, Deal With It, is an achievement from last year’s resolution, which was to get over my fear of music blogging, and also produce a new podcast every week. While 2010 presented a lot of extenuating personal challenges (as cited in ‘A Humbug’s Change of Heart’), I saw my duty to my resolutions as a touchstone. With all the chaos of what was around me, my resolutions were consistent, and required a disciplined attention. No one is going to reprimand me for not producing my podcast, and the editors of the blogs I write for will happily find someone else. But I feel all the more accomplished for holding myself accountable, not to mention I now have more than a few playlists to show for my love of music.
The process of sustaining a resolution also involves enduring every setback, and seeing every break down as a break through. A couple of my mantras are ‘You are your own worst enemy,’ and ‘The only thing you have to get over is yourself.’ Sure, there were a couple weeks when I didn’t make time for my podcast, and there were plenty of shows I didn’t love. But the only person at a loss with my missing a week of my podcast, or skipping a show to stay in and watch The Office, was me. So although it didn’t always feel good to work towards the positive change, the end result after actually pushing through was way more gratifying than watching Jim and Pam make eyes at each other.
Considering the successes of the past couple years’ resolutions, I’ve upped the ante for 2011. This year, I’m not only going to record a podcast every week, but I’m also going to write about every single show that I go to. And I’m not going to lie, or drink too much. Happy New Year!