I am a bit of a New Year’s girl. I’m not talking about New Year’s Eve, with the idea of parties, champagne and midnight kisses (or, more accurately for me, some board games). I mean the first day of the year, where you have a fresh 365 (or 366) days to look forward to. It feels like a nice blank slate. A fresh start. All the stress and buzz of the holidays has passed, and I feel like I can settle into a groove again.
But my favourite part of the New Year has always been New Year’s resolutions. “This is it,” I tell myself. “This is the year when I will really sort my shit out.” For the self-improvement addict, New Years is kind of like Halloween – who do I want to go as this year? Maybe I’ll pretend to be someone who does life drawing, works out regularly, and has a consistent morning routine. If I wear the costume long enough, I may become it.
This sort of goal-setting is a prolonged process. Some time in December, I begin to get the itch. I scribble down dozens of ideas in my journal and tweak them or cross them out. I watch smug YouTube videos from people who wake up at 5am every day. I start to listen to Will Powers’ “Adventures In Success” without irony.
The peak of this was probably 2018, when I set myself nine goals and resolutions, ranging from “buy a house” to “floss” (neither of those worked out).
This year, I was slightly more realistic. I set myself 6 goals:
- run a half marathon
- read 52+ books
- watch better movies
- develop a creative hobby
- no fast fashion
- make more time for professional development
And I actually stuck to these. I completed a half marathon in March, nurtured a charity shop obsession, and started this blog. As a bonus, I even started flossing regularly. (The only exception was “watch better movies”, because deep down, I just love trash.)
When I looked back at my list, I was surprised at how well I’d actually done.That’s part of the appeal of the resolution: if it’s successful, it can help to define the year in a more positive way.
Before looking at the list, my overall impression of 2019 was not of a successful year. It felt more like a year of struggles, disappointment and often feeling powerless. For the second half of the year especially, the idea of progress and personal development has been pretty alien – more often I’m just trying to keep my head above water. So reflecting on these goals and seeing that I actually did some pretty cool stuff is a nice reality check.
But I also think my perspective has changed a bit this year. Before, I used to cling to New Years’ resolutions as a way to improve myself, a much-needed opportunity to fix all my flaws. Right now I’m not well-read enough, fit enough, rich enough – but now I’m going to change all that. And maybe if I do, then I’ll be happier with myself.
I don’t want to have that attitude any more. Because while 2019 threw a lot of rubbish things at me, I’m actually proud about how I handled them. I gained some confidence in my decisions and coping abilities. And I also feel like I have a better understanding of when to push myself and when to rest. It made me think that maybe I’m pretty alright just as I am.
So next year, instead of focusing on becoming someone else, I’d like to look after the person I am. I may still set some goals – old habits die hard, especially old habits about new habits. But it’ll be with a focus on what I actually want to do with my year, and not who I feel like I should be.
And it turns out what the actual me wants to do is watch really terrible movies. I’m pretty sure this makes Cats some kind of cosmic sign.
Happy New Year, everybody.