The start of the new year does not really impress me. As much as I feel the rest of society is enamored with it, the end of December is a time of fierce rallying from the rest of the month. We are all bloated and delirious from holiday parties beginning in late November and from work coming to a screeching halt or looming from the rush of a few days off. And then, there is the reflection on what the last year was. Which, to me, always comes with mixed emotions. As most people’s professional and personal lives overlap a good deal, I share the remorse for not taking more time to relax, or perhaps, taking too much time to relax and not accomplishing enough goals. There are the usual promises to self—I will eat better, exercise more, make more money, pay off debt, be a better partner—and to be honest, the majority of the population needs some measured discipline in these areas. But that is where I become disenchanted with the whole New Year resolution deluge. For as much as I will promise myself and others a better version of me in the next year, I feel rather contrived.
It usually happens late January, as the most depressed day of the year weighs in until we dump the self-appreciating plans. Magnanimously we pardon each other to return to our former selves, perhaps with a little shame to think about those New Year’s goals every once in a while when we are commuting or on a nondescript date, desperately trying to hang on to our human dignity. The New Year is a chance to start over, but is it not really a desperate attempt to avoid the daily process of being responsible for our own happiness? There are a lot of books that lay out the tenants of behavioral change, self-love, and how to make a difference in your workplace and find the love of your life. But, I will not digress into the scholarly study of human happiness and how to rise to that seemingly elusive occasion.
Although self-help literature and expert knowledge are useful tools, taking time to be honest about what I want and what makes me feel so fucking excited for the day is, in my opinion, a liberating agreement with myself and with others in my life. Take some time with me, right now, for reflection, to be honest about what you want and are capable of accomplishing today and maybe tomorrow, to that end. Take time with me to poke at that warm-in-the-ribs feeling of pure joy and then make space for what makes you feel so desperate to keep breathing. That—choosing to engage with what makes you feel alive—is not a New Year’s resolution; it is a physical principle as natural as the gravity holding the words to this page. And a choice, I feel, will find the both of us fuller versions of ourselves at the end of 2019.