On New Year’s Resolutions
My wife, who has a tendency towards iconoclasm, hates the making of New Year’s Resolutions. Oh, she’ll make resolutions, but they will be for the “real” new year (beginning of September), or just when she deems resolving necessary. This is all well and good, but I happen to like New Year’s Resolutions and I guess that I feel I need justfication.
Sure, January 1st is an arbitrary date to restart the calendar, and what is so special about a new calendar anyway? There are countless arguments anyone could make for when the “real” new year is, based on their lives and habits. As a gardener in the Northern hemisphere maybe my New Year’s Day is in April, when the ground starts to soften and I think about what I am going to plant this year. As a student, which I no longer am, I always felt that the new year was September 1st-ish. Most often, I mark time based on how many years AB and I have been together – this past July 24th was 11 – and so the new year starts then. Strangely, I often make resolutions on our anniversary.
Regardless of my own personal ways for counting the years, my culture collectively agrees that there is something about the First of January that is special. On December 31st we tell all our friends “See you next year!” and laugh at the cheesiness and technical truth of it. Then, at midnight (an arbitrary time for the changing of the day?) the year portion of our date stamps, the piece that has sat unmoving throughout the previous 365 (354 on leap years) days, has it’s moment to turn, and BANG – it is now 2011 instead of 2010. We can look at everything marked 2010 as not only “this past year,” but now “last year.” Then we all get drunk, if we aren’t already, and spend the next day ritually hungover.
Commemorating the new year is a ritual, a ceremony. It may be one of the few widely celebrated, secular ceremonies we share in my culture. At least one of the few not originated by greeting card companies, anyway. Coming so soon after Christmas, it allows those of us for whom that holiday is a celebration of family instead of salvation and renewal, to also have a moment to reflect on our past actions and our future hopes. At the close of the year, cultural commentators release their favourite albums and movies, journalists talk about the global events that shaped our world, and we reflect on our personal lives.
My 2010 was weighted down by a miscarriage I suffered on Christmas day of 2009, and the subsequent loss of our sperm donor (he’s fine, just not our donor anymore). On the other hand, AB and I both completed our Master’s degrees and convocated; we moved out of a bad living situation into a good one; I have worked at my professional job for a year, and have been quite successful at it; I was approached to instruct at the university and subsequently taught my very first course; and I reconnected with a childhood friend and some family I hadn’t realized I had.
Many other things, both good and bad, come to mind and it is good and important that I remember these. Whatever happened, it was the year that was, and I’ll never return to it except in my memory. If this life is all that is, I cannot afford to let a year go by unexamined. If every year can last longer than itself, I can live longer – or at least pack more living into my life.
New Year’s Resolutions are the next step. Reflection is more than nostalgia only when it leads to plans for action. Based on last year, what am I going to do to make this year even better? What parts of my life am I going to recognize as my responsibility, and am I going to get off my ass to work on? Little things, big things, any things: what am I going to decide to take control over (or perhaps to relinquish control over), and how am I going to put myself at the top of my priorities? This is empowering stuff, done thoughtfully.
So, what are my New Year’s Resolutions?
None of your damn business.
Post script: If you have not ever listened to the song “Odessa” by Caribou, go listen to it now. If you don’t like it, listen to it a few more times. If you still don’t like it, I am sorry for you.
Post post script: Thank you reader-who-emailed-me-recently-but-who-I-have-not-asked-permission-to-share-your-name for your incredible email full of words that were not only wonderfully complimentary but also well-chosen and grammatically-correct (sigh). I had not realized how much I wanted to resurrect this blog until you inspired me to put some thought into it. Thank you.