New meaning in old things

Parents can be the most manipulative people. As a child, I was made to believe that what I do on the first day of the new year is what I will be doing for the rest of the year. So I would be at my best behavior, eat my favorite food, be scared to death of falling sick and orchestrate everything towards something that I wanted the rest of the year to follow. Soon I realized it was a lie (duh) and I confronted my parents about it. They cooked up another concept, resolutions, convincing me that for something to stick for the rest of the year it must be announced as a resolution by the person. It was my new truth.

Since then, every month before the year end, I started thinking about the new year resolutions that I had to declare to my friends and family on January 01. The most intellectual activity if you asked me then. It was less of an introspective exercise and more of deliberating what would sound ‘right’. Over a span of ten years, my resolutions have varied from ‘I will secure at least 90% in exams’ to ‘I will start exercising’ to ‘I will be a more truthful person’. The standard resolutions.

One new year, I tried revisiting some of my past resolutions to be unique in my declarations that year. I could not remember any, let alone having followed it for the year. My parents were exposed yet again and I confronted them even stronger. But well, they are the masters of the trade. They quickly planted the concept about memory and said that as one grows up, memory can get weaker. So resolutions must be written down and revisited monthly if one had to stick to them. And one must stick to them. Version three of my truth.

(Credits: Pramath Raj Sinha)

Each year, I wrote down my resolutions religiously. The medium may have evolved from diary to whiteboard to reminders on the phone, but I had my resolutions written down in words every single year. I would be very careful of the words I chose and the commitments I made because those were going to be my reality for the next twelve months. Thanks to manipulative parents and Harry Potter, my resolutions became some sort of a binding magical contract in my head. So I had to be careful of the terms. For the longest time, I did not even know the meaning of the word ‘resolve’ from where resolutions came. To my mind, I was promising something to my parents, friends and once social media came in, rest of the world; and I did not have a choice to falter.

As I grew older, my commitment to new year resolutions only faded. Although with tremendous guilt, I increasingly held myself less accountable to them. Gradually, the guilt faded too. Age has gifted me an ability to theorize things, which I used rather beautifully to justify deviating from my resolutions: I was giving myself more space to grow naturally in the year and not be bound by commitments I made on one specific day.

Then somewhere, I stopped making resolutions altogether. It ceased to be a real thing that adults would indulge in. If friends asked me about it on new year, I would simply smile and call it a childish thing. Over time, the ‘R’ word stopped featuring in my December and January conversations. It has been more about party venues or increasingly whether the next day is an off at work or not.

(Credits: Pramath Raj Sinha)

Yesterday, after several years, someone asked me what my new year resolution was. It took me back some of my past resolutions, just for fun. I asked my parents about my declarations to them, went back to my diaries. I also subjected myself to the horror of going back to my early Facebook timeline. Given the time and context in which they were made, I found most of my resolutions pretty good. Even a kid would understand that following them would only have benefited me. I wonder then, why didn’t I follow? Hell, why did I give up on even trying to?

It seems to me that since I was consistently unable to live up to my resolutions, at some point I saw no benefit in even making one. I found it more practical, somewhere more spiritual, to let circumstances in the year define my actions rather than my predetermined decisions. Truth is, I gave up on my ability to mindfully decide and then stick to my decisions. And as I now understand, that has had an impact on my subconscious understanding of concepts like commitment and resilience, which are realities in short-term but become ‘impractical’ in the long-term.

In the name of being less obsessive about control and being open to real-time opportunities, I think I lost the discipline to invest time in mindful decision making. Decisions that can stand the pressure of time, emotions, adhoc opportunities and changing views of the world around. Decisions that have less of an influence on our current dining table conversations but more on the stories that we narrate to our grandchildren. Decisions that could be solid theoretical bases to the practical realities of life. And as I have recently learnt from my friend, “There is nothing as practical as good theory”.

Quite simply, yesterday I found a new meaning to an age-old concept of resolutions: mindful decision making. I will perhaps take some time to form my resolutions of 2018 but the least I want to commit to is finding newer meaning in older things. You never know what gem hides where, in your own mind.

Happy 2018 :)