I made resolutions this year. Real ones. Like a whole list of them. Reasonable adjustments to a rather mundane daily activity, a set number of something or other, a goal of another thing per month. Basically, the usual suspects. The list itself lives in the “Notes” section of my iPhone, an area of my cellular device that is roughly equivalent to the furnace room of your childhood home. Unless you are someone who gets a halfie (not a resolution, but I’ve vowed to myself as a ‘softy liberal’ to use more harsh language this year, to show that one can be edgy while also not being a total dick, a lead by example sort of deal, I guess) from making lists(!) for everything, or was genuinely distraught when Martha went upstate, then I presume you — like me — generally use Notes for storing passwords and making To Do lists on your day off so that you convince yourself to do something productive before you catch that midday Netflix. But this, this Note, my friends, will be used. I will be checking in on these Resolutions, and I will be fulfilling them.
My issue: Resolutions really aren’t that big of a deal. New Year isn’t even a big deal, and everyone, on some level, knows that. So why then, are the proclamations that people make on a restarting of some arbitrary countdown(up?) worth bitching about? So some lady on Facebook is vowing to make this year “The Best Yet!” and resolving to do things that seem far-fetched. Where are you at in life where the first thing you do when you see something like this is think to yourself, “You know what would bring value to this world? If I comment on this abstract promise that has no consequence for not being fulfilled and say ‘Yeah right!’
If you all would be so kind as to indulge me in a moment of old man curmudgeoning: This is what is wrong with the world. Why on God’s Green Earth do you think that what you have to say about someone else’s stated goals for a 365-day window is needing to be heard? It isn’t. At best, at the absolute best, your comment comes across as useless.
The same goes for commentary on the concept of resolutions. Hey, pal, what if instead of some hugely insightful point about how “you shouldn’t need a random holiday to choose to make yourself better” you took your own advice and chose to make yourself better today by shutting the hell up. I have made deliberate strides over the last number of years to become what I think of as a better person. One of those strides involved being a more optimistic and positive type of guy. But I have not gotten so far in my view of the goodness of humanity and society as to not welcome any insinuation from my fellow humans that they are attempting in any way to be better. Whatever people need to find the humility to acknowledge that they might possibly suck, just a bit, I am all-in on.
As far as the betterment of society is concerned, the idea of a resolution is a low-risk, high-reward proposition. I personally love the idea of New Year’s Resolutions because when they are given any effort whatsoever, they force one into self-examination. A little pumping of the brakes, looking in the mirror, observing the world around you, if only for a moment. My faith in the value of New Year’s Resolutions lies squarely in my belief in the value of self-appraisal. I am all for a nice psychoanalysis, a healthy rehashing of the good and the bad. Taking stock of things, putting the cards on the table and trying one’s best to be critical and complimentary of where you are at seems like a great practice to me. Finding benchmarks and identifying ways in which you can improve on things to reach those also seems like a not-so-terrible habit.
It seems a little too cute to express such dramatized thoughts on an activity like New Year’s Resolutions and not include my own (and also I’m running out of writing steam and want to create some momentum on publishing these things so I’m going to wrap this up) so here is my list:
- Learn 6 distinct songs on the ukulele
- Reasoning: I am not in any way musically inclined and see this as a manageable and significant way to really expand my brain. I love the way the ukulele sounds. I own a ukulele and have no idea how to play it. 6 seems like a not-nothing number (1 every 2 months), but I also don’t need to practice like Michael Phelps.
2. Read 18 books
- Books are good. I love to read. I like to learn new things. I love that reading stuff immediately improves your capacity in some way (language, imagination, factual knowledge), 1 a month is too slow and 2 a month is too many, for me at least.
3. Be able to touch palms to ground with legs straight
- I think working on my flexibility is good for my short and long-term health
4. Spend less time on my phone
- Pretty self-explanatory. I like to give myself a how-to, or a numbered goal for resolutions, and I don’t have one for this. If you have ideas, let me know, but so far I’ve gone with a not-so-strict 9:30pm phone curfew
5. Study 12 books in the Bible
- If you find this off-putting, perhaps a good reason to check it out?
6. Run 15 miles a month
- The resolution I have the least amount of faith in fulfilling
7. Learn how to pull an espresso shot
- The resolution that could end up meaning nothing or might speak to an interesting career shift if it is fulfilled
8. Catch a salmon, halibut, and a trout (the trout on a fly rod)
- Something had to level off the hipster mania of this list
9. Visit 2 National Parks, 1 in Alaska and 1 otherwise
- National Parks are the best.