This year will be different (unless it’s not)

Photo by Abby Kihano from Pexels

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, except for when I do. Like most people, I’ve had the idea instilled in me that the difference between years — a ten second countdown punctuated by a crystal ball and a kiss — is as vast a cataclysmic shift as any. “This year will be different,” I think as I down my champagne and pile into my high school sweetheart’s car as we make the half an hour drive to our home, a condo in the development next to both our middle and high schools. In the morning, I will wake up thankful that I have one more day before I have to return to my office, which until it moved two years ago was basically at the end of my parents’ street, across from the ice cream place where my friends used to work summers. I’ll watch the same reruns of the same shows I always do and make plans that will never come to fruition: What if this year is the year I finally apply to grad school? What if I quit my job? What if we travel more? What if I finish reading the same amount of books as I start? What if I eat better and exercise, start taking care of myself, what if, what if, what if?

It’s a tale as old as time, the sameness of adulthood. As a kid, your world is constantly shifting, and it makes the years stretch on like some expansive plain of possibility, a choose your own adventure measured in dog years. You don’t make resolutions. Life is now and you don’t think about the metaphysical long enough to wonder if the choices you make will one day cause the disease that kills you. You think about toys, or, later on, crushes, and you’re too worried about whether that person will have forgotten you after seven days to think about anything beyond that.

I don’t have to worry about my crush anymore (if he forgets I exist, it’s because the space in his heart that I used to occupy has been filled up with our cats and I’ve come to accept that), which leaves plenty of time to worry about everything else forever. And that worry so often spurs us into wanting to alleviate it by being proactive — hence, resolutions.

I think arbitrary half-promises to yourself made at an arbitrary time of year are foolish, but after several days of being confronted with the motivational Facebook posts of people who I haven’t spoken to in over a decade — this is OUR year! — I find myself worn down by the forced positivity. Maybe I will eat more salads! Or, at the very least, I will redownload the MyFitnessPal app.

Being a consummate resolution naysayer, though, means I keep my intentions quiet for fear of broadcasting that I, too, am as silly as everyone else. This means I usually wait until at least February, if not more likely March, to start in on bettering myself. Some years I take up running again before remembering how much I actively dislike it. What is wrong with adults that we trade free time for torture? Or more specifically, what is wrong with me that I choose to fill up my time with so many things that I hate?

My mid-year New Year’s resolution for 2017 was to do more things that I loved. Most of my free time these days consists of activities like grocery shopping and constantly worrying about the future, or deciding at what level our house becomes too messy to invite the public in. I was always under the impression that chores would end once I reached adulthood. Adults could do what they wanted when they wanted, and they were always going to parties and buying things and watching TV after bedtime.

If only, right?

These are the things I used to enjoy that anxiety likes to convince me I no longer have time for: Writing, drawing, painting, knitting, reading, watching new TV series, staying up late, bar trivia nights, spending time with friends outside of bars, photography, video art, comics, web design, video games, visiting museums, skiing, hiking… It’s a list that keeps growing as I unpack boxes from my childhood and remember that, oh that’s right, I used to do mixed media art commissions on the internet for a time and also, remember when I was planning on teaching myself how to speak arabic?

A Buzzfeed quiz told me that for 2018, I need to be more social, which is certainly true. I would also add that I need to learn (or relearn, maybe) to be comfortable in my own skin. But successful New Year’s resolutions are couched in the time constraints of a year, often to the tune of “I want to lose 20 pounds.” Being comfortable in my own skin is something I’ve been working on since I was in elementary school, getting bullied for being weird even though my only crime was that I was new. It’s a problem that 2018 is not going to solve, no matter how many gym classes I pretend I like taking.

Regardless, every year, I inevitably sit down to sketch out the perfect vision of myself and in a grand, sweeping gesture, promise that person to the world. It doesn’t matter that I know, deep down, that I can never be that person, will never be that person. I recently told my boyfriend that my problem with JCrew is no longer the prices, it’s the fact that I know I will never be able to pull off those clothes no matter how desperately I want to. So much of growing up has been realizing disappointment. Does that ever end, or do we go to our graves shrouded in the what ifs?

These are the things I enjoyed in 2017: Traveling, spending time with friends and family, adopting our two cats, feeling appreciated at work, getting paid to write about things I love, finishing NaNoWriMo for the first time since 2014, going out of my comfort zone and always having it pay off. Breathing.

There were a lot of things I didn’t enjoy, too. There always are. But life is about learning and growing and I’m resolving to be positive, at least for today.

Not that I believe in resolutions.

(Except when I do.)