Elsewhere in your newspaper this week, my colleague Lisa Jardine, in discussing a fitness program, said she didn’t want to make any broad, grandiose New Year’s resolutions because she knows doing such a thing is setting her up for failure.
She’s absolutely right, but I’ll take things a step further. All New Year’s resolutions are meaningless and you’re better off not making them.
This upcoming year, 2014, will be my last as a man in his 30’s. For all I know now, it will be my last on this planet. For all I know, it may be the last for the planet and everyone on it.
Sounds a bit morbid, but hang in; we’re getting somewhere.
If this is to be my last year amongst the living—an eventuality which, of course, I don’t expect or desire, but still, it’s possible—does it really matter if I resolve now to eat less junk food, do more exercise, get out to the movies more, spend more quality time with my wife and family, write more, read more or make an appreciable dent in the mass of unwatched DVDs and Blu-Rays stacked from floor to forehead as I write to you in my home office?
Well, of course it does.
Thought I was going the other way, didn’t you?
If I’m going to check out for good this year, I want to do it as the best me I can be. I don’t want to get hit by a bus as a fatter, slower, 39-year-old guy who still hasn’t seen the new Captain America and hasn’t visited his parents in months. I’d rather get hit by that bus knowing I was living the way I want, doing the things that enrich me the most with the people I love.
Let’s be clear, I’d rather not be hit by the bus at all, but I think you see what I’m saying.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? I probably won’t get hit by a bus. And then what? We say we’re going to do these things on Jan.1 and by the seventh or so they’re pretty much out the door, or else they’ve got their coats on and are saying their good-byes until next year, when we’ll all have this self-help session again.
What’s the point?
As someone who’s written his share of fiction, I can tell you I agree with whomever it was who said, “The easiest thing in the word to do is not write.”
Trust me, I’m not not writing right now and it’s kind of hard.
I think the same can be said for our New Year’s resolutions.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to let things, whatever they are, slide the length of the year as we go about our congested lives and then, when the calendar is about to turn over say, OK, now, now I’ll address this or do more of that and less of the other thing. Now it’s the end of December and the line must be drawn here. This far, no further.
Except it’s just another day, folks. Just another month. And you’re still you. And, worse yet, I’m still me.
So, what to do? Well, for one, let’s acknowledge sweeping change, be it be social reform, environmental conditions or whether or not you can stop pounding down Twinkies now that they’re back, doesn’t happen overnight and there’s no reason to think it can just because the ball dropped. If you’re going to affect changes in your life, you’re going to do it gradually. You’re going to have to work at it. It’s probably going to be difficult, you’re probably going to have setbacks and it’s going to take time.
In short, you’re going to have to earn it.
And that’s the other problem with New Year’s resolutions. We think they have some sort of magical properties. We think we can make things happen by declaration simply because we’ve taken advantage of the little stretch in the year reserved for cashing in all our lazy chips for a brand new and improved self.
Doesn’t work that way and, honestly, I’m kind of glad it doesn’t.
And so, this year, I think I’ll make my final New Year’s resolution, and that is simply this.
I resolve to live in such a way that I never need to make another New Year’s resolution.
And to get balder.
I’m going to nail that one.
Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org and
follow him Twitter @jasonchirevas