At midnight this Tuesday, we begin a new orbit, assuming that a meteor doesn't crash into us. (And if that were the case, the government would assemble a ragtag team of dudes led by Bruce Willis who would save everyone, so don't worry.) 2012 will become 2013. Despite all the symbolism people attribute to it as far as new beginnings and resolutions go, the new year really means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. That is, unless you own a gym (in which case you should expect to profit from impressionable fat people looking to drop $$$$ on the use of communal stationary bikes until mid-February) or a frozen yogurt bar (in which case those same impressionable fat people will resist the urge to eat their feelings until mid-February).
I don't think I need to spend a lot of time convincing you that New Year's resolutions are futile because they don't really work, because we all know it. The reason for this is that they are based on the following mentality: We assume we'll be better at [weight loss/saving money/less stress/not picking at split ends/laying off the liquor] because culturally a new year gives us a "clean slate," but despite that our brains haven't actually been conditioned to learn the skills necessary to reach these goals. In addition, when it comes to resolutions we tend to expect nothing but perfection beginning on January 1st, and once we make a mistake we feel that we've ruined it and just give up. The beginning of a new year is, in reality, just the beginning of another new day--why not live each day with a resolution? Why wait for a four-digit-number to dictate when we make a change?
Most popular New Year's resolutions are completely off the mark because people are out-of-touch with what makes them happy in life, or what makes those 365 and 1/4 day-increments "good" years or "bad" years. Losing weight, getting out of debt, curbing negative thoughts, attempting to salvage one's over-processed hair, and not drinking a bottle of white Zinfandel in bed alone every night are all good goals to have that can increase our quality of life. But if we don't ever achieve them, then what's the point?
I've been making resolutions since I was about 14, and I could never stick with them. I find that it gets depressing. So I'm making a resolution about resolutions: This year, I resolve to do good things, but specifically good things that are attainable, that don't involve box-checking or scales or measurements. I really just want to point to 2013 and say, "Yeah, that was a great year." I know myself, and I know how to make that happen, and it probably has nothing to do with a jeans size or a bank account or how shiny my hair is.
The following are some of the most common New Year's resolutions that I've turned upside down with my new mindset:
- Get Skinny: I'm about to leave the United States for 27 months, and that means leaving cheeseburgers, burritos, curry, pizza, barbecue, sushi, subs, fried chicken, frozen yogurt, mozzarella sticks, enchiladas, wontons, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, Oreo truffles, tapas...you get the picture. Why would I get on that plane without relishing all the foods I love beforehand? And why would I turn up my nose at the delicious Mediterranean cuisine my host family will serve to me in Albania? What good is it for me to stress over calories-from-fat ratios when basil, feta cheese, braised lamb, olive oil, and baklava that I've never experienced is within my reach? Bring on the Peace Corps 15, I know I can lose it later.
- Get Rich: I already know this year will not be about making lots of money, since I'll be in a volunteer position, and that my student loans (which thankfully I can defer because of my service) will be waiting for me in 2015. But the good news is that I have PLENTY of experience in being poor. (When I say "poor," of course, I mean the upper-middle-class-white-person version of poor, not the real version with the no food and stuff.) You could probably say I'm an expert in being cheap and grumpy. Being poor means people can't ask me for money (unless you work for Greenpeace on a college campus), which is great. Not having a lot of money to spend means less distractions and less responsibilities. A good situation to be in when you're a single 23-year-old trying to soak up the world before real life starts.
- Get Busy: I'm interested to see how I'll deal with leaving a culture that is so obsessed with work and productivity and appearing "busy." When I ask RPCVs (returned Peace Corps Volunteers) for advice about my service, the most common answer is to take it slow and soak up my experience without worrying about the grunt work. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm really bad at taking just about anything "slow." I guess this will be the part of my anti-resolution that doesn't come so naturally.
- Get "It": More than a few people actually resolve to get a boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife in the coming year. I find this to be a little desperate, because I am a firm believer that those things occur only when you are content with yourself--as evidenced by everyone I've ever known who has participated in a healthy relationship. As I've made the decision to be a PCV, where I will be far away from anyone I've ever known, my goal is to fall in love with myself. As sad and cliché as that sounds, I want to get to know me a little better, learn how to deal with myself when I'm a cranky bitch, and figure out what I really want and need. (Naturally, I want to take myself to dinner and give myself presents, too.) But then there's this.
My life is going to change drastically this year, so I figured my approach to life could stand to change too. I'll see you in 2014 possibly a little thicker, scrappier, and hopefully happier.