It struck me, whilst looking at the articles for this issue’s Lifestyle section, that we have a lot about making resolutions, sticking to the gym, and generally turning over a new leaf as we begin 2016. This is, of course, the protocol for every New Year: it’s expected, and I’m as guilty as the next person for seeking inspiration from all angles and treating that inspiration as fulfilment of my resolutions. Usually they’re unsuccessful: I still have my four from 2014 on the sticky notes on my laptop, including, ahem, write a novel. Yeah. It didn’t happen.
So, this year, as the clock struck twelve and I found myself surprisingly sober due to being hit by the classic Christmas round of flu, I considered what I wanted from this year. More importantly, I didn’t want to feel the unnecessary pressure of trying to be a Whole New Woman; nor did I want to feel like what I’d set out for myself was some half-arsed attempt at something unrealistic – for me, dress size 10 would be nice, but I don’t care enough in the long-term for that to be an absolute must in life. And that is why I’ve chosen to ditch the resolutions.
This isn’t that revelatory of course. Plenty of people don’t bother every year and don’t make a song and dance about it. However, being in my final year of undergraduate study means that it feels just a bit more freeing than it has ever felt before. Rather than worry about diet goals, I’m still eating chocolate because getting an essay done deserves that. And not getting that dress from Topshop would be boring – I might as well embody the eternal commandment of “treat yoself”.
There does seem to be an intrinsic link, it seems, between not making resolutions and indulging yourself. Resolutions often seem to be a restriction, a cut back on how you live, and full of “shan’ts” rather than “shalls”. When they aren’t about giving up chocolate or spending less, they fly in the opposite direction, which is what happened with my enthusiastic “write a novel” epiphany. It’s great to have goals and focuses, but when the year is young and the world around you is full of commands that are somewhere along the lines of LIVE LIFE TO THE FULL, it’s hard to be truly realistic and forget about every day commitments. As you sing Auld Lang Syne, the world becomes your oyster. And then, of course, New Year’s Day is about family, relaxation and, if you’re from Oxfordshire like me, bopping about some fields in your jodhpurs or frowning at those who do. Things just don’t become real straight away.
Now we’re back in Lancaster and as I write, the term has begun. Having been on campus for over a week now, the hoards of people have been unusually alarming, and I saw some poor toddler nearly mowed down in the 11.50am rush. That was the wake-up call that we’re back in reality: sometimes the priority isn’t getting a chapter done in Novel by Anna, but about making it to that modernism lecture on time.
Nonetheless, this isn’t meant to be disheartening. It’s not about not achieving the things you want to, as, in the least cliché way possible, that’s technically what life is about. However, when you place things in the context of a New Years resolution, the things you want to do can become not dreams, but chores. It’s like placing a deadline on the things you love – they’re not to be enjoyed, but to be experienced, for the sake of New Year spirit. This may work well for some, but from my perspective it loses the joy of putting pen to paper – the act of the pen on the paper becomes more important than what I’m writing. Moreover, when I look back, it will not be the pen on the paper that matters, but what I have written, regardless of when.
Maybe resolutions aren’t serious musts or goals after all. Maybe yours is just some vague, fun notion of having the best year yet, and you view resolutions in their novelty status as ambitions to be broken. Honestly? It doesn’t really matter what they are to you, or how you choose to view yours. For me though, the most important thing is that they don’t become something that you attribute your failures to when they’re not fulfilled, e.g. dress size 10, New York Times bestseller novel, etc. The reason I’m choosing to ditch the resolution is because the resolutions I would make are much more likely to occur without that label. They’re not hopes made to be broken; they’re hopes that remain current and can drop back and forth in life without being labelled as ground-breaking or necessary or gospel. Who knows: maybe giving up resolutions is a resolution in itself? Somehow though, I don’t think I’ll be going back on it.