The time after the first winter holiday surge and before New Year’s has always felt a little depressing to me. The allure of vacation quickly grows old, the thrill of having nothing to do becomes boredom, and the mess of the holidays seems impossible to clean up. It’s appropriate, then, that the new year looms right around the corner, bright and shiny with promise.
I used to think that however the new year started was somehow indicative of how the year would go. If my family was irritable and crabby and fighting when the ball dropped, the rest of the year would follow. If the stars aligned and the new year came in with joy, then that would mean a great year was forthcoming. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it doesn’t particularly matter how the new year is brought in, and more and more it seems as though New Year’s Eve is simply an arbitrary moment in which people try to get rid of the baggage of the previous year and start a bright and shiny new year. It isn’t that simple, of course. You don’t just get to have a fresh start when the ball drops and leave all the baggage of the old year behind. New Year’s Eve doesn’t bring with it some sort of magic.
However, millions (if not billions) of people across the world still ring in the new year with celebration and a magical sort of thinking called resolutions. Some people are so convinced in the magical powers of New Year’s Eve that they create lists of things that they want to change in their lives or that they want to continue doing into the new year. It is as though this one night offers a true fresh start, and the next day you really will get out there and start training for that marathon. Resolutions, however, are not that simple either. Just writing a wish down on a piece of paper doesn’t make it real.
The Oxford English Dictionary online records the first appearance of the phrase “New Year’s Resolution” as occurring in 1850, and defines the phrase as “a resolution made on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day to do or to refrain from doing a specified thing from that time onwards, or to attempt to achieve a particular goal, usually during the coming year.” However, the OED also tellingly offers two quotes out of five that address the ease with which these resolutions are broken.
I think that most people truly mean to follow through on their resolutions. After all, resolutions are rarely spontaneous. A resolution usually comes from a long-held wish or desire. The problem is that often, resolutions are broad goals that don’t necessarily have steps in place to make them achievable. Rather than saying “I’m going to get an A in history!”, try saying, “I’m going to study 30 minutes each day for history.” Of course, the latter statement doesn’t necessarily sound like a New Year’s resolution, and it lacks the excitement of the former exclamation. It is, however, a clearly defined goal, which may help improve its odds of success.
The malaise of the post-holiday season comes back, for me, in full-force on New Year’s Day. This phenomenon is probably closely related to my deification of New Year’s Eve, and my subsequent disappoint when the world hasn’t changed in just one night. The truth is, New Year’s resolutions can only do so much, and giving one specific day so much importance can backfire. Any day can be New Year’s Eve. If you commit to a new course of action, you can start a new world for yourself whether it’s December 31st or April 17th.
While many of my own New Year’s resolutions have failed, I have made changes in the past that have been just as momentous. After biting my nails from the time I had teeth, I finally stopped in the summer of 2010. One day, I just decided that I was done, and with a few minor relapses my nails have been bite-free since that day. Sometimes, the pomp and circumstance of New Year’s can distract from the intent behind the resolutions, which may very well be good. If I had declared on New Year’s Eve that I was going to stop biting my nails, I probably would have woken up the next morning, realized the world was the same as it had been last year, and continued with my bad habit.
Maybe the thing to remember is not that New Year’s Eve isn’t special, but that every day has the potential to be as special and full-of-promise as we make New Year’s Eve. It’s interesting that the word “resolution” is only one letter away from “revolution”. A revolution implies action, while a resolution connotes less action and more hot air. Why not start a revolution in your life in those moments when you inspire yourself to do so? Don’t be dependent on a date on the calendar to make changes in your life that you want to make. If you want to take French lessons or be kinder to strangers or grow out your hair, start doing it that day. Use the power and energy and inspiration inside of you to make it happen.
Maybe my relative apathy toward New Year’s resolutions stems from the fact that I’ve never successfully kept them. Oh, sure, I try. I kept the journal I swore to write in every day for a week before I lost it. Of course, on the off-chance that this whole “New Year’s Eve magic” idea has merit, I’m going to make a few resolutions, just in case. Who knows? They might even stick.
Wishing you and your family a very happy New Year from all of us here at Tutor Doctor WNY!