THE FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN ON THE NIGHT OF DECEMBER 31, 2014. IT WILL BE PUBLISHED AT A LATER DATE.
Ah, New Year’s Eve. The time between years when people across the world gather to celebrate the start of a new Gregorian calendar year with fireworks, grapes and balls dropping from the sky. Tomorrow we will bid farewell to the ancientness of 2014 and welcome the strangeness of 2015’s name and the plenty of times we will accidentally mispronounce it. This holiday comes year after year, and I’ve continued to be intrigued by the way it is treated, that is, as an annually built-in “fresh start” for people to positively change an aspect of their life. (Or sometimes multiple aspects.)
In this post, I’d like to suggest a new way of thinking about the New Year. First, let us consider that dates are merely an indication of what we might like to call any particular day; these names for the days themselves are essentially meaningless. Yet we assign so much more significance to January 1 than is warranted by a routine updating of names and numbers. The first of January is treated as a starting point for change, for goals and for resolutions. And I think it’s silly. But not for the cynical reasons you might think.
Like many young girls overflowing with pre-pubescent woes of teen angst and the incessant need to “fit in”, I spent a lot of time in middle school and high school searching for my perfect group of friends. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had been a temporary member of a dozen different friend groups within my class, and after five years of trying to find girls I could truly connect with, I had finally grown sick of the constant hunt to find such people amongst the snobs and the know-it-alls and the dumb girls, and also the occasionally unfortunate proclivity to become somebody I wasn’t to facilitate this “hunt”. I realized that in life, the best friends I had ever made were the ones that I hadn’t sought out. I didn’t have to try to be a certain way with them: I could just relax and enjoy the diversions of their company.
Unfortunately, at this point in my life, these friendships were few in number. So as I slowly cut off relationships with negative people that brought be down emotionally and mentally over the years in an effort to become more focused on myself and my needs, I prepared myself for the sudden absence of a default friend group, something I had always, admittedly, enjoyed having up until this point. What I found after doing this was a newfound sense of self-confidence, and a resulting growth within those few genuine friendships which I had treasured the most all along.
When I was a junior in high school, I realized that my ultimate goal in life was to travel the world. I knew full well that this was an awfully (and wonderfully 😉 ) ambitious goal, and that the only way that I would ever achieve it would be to study hard, get good grades, get into a great college, and eventually acquire a job making enough money to send me wherever I wanted to go. So. I took a deep breath, sat down at the library table, and started reading.
For the next year and a half, I studied my booty off. I spent every waking moment developing my resume: Directing videos, drilling vocabulary, writing essays. The days were spent moving from activity to activity, starting at 5:15 AM to catch the bus to school, and often not ending until 10 or 11 PM, when I could finally unwind from a day of nonstop physical and mental movement. I won’t pretend there weren’t nights when I laid in bed and felt the crushing pressure of the thousand pounds I had put on my shoulders. Failure was an option, but not trying my hardest was not. If I got rejected from every school I applied to, I wanted to know that it was not because I hadn’t done what I could, but because it simply wasn’t meant to be.* So in my mind, I could always have spent one more hour studying, one more hour perfecting that essay. (I often lived in fear that I was not, in fact, trying my absolute hardest. Perhaps that is a future blog post topic.)
Between the ages of 3 and 16, I was blessed with a wicked-fast metabolism. (Thanks, genetics.) I could eat a big, juicy hamburger, a large order of fries, suck down a soda pop and still stick around for ice cream without feeling full. That all changed of course, as it does for most people: My metabolism came to a screeching halt a few months after my 17th birthday. I didn’t realize this change in my digestive system, however, until I had already put on extra weight throughout my senior year in high school.
This is a screenshot from a video I filmed and created in February 2014, halfway into my senior year of high school. I remember sitting at the editing board, staring at the screen, shocked. I noticed the extra fat in my cheeks and neck that had been absent in photos from just a year prior. The suspicions I had been gathering from my mirror were, for the first time, confirmed with the creation of this video. I no longer had my rocket fast metabolism from childhood. I was becoming…
a woman. (DUN DUN DUN)
So, in February 2014, I made a decision to permanently change my lifestyle for the healthier. I actively avoided excessively fatty foods and committed to 35 minutes of physical exercise every day. No exceptions. Since then, my regiment has grown gradually more strict, and now I rarely eat meat, consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and monitor my portion sizes closely. I also work out at the gym for one hour, seven days a week, with an occasional rest day for muscle recovery. Making all these changes at once would have been extremely intense, but going into it gradually has allowed me to fulfill all my old fitness goals (including shedding the excess fat seen in the video above), and to continue generating new ones.
I’ve made changes all throughout my life. Some have occurred in January, others in February, others in August. The point is that changes occur, and ought to occur, at whatever point in time which demands them. If change is necessary, its taking place should not be governed by a concept as abstract as calendar time.
I’ve changed a lot over the years, but one thing that has not changed is my ability to look at my life, recognize the need for change, and to begin the necessary steps to achieve change without hesitation. This ability is not a genetic trait. Indeed, anybody can learn to become the person they admire. Every day is a gift– an opportunity to learn and grow as a resident of this beautiful planet earth. That’s why I think it’s dumb to wait around for the new year to come to make new resolutions and goals. Goals should be constantly made at any given point on any particular calendar. A life spent constantly bettering oneself is a life fully lived. It’s okay to make new years resolutions. But why not make a January 4th resolution, or an April 28th resolution, or an October 9th resolution? If we treated every day as the first of January, we could create a happier, healthier, more motivated society. Any day can be the beginning of a new year of the calendar of your mind, body, or spirit. So never be afraid to ask:
What can you do TODAY to make this life a happy one?
*I never had one particular reach school in mind during the college application process. I kept an open mind, and visualized a happy college career for myself at every school I applied to. I avoided a lot of heartbreak this way, and made room for a lot of graciousness in the long run.