Momentum. That is how a new year begins. New goals, renewed motivation, new you. Out with the old, in with the new. We make lists of things we want to accomplish, in our personal lives as well as our professional lives, and dream of all the places we’ll travel, all the books we’ll read, all the miles we’ll run. Everything seems possible again, you will be better than last year, overcome all obstacles and leap over every roadblock to reach your goals in [insert new year].
Sound familiar? The end of the calendar year and the celebration of a new one invites the idea of a new beginning, as if for some reason we can’t decide to start fresh at any other point of the year. As humans, we are obsessed with time, especially our own. It goes too fast or it goes too slow, but we are rarely satisfied with its progression. We try to outrun it and we try to hold it back so that we can revel in the best moments. Maybe this is why we create these markers of time, so that we can try to fit in our accomplishments and assess the outcome of our decisions into a neat little package, otherwise known as a year.
But life is messy and so are we. We want life to fit into nicely arranged boxes and for things to fall into distinct categories so that we know what we’re dealing with. 2015 was going to be the best year yet. I was going to continue traveling and also find a kickass job/PAID internship in the publishing industry. I was going to wear vintage pantsuit sets and my oxford shoes and blazer and rush around the city with my coffee in hand because I would have very important and fulfilling work to do. I was going to write anything and everything and get some of my work would be published and I would be on my way to becoming a very successful writer but still not care about success. Contradictions. Nothing ever really fits into one box. I was going to start and finish that little Big Writing Project that I don’t even like to name because then people can laugh at me and think, “Who is she kidding?” and I’ll start to think, “Who am I kidding?” too. I was going to fall in love with a really awesome person who would understand me better than anyone else, but not too in love because I am a strong, independent woman and I don’t have time for that anyway. Lesson: resolutions with caveats we have not confronted don’t really work. I was going to care a lot less about what people think about me (or what I think they think about me) because I would be SUCCEEDING SUCCEEDING SUCCEEDING at adulthood and not FAILING FAILING FAILING. I was going to stop stressing about the future because I’d plan for it, I’d be ready.
Note the use of the past continuous tense (I can tell you this because of my not-so-well-paying but very fun teaching job). If any of these things had already been accomplished, I would have used the simple past, also known as the preterit (while also wearing a well-cut blazer, mind you). But as you may have already guessed, my glittering, conflicting vision for 2015 did not play out the way I imagined. Instead, it felt like I spun my wheels a lot. While planning out what I was going to do, I limited the amount of time and energy I had to actually DO. I stressed over self-imposed deadlines and not getting to see as much of the world as I wanted to and how to spend my money and people judging the way I chose to spend it. Every decision I had to make felt like it came packaged within a Russian doll, always revealing another question to answer before I was able to pull the trigger and commit to my decision. Like a hamster on a wheel, I spun faster and more frantically, spinning away my present while worrying about the next lap. In my need to try and plan for every possibility, I failed to embrace the “now.”
So it should come as no surprise to know that on January 1st, I felt compelled once again to sit down and write my long list of glossy goals to spin towards again. Nor should it come as a surprise that by January 4th, I was already feeling dizzy. All these things that I am just so good at planning and dreaming about were already building up and in my very time-sensitive mind, I could feel 2016 slipping away. I needed to slow down and rethink how I was going to approach the new year. What exactly held me back in 2015? Aside from the French bureaucracy, behind every unaccomplished goal lay a fear, lurking in the background to suck my determination out of me. Fear of failing, fear of not being liked, fear of not being understood (literally and figuratively), fear of being a bad writer, fear of never being good enough, fear of digging deeper, fear of being alone, fear of being a burden, fear of putting myself out there, fear of simply putting pen to paper, fear fear fear fearfearfearrrrrrrrr.
This year there is only one resolution: live now. Live in the moment instead of for the future. When the “now” feels too hard or too scary, attack the fear itself instead of dreaming of a more comfortable, warmer, happier space floating somewhere out there in the continuum of time. When necessary, eat some chocolate to fuel the now. There is still a rough plan in mind, a map of where I’d like to reach. But those things haven’t really changed that much from last year. It is simply a matter of taking care of business, of sitting down and getting it done, breaking down the big picture into one day at a time. As Amy Poehler syas in the introduction to her book, Yes Please, “The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”
2016 will be the doing of the thing.