I want to talk to you for a few minutes about New Year’s.
For most of my adult life, it’s struck me as a pretty arbitrary day. That didn’t stop me from celebrating it in years past, a few of which turned out to be amazing experiences that could never be replicated, but most of them were pedestrian at best, made all the more angsty by the amount of pressure of trying to make it a special day. I’d be a hypocrite if I said most of those celebrations didn’t come with some form of resolution for the new year, and I’d be lying if I said all, or even any of those resolutions came true.
I always thought that it was a lousy time to celebrate the new year. It’s a week after what is arguably the largest holiday of the year, and it is followed by three months of blah. Especially if you’re someone from the north where it marks the beginning of winter and not the end of it, and if you’re celebrating a new beginning, shouldn’t that be when it happens? Not when everything is sleeping and ready to die, but waking up and starting to live? March 31st, not far from the Spring Solstice, would make a much new year eve.
There’s a lot (and I mean a LOT) of history as to how the calendar became the way it did, but most of it is thanks to the Romans. At one point, February was the end of the calendar year, and December was the tenth month, but somewhere along the line thanks to the Julian and Gregorian calendars that got changed. (It doesn’t help that they first made their calendar based more on things like honoring certain gods and creating specific market days and less on things like how long it actually takes the earth to revolve around the sun. You know, science.) The upshot of all of this is it’s December 31st, or at least it was twenty minutes ago, and so still 2018, but now it’s not, and it’s not. It’s 2019.
As such, people are going to wake up later today with a desire to do…something. Lose weight, walk more, talk less, love better, smoke less, not drink, not be shy, be bolder, move, take a trip, learn a language, love their parents better, hate their boss less, rescue a dog, foster a child, and the list goes on. They believe that they can do this, and the fact that they’re choosing today to do it will make it that much more possible.
The truth is they can do it, but choosing today probably makes it harder than it should be. Because just like people feel the pressure to have a spectacular NYE, they also feel the pressure to be this better person. Let me tell you, from personal experience, it’s pretty fucking hard to be a better person on a random Tuesday. Factor in the fact that it’s the first Tuesday of a new year, and that’s some heavy shit, man.
The best thing you can do, if you really want to do something about being better, is to throw out the calendar. You don’t need it to tell you when you should start a new way of living. Every day you wake up is that day, that chance. Hell, you could have been awake for several hours before you decide that now is the time. If you try to schedule something as powerful as changing your life, odds are the most power you had at your disposal to make that change was right then, at that moment, and not at some arbitrary point in the future. You turn the page on your life when you feel it and you know to do it, not when some free handout from the phone company tells you to.
That point can be during the middle of a shift at a job you know is no longer you. It can be at night, when you are tucking your kid in bed, realizing you’re not around to do that enough. It can be in the morning, opting for a walk around the neighborhood instead of a cup of coffee. It can be standing in line at the grocery store with a cartful of items and letting the person with the handful go in front of you. Yes, it can be at 12:01 am on January 1st, but it could also be at 2:45 pm on March 10th, or 7:30 am on August 23rd. You never know until you know. And that’s the challenge: being aware enough to know when that time comes, when the old way of living isn’t doing it for you anymore, not just enough for you to botch about it, but for you to do something about it.
There’s a reason gym memberships spike every January, because people allow something else, something so arbitrary it hurts, to tell them when to change their life. Think about that. The main driving force behind many people making a change in their life is a calendar, a thoroughly inanimate object with names that honor Roman gods and emperors.
Believe me, I’m the last person to tell anyone not to make changes in their life, to see what is wrong they could make right, or even see what is good and they could make better. I’m saying, if you really want to do it and give yourself the best chance at being successful at it, don’t wait for the calendar to tell you when to do it. The calendar is great at letting us know when to buy Christmas presents and root for football teams and buy school supplies and hunt for Easter eggs. But it’s shit at telling us when it’s the best time for us to be our best selves.
Of course, I say all of that, and an astute reader will recognize I’m still a hypocrite because I have once again made a New Year’s resolution. I’m starting 2019 the way I hope to spend most of it, and hopefully even the way that when it is over, is the only way I have to spend it.