I hate New Year’s Resolutions.
Mine are often self-absorbed and I never accomplish them. I spend all this time talking about them that they all become cliche and superficial. And, to make matters worse, we don’t have many examples of people who have created resolutions, stuck with them, and then encouraged people to do the same. The gross cycle begins again every year: make a list. Forget about it. Hate on ourselves for forgetting about it. Resolve to be better the next year.
On December 9, a random day in December, I wrote out a Resolution:
Learn how to say no, slow down, and not feel regret or remorse for it.
The next day I took a practical step towards this resolution. It was a little experiment. And I’ve been keeping it up for three weeks now. And, with actual results, I’m going to tell you about it. So you can have a real example of someone pursuing a resolution. Maybe this will inspire you to make your own resolution, and stick with it. Maybe you’ll just think I’m crazy. But either way, I’m going to tell you about it.
On December 8, I wrote a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish over break:
Create a scrapbook from abroad
Write six blog posts
Work on the Trump tab
Work ahead on Econ stuff for next semester
Plan tenting (living in a tent for a month with other Duke students for tickets to the UNC game)
Call one long distance friend each day
Spend time with family
Work out every day
Write heartfelt Christmas cards to all of my friends
Volunteer at homeless shelters
Clean out my closet
Read as many books as possible on my reading list
Reply to emails
Prepare for next semester
The next day, I got super sick. Like we’re talking can’t-move-from-my-bed-everything-aches-and-I’m-throwing-up-and-coughing-and-have-a-fever-and-the-world-is-spinning kind of sick.
I was then forced to stay in bed for an indefinite amount of time. Did I have some traveler’s bug? Or something more serious? The doctors didn’t really know. But it had been two full days and I was still unable to think about even moving from my bed. Luckily, after three days, I could move about and keep food down.
But let me tell you about being forced to stay in my bed for three days. I like to accomplish things. I am really bad at stopping. Or slowing down. Or doing anything that requires moving at less than a jaguar pace. I mean I even talk fast! So these three days were TERRIBLE. I had to watch movies and sleep and eat meals in bed!!!!!! I had to RELAX!!!!!! Why me?????
While I was lying in bed for an absurd number of hours, I had a little time to think. At some point I started thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions for the coming year. I felt so awful that the idea of doing ANYTHING– for once in my life– felt so unappealing. A comical idea dawned on me: What if my Resolutions involved NOT doing things? Then I would already be on Day Three of accomplishing that!!!
I got serious about this thought: I could resolve to learn how to do less. And Winter Break could be the testing ground. I could use the three weeks of Winter Break to practice. That way, when 2017 inevitably knocked on my door, I could say, “no problem!!! I know how to accomplish this resolution!!! I got this.”
So I threw the list I made before I got sick straight into the trash. If I was going to slow down, I couldn’t do all of those things.
I made a new list. This time I’d only include one personal self care item, one others-centered item, one social item, and one academic item. Everything else was out.
The new list:
Personal self-care: work out every day. Go to Pure Barre every day. Because it’s my happy place. And because Pure Barre is the best.
Others-centered: make myself available to help my parents with Christmas chores. (Ie setting up for our Christmas Eve extended family dinner, running errands, going out for family meals, being around after 5pm when my parents were home from work, etc.)
Social: Catch up with each of my friends from home at least once.
(No calling all my friends from Duke, or seeing friends from home every day all the time, or being in two places at once socially.)
Academic: Buy all of my textbooks for next semester and put the dates of assignments in my calendar.
(No trying to do assignments, reading the textbooks ahead of time, obsessing over deadlines before they are even remotely approaching).
A lot of things didn’t make the cut. I was able to do a few of the cut things, sometimes, like read a book, at spontaneous times when there was nothing else to do. But for the most part I stuck to that abbreviated list. Which is why you haven’t heard from me on Words of Hope in a while. And why some of my friends not from my hometown might be wondering if I’m alive (okay, I didn’t go thaaaat MIA…).
But I learned so much. Like the night I woke up at 4am and thought to myself, “well, might as well make the most of the day!” And then slapped myself and forced myself to go back to sleep. Bed: 1, Hope: 0. There I learned that I can talk myself out of things when I’m painfully exhausted. Or, on a more serious note, there was that time I got close to a breakdown after running into a friend who totally called me out for not having hung out with her over the break. I felt so guilty and embarrassed, and as if I was a failure of a friend, until my mom calmed me down reminding me that I can’t do everything. I learned how to sit in front of the TV and watch a Hallmark movie with my family and not wish I was doing something else, and how to look for ways to help the people in my life whom I often take for granted: my parents. I learned how to enjoy “quality time” with my brother by understanding that his idea of quality time involved me sitting next to him while we watch some funny TV show. I learned how to think about my future career in a way that wasn’t rushed or an item on a checklist, how to take a breath, and how to realize there is actually nothing I need to be doing at certain moments and that is okay.
But, most importantly, I successfully completed my Experiment of my New Year’s Resolution to slow down.
So, yes, I’m telling you about this because I hope it will inspire you to stick with your resolutions, too. But I have selfish reasons for telling you, too. Now that all of you know, I can’t quit. I’ll HAVE to keep up my resolution: I’ll HAVE to slow down.
So, jaguar-paced Hope slows down for three weeks and intends to keep it going. How about you? What’s your resolution? How are you going to stick with it?