New Year, Same Me
Each year, I find myself scrambling around December 26th, wondering what my resolutions will be.
I ask myself: What did I accomplish this year? What am I proud of? What do I want to do better next year? I stress myself out worrying about all the weight I said I would lose (that I didn’t). I get anxious over the books I would read (but ran out of time for). Usually, I think about the friendships I’ve had and lost, looking for ways to be more deliberate or thoughtful or present or something. Sometimes I even consider squishing a few tasks into the final few days of the year hoping to relieve some of my disappointment in myself. But, in 2018, I didn’t do that. And, I won’t ever do it again.
But, this last New Year was different.
In December 2018, I read a tweet from the brilliant and illustrious writer Roxane Gay that stopped me dead in my tracks. It read, “I am not doing a single thing differently in January. I am not giving up shit. I resolve nothing. I did difficult self improvement all year so I am not exerting myself further than absolutely necessary. “
I am not doing a single thing differently in January. I am not giving up shit. I resolve nothing. I did difficult self improvement all year so I am not exerting myself further than absolutely necessary.— roxane gay (@rgay) December 19, 2018
I felt two ways about this tweet. First of all, yes bish. I absolutely concur. 2018 was hard as hell. Trump was in the White House. I was Black and a woman and queer the entire year. And, I stayed squarely in the working paycheck-to-paycheck tax bracket. Although there were some joys in the miserable year of our Lord 2018, overall the year felt like it was being a Gemini.
Second of all, as a working-class Black woman who has never lived in a state of excess or luxury, I typically already live within my means. Even doing that is incredibly hard. Living under racism, misogyny, and capitalism means that I am constantly subjected to systems of emotional and mental pressure. Why should I actively add more?
Gay’s tweet reminded me that the world is hard enough on its own. She reminded me that I spend each day trying to show up in a way that best supports the liberation and growth of my people. I shouldn’t punish myself for that.
New Year’s resolutions are a part of our culture
Resolutions are tricky because they can also be a good thing. At least they can seem that way.
On one hand, they are rooted in a desire for self-improvement. Resolutions encourage people to truly reflect on their choices and potentially exercise discipline over bad habits that they may have let loose in the past. When resolutions are active and timely, they can effectively marshal one’e energy toward goals like applying to graduate school, reducing the amount of sugar in one’s diet, or reducing the number of commitments one has each week.
On the other hand, resolutions as a mass idea seem to also capitalize on human failure or at least our obsession with successes that are tied to tangible monetary or material wins. Self-improvement then becomes a rat race of sorts. We chase after goals that we may never attain. We chase money that may never materialize. In some cases, we measure ourselves against others who have different life experiences, aspirations, and qualifications than we do. All the while, there are products, corporations, substances, and devices to continue to push us there.
There are entire markets devoted to self-help now. Life coaches. Self-help journals. Speakers series’. While some of these effort might come from a good place, they too frequently stem from an obsession with individual perfection. And, perfection is impossible.
At what point do we stop and look at ourselves as we are, and truly accept ourselves? At what point do stand firmly in our truths, and choose to love us? If every year we remind ourselves how many of the things about our bodies, hair, jobs, relationships, and hobbies that we want to change, we aren’t spending much time being grateful for the life we’ve got. This can be especially harmful for marginalized folx who are already facing isolation, exclusion, and oppression.
From now on, instead of making resolutions each year, I am going to reflect on how much I love myself. I am going to ruminate on how proud I am of me. I resolve to adore myself unconditionally, even if I don’t “improve” year over year. Staying exactly the same, surviving will still be a gift to me.
If I can’t do that, how can I expect anyone else to do it?
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