Having already written in my end-of-summer column that September and its back-to-school vibe always felt like the start of a new year to me, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the self-help hype that annually accompanies the official turn of the calendar on January 1st. Lose weight. Cut your hair. Buy new clothes. Be a better person. Take up dragon boat racing. Read more books. Stop drinking. Stop smoking. Eat better. Less pasta. Less cheese. Less red meat. More okra. More kale. More quinoa. Write that novel!
Is there no end to the measures we’re to embrace to be healthier, happier and more virtuous? I confess I’m usually a bit fed up with it all by about January 4th. I usually feel the pressure this time of year – maybe you do, too – to make a change in my life, even if it’s just so I have something to say when the topic of New Year’s resolutions inevitably arises at holiday social gatherings.
“Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I have made resolution to give up all seafood, including shellfish, for all of 2019. Why, you ask? Yes, well, um, excellent question. Well, obviously it’s because of the utterly unsustainable methods by which seafood in general, and, um, shellfish in particular, are harvested from our fragile oceans. Yeah. Right. That’s why. It’s an affront to humanity and the earth we inhabit.”
Bravo! If you say it with enough conviction you can kill the conversation cold. No one needs to know that I’ve always been committed to the landlubber side of the menu. I don’t like seafood or shellfish, never have, never will. So my hastily concocted resolution has no impact on my life, but it does give me something to say when pushed to reveal what changes I’m making in my life just because our calendar now says 2019.
Which brings up another challenge I confront every new year. I don’t write cheques often, but when I do in January, I usually write two cheques. The first inevitably is stale-dated by a year because I’m not yet programmed to write 2019 instead of 2018.
Having just made it through one of the more stressful, hectic, and harried seasons of the year with our sanity hanging by a tired tinsel thread, let’s take the pressure off ourselves in January. We can and should make modest incremental progress on our self-improvement goals throughout the year, and not just in January when we’re pretty well spent (physically and financially) and seem least able to tackle new challenges. How about we take a break in January to recover from the holiday season and regroup for the months stretching out before us?
Now, this idea will be greeted by stiff opposition from the big chain gyms and fitness operations. They capitalize on the annual swelling of human guilt driven by holiday overindulgence, and the short-lived resolve to get in shape that comes with it. That resolve often hangs around just long enough to sign up for the discounted super-elite, 12-year deluxe membership deal that is only available while your judgment is impaired by the lingering after-effects of a serious turkey coma.
I don’t want this to sound like a holiday hangover rant (though that ship may have sailed). I actually love this time of year. I just think we all deserve to enjoy the season without feeling so compelled to start a new life, a new job, a new health regimen, and a new relationship just because a new year has commenced. So, by all means go to the gym if you want to, or lie down and binge-stream Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Just don’t succumb to January’s pressure to make a big change in your life for the wrong reason. Don’t get me wrong, change is often good. But it’s best when it’s on your own terms and timetable. Happy New Year!