It has been drawn to my attention that the new year is fast approaching. It has also been drawn to my attention that this arguably arbitrary celebration of the passage of time requires a resolution. And a resolution requires resolve to do whatever it is that you’ve pledged to do in aforementioned well-meaning resolution.
And it’s a resolve most of us lack: 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February.
Friends, I’ve made New Year’s resolutions before, and I have bad news:
I am not in that special 20%. Any resolution of mine has croaked a half hour after the ball drops and the clock strikes midnight. I’m hopeless. I can’t even remember any of my past resolutions. Yep. That’s the life-changing magic of shallow, half-assed introspection for you.
As a psych major, I know a little bit more about human behavior than I used to. I know (a small amount) about how to better set myself up for success. There’s just one, tiny, barrier that’s getting in the way: I don’t really want a resolution.
It’s not that there’s nothing I can change about my habits. It’s not that I think I’m perfect just the way I am, or that I don’t want to improve. It’s just that January is cold and dark and uninspiring, and my attitude towards January is to get through it and do damage control. Or maybe I’m just a hipster: I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing.
When I was a little girl, I was afraid of swallowing big pills. My mother used to stand over me, watching me quiver with a cup of lukewarm water and a frighteningly large antibiotic in the kitchen. I would squirm on my stool and spin the pill around like a top on the table. The air was filled with apprehension, and the worst kind: there was something that had to be done in my immediate future that could easily make me choke. In my fourth grade CPR class, they taught us that, on occasion, foreign objects caught in the windpipe could end up in the lung and required surgery for removal. Assuming that it had time to get there before the victim choked to death, that is. The unassuming tablet could, in an ironic and tragic turn of events, be my painful demise. It glowed with power on my mother’s kitchen table.
“It’s the size of a pea, for goddsake’s,” my mother would say. “And you and your brother swallow those whole all the time.” Which was true, we did, not because we didn’t like them, but for the comic endeavor. It was a strange sensation to us, that something could fall all the way to our stomachs without ever feeling it.
But this tablet was not a pea. It was a child torture device, a source of great devastation. A killer in disguise, unbeknownst to adults everywhere.
“I’m done,” my mother would say, and leave me to my stool and my pill and my glass of now room-temperature water. To agonize. Alone.
But without my mother that pill felt smaller. More like something I could conquer, now that I wasn’t being watched. The drama faded. My resolve toughened. And by the time my mother returned, I would have swallowed it already.
The New Year’s resolution is the pill. It’s easier to swallow when no one is watching. It’s less dramatic, you reign power over it. Or at least that’s how it feels. Or maybe it’s more like failing a big test. When everyone else is failing, you know there’ll be a curve. You know you won’t have to pick up the slack; the professor can’t fail everybody. But when there’s no one else to compare yourself to, you’ll evaluate it differently. Your introspection won’t be so cloudy.
Once, my mom tried to make my brother and I start taking daily vitamins. We found ourselves squirming on kitchen stools, each with a cup of lukewarm water straight from the kitchen sink, and two giant pills. We lasted more time together than either of us ever had alone, spending what felt like hours at the table after dinner. It didn’t seem like such a bad reaction because someone else was doing it too.
I don’t want a New Year’s resolution because I don’t want to fail with everyone else. I don’t want to feel too many eyes; I don’t want my goal to carry the weight of the word ‘resolution’. I want to swallow the pill without too much anticipation. I want it quick and painless, or at least I want the pressure minimized. So I resolve to make no resolution. I resolve to keep making little changes, regardless of the arbitrary markings of time. Introspection shouldn’t be reserved for the end of December anyways. Here’s to doing it year round.
But what about you? Are you making New Year’s Resolutions? Can you swallow pills? Let me know in the comments down below. If you have Internet access, like this post and follow my fabulous blog. Or don’t. I’m not your mom or whatever.