I know this is technically ten days late, but given that these past ten days have felt like an unwelcome epilogue to 2020, I think it’s fair to cut a little slack for your humble narrator. Especially since it does feel like 2020 won’t be over for real until Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated next Wednesday. So as we doomscroll, cross our fingers to bleeding knuckles and purple our faces from holding our collective breath until then, let’s pause and look ahead, specifically to what we can do ourselves to make this a better year.
I don’t think I have ever kept a New Year’s resolution. I’d be hard-pressed to even remember any of them, even though they have probably been of the usual vanilla variety – lose weight, travel more, variations on the lyrics to Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying”. Clearly they haven’t meant enough to me if I wasn’t really that invested in keeping them. I suppose the whole idea behind a New Year’s resolution is borne of looking back at the year – at the life – that was and finding it wanting. I didn’t do X enough, I did too much of Y, I’ve always wanted to do Z. And the magical turn of the calendar page, thank you, Pope Gregory XIII, is held up as a singular opportunity to hit ctrl-alt-del, even though we are just as capable of doing so on December 27, or August 15, or March 9, or even 15 minutes from now. But we find it easier to tag these commitments to personal change to a specific moment, and more often than not, that’s exactly what dooms us to not keeping them. Real change can’t be tied to an arbitrary start date imposed by societal convention. It almost makes us more likely to fail at it, as like it or not, there’s a subconscious resentment that we have to make these promises just because a new year is dawning, not because we really want to.
I saw a clever cartoon a few days ago from Lunar Baboon that resonated. The concept is that if you always fail at New Year’s resolutions, then flip the script and make resolutions that you couldn’t possibly want to keep in the first place. To wit: instead of resolving to become fit, resolve to be more sedentary and eat more sugar and saturated fats. That is a much easier promise to yourself to break because of how ludicrous it is, and failing at keeping this resolution is doing your heart and body a great deal of good. Without further ado, here are my Anti-Resolutions for 2021:
- Isolate myself more, stop talking to people and let all my relationships lie fallow. Hide inside as much as possible and shun all opportunities to make new friends. Ignore my family’s calls and don’t return people’s emails. If I do condescend to talk to someone, don’t ever ask about them, don’t remember the things they tell me and instead talk more about myself.
- Be more ignorant, read more listicles and fewer long-form pieces, don’t take any courses and certainly don’t look at anything created by someone outside my ethnic group or economic class.
- Create nothing, stop writing (or, if I do continue to write, just write the same kind of content over and over again) and don’t look for any new opportunities to share my work with the world. Don’t bother with that next novel I wrote the first chapter of a few months ago and haven’t looked at since, and if by some miracle I do finish it, for the love of the FSM don’t try to publish it.
- Don’t learn any new skills, be afraid of trying new foods, music and entertainment, be sure I chicken out of attempting any project that requires me to use tools. Don’t bother trying to build that new office area I’ve been talking about or anything in my basement.
- Don’t meditate, don’t explore spirituality, don’t take walks in the woods, don’t do anything that recharges that part of myself. Fill my mind with worries about politics and most importantly, spend more time thinking about the Trump family.
- Don’t express emotion, stop smiling, “man up” whenever I get upset, and just fume, sulk and/or punch the wall so no one ever knows how I really feel about something. Be more resentful of everyone and everything. Get angry at every single event that is beyond my control and always overreact to people’s opinions of me.
- Zone out more, sit on the couch more, bury myself in my phone, distract myself with more trivia, have fewer conversations, and make sure to keep my head in the clouds at all time and never mindful of where I am and what I am doing.
- Last but not least, eat more red meat, sugar and saturated fats.
So here they are – eight areas of personal growth where I choose to define the worst possible outcome and work back from there, comfortable that anything short of these extremes is a move in a better direction – toward being a better friend, a better partner, a better human being – just an all around better me.
What do you think? Will you make a list of anti-resolutions for yourself as well? If you do, I heartily wish you (and myself) a year wrought with spectacular failure.