Happy New Year!
Hello 2015!!! It’s me, Mary Lane. 2014 brought on a lot of great things: I started this blog, which has launched me into a world full of possibility. I appeared on my favorite network television show “SCANDAL”. I even saw my debut mention amongst all the mud slinging bile on the Miss America Message Boards. The things you learn about yourself while reading what people who have never met you have to say about you while hiding behind the anonymity of their computer screens is truly enlightening. I really feel like I’ve made it!!! But it wasn’t all glamour I assure you. 2014 was also the year that I upped my ulcer medication and started my journey with anti-aging skin products. The gospel according to Lancôme; I’m a believer. It’s super expensive though. I wonder if I can write the products off on my taxes? Career expense… Mama can’t get work if Mama has laugh lines! Maybe? I’ll just leave it there to think about.
Yes, it’s a brand new year full of new possibility. Clean slate. We’ve all seen the inspirational memes. You couldn’t log on Instagram or Facebook last week without seeing them. This is one of my favorites:
I think we can all relate to that in one way or another, which reminds me of a story.
It was toward the end of first semester of my sophomore year at NYU – so mid-December about – and I was grabbing a coffee at Starbucks, no doubt to fuel a late night paper writing/final exam study session. As I stood waiting for my “venti vanilla cinnamon chai latte with two shots of espresso” (oh to be young again), I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between the two female baristas behind the counter:
Barista 1: “You making any New Year’s resolutions this year?”
Barista 2: “Hell no. I got this friend who makes all these resolutions… keeps saying over and over again, ‘New Year, New Me’… every year she says it too: ‘New Year, New Me – New Year, New Me’. I just wanna look at her and say, ‘Bitch please… you the same girl I met back in 2005!’” (For reference this is happening in 2010)
Barista 1: “Mmmmm hmmmm”
Barista 2: “‘New Year, New Me’, like she’s gonna lose some weight or find a boyfriend or get a better job… but she never does! ‘New Year, New Me’ – what’s that even mean?”
It was about that time they called out my order with the name “Marianne” (closer than usual) and I realized I had been biting my lip to keep from laughing. I grabbed my drink and ran out and immediately called a friend with whom a reenactment or the conversation has become a yearly tradition.
“New Year, New Me”… I’ll remember it forever, but not just because it was so hysterical. In fact, what made it so hysterical was how brutally and honestly TRUE it was. I mean, she makes a solid point!
Every year January 1st rolls around and the cardio floor at my gym is SWARMING with people, all with resolutions to lose weight. For about 6 weeks the place is a zoo, but by the end of February, like clockwork, the crowds die down and life goes back to normal. Or after yet another New Year's Eve with no one to kiss at midnight, my fellow single women of New York hit the bars or flock to online dating apps resolving to finally get a boyfriend. Zimbio made a cute “New Year’s Resolution Generator” (which was actually very fun, click to try it) that produced the following resolution:
I think it was meant to be funny but it's actually true! Girls think that by resolving to “only swipe right”* (or its in-person equivalent) that they're "putting themselves out there" and "being open to love", but in doing so end up losing themselves in meaningless hookups and horrible dates with men they have nothing in common with or aren’t even attracted to, only to find themselves still single and emotionally exhausted by year’s end. And no wonder! Dating in New York is arduous enough already without the added pressure of having resolved to find “the one” in 365 days time. (*Swiping right means saying “yes” or “I’m interested” to a young man on a dating app based only on his picture.)
Now I don’t want you to think I’m being judgmental. There is statistical information to back up my statements as well as our barista’s less than enthusiastic opinion of her friend’s cheery New Year outlook. According to a study in The University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology, just 40% of people who make New Year’s Resolutions manage to keep their resolution through 6 months and only 8% of people who make resolutions each year see success/goal fulfillment by year’s end. But my proof isn’t only statistical. I am guilty of this myself! For many, many years now the first page of my new journal every year has read
"January 1 - Resolutions":
Lose weight (duh)
Find a man
Then depending on the year there might be something regarding using all the makeup I already own before going on a another Sephora shopping spree (you only need so much foundation) or paying my ConEd bill on time, but for the most part those three resolutions have stayed the same. And every year as I write them down I feel a twinge of shame and an occasional dash of self-loathing: “Here we go again. Every year I write these things and every year I fail. What’s wrong with me?” Then a surge of determination: “This year. This will be the year I finally fit into that Zac Posen sheath dress I bought to motivate myself to lose weight. Then I’ll find love and finally get my big break.” New Year, New Me. There it is again, and therein lies the problem.
The way I see it, we’re going about it all wrong, friends. Don’t misunderstand; it’s not that making resolutions is wrong… in fact The University of Scranton study says, ”people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who do not make resolutions.” I’m ALL about resolutions. But what I have learned is that we’re resolving the wrong things. Real change doesn’t occur through loud proclamations or grandiose goals. As Dr. John Norcross of The University of Scranton said in an NPR interview about the psychology behind New Year’s Resolutions, “Grandiose goals beget resignation and early failure”. And while I know there is always an exception to the rule, my personal experience proves that even if we do achieve our more grandiose goals or resolutions, no truly lasting change occurs unless we achieve other small personal victories along the way. There have been years when I have lost the weight I wanted to lose, or did find that guy who I thought was going to be the answer, and according to the “New Year, New Me” formula I should have been a changed person. But I wasn’t. My physical appearance might have changed, or my circumstances may have changed, but I was still the same person; a person who thought happiness came from wearing a certain size, getting a certain job, or loving a certain man. And I think we ALL know that isn’t true. Happiness comes from within, just as what makes us who we are lives inside of us, not in our reflection or circumstances. So if we are looking for happiness, if we really are looking that for “New Me” to go with the New Year, shouldn’t our resolutions be more about looking inward than about focusing outward? Shouldn’t we take a minute to sit with ourselves – turn off the phone, unplug, and really sit – and decide what about ourselves we like vs. what we think we can improve upon based on what we see inside instead of what we see in the mirror?
I certainly think so, and that’s why this year the first page of my journal looks a little different:
I referenced small victories. That is where REAL change occurs… in the quiet moments when we choose to be kind instead of ugly, when we choose to give ourselves credit for what we have accomplished instead of what we have not, and when we find a way to be grateful for everything life has thrown at us, the good the bad and the ugly, because it has brought us to where we are in this moment. What we do with our lives is a completely different concept from how we live our lives. I want to focus on how I live my life. And hey, if resolving to “take better care of myself both physically and emotionally” leads to losing tons of weight, GREAT. But if it leads to simply feeling better physically and emotionally with a smaller weight deficit, that’s great too. Or if resolving to “open myself up to life” and “not be so scared” leads to meeting a man, that’s lovely. But it might also lead to new friends, new collaborators, and new opportunities, which will be JUST AS LOVELY. Perhaps these resolutions aren’t as tangible as those resolutions we can cross off a list, but that’s okay. One of my favorite things to do on New Year’s Eve is look back at Neil Gaiman’s “New Year’s Wishes”. He’s a fan of intangible resolutions himself:
“I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.”
We must be kind, not only to others but also to ourselves, and we must never lose faith that we are all here for a reason, and that each of us in our own unique way is spectacular.
Happy New Year, y’all!
With Grace and Good Humor,