I’ve always been a sucker for New Year’s Eve. The fireworks, the fancy dress parties, the countdown to midnight. My whole life, I’ve romanticized the sense of possibility that comes with a brand new year. New Year’s represents a fresh start; a blank calendar full of dates on which anything can be written. As Anne of Green Gables author L.M. Montgomery put it, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
But despite my lofty expectations, New Year’s inevitably winds up letting me down. The parties are never as fun as I imagine. The resolutions are harder to keep than I anticipate. And as January wears on, the sheen of newness wears off, and I find myself – once again – back where I started.
I moved to New York in September, and 2018 will be my first time ringing in the new year in this new town, a town that – thanks to that famous orb in Times Square – has become synonymous with New Year’s Eve. I don’t yet know what I’ll do or how I’ll celebrate, but I do know one thing: I will continue to make resolutions. But this year – for once – I’d really like to keep them.
When I examine my resolutions of years’ past, I find a common theme: they are always an attempt to make myself “better.” They usually involve some version of the following: lose weight, make more money, get happier, become more successful. And while self-improvement is always a worthwhile goal, I wonder if I’ve been setting myself up for failure by being too hard on myself. What if, instead of trying to be “better,” I tried to be kinder? And what if the person I tried to be kindest to was myself?
Take, for example, my resolution to lose weight. What if, instead, I resolved to find new forms of exercise that I enjoy, with the goal of having fun and getting healthier? What if I resolved to take group fitness classes, or try Zumba, or join a yoga studio to strengthen my body and quiet my mind?
And what if I reexamined my definition of success? What if I began from the premise that I deserve to earn a paycheck doing what I love, and I chose to get focused and specific around targeting career opportunities that are less about making money and more about aligning my work with my talents and my most important values?
And what if being “happy” meant eliminating activities that make me anxious or depressed (like engaging with toxic people, or spending too much time on social media or watching cable news), and prioritizing activities that I enjoy, like reading, going on coffee dates with friends, and traveling to new places?
I have no idea if 2018 will be better than 2017. What the coming year brings is entirely out of my control. But what I can control is my perspective. I can choose to reflect on the past with compassion, forgiving myself for the goals I didn’t meet or the promises I didn’t keep. I can choose to look toward the future with a gaze that’s both realistic and hopeful. And I can decide that this year, I will make different kinds of resolutions, ones that are less about being “better,” and more about being kinder.