With the New Year afoot, we often feel compelled to make significant changes to our lives, to capitalize on an opportunity that presents itself now that the Christmas cookies have gone and the snow is solid. Few things impress me more than the people who can make such drastic rearrangements and actually see them through. Perhaps I’m not comfortable with that sort of commitment, or maybe I’ve found a kind satisfaction in the futile attempts to calculate my life but this year (last year?) I found that setting the bar low on resolutions would be the best way to approach them without breaking any promises; few things disappoint me more.
New Year’s resolutions are an appealing way for us to find improvement, to give ourselves that annual assessment, to correct certain tendencies without any real accountability. They are the medium in which we casually yet eagerly identify our twelve-month expectations. The problem with this is that in our pressing efforts to deviate from our course, we wind up making the same feckless decisions that led us towards these intentions in the first place. Resolutions require reflection, self-awareness, a desire to change, and a will to go through with it. They can also be about the things we’ve done right and the ways we can go about keeping it up. In other words, there’s no need for us to be so hard on ourselves all the time. Think of the tradeoffs before becoming somebody else.
This year, I want to take a step back. Acknowledge my efforts and consider what I may have missed out on along the way. I created a list. It turned into an exercise of whether or not I wanted the change to occur before having to commit and, inevitably, abandon it. At first I thought it was fun. Then it made me sad. But then I found it fun again. Call it the ultimate “Never Have I Ever” cheat-sheet, call it childhood deprivation, but do not call it my New Year’s Resolutions.
1. I HAVE NEVER SMOKED A CIGARETTE.
As a child, I bit into a cigarette butt that had fallen into my soup; it turned me off for a while. In high school, no one ever really offered me a smoke so peer pressure was hardly a concern. By the time I turned twenty, I had developed an addiction to coffee and was too broke to pick up another. I would later regain my love for soup.
2. I HAVE NEVER TAKEN A VACATION.
At my old job, we were encouraged to book long weekends to water the lawn, visit extended family, or make that road trip out to TOYS-R-US. Taking a couple weeks off to see the world was out of the question unless you were on serious sick leave or meant Toronto.
3. I HAVE NEVER TOLD MY PARENTS I LOVE THEM.
People do it all the time! But between all the birthday celebrations and telephone calls, all I can remember is 21 telling me he that wouldn’t say it till they were on their deathbeds. At this point, I reckon they must already know.
4. I HAVE NEVER PLAYED ZELDA.
In 2011, I discovered that there was a character named Link.
5. I HAVE NEVER WATCHED A MOVIE MUSICAL.
The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Grease… you name it, I haven’t seen it.
6. I HAVE NEVER LEARNED HOW TO PLAY MAJOR BOARD GAMES.
Up to now, I’ve gotten the hang of Chess, Monopoly, Connect 4, and Blokus. Last week, I picked up Sorry! for the first time. I also purchased Trouble but have never opened the box. I am a firm believer in beginner’s luck.
7. I HAVE NEVER WORN CONTACT LENSES.
I’ve worn glasses ever since my ninth grade Biology teacher sent me home for not being able to read the chalkboard from the back of the classroom. Since then, I have continued to play sports on the assumption that it’s all the same so long as I have the right feel and touch. I can’t tell if I’m too pigheaded to admit that I need them or too terrified of sticking plastic in my eye.
8. I HAVE NEVER HAD A GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH.
Saying yes to everything has been my conscious effort to open up to new opportunities and actualize intentions I would have ordinarily put off or have been too lazy to get to. It exposed me to new concepts of art, media, and consumption and even inspired better working and eating habits along the way (the trick is to do more of one than the other). Through all the introductions, I felt it feed and intensify an appetence for human relations. Of course, picking up on new bars, blogs, and beats were all fine too but being able to share them with just the right company is where it’s at for me.
All of these people, with their varying fixations, come tied to so many different passions and commitments that, often, we can’t help but want to be a part of them. Not so much to play a particular role within their projects but to understand how they came into existence. Do I care about what you do? Sure. Do I really? Of course not. I do, however, care for you and why it is that you do it.
Once I was open to this notion, inspirations snowballed and all sorts of unexpected characters found their way into my life. I think of the night I ran into the inscrutable 17 at some Rosemont dive I had never been to. He’d been there recording sights and sounds of a staged yet unscripted interview but after we arrived, he made sure to take long intermittent breaks to talk tunes and philosophy. A few weeks later, we shared half a case of warm beer and shot a commercial together. Go figure.
The incredible thing about this behavioural change is that it resulted in a type of prioritization, an unconscious reordering of what matters and what matters more. But while your brain rewires itself to convert a never-ending to-do list into a lifestyle, your pride takes the opportunity to use these newfound engagements for traction. You work, and you play, and you give yourself pats on the back for being able to accommodate them all while making sure you’re really seizing that day. In the early going, it’s just a matter of scheduling and active recommendation; shifting locations closer to one another; weaving between new friends; going to bed a little bit later and penciling brunch in a little bit earlier. That’s all.
But despite our ability to sometimes pick conversation out from thin air, many of us will ultimately succumb to the complexities of human contact. It can happen when we condition ourselves to facebook while microwaving lunch, or brushing our teeth, or loading that HD YouTube video. Multitasking ain’t what it used to be. Saturated pools of strangers move towards mobocracies and last-minute tweaks turn into ungraceful cancelations. Before long, you’re surfeited with overlapping commitments and forget why you had said yes to them all in the first place.
For 26, there were simply no more dates for all the open-ended rain checks, no more hurry-up beers to drink and make amends, and certainly no more room to develop a deteriorating connection. One beautiful part of saying yes is that you’re free to ask the questions you like in order to gain and regain assurance. Once stripped of this privilege, the unresolved diffidence can consume you. Our once indelible parallels were now so faint and unconvincing that we couldn’t even dream of, let alone suggest recovering from such a distance. And, as quickly and as intensely as our friendship began, it ended — all the yesses neatly funnelled into an uncontested no.
In the last year, I’ve watched a fair share of double-booked events cancel each other out, many of them because of misinterpreted words or innocent actions that furthered the invidious situations. What worries me most is that not only do we recognize and accept our egocentric tunnel vision, we are actually willing to defend it. Friends become chores, and chores become excuses but being technically right about something will never do you much good just as postponing rendezvous after rendezvous will never fully clear your schedule. Somehow we continue down the same path, refusing to reveal or even admit to the discomfort it causes. We rationalize it as the basic result of being too busy, one that we are unashamed of. Our plates full, our inboxes swamped. Are we really too tired, or are we just tired of them?