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?
Remember when Facebook was about posting on someone’s wall? When we would take time to write him or her because we missed them or because we wanted to tell them how much fun we had at that party?
It seems that all it’s good for now is self-promotion; “sharing” photos of where we’ve been and what we’ve seen, not whom we were with or what we were doing there. Tagging our friends in YouTube videos we want them to see is the closest we come to interacting with them, really. We take the time to check ourselves in to some defined location only to check ourselves out from a conversation with the very people we were scrolling for on our phones. Can’t we even wait for them to go take a piss before whipping out our four-inch piece of glass anymore?
Phones were intended to connect people and bring them together despite unimaginable distances but, as it stands, they serve as the ultimate alternative to actually acting human. For whatever reason, they provide us with what we believe to be tangible confirmation that we live and not only like things, we Like things.
Does it ever happen that you find yourself in the middle of some bizarre discussion only to decamp in favor of Facebook? Do you tweet about how awkward the whole scene was? Now take another step back and realize how you were the one who couldn’t hold that conversation; the one unfit to relate ad rem; the one who is reticent about the “awkwardness” of it all. Maybe you just wanted some attention. Perhaps one of your seven followers could sympathize if they weren’t some spammy bot-account following you to promote their SEO secrets or solutions to impotence — so much for your virtual refuge.
The bottom line is that social media favours quality over quantity, where posing as some social butterfly just because you can tweet and facebook is about the same as calling yourself a photographer because you use Instagram every now and then. Believe or not, amidst your salvo of media, people will still recognize social inadequacies. Why is it important for us to have so many friends, followers, and fans if we’re incapable of engaging with them and them with us? Connections must be established, trust earned. Ultimately, there are no formulas, metrics, or algorithms to speed up the process of saving you from yourself because, really, you can’t hide behind filters and hashtags forever.
Social media is about building relationships but the unfortunate reality is that through it, people risk not only alienating everyone they come into contact with, they also deliberately forgo the soft skills that are to get them by on a daily basis. They go on to use iniquitous buzzwords like “viral” and “trending” in the hopes of maturing into some internet guru when they’ve actually grown into little more than cell phone junkies, unable to decipher quality from cat videos.
These past three years, I’ve gotten around Montreal with little more than a bus pass and a Bixi key but, last summer, when 15 noticed the black and red-trimmed plastic dangling from my keychain, he couldn’t help but shake his head, almost in disgust, at the fact that I supported the bicycle sharing system. Why not? I responded. And what followed was a brief but insightful debate about the whole program and those who make use of it.
It turns out people don’t hate Bixi; they hate the dickheads who ride them. And If you’re unsure about whether or not you’re part of this dickheadedness, then perhaps you should ask yourself some of these questions the next time you wrench a Bixi from its Telus branded bike rack.
Must you use the sidewalk as your personal bike path? It’s one thing to hop the curb when you sense danger, or when it’s time to take a breather; it’s another when you insist on tailgating pedestrians, impatiently ringing your bell, demanding that they move aside. You won’t get too far on those three gears so instead of traipsing around, do us all a favor and walk the damn thing when you’re not on the road.
Why aren’t you wearing a helmet? Maybe you’re a tourist or riding around town for the first time but if you’re anything like me, going to and from work every other day, you should just buy one already. The one distinction motorists make between bixiers and cyclists is that, amidst the ruck, cyclists have the awareness and coordination to get the hell out of the way so making the argument that you bike only occasionally is little more than a reason to shell out the few extra bucks. You don’t see Communauto drivers going around without seatbelts, do you?
Should you really be tweeting from your bike? @BIXImontreal couldn’t care less that you’re on one. @RiMartineau won’t call you out on la belle vie. Only Segways are less cool than these things so, please, enough with touting your phone while you ride. Focus on the road and your surroundings because your friends don’t care what you’re doing right this instant but they’ll be pissed if you die and fail to check them in on facebook.
Enough bitching about the ads, kay? How can they possibly bother you this much? There are always going to be ads, always. They even double as decent and tasteful mudguards. But if you’d rather pay more for your membership, fine. If you ride the metro or bus without ads, fine. If you Google without ads, YouTube without ads, and buy apps without ads, fine. Otherwise, get over it. They’re just ads, dude.
With a constant flux of media running our lives, it’s important that we be able to pick up on the digital hints our friends will leave us every now and then. Obviously, by friends, I mean friends of friends, or coworkers, or hot people you meet at barbecues, not actual friends of course. The point is that you should actively draw a line that divides the unavailable from the unwilling. This line would then allow you to keep your behaviour in check so as to avoid those undesired scenarios where you may (a) constantly tell your friends that the other person’s a bitch, (b) maintain some paltry online conversation without ever coming into actual contact with the person, and (c) consistently pretend like you have something else going on when, really, you just end up scarfing down a tub of expired sour cream. With these things in mind, I’ve put together a short list of deal breakers to weed out those unsocial socialites and, hopefully, save us all a little bit of time and dignity.
Disclaimer: the pronoun she is used strictly for convenience sake and does not target any woman in particular but rather women in general. Men do some of these too but are usually far less subtle – usually because they are much, much simpler.
1. SHE ANSWERS TIME-SENSITIVE TEXT MESSAGES NO LESS THAN 48 HOURS LATER.
It’s Wednesday afternoon, you’re bored and tired of work so you begin to text. Your exchange is playful but prompt and hovers mostly around what you’ve got planned for the weekend: Oh, not too much, probably just take it easy, you each say. You add, well, if you’re free, we should go out Friday night, and she enthusiastically accepts! Great, you think. Friday comes around and you check back to confirm the details about the where and when but receive no reply. Maybe she’s in a meeting or has no reception? Give it an hour or so before you nudge. You send off another text after an acceptably unclingy amount of time but – still – nothing. Monday comes around and things go back to the way they were last Wednesday.
2. SHE APPARENTLY DIDN’T RECEIVE YOUR E-MAIL.
It’s true that there was a time when e-mails went undelivered. It happened the same year you bought your pager, the same year you lost the floppy disk that had all your homework on it, and the same year you purchased that first Ja Rule album and thought that yellow Hummers were cool. If you send someone an e-mail that requires an RSVP and they claim to have never received it, then you should probably pull a Gil Pender, check what decade you’re in, and just go with it.
3. SHE DOES NOTHING MORE THAN HIT LIKE AFTER YOU POST ON HER FACEBOOK, EVEN IF IT’S A QUESTION.
Hey it was really nice meeting you, maybe we can chat again sometime? Like. Hey, have you seen the new Paul Rudd romantic-comedy where he’s shy and awkward but turns out to be shy and awkward and a douche? I’ve wanted to see it with someone for a while now! Like. Hey! Long time no see. I’m dying in a month and the only thing that will slow the cancer is if you say something back to me. Like.
4. SHE INSTAGRAMS PICTURES THAT YOU TOOK.
5. AFTER AN EXTENSIVE, WELL WRITTEN, OBVIOUSLY SINCERE, WITTY BUT NOT OVERLY DICKISH TEXT MESSAGE, SHE REPLIES WITH A SMILEY FACE.
You write your text out in full. You spell-check it. Replace a few words here and there to make sure it can’t be misinterpreted. You’re careful about the details and affirm that nothing was left out. You take a deep breath and you send it. You wait ten minutes and reopen your phone to see if it has finally disappeared from your outbox. You wonder if the message was too long and if it was broken up for having exceeded the number of allowed characters. You wonder what she’ll say; you secretly hope that she’ll be just as assiduous in her reply. You wonder what she’s thinking. Your anxiety is cut short by a sudden vibrating beep.
Incoming message, :)
6. SHE REPOSTS EVERY YOUTUBE VIDEO WITHOUT EVER ACKNOWLEDGING THAT YOU POSTED THAT SAME VIDEO TEN MINUTES EARLIER.
It’s one thing to attach the KONY 2012 video after you’ve said something about it. It’s another to re-post an obscure music video, the exact obscure music video you spotted through a friend an hour ago, and add omg I just discovered this artist and loving ittttttttt!
7. SHE IS THE FIRST TO DECLINE YOUR FACEBOOK EVENT – EVERY SINGLE TIME.
When I was putting this list together, I considered outing the folks who never responded to any of my events. But some people just don’t use Facebook as exhaustively as others. These people aren’t trying to push you away; they’re just not paying attention. It’s undivided so there’s really no blame to assign. Do note, however, that when someone consistently turns you down without even so much as a sorry, it’s not her fault – it’s yours.
8. SHE DIRECTLY REFERS TO YOU IN HER STATUS UPDATES WITHOUT EVER MENTIONING YOUR NAME.
e.g. OMG I hate it when Asian guys with big glasses write on their blogs about music I never heard of but omg I just discovered this artist and loving ittttttttt! That’s just annoying.
9. SHE UNFOLLOWS YOU ON PINTEREST.
Pinterest allows you to link your account to Facebook and Twitter. This way, it can suggest and display images that your friends have pinned or believe that you may like. By default, it follows everyone you know. So if you’ve been unfollowed, know that it was very, very voluntary.
10. SHE DOESN’T WISH YOU A HAPPY BIRTHDAY.
Possibly the granddaddy of them all. If she chooses not to wish you a happy birthday in spite of the weeklong Facebook notice, the eighty seven hundred people posting about it on your wall, and the fact that she doesn’t even need to go to your page to do it anymore, it’s because you need to figure it out. Although you’ve been content with these 23 hours of special treatment, you still weed through the red notifications hoping to find that one person who has clearly blocked it from their mind. It’s over, dude. Unless, of course, you forgot to wish her happy birthday first.
Because going to the gym every day and volunteering at the neighbourhood shelter are commitments I may just pass up if you offer me a pint of anything. Baby steps, kid. Baby steps.
1. WEAR A HAT WHEN IT’S COLD OUT.
My head’s pretty big so when I wear a hat, a tuque specifically, it accentuates the circumference of my skull. Also, I’ve usually got product in my hair so putting a beanie over it often messes things up past my intended messiness. Plus, who wants product in their hat? I do. When it’s -30 outside, substance prevails because style is frostbitten.
2. CLEAN MY ROOM.
I’m regularly reminded of my OCD behaviour but, for whatever reason, it’s never chipped in towards the upkeep of my closest quarters. My dad threatened me, for years, over the chaos. My girlfriend too. I’m on my own, for this one.
3. DRINK TEA.
Nowadays, I’m up to two cups of morning joe. One, the minute I step out from the shower; the other, with breakfast. Although I hardly ever finish the second serving (who would?) the sheer act of refilling my Gino Reda mug is enough to keep me at bay for the rest of the afternoon. It’s not something I’m very proud of.
4. READ MORE.
I double-majored in English Literature and Philosophy, this shouldn’t be a tough task. But ever since I finished school, I’ve come up with all sorts of reasons to keep my books up on the shelf: I’m too busy; there’s nothing good to read; but they’re so heavy! If I’m not going to find the time to travel, I’m going to make the time to that imagine I have.
5. WRITE MORE.
Undoubtedly, reading will multiply and alter your perspectives. I believe it’s important to highlight such varying outlooks rather than being so reticent about them. It’s also part of my job, so…
6. DO GROCERIES.
I am not opposed to cooking but admit that I own this recipe-book that I seldom re-open after jotting down the formula for Pork Tenderloin or whatever the case may be. Why? Because my fridge is bare, always. But not this year. I’m tired of offering people beer and eggs.
7. SAVE MONEY.
This one comes close to your usual resolutions but if #6 works out, saving up for a rainy day should be a cinch. It may not be much but it’s enough to buy some lotto tickets.
8. SPEND LESS TIME PLAYING VIDEO GAMES.
More like video game — singular. EA’s NHL franchise is the only game I’ve owned since 2006. But I’m not complaining, the Xbox has paid for itself. This may be the toughest resolution I’ve set for myself and if it’s going to stand a chance, it’ll have to be because of numbers 4 and 5, not in spite of them. By the way, my gamertag is “Apartment 6” if you’re looking to get schooled.
9. SAY YES TO EVERYTHING.
This worked so well for me last year that I’ve renewed it for another. You can do that, right? I realize that this may be at odds with #7 but If I want to get more out of life, I’ll have to stop texting from the couch. The devil finds work for idle hands, you know.
10. BRUSH TEETH FOR LONGER PERIODS OF TIME.
My dentist asked if I had picked up smoking but later concluded that the stains behind my teeth were caused by red wine. And cutting that out would be absolutely fucking crazy.