Last week, my wife wrote a blog post on New Year’s Day. It made me cry a bit, it made me smile a bit, it made me laugh a bit, and… it made me think… quite a lot.
I am not good at resolutions. New Year’s or otherwise. At any given moment I have four “task” apps on my phone, two on my work computer, email reminders, and a physical notebook to boot. And none of them get the job done. My phone becomes polluted with notifications (which make me panic each time they buzz), I cannot keep up with my email, and even apps that reward “good” behavior become stale after a week or so. Nothing seems to stick.
So, I’m not doing it. This year, no grand resolutions about my behavior, my health, my technical skillset… These are things that I need to manage day-to-day, week-to-week, and no amount of National pressure to announce to the world how I’m going to work out every day and eat less is going to make a lick of a difference.
Finally, as I inch ever closer to age 40, I am beginning to know myself.
I recently read this article in the New York Times, How to Crush Your Habits in the New Year With the Help of Science. I read it with trepidation because I am not a fan of New Year’s resolution articles (with exception to my wife’s, of course, which you should read).
Yet, there are ideas in Susan Shain’s article that I like. Picking a theme for the year, instead of a series of tasks (in other words, deciding to work on your mental health does not mean “Meditate for 15 minutes a day”, although that might be one method to get there). In addition, Ms. Shain embraces the idea of “just showing up”, something I’ve often tried doing with my writing (to moderate success).
But the one thing I took away from it more than anything else, was this:
Imagine it’s the next New Year’s Eve. What change are you going to be most grateful you made?
In November of this past year, I had already decided that next year (the year of my 40th birthday, there, I’ll say it again) would be a year of FINISHING SOMETHING. It didn’t really matter to me what that was. Finishing a song, a single blog post, making a board game for my children… I wanted to be able to plant something in the Earth.
It was with that in mind, that I leapt at the above quote. On December 31, 2019 (again, now age 40), what do I want to have accomplished? I don’t need anything big. Because, from a personal perspective, on December 31, 2018, I had accomplished nothing. The big zero. Yes, I am a proud husband and father. Yes I love my wife and children. Yes, we have had ups and downs this year, but overall, I couldn’t be happier with our small nuclear family (even when daddy is getting whacked in the face by a stray karate chop or two).
But my creative self is malnourished. And I have no one to blame but myself.
Over the winter break, after full days spent desperately trying to entertain our children, my “personal” time was wasted with an iPad two inches away from my face. Sure, I want to catch up on Game of Thrones, but I’ll be damned if that is something I will be proud of in December of 2019.
No resolutions. No big gestures. Once a month, in the spirit of reaching the midway point of life (yes, fuck it, the average life expectancy of an adult male is 80 years of age), I will make a thing.
I am not going to be overly prescriptive with the what just yet. But a short list to get me started is in progress:
- Record a cover song and put it on YouTube
- Write (another) blog post
- Make a board game for my children
- Write a short story for my children
- Record an original song
- Bake something
- Learn the difference between volts, amps, and watts
- Complete a Statistics course
- Fix something in the house
- Make something with my hands
- Make gifts for other people
- Donate my (and my family’s) time to do something good for others
There. That’s twelve. They don’t all need to be completed. And I will add and subtract as I please. No artificial rewards for a job well done. But I will make a physical list as I complete each one and cross that shit off.
No punishments for not completing a month, just personal crushing disappointment that will carry me through to my 40th birthday.