Some thoughts on resolutions

It’s January first of a new year… what are your resolutions? What are my resolutions?

There are a few things I’d like to change about how I structure my life. But first I’d like to talk a little about “resolutions.” Probably nothing you’ve not heard before somewhere else, but this is my spin.

Our culture seems to be full of humor specifically designed to subvert the idea of bettering yourself. The newspaper comics around this time of year are full of cynical declarations that this character or that will be breaking their resolutions within at most a week of making them, or moaning that there’s no point in making resolutions at all. The memesphere is full of paired image macros declaring that gyms are empty but will fill soon, presumably to empty out again by the end of the month.

The impetus behind all these ideas is understandable. The newspaper comics are invoking a trope to lampoon human foibles, while the macros are a protestation by regular gym-goers over the violation of “their” space by outsiders who don’t understand the rules and don’t hold the same values. By the same token, though, these ideas are reprehensible.

The newspaper comics are invoking a trite cliché that was boring years ago instead of trying to say anything new or interesting or truly humorous. Worse, someone struggling to keep their resolutions who is exposed to that sort of defeatism isn’t likely to be strengthened in their resolve to do what’s best for themselves. Instead, they’re likely to take the perception that “nobody keeps their resolutions” and use it to excuse failure on their own part. After all, if resolutions are meant to be broken, why would I go to extra effort to keep mine? Especially if, as one strip suggested, daring to keep your resolutions only opens you up to catty, resentful hate from your friends.

The gym meme smacks of the worst kind of parochialism. If someone comes to your gym and pays the entree fee, they have as much right to be there as you. (This goes double if it’s free!) If someone is genuinely trying, they should be encouraged. If someone isn’t doing it correctly, they should be taught. Yes, even if the rules are written on the wall – our society is full of metric face-tons of advertisements incomprehensible legalese, and these teach us every day to ignore signage when possible. Just because somebody started coming to the gym at the start of a new year doesn’t mean they shouldn’t actually be there, and any problems stemming from someone’s newness could easily be overcome with a little communication and patience, to the ultimate benefit of your community.

Long story short: our society seems to work hard to encourage a cynical, disparaging attitude toward both others and ourselves, and that’s a shame. A resolution is an opportunity to improve your life, and with a little perseverance it can work. If you make a resolution, stick to it! You’ll be happier in the long run!

Despite this screed, I’m not spending a lot of time or thought on resolutions for myself this year. Why not?

Because I’m not limiting myself to January first on the Gregorian calendar, that’s why. In recent years I’ve had a number of issues with how my life is going, and thought of a number of steps for moving it concretely in a positive direction… and I’m trying to take action as soon as such a thought occurs to me. The regular kotowaza posts on this site sprang from a dual desire to study more Japanese and to make myself write more on a regular basis. The yojijukugo and Magic Monday posts were added for the same reason. There are other things that don’t show up on the blog, of course.

As I said at the start, my reactions here may all be things you’ve heard elsewhere. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t let yourself be limited by social Zeitgeist. If the new year isn’t a good time for you to change up your routine, then don’t. If you do, don’t let defeatism or xenophobia discourage you. And if you find yourself wanting to change your routine at any other point in the year, then do it. A June resolution is no less valid than a January one. “You do you,” and all that.

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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