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New year, new you, new expectations of who you should be.
With each year, it is so tempting to make resolutions and promises to yourself of the person you want to become in the coming year. There is a glow of optimism, and maybe a little nervousness. Fitness, career, personal... there is always an area that could be better. We are human.
To be honest, I have never made a New Year's resolution. I've definitely had years I've felt rejuvenated and hopeful for the new year with inklings of what I hope to achieve. But I've never solidified any resolution.
As someone who has suffered from anxiety for as long as can I remember, I couldn't manage the stress of such expectation. I feel no shame for that.
My closest thing to a resolution that I made was an art challenge. I made an illustration every week for a full year (52 weeks). Some weeks it lit my creativity on fire; other weeks, it made my art confidence cripplingly low; and near the end, it was such a routine, I had stripped away a lot of expectations of my art and just made it.
I fully endorse challenging yourself, making yourself accountable, and doing whatever it is you've been procrastinating with, but I have never fully endorsed New Year's resolutions. If someone feels very strong about them, I would never tell someone to not do them. Personally though, I can't quite stand behind them.
Last night, as I was unwinding down from the day, I listened to Beautiful Anonymous and the many people calling in with their New Year's resolutions. One main idea stuck with me from it: The idea of a word or statement for the year, such as "open."
From about eight until about 16, I would get obsessed with words. For a few years it was "hope." For whatever reason, the word resonated with me. It filled me with optimism, softness, and generosity. When I heard the word, it would embody the idea of hope for all people to find some form of contentment; it would mean optimism for my own ventures; it would mean always giving kindness in hope that it would be returned, or have meant something to another person. I would smile at every person, even when I had a bad day, in hope it might make them feel acknowledged and valued. Thinking back, I clearly remember some people who had looked so disgruntled, then I made eye contact with a smile and they gave the most genuine smile in return—one I questioned how I earned as a stranger. Struggling with depression at the time, it meant a lot.
The whole set of memories got me thinking, especially with the freshness of a new year: How can I bring that feeling? It wasn't happiness. Happiness is rather vague and lacks value in my mind. So, I sat with the idea of contentment. It feels softer, calmer, and filled with less expectation. To be content, one can just be filled with thought and contemplation. They can be smiling, but they could also be sitting, stoic, sinking into the comfort of a couch. It requires addressing what isn't working, but doesn't require perfection.
With a new year, it does feel like turning a page (though a lot of things still continue). There is a sense of change. So, as much as I may not endorse creating stonewalled paths for the year, I do endorse taking this time to reassess what you need for a little more contentment. It might be a word, a challenge, or figuring out what challenges to take away. Whatever you decide, Happy New Year.