A Southsea sunset, December 2016

New Year, Same Old Me, Same Old You

Well, the first full week of the new year is over. Good. We’re one step closer to things being ‘back to normal’. By that, I mean that we’re one step closer to being rid of the cloying artifice that immediately follows the new year fireworks; the manufactured and synthetic hope, inspiration and motivation with which we record over the reality of the past year and then broadcast, with a cult-like positivity, like some kind of saccharine gospel to whoever’s within earshot. We’re one step closer to acknowledging that the only truly new thing about the new year is the calendar you bought to cross off its days.

The first week of each new year brings out some utter nonsense in people. The same old plans, promises and resolutions are made, written down in brand new calendars, diaries and journals; people pencil in what they’d like to do and who they’d like to be… And then? And then, nothing. They sit back and wait for these things to simply happen, that their sense of entitlement will manifest their desires and deliver unto them the life they want without acknowledging and accepting their responsibility to commit to the hard work necessary to make these things happen.

I hear people tell one another that things will happen in the new year. Mind you, that has something in common with what I hear people tell one another the rest of the year: It’ll happen next month, it’ll happen next week, it’ll happen tomorrow… There’s this mythical ‘beginning’ from which all change comes with neither planning nor effort. It strikes me that people who rely on a fixed point in the future from which to make the fundamental changes they believe necessary in order to live the life they want will never manage it. It’ll always be in the future, just out of reach.

This reliance on having a ‘proper’ starting point fixed in time – the first day of the week, month or year, over recognising that every single moment of their lives is a starting point for the change they want or need will stop them recognising the perfect transformative potential of the present – of the moment in which they find themselves now.

I also know of people who change not because they want to, but because they feel obliged to; they’re scared of being left behind by their friends, colleagues and peers who have embarked on these journeys of discovery and wellbeing. They diet and detox because it’s what they should be doing, rather than what they want to be doing. They fill their heads with twee motivational quotes and popular philosophy because they can’t decide for themselves what to do – but they must do something – and so allow themselves to be told, to be led.

These people allow themselves to be caught in an echo chamber of complete and perfect positivity, immune to a personal, pragmatic and objective outlook on life – their life. They defer responsibility for their thoughts and actions and take instruction from innumerable social media posts, these days, enabling them to lay the blame there if things don’t go to plan.

I wonder what these people could/might come up with by themselves – perhaps something that spoke to them as the individuals they are. Perhaps they don’t do this because they have an inkling that the truth of their circumstances, and the work necessary to make any change(s) to this would be, simply, too much for them to handle – another issue entirely.

If they mess up, if they fail, if an unexpected obstacle pops up, no worries. There’s always tomorrow. Next week. Next month. Next year. Next… Lifetime? There’s always another social media account misattributing quotes by well-known authors from which to take a new opinion or outlook, to assimilate into your personality with the press of a button.

I don’t make new year’s resolutions. I used to, but haven’t done so for quite a few years. I don’t make promises to myself to change based on a date or a misspelt hand-lettered fauxtivational quote posted online somewhere whose sole purpose isn’t to help you, but to gather likes and shares for its creator. If I muck something up, I know that my only viable option is to learn from the mistake, learn from the failure and get right back to it. I’m not critical, dismissive or negative about there being a ‘new you’ – indeed, there have been, and will continue to be, many ‘new mes’ in my life (but none of these is a ‘replacement’ for the person I was).

I am, however, critical, dismissive and negative about the reliance on external influences to bring about this change; that the results of any decision to change, of any change in itself, are immediate; that real, meaningful change can be continually postponed without any detrimental effect on your life, or the quality of your life, and suddenly come to pass at some point of its own accord.

Every new day, week, month or year, I’m the same person – the difference being that I have more of my own experience from which to draw, helping me to not repeat in my present that which I choose to leave in my past. It’s this experience that I hope to use to make the most of each moment of this year, and make the changes I both want and need. I finally understand how people who go to a gym regularly feel about the sudden influx of post-festivities paunches who grow tired of the treadmill after but one or two sessions because they realise how hard change is and how much of themselves they have to give in order for it to mean anything at all.

If you’re serious about change, make each moment count. Make this very moment the one at which you change something, and work at it, for it, on it, whatever – just work. Don’t stop. And do it for yourself, not because your friends are, not because your colleagues are, not because you’ve read it in a magazine. Change out of desire and necessity, not some… False obligation. And, that way, when you’re confronted with the question about what resolutions you’ll make next new year, perhaps your answer will be ‘none’, that you don’t need to make any.