My social media timelines and podcast commercial breaks have all been bursting with ads hocking products to help me reinvent myself in the coming year. They’re trying to inspire me to “improve” myself or “start fresh.” The ads cover anything from weight loss to fitness to business development to general daily motivation to be hella productive. Because New Year’s resolutions!
LOL, not this year, Satan.
Sure, I did put on some weight, and I am pretty annoyed that 3/4ths of the clothes in my closet don’t fit, but you better believe I’m not pressuring myself to lose that weight in dramatic, goal-oriented fashion. My freelance work slowed down too, and with it my productivity, but I have no plans to dive headfirst into “reinvigorating my career,” either. I’ve put in a considerable amount of effort this year not to collapse in a heap of despair, and I have no plans to adjust this level of effort.
Can we maybe cool it on the “New Year, New You” stuff going into 2021? In fact, can we just throw it all in the garbage and light it on fire along with the rest of this godforsaken year? I’m all set with my current level of just-barely-scraping-along, thanks, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that.
2021 does not need to be the year for reinventing ourselves. It’s not the time to pressure yourself to suddenly start working out six days per week or begin a strict juicing regimen or commit to a minimalist lifestyle or swear you’ll clean every day.
We’ve made it through COVID, civil unrest, and one of the most tumultuous election years we’ve ever seen. Many of us have lost loved ones or jobs. Our kids may be struggling with distance learning, stuck at college, or unable to find work. We’re still covering our faces every time we go out in public. Many in marginalized groups are enduring ongoing trauma from processing the civil unrest that erupted across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Many of us campaigned our butts off trying to get progressive candidates into political office. We are exhausted on so many, many levels. Now is not the time for a fucking diet.
And that’s all besides the fact that, even in a normal year, people don’t generally keep their New Year’s resolutions. By February, people who were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about their lofty resolutions have sunk into an abyss of failure and self-flagellation. Can we just maybe skip all of that this year?
To be fair, if you’re truly excited about a new exercise program or reorganizing your house or starting an ambitious new business venture, go for it. Shoot for the moon! Who is anyone to tell you not to chase your ambitions? But that’s the thing — it’s your dream, something you actually want to do and not an obligatory plan set up because the concept of “New Year, New Year” compelled you to buy in. No one should feel pressured to cave in to making a resolution in any year, but we’re all especially exempt going into 2021.
2020 was a year when so many sacrificed dollars so they could stay home and avoid potentially spreading this horrible virus. When many others kept going to work anyway because they didn’t have a choice, but they wore masks for 12 or more hours per day, suffering through the discomfort because they knew it was the right thing to do to protect their fellow community members. When we struggled alongside our kids to maintain a modicum of mental health despite losing our usual social support systems. When we marched in streets and wrote our senators and knocked on doors (while wearing masks). When we said goodbye to loved ones via Facetime or Zoom. When we homeschooled multiple kids on an iffy WiFi connection while working full-time. Our kids’ lost their extracurricular activities. We gave up vacations, concerts, weddings, sporting events. We miss our grandparents.
We have given up so much this year. And so now is not the time to pressure yourself to somehow be more or better.
I propose we make 2021 a year for recovering and deep breathing. Instead of ringing in 2021 with a bunch of resolutions we probably wouldn’t keep anyway, let’s ring it in with kindness — kindness to ourselves, and kindness to those around us with whom we have shared so many struggles. We don’t have to go into the coming year with a bang as if shot out of a rocket, ready to achieve. After the year we’ve had, it’s perfectly acceptable to trudge slowly into 2021 with fuzzy slippers, unkempt hair, 15 extra pounds, and a giant mug of hot chocolate.
There will be time to goal-set and achieve. Hopefully, with multiple vaccines on the way, and with Trump exiting the White House, we are nearing the end of some of this awfulness and can begin to start making plans for the future with some confidence that our plans have a reasonable expectation of actually coming to fruition.
But, for now, for this New Year, let’s throw out all the pressure that normally comes with the first of January. Instead, let’s all resolve to take a deep, cleansing breath.