I found my New Year’s resolution not at 12 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, but rather at around 6 p.m. on New Year’s Day. I was back in New Jersey with my two closest friends at the time, in a final goodbye hangout before we all reconvened in the summer. Both were leaving for school the morning of Jan. 2, one to New York and the other to Montreal. It was spontaneous, so naturally, we had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. We decided to make the cold and windblown trek to the cast-iron tables near Lillipies Bakery in the Princeton Shopping Center, where we sat under the glow of one of the closed storefronts and started talking about the new year.
Our conversation was laced with the pre-semester anxiety and excitement that probably will always accompany going back to school, but also with old memories from high school: our best years, our worst years and, perhaps most importantly, our resolutions and expectations for the new year. When my friends turned to me for that last one, I realized I hadn’t actually made a New Year’s resolution. There were vague ideas in the back of my head, thoughts swimming underneath the surface of all the other things I was thinking about at the time, but when they actually asked me, I wasn’t sure.
For context, I never used to take New Year’s resolutions seriously. They always seemed arbitrary to me — what was the point of a New Year’s resolution when, technically, you could make resolutions for any day of any year and choose your own time limit for them? At least, that’s what I told myself. The real reason was probably my success (or lack thereof). My history of New Year’s resolutions was not a particularly fruitful one. I had many ambitions but would transgress by January 5 or so and fall back into my own bad habits: rarely going to the gym, buying more books than can fit on my shelves, writing perpetually unfinished stories. I’ve vowed to do lots of things on Dec. 31, most of which I don’t remember given their painfully short lifespans.
This isn’t to say I didn’t care about my past resolutions, but that after one or two inevitable transgressions, I’d give up on the goal entirely. I’d worry about my habits but simultaneously convince myself I wasn’t able to fix them that year since I’d already made a mistake.
So when I sat under the glowing yellow lights of Lillipies Bakery on the evening of New Year’s Day, I tried something different. I could’ve vowed to socialize more or finally finish a short story longer than five pages. But instead, I told myself to do the opposite — to stop worrying about it. To calm down if I didn’t go to the gym one day, relax about writer’s block and avoid buying too many books, but if I did, to enjoy them anyway. Of course, there were a few more layers to my resolution than these concrete self-improvement plans, but the bottom line was simple: to leave myself alone.
I genuinely do not believe I will fare well with this resolution. There will (and already have been) moments where I will fall into similar patterns of worry about not doing something, or doing something too much or doing something just a little when I should be doing it more. I have already neglected going to the gym for several days in a row, have already worried about my health as a result and, yes, will probably do so again. This one’s a hard one, and I can’t promise myself I’ll succeed.
But I can promise to calm down if I don’t.
Lana Swindle is a freshman from Princeton, N.J. majoring in Writing Seminars. Her column views her everyday experiences from a different perspective. She is a Copy Editor for The News-Letter.