Last weekend I sat down at my laptop and began writing my New Years Resolutions for 2017. Yes, I'm well-aware that it's November. But, unlike most people I am already deep into preparation for the absolute best days of the year.
Before talking about my resolutions specifically, let me explain why New Years is the happiest, most positive holiday. That's right, screw you, Christmas.
First of all, there's no traditional requirement for who you should spend the holiday with. Spend it with the people that make you the happiest. I'm not super close with much of my family, so I revel in any day that I can pull together my collection of friends and show them my appreciation for all the good they do for my life. There isn't a necessity to buy each other gifts or create elaborate meals so you can focus on being together and enjoying each other's company. I believe happiness is impossible on your own and highly improbable without a finely-honed group of close friends.
New Years is also ideal for creating your own traditions. For example, I always host a party with my friends. Recently, I've begun writing Murder Mystery Dinners. Yeah, we go full-out Clue on our New Years. (Quick sidenote: one of my favorite moments of last year was hearing two of my friends screaming at each other shortly after the Murder Mystery started. I rushed upstairs to find them fighting in character. As I writer, this was heaven.) I mean, why have a party to die for when you can have a party to die at, amiright?
Another tradition I have is to choose a new font for the new year. This one sounds weird but just hear me out. I write a ton and organization is crucial for me. So, when a new year rolls around, I begin writing all my new work in the font for that year. Not only does this give all my new work a fresh energy, it keeps my older work subtly dated. I can look at an old poem and say, "Well, that's in Garamond, so I wrote that in 2012". It gives my words a distinct shape, formed by the year they were built within.
That all being said, we all know that some tradition surrounds this holiday. The ball drops at midnight. Champagne fills glasses. Scotch is shared. Pork, black-eyed peas, grapes and citrus fruits are eaten. These can absolutely be part of your celebration as well.
Personally, we always make pork and sauerkraut on New Years morning. This is a German assurance of good luck plus is just tastes so freakin' good... It's also a great time to make mimosas from the left over champagne from the night before. But, probably the best part of the traditional celebrations are the midnight toasts. We will toast the year that is ending and the one that is beginning. We raise glasses and inhabit the classic joy represented by the effervescent bubbles, rising to the surface.
"Sure", you, the disembodied-voice-of-my-imaginary-reader, might be saying. "But why the hell do you write your resolutions in November?" Well, the writing of my resolutions are always a complex ritual, one I look forward to all year.
I begin by writing my resolutions in November because this gives me about a month and a half to practice and refine them before the big day comes. This may sound like overkill, but my resolutions aren't "lose weight" or "sleep more". Honestly, those resolutions won't work. They aren't specific. There is too much room for failure. There are zillions of articles on how to create "good" resolutions and you know I've read them all. So, here are my three steps to writing a successful list of resolutions:
1. Start with a one sentence description of yourself. For example, last year mine was, "I will be a healthy, food-loving writer that keeps his life organized and worthwhile". This gives me the most concentrated list of areas for me to focus on.
2. Take each of those descriptive terms and break them down into specific resolutions. So, for my "organized" portion, I came up with three resolutions to accomplish this goal. Remember, these should be specific. Mine were "Empty your inbox every quarter", "Update Budget spreadsheet each month", and "Use Google as your digital work space". So, this kept my email easy-to-read and my weak points in my finances showcased. Moving over to all Google Docs and Sheets was a hard change, but the ease of using my Chromebook for everything has taken off a ton of stress. So, just do this for each portion of your description sentence and you'll have a list of resolutions. I started 2016 with nineteen resolutions.
3. This is probably the most important portion: Check-In Days. If you don't return to your resolutions, they will fall through before March. Because I had nineteen resolutions, I decided I'd check-in on the 19th of each month. I went through all my resolutions and gave myself a pass or fail depending on how I did that month. This let me know what I needed to do in the upcoming month to get back on track. I also did quarterly check-ins to look at my resolutions as a whole and tweak them. If I had a resolution that was repeatedly falling through and/or too difficult to accomplish/no longer applicable I could change it on the quarterly check-in. For example, when I moved from Philadelphia to Columbus, my resolution on "taking three hour-long walks each week" wasn't as feasible. Because I changed to driving instead of walking to work, I needed to adjust and the quarterly check-in facilitated that.
Everyone's resolutions should be different. This is what works for me, but if you need to change part of this to make your resolutions last, go for it!
When most people think of New Years, they think of chugging champagne, embarrassed hookups after desperately searching for a midnight kiss, and the inevitable disappointment of broken resolutions. But, for me, it is a celebration of life.
The year that is ending is filled with experiences that built you and broke you down. Making it to New Years means you survived another year, through break-ups, new jobs, loss, and discoveries. And, the moment that the new morning comes and the old calendars come down, you can propose brand new habits and hope to make your life richer and more worthwhile. But, the perfect moment, the real celebration, falls between the two. Among the tinkling of glass and fizz of champagne and the unified voices of those you love counting down to the three, two, one, Happy New Year, you raise a glass to yourself. There, you are both the You-of-last-year and the You-of-next-year. You're a being that is both built from the past and bursting into the future. You're everything you've been and anything you could be. Raise your glass and celebrate yourself. Hear the clock chiming and know you are alive and there is so much life left for you.