In which I check the New Year mindset
Folks, we made it. Happy New Year to all! (And to all a good night—we could probably use some rest and recuperation from our dusk-’til-dawn festivities.)
While the Gregorian calendar puts me at odds with these ‘decade’ reviews—the timeline propagated by much of the West dictates that each decade begin on the ‘1’ year, not the ‘0,’ but who’s counting—I do believe there is every reason to assess the attitudes we’ve carried with us up to now and consider altering them as needed for a more fulfilling future.
A talented writer/teacher friend of mine recently gave me an exercise to kickstart this assessment. Compose a list of advice or wisdom for your one-year-in-the-future self: the number of items on the list amounts to your age plus one. The idea is to develop an appreciation for the life experience you’ve gained thus far and to pick and choose how it will benefit you in the next year. It’s a twist on the old write-a-letter-to-your-past-self routine in that it equips you with a positive frame of mind for what’s to come.
To that end, I present my list. In fairness, my 2019 saw some tremendous existential changes, from the place where I live down to the minutiae of my daily routine. Others’ lives may not have been so upended. Still, I like to think some of these have universal application. And I invite you to create your own—a year from now, you might thank yourself!
- Ask for what you need. What use are you to anyone, yourself included, if you don’t have the goods (physical/emotional/spiritual/whatever) to be your best self?
- Ask for what you want. Let someone else say no—it won’t be the end of the world, and it’s depressing to deny yourself prematurely. You’d be surprised how willing people are to help you if you (kindly) volunteer your desire.
- That thing you did last year when you loved someone and told them? Do it again! I recommend everyone do this at least once in their lives; it puts things in perspective.
- Don’t worry about everything being neat and in order. Nothing is. There are two types of people in the world: those who acknowledge that life is chaos and that they don’t have things under control the way they’d like, and those who pretend otherwise to everyone’s detriment.
- You have no reason to be jealous of anyone, but it’s okay if you are sometimes. Just do everything in your power not to let it hinder you. When it prevents you from becoming what you want to become or from allowing people into your heart, that’s when it’s a problem.
- If you keep dancing, you’ll probably never have to stop. I mean in a bodily sense. I love to dance, especially ballet, and staying consistent in my practice now increases my chances of being able to do it for a good chunk of my life. The same goes for running. (Although I have flirted with the dangers of overextension, so I would also say know your limits.)
- Get more sleep. You’ve earned it, and you’ll need it. As someone whose brain is constantly stimulated, I’m trying to go to bed a little earlier these nights. It feels so good when I do, both in the moment and in the morning.
- It is almost impossible to truly accept a compliment. Keyword: almost. Don’t stop trying. Recognize yourself for your strengths, and be grateful (not self-deprecating) when others recognize you.
- One of the best words (in English) is ‘fuck.’ I’m serious. What other word is so versatile? It’s a verb, a noun, an interjection; it’s got an adjective form; it can be inserted into any adverb; it’s still surrounded by enough taboo that it wields power; it’s a lot of fun. Like most things, though, it loses its potency if you overindulge, so don’t be gratuitous.
- Amazing things have been achieved by people who believed they had nothing left to lose. Companies founded, books published, songs written…if you feel you’re reaching the bottom of your proverbial barrel, that’s precisely when greatness is poised to strike.
- Don’t look down on someone for their job. That retail worker is likely just as smart as you, or smarter, and simply has yet to hit their big break.
- You will do things that your parents didn’t, or that they wouldn’t approve of. It’s your life. This isn’t to say that it won’t blow up in your face. And if you ask advice only to disregard it, that’s at your own risk. But some things you’ve got to learn yourself.
- It’s okay to like things and to be impressed by them.
- It’s okay not to like things and not to be impressed by them.
- Some of life’s troubles you have to put up with, and some you don’t. Work on telling them apart.
- Your “best” will vary from day to day, and you will not always “do” it. In fact, you will not even try your best all the time; some days you just can’t be bothered. Take stock of yourself, but forgive yourself.
- They’re too anxious about being judged to spend time judging you. After all, haven’t you felt the same way on occasions when you might have had the opportunity to judge them?
- Just because something bad happened last time doesn’t mean something good won’t happen this time.
- You may feel even more empowered if you learn to cook. This isn’t a feminist thing for me, it’s a fear thing. But the only way to lessen the fear is to give it a go.
- You can tell someone when they’ve hurt you.
- You can tell someone when you are afraid.
- No one is ever “enough” for themselves, including—perhaps especially—those who are widely called successful. How many luminaries of history were at war with inner demons, either in or out of the public eye? How many people have been driven to “succeed” wildly if only to drown out a nagging sense of inadequacy? You’re not alone.
- People—that means you too—will not always put the required effort into friendships. Some of them will last anyway, and some will not. Try to be understanding.
- You are only improving.
May 2020 bring us health, happiness, and hope, and may it be just as good in hindsight. (And this from someone who can barely see as it is!)