First of all, congratulations. If you're reading this, you made it to 2021, and after the year we just left behind, that alone seems like an accomplishment. Well done.
However, leaving one year behind means we find ourselves on New Year's Day, and if you're like many people, you've already prepared a list of New Year's Resolutions. We all know how this works: we take a good long look at our lives; reflect on where we've been and where we want to be; perhaps remember how old we are, and recognize that another year's passing means we have that much less time than we did at this point last year; and, when all that is done, we begin to catalog the various things we don't like about ourselves, and then resolve to fix them.
I am not immune to this. Every year at this time I set my own mini-goals for the time ahead. This process gets easier as I age, because most of the goals I set in previous years might as well be goals this year, too, since I did nothing to accomplish any of them in the previous 12 months. And there are always new and perfectly legitimate things I hope to achieve. For instance, as a public school teacher in a district with a significant Hispanic population, I would very much like to learn Spanish. My high school only taught French (et non, je ne suis pas tres doue pour ca non plus, merci beaucoup), which has not come in quite as handy as one might expect here in rural Wisconsin. I am bothered that I can't speak with all of my students as well as I might (and, I confess, sometimes wondering if words being spoken are critiques of my instruction).
But there is also an inherent danger in New Year's Resolutions. First, they force us to tally the negatives. New Year's Resolutions often come from a "glass-half-empty" mentality; we approach them with the mindset that something in our life is lacking. After all, it makes no sense to create a goal to fix something if there is no deficiency to be corrected in the first place.
Mostly, though, they come in far too large a quantity. It's perfectly acceptable to say things like, "This year I'd like to begin learning Spanish," or "Let's make this a year I drop a pants size," and so on. But what we often tend to do is use today as the first day in which we plan to totally remake our entire existence. We're going to learn Spanish and drop a pants size and get a gym membership and meditate and be a better correspondent and watch less TV and, and, and . . .
So this year, I'm offering the same encouragement to you that I have tried to learn myself, and that is simply: You ain't so bad. If New Year's Resolutions are your thing, then that's OK, but maybe pick one of them instead of a dozen or more. If you accomplish that one, you can always add a new one in April (just maybe not on April 1, when you'll just be fooling yourself). Give yourself a little grace. You made it this far. You have people in your life that love you, or at the very least like you a lot. And chances are, you're your own worst critic.
If you insist on the big long list of resolutions, then I heartily recommend that for every one you make, you also list one thing about yourself you already consider a positive. That way, you can approach the exercise from both a "glass-half-empty" and a "glass-half-full" mentality. It can also be important to remember that every glass can be emptied, and every glass can be refilled; almost no situation in our lives is permanent if we don't wish it to be.
So Happy New Year and here we go with 2021. Whether you make resolutions or don't, thanks for taking the time to hang out long enough to read this, and allow me to say that I like you, just as you are.