Traditionally, I don’t make “new year’s resolutions.” I never have. Last year, I was a bit sanctimonious about it. Like the smug kid in your fourth grade class who shouted “humans” when asked his favorite animal, I talked about why pushing your goals onto a random date was counterproductive To me, a new year is no reason for a new you. A new you should come at any time. I still believe that.
What I failed to address at the time, though, was that it’s not so much that new year’s resolutions are because of the new year. Rather, they are caused by the new year. They are the products of looking back on your own highlight reel from the last 12 months. You see your recent story, fuller than you have before, and get to identify areas that weren’t so easily noticed as you lived them. So you resolve to change.
Looking back is almost mandatory as you round the end of the calendar. You have no choice but to reassess your life choices and experiences. Everyone tells you to. From cable news shows to your buddy who still hasn’t left your couch since Christmas, everyone wants to know how you’ll remember the year that was. Television hammers you with celebrities who died and pop culture moments while your brain hammers you with loved ones who died and personal moments. It’s everyone’s chance to remember, even if you don’t want to.
So you think about it. For the first time, you are able to put it all in perspective in one glance. Those moments that flashed by as the year progressed in real time were never put into a bigger narrative until now. They happened to you and at you as you moved on to the next pressing thing. But now, you rewind to last January, a more distant start date than usual, and piece the year together into one story – your story.
You put away guilt from some areas and pick them up from others. You gain a better understanding of what happened to you through the eyes of an observer, rather than an active participant. You disassociate. You let go and understand where you are now. All those trees that you were sprinting past are still there, but now you can actually see the forest you were trapped in at the time.
That’s where resolutions are truly born from. It’s not about arbitrarily wanting to make a change because you have to check a box and mail it to the New Years Resolutions Department at the United Nations. You do it because your yearly highlight reel is littered with times that you don’t want to repeat. The meaning of these moments were invisible when you lived them individually. As a collective, you can finally appreciate the magnitude and say, “Wow. That’s gotta change.” So that’s what you set out to do.
I have my own invisible big picture hidden behind a thousand smaller ones too. It didn’t take too long to realize that, for me, the issue has always been accepting the things I can not change. I’m good with those that I can. I even know the difference between the two. It’s letting go when people or guilt need to be let go that gives me the trouble. I’m not sure if I need serenity or wisdom or what. All I know is that, going into the new year, I can honestly look at the problems that are no longer mine to solve and finally wash my hands of them.
The truth was in my yearly story. It was my year of good intentions. I attempted to repair issues and relationships that were always beyond my control. For some, I was successful. For others, I was not. Some deserved my effort. Others did not. I did my part. Now, that which I can not change, I’m letting go.
Keep in mind, I’m not burning down bridges, throwing babies out with bathwater, or any other morbid clichés. I’m simply saying that I can finally forgive myself for those moments that remain broken despite my best efforts. I’m OK with that and can definitively say that I have no apologies to give. Anyone waiting for one will be waiting for a long time. I’ve seen my highlight reel from this year and some of it was surprising. It’s what allowed me to be content. I’ve made my peace and I’m proud of the way I handled myself. If others aren’t, that’s fine. Like I said, my hands are washed.
I’m not starting the new year off with tattered traces of the year before. I’m setting them free as that ball drops at midnight. I’ll raise my glass and say a toast to all who have come in and out of my life. The positive people, with my best interests at heart, are the ones I will think about the most.
As for the negative ones, I wish them nothing but the best. But it’s a new year and there’s no more room for them to rent real estate in my head. Pack your bags and move along. We need the space in here. There are supportive and loving memories I want to move in. Those are the ones I want to see in next year’s highlight reel.
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