January is over, which means that 2016 – still feeling as fresh as the untouched snow from Jonas – is one-twelfth of the way over. It also means the new years resolution crowd in my Zumba class has thinned to a more manageable number, and I’ve been thinking of the abandoned resolutions of my own.
I’ve resolved to get a 4.0, to work out 3 times a week, to paint my nails regularly, and to spend more time with the people I love. I’ve made resolutions to write more letters, eat less ice cream, and to do more things that scare me. All of these things I have resolved to do, and in all them I’ve failed.
My 4.0 was broken by a particularly tricky British Poetry class where I discovered that I loved Carol Ann Duffy but was not that great at explicating her texts. My three-times-a-week workout turned into doing sleepy morning jumping jacks while watching Netflix, then to saying “eh, what’s the point,” and climbing back into bed (probably also watching Netflix). The nail painting actually stuck for a year or two! But then my dedication, like the polish, chipped and fell away.
Why is it so easy to give up on resolutions the moment they stop to stick? Why is it simple to think that they’re made out of glass that doesn’t get scratched – but shatters? And why does it feel so natural to shrug and say, “Well! I tried!” when resolutions are broken, instead of doubling down?
Well, I noticed that this doesn’t just apply to New Year’s, but to any big sweeping declaration made in a moment of melodrama – those times when you promise that you’ll be good. I’ve done that – made a big choice while listening to a Sara Bareilles song and resolved that, from now on, I was going to be a good daughter. A good sister. A good girlfriend. A good friend to that person I’d lost track of.
Then, inevitably, weeks, months, or days pass, and I’m sassy to my mom, or impatient with my partner, or I forget to return that friend’s phone call, and I think “Well! That’s it! I’m just not good!” And fall back into bad habits. I tried. It didn’t work.
But frankly, facing failed New Years resolutions is far less scary than facing the times I’ve failed the ones I’ve loved. Because the more frightening thing is, my reactions to them feel similar. It’s easy when you forgot to respond to that friend’s text to just not respond at all. It felt natural when I let down my boyfriend to re-label myself as just someone-who-lets-people-down. This comes from a deep desire to be good, a deep frustration when I’m not, and a deep fear that no matter my intentions – I will sometimes not be the best version of myself. I will skip the gym, flub a test, and forget to write that letter.
That doesn’t mean I am that skipped trip, or that flubbed test, or that forgotten letter. Which brings me to a new choice for 2016: to not make resolutions, but to make progress. To own the times I’m not perfect to myself or to the people I love and to keep on pushing myself to focus—less on being good and more on being better. I won’t always paint my nails, or eat more kale than cookies, and I won’t always be a perfect girlfriend. But I want to keep trying – with joy, with resolve.