Red pencil on desk.

This Year, I’ve Resolved to Do Very Little

Happy New Year! Wait, it’s January 12th? Darn it—I was going to start exercising.

New Year is one of my favorite things I pretend doesn’t exist. Like Tolstoy books, Donald Trump in 2015, and my co-workers, acknowledging the fact that the rest of the world is composed of people who go out and do things only gets in the way of me going to bed by 11. I need limited distractions in order to blithely exist.

However, it’s hard not to get caught up in the recurrent promise of painfully slow-changing calendar digits (we added 1 and 2,015 together!). There’s something thrilling about the possibility of reinventing yourself by addressing your few, rare, adorable flaws. Perhaps it’s a kind of primitive revolt against the slumbering winter world (recently: 70 degrees in Michigan) that prompts us to address our weaknesses that are really strengths in job interviews. Maybe it’s the inevitable sadness that accompanies the loss of Christmas lights shining in our faces for three months straight that spurs us to try to improve upon our acting better than everyone else. Whatever the reasons, we should stop.

I mean, it’s well-known that most New Year’s resolutions fail. If you find yourself regularly falling short of your private promises to your brain, ask yourself this: have you made your resolutions specific, achievable, and public? Well, that’s your problem. Try making them vague, hopeless, and psychologically suppressed. That way, you can convince the part of your brain that’s starting to admit the presence of Donald Trump that you really accomplished something, while convincing the other part of your brain that causes you to hide in your office that you don’t really need to accomplish anything. You’ll have bolstered your delusions and reinforced your shortcomings, which is way better than shooting off and trying something weird.

It’s important to set goals, I realize. But it’s also important to think of them as goals, and therefore not meant to be reached. If you do this, you can happily disregard all of your past failures and pretend like this time it’ll be different—the veritable key to happiness. I should know, because I’ve done this repeatedly. Let’s examine some of my past failed resolutions:

  1. Become a hipster. I actually did this before hipsterism was a thing. I grew a beard, became an aficionado of bluegrass, and wore ugly sweaters all the time. However, I did this all unironically, which is the one absolutely necessary ingredient for being cool. Also, I used to dress like a lumberjack, but I did that ironically, and lumberjacks do not think irony is cool.
  2. Cut out all carbonated beverages. Actually, I succeeded in this, at least until I learned that beer was carbonated. I guess I thought the bubbles were pockets of alcohol. Anyway, it was a nice five hours that I have trouble remembering now.
  3. Have a child. Again, a failure. We had two come at the same time. Oh, man, that was a rough January.
  4. Read War and Peace. I managed to get through the first book of this monstrosity. Note to self: any book that is composed of multiple books is not a book. It is an encyclopedia. In this case, a translated encyclopedia of Russian social mores and military practices at the turn of the nineteenth century, which is not an encyclopedia. It’s a foreign historical encyclopedia.
  5. Prepare to run a 5k. Granted, this was not a particularly ambitious goal; I had no interest in actually running in fear with groups of other sweaty people. I simply wanted to be capable of running a 5k—kind of like wanting to have enough money to buy an elephant. No, I don’t want an elephant. I want enough money so that I could buy one if I decided to, and then instead buy a Ferrari. Anyway, I faithfully began training in January, tracking my progress with an app (ShameFit), made it all the way into February, then screwed up my knee helping push a stranger’s car out of the snow. Eventually the knee healed, but it was like a message from God saying: that’s what you get for grudgingly helping someone, dummy.

With this kind of life experience, you’ll understand why I don’t recommend making any resolutions. If you fail, you’ll feel bad. If you succeed, then it’s just part of your life. If you do nothing, you will feel okay. And that’s what we should all be striving for: not screwing anything up. If you do that, you’re a success.

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