December 31, 2013

Unintended Consequences of Achieving a New Year's Resolution

Last January, I set out to write something everyday. I bought a beautiful pack of Moleskin journals—one of each month, one page dedicated to each of the year’s 365 days.

The resolution was mostly to get back into the habit of daily writing, but I also had the intentions of using the daily recaps as a way to observe and reflect on my current state of affairs. With the exception of four days in June, I achieved my resolution and have a thorough record of how every single day of 2013 was spent.

Early in December, I read through every single day of the year. I read about each day that was sunny in Seattle (more than you would think), recapped each happy hour, dinner with friends, and any extra meaningful conversations. Each job interview, every awkward/semi-terrible date (the handful of goodies, too), and a daily account of a love story grace the smooth ivory pages in my messy, loopy script. Broad threads of cliché seasonal transitions knit the months together into what appear as a dozen neat chapters.

I have all of this—all of this reminiscence and nostalgia—and with only a couple of hours left in the year, all that I really want to do it rip up and throw away the notebooks.

I wish I could say I found some grand insights into myself and the direction I’ve taken/am going, but really I just have a lot of words on record that maybe weren’t meant to live on past the moment in which they occurred.

It’s the cumulative dinners, happy hours and conversations that lead to friendships. It’s the pattern of feelings (good or bad) that, over time, prompt you to act. The little moments in between that fully capture the greater meaning are the moments we tuck into memory. The ones which are easy to draw from when one of our senses is reengaged to provoke the memory.

But all of the others--the day to day highs and lows—I’m not convinced they’re designed to be remembered with such clarity.

This is the time of year when nostalgia is practically shoved down our throats. The pressure to live up to traditions of yesteryear and create monumental moments during the holiday season is incredibly high. Juxtapose that with the promise of a new start with the New Year – your chance to “press the reset button,” to swear that this year you’ll do better and challenge yourself in new ways.

The combination of nostalgia and future-forward introspection lends to making it nearly impossible to just be in the present.

Social media doesn’t help either. Facebook encourages me to “Remember the best parts of 2013” or to list the “Top things you want to remember” in my About Me section. Not unlike the goal of writing something down everyday, Facebook has successfully recorded our lives in as much detail as the day-to-day minutia.

The idea of scrolling through my seven years of Facebook records is horrifying, it seems like the ultimate exercise of narcissism and borderline self-deprecating. Yet it’s right there for all of us to mindlessly scroll through and look at our lives any time we’d like.

My pride got in the way of simply throwing away December’s notebook, I was too close not to just finish it. Instead, this month’s pages are filled with no more than 10 words per page. Many days just have a single word written on them: a mantra, a statement of gratitude. Nothing resembling a daily rundown.

The writing during the year became secondary to the recap. It instead became end of day reminder of what had already transpired that I had no way of undoing.
In 2014 I will do the opposite. I won’t live in perpetual nostalgia, nor will I live in perpetual planning. It’s going to be a day-by-day thing and it most likely won’t be documented anywhere.

Sorry, future grandkids, no juicy goodies to discover in the pages that might make up bits of my 2014.

Wishing you all a transformative and spontaneous 2014.

 think. improve.