I learned how to live in the in-between. Between overwhelming student career goals and bohemian madness, between an oasis of friends and isolation that pulled from within, between frustration and aspiration; my life in chameleon technicolor – always choosing, never deciding.
But this New Year’s, I was going to get it together. I was going to make up my mind. After all, I was in college now and isn’t that the place where you find who you are? Discover yourself, I said. Find the person you want to be. Find what you love and let it kill you.
Unfortunately, Charles Bukowski is easier quoted than done, especially when it comes to an abstract New Year’s resolution. There were a million other resolutions I could experiment with, such as losing that extra bit of myself around the middle that I never liked, dusting off the forgotten keys of my old electronic keyboard or the notebook of fantasy novel ideas I collected like butterfly wings pressed between pages. Why give myself a year to do what most people couldn’t manage in a lifetime?
Because that’s how we are as people. We like to throw ourselves into the deep end. There’s too much safety in learning how to swim. Maybe that explains my fear of the water.
I tried everything on like I was at the mall, putting together an ensemble from piles of polyester promises and racks of denim dreams only to find that everything fell apart after a few washes, or worse, lay untouched at the back of my life’s closet. Sometimes New Year’s resolutions are like fast fashion: they push you to want everything, to take everything, only to leave you exhausted. An overflowing wardrobe, but nothing that fits.
When summer came, it was time to evaluate my progress. How do you measure the process of becoming? I was tired of becoming. Becoming what? I didn’t know. I didn’t want to become anymore. I wanted to be.
And that’s how I abandoned my grand quest of discovering who I was, because that’s the problem with New Year’s resolutions. They’re another chimaera we chase across the sky, another ideal to push ourselves mindlessly towards. We’re always on the move – seeking, wanting, never finding, because we don’t know what we want. We clip the wings of our desires with deadlines, because we’re afraid how far they can fly if only we give them time.
My New Year’s resolution remains a dancing flicker on the edge of the sea. But it’s a beautiful road to that horizon, and I’ll be damned if I don’t take in every view along the way.
Photos by Vittoriano Rastelli/CORBIS/Corbis and Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images; collage by Emily Zirimis.