Last year, on the first day of 2019, I didn’t exactly have a “new year, new me” skip in my step.
In the months leading up to January 1st, a variety of big life events had occurred. First, on the day before Thanksgiving, my dad died. I had four years’ warning that this was an inevitability, and yet, like a lifeguard pointing at a shark before its jaws clamp down on your leg, it turns out a warning doesn’t really doesn’t make much of a difference. More things happened: another tragedy, this time much less expected, then the arrival of two big pieces of good news, all of which challenged my ability to metabolize the outside world. I crossed my fingers for nothing else of note to happen.
By December 31st, I was tired. I rang in the New Year on my friend’s couch in L.A., where, at midnight, she dozed beside me as I polished off a slice of pizza and the last 15 minutes of Swingers. It was a perfect New Year’s Eve because it required exactly the amount of energy I had to give it.
Then it was January 1st, and a whole day stretched out in front of me. I hadn’t prepared (or thought at all about) a resolution, but then an idea arrived late that morning: My New Year’s resolution would be to eat Nora Ephron’s favorite hot dog. I realized instinctively that this was a perfect resolution because it solved two immediate practical problems: what I’d be doing that day and what to have for lunch. But more importantly, it was set up so that my New Year’s resolution—that particular brand of goal-setting that seems to nag, fizzle, and disappoint over the course of a month or two—would be accomplished before the end of the day.
And it was. The all-beef frank from Nate ‘n Al’s Jewish deli in Beverly Hills was grilled perfectly—so that there are little marks but no detectable char—and when its paired with sauerkraut, steak fries, complimentary pickles, and a mimosa, you have a very pleasant first lunch of the year on your hands.
I chose to make eating Nora Ephron’s favorite hot dog my New Year’s resolution for the simple reason that she’d mentioned it being her ideal last meal in the director’s commentary on You’ve Got Mail and I made a note in my phone that I’d like to try it sometime. But if I were to do a little soul searching, I think there’s a deeper reason for it too, which borrows from the familiar idea that you should break down big goals into smaller ones, both for the sake of practicality and to build up nerve and confidence along the way. Doing something Nora Ephron did was just a half-step toward doing other things she’s done that are priorities for me: being in New York (and, I guess, LA) in a more curious, thorough way; experimenting with writing in different forms. So while it may have just felt random or a little clever at the time, it does, in its way, connect to some deeper things about how I’d like to move around in the world.
This year, as 2020 has approached, I’ve thought back to January 1st, 2019, and how much happiness my New Year’s resolution gave me and how nice it felt to just get it over with in one day. Each time I’ve told someone about the idea since then, I’ve noticed the way their eyes light up, too. I think our collective joy can be attributed to the acknowledgment that, simply, New Year’s resolutions suck. They almost never last. And you are not obligated to have one, but if you wanted to participate, you could just do something fun and do it fast.
Graphics by Coco Lashar