Why Do We Make Resolutions?
12.31.14
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1. Practice French for 15 minutes every day

2. Read non-news or work-related prose for 20 minutes a day

3. Be more kind

These are my resolutions. I make them every year. In 2012, I said I’d dance more in 2013. In 2013, I said I’d learn how to cook one dish in 2014. (Between us, I over-achieved and learned two.) For next year, I’ll get better French, I’ll have a more imaginative purview and I’ll be a better person

Unless I don’t, you know, do any of those things because the thing about resolutions is that under the tinsel, the bells, the whistles and the bubbles, the popular and public year-end ritual, a conversation piece to pass by the time between Christmas and New Year’s, is just an exposed look at our goals. Our defenseless ambitions and vulnerable wishes for a better future, a rewritten narrative.

But we know this, right? We’ve been saying it for years. Resolutions are so plastic. Unused gym memberships are a physical proof of concept.

And yet, we make them.

As conversational fodder? Because we mean it? Because we take pleasure in masochistically agreeing to let ourselves down annually? Oh! Maybe resolutions are the cyclical band-aids that heal our previous year’s failures with the hope of next year’s aspiration. Or maybe we see them as a framework. One that provides a definitive deadline for the collective consciousness to activate change. Then again, though, this method of self-correcting extends rather acutely beyond December 31st.

The diet always starts Monday.

And rabbit, rabbit, it’s a new month. Align your corporate ducks.

So maybe what we’re really compelled toward is a set of clean slates but if that’s the case, we’re missing a vital ingredient in order to set these slates in motion. There is an argument* that suggests that New Year’s resolutions are the product of the self-help boom of the late ’80s and early ’90s. If this is true, the supposition is that we’re aware that the concept of self-help is one that is interminable. One that can’t be defined by a particular start or end date and might need tweaking on the 24th of July or 15th of October. If we really do wish to change, it’s not quite as straightforward as jotting down a list on the first of the month, or the week, or December 31st and marching forth.

Of course, though, with that argument comes another one. Maybe we don’t really want to change and resolutions have just become another portal through we self-brand. By saying we want to look, or act, or be better, we acknowledge, with the same fractured veracity with which we filter photos of our victories, the public perception’s involvement in our avocations. Gahndi said that we should be the change we want to see in the world, but maybe what we’re putting out, in true, millennially narcissistic fashion, is precisely what we want to see. Or maybe we’re just building our dialogues.

If Joan Didion was right and we tell ourselves stories in order to live, maybe we give ourselves resolutions in order to tell these stories. Maybe that’s life — or in the name of 2015, la vie.