In resolutions, quality trumps cliche

I always wake up on New Year’s Day with a headache. Not a hangover, mind you — although there have been those — but a headache. Sometimes these were caused by vague remembrances of the night before jostling around in my brain and vying for attention with a dire need for hydration and a carbohydrate-loaded breakfast, as in the year when I partied like it was 1999, despite the fact that it was 2003. And sometimes the headache is brought on by a New Year’s Eve so boring that it would drive my grandmother to weep, such as in 2002, when my date was Dick Clark. (Can I be blamed for the hedonism of the following year?) Yet regardless of the previous night, my New Year’s Day headache is caused by the New Year’s resolutions that I make year and year again.

I always make them with the best of intentions, with the aim of bettering my life. They are often made in the heat of the moment: I promise to stop eating junk food as I eat another donut; I (ironically) swear to stop swearing so much as I launch into an unladylike epithet. They have ranged from the boring (stop biting my nails) to the inexplicable (stop wearing my hair in a ponytail all the time) to the what-proved-to-be-impossible (stop being in love with Person X). They have been commitments to do more of something instead of less (to eat more vegetables) or to do something less instead of more (cut down on brain poisoning via People Magazine). But they are always painful.

Why is there some unwritten rule that all resolutions have to be hard, and even harder to succeed at? Oh, I certainly won’t claim that everyone fails at their resolutions. I’m willing to say that I stopped biting my nails due to my willpower and not due to the fact that “Coffee Bean” nail polish just didn’t look so good on my eighth-grade hands after they had been mauled by my teeth. I’m willing to hope that all those people who are breaking in their brand-new memberships at Bally’s and Jack LaLanne this month will stick to it. I’m even willing to admit that I’m no exception to the rule. But the rule does exist.

What if we decided to make creative, inspiring resolutions? What if we just agreed to make fun ones? I’m not saying that we should resolve to eat any cookie that passes our lunch trays or to slack off on work and just indulge in a life of sloth, with time marked only by the changing television series. (Death from brain atrophy or arteriosclerosis is never pretty, and definitely not at an early age.) But what if we simply resolved to make this a year of doing pleasurable things?

I’m pretty sure that I could manage to get together with a friend who makes me laugh a lot at least once a week. Or that I could find a way to eat something that I really liked somewhere within my daily diet. And that I won’t feel guilty when I trash e-mail chains. Oh, and the guy I don’t really like but find myself stuck next to at parties and talk to out of guilt — excuse me, my cup needs refilling, so someone else can take on his insipid small talk as her Good Samaritan case.

And you just might find that the things that make you happy also make others happy. Take the friend who makes you laugh. You probably make him laugh, too. When you’re making those cookies you love, add another batch for your roommate (unless she’s resolved to “eat no junk food in 2006.” In that case, good luck to her!). Spend the time you saved from forwarding an e-mail to your 35 closest friends by writing a really good message to just one of them. If our resolutions weren’t painful and unpleasant, then we’d all have a fair shot at fulfilling them.

Case in point: My father resolved to “watch what he eats” this year. Since my dad is an athletic guy who likes his meat and potatoes as much as his daily game of basketball, I was surprised at this seemingly austere declaration. When I called my parents yesterday, my father commented that he was eating Cheez Whiz and Ritz Crackers. Now, that meal has one too many Zs in it to qualify as real food and not food product, and I remarked how this couldn’t possibly fit in with his resolution. His response? “What are you talking about? I said that I would watch what I eat, and I’m watching every bite as I put it in my mouth. Mmm.”

Mmm indeed. Happy New Year to everyone.



Kristen Chartier GRD ’04 received her M.A. in history.

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