I’ve always loved New Year’s resolutions — like many Yale students, I’m nothing if not goal-oriented. The feeling of a fresh start, an opportunity to explicitly state your hopes, your goals and a natural juncture to reset has always excited me. And invariably my resolutions are the same.
Sometimes, I’ll throw in an utterly random one (in 2009, I decided to stop using a bookmark), more for entertainment or as a test of will power than for any profound self-improvement reasons. But for the most part, each January sees me and many others making the same promises. We’ll go the gym, we say (I went to Payne Whitney on Monday and have quite literally never seen more people there). We’ll be kinder to ourselves and choose to sleep at a sane hour, we say. We’ll call our mothers more often.
Moreover, many people at Yale make resolutions governing their academic hopes. We buy the new glossy planner; we budget in time to work ahead on assignments; we meet frenetically with professors and make spreadsheets for summer jobs.
But one resolution that I don’t think I’ve ever made is to be more spontaneous. In essence, to resolve to do less, because that kind of resolution is almost inherently contradictory. You can’t structure spontaneity. But in practice, it just means we need to leave time in our lives that’s unplanned and unscheduled.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: In many ways, I think we find it easier, and certainly more comforting, to micromanage every moment of our time. We fill our days in ways that are productive, educational, exhausting, frustrating — any range of emotions, truly. But without a doubt we consciously fill our time. And I’ve found myself on many an occasion having to actively schedule time in my calendar for meals or coffee with friends. Without such planning, I could go weeks without seeing them.
As I start my last semester at Yale (cue nostalgia), I’m resolving to turn my back on this reliance on organization. With all of my distributional and major requirements other than my thesis completed, this semester is a golden opportunity. And while 2014 and 2013 Victoria would have seen it as a golden opportunity to cram my schedule with the five most “important” Yale classes, or to embark on a new slew of extracurriculars or throw myself into a job hunt, I’m trying to resist all of those temptations.
2015 Victoria will have a weekly schedule that is full of immense, terrifying voids. And those voids could either be filled by hours of Netflix, or they could be filled by adventures that not even the most meticulous planner could foresee. Maybe I’ll finally make it to East Rock, or to the Pantry. Or maybe I’ll take to day drinking at Rudy’s with similarly unencumbered friends. But most likely, if I let myself warm to the possibility of embracing spontaneous outcomes, they’ll be filled with unknown excursions.
Maybe it’s that I’m getting old and wistful, but something tells me I won’t graduate from Yale seriously regretting not taking yet another seminar on income inequality. But I’ll definitely regret closing myself off to basking in the last fleeting moments I have with the people around me. We only get to be here for so much longer, and sometimes I feel that my life has been so choreographed that I haven’t left any room for unexpected additions.
On nights when I could realistically have curled up on a couch and watched a movie with my suitemates, we all kept our noses to the ground in Bass. And some of that (probably a lot of that, to be real) will always be necessary. But with four months on the clock, I think my priorities have to be a little different — a healthy sleep cycle can, and should, occasionally be subordinated to a night of whimsy.
And so this year, I resolve (in print, so that everyone needs to hold me to it) to leave room for anything that comes my way. Structure, anxiety and duties will be here forever. But for now, I’m seeing every open space in my Gcal as an opportunity for the taking.
Victoria Hall-Palerm is a senior in Berkeley College. Her column runs on Wednesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.