I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions. For the past several years, I have failed to maintain a consistent workout schedule, to cut down on desserts, to read for pleasure during the school year or to eat vegetables and fish to get my essential vitamins and proteins.
But this year, I believe in myself. I’ve recently made it my retroactive resolution: I’m going to touch my toes.
It’s a practical goal, really. It takes a little bit of work, or maybe a lot for me, but you can feel your progress as you go and touching your toes is a meaningful end goal for me. Sure, it’s not sexy — I don’t think — and it’s not going to get my name in the newspaper—unless…—but it’s a meaningful benchmark. Everyone always tries to tell you to reach for the stars, but I prefer to aim for the ground. It seems a little more achievable.
I’ve realized the folly — the foolhardiness really — of tying myself to the commitment of going to the gym every day or denying myself the privilege of indulging in that delectable Ashley’s cookie dough, fudge and vanilla ice cream cake at a birthday party. These resolutions of abstinence only cause pain. Toe touching is merely uncomfortable. I’m all in on baby steps—nay, baby reaches. It’s a few minutes of uncomfortably reaching in various directions as a Youtube guru tells me I can do it. At the rate I’m progressing, the middle man will be cut out pretty soon.
Now I know that you, my condescending reader, are probably thinking to yourself: “I can touch my toes. Most people, most children, heck, everyone can touch their toes. Why is this an issue?”
Well, I thought you’d never ask. I’ve always believed I’m fighting genetics when it comes to flexibility. Neither my parents nor my brothers can touch their toes. And maybe because of that, I’ve never really believed in the idea of actually trying to become flexible. It seemed like a lost cause, and until recently, it was.
But more important than the reasons for why I haven’t been able to do it is my villain origin story and the horrors I endured that steeled my resolve. If you remember the Presidential Fitness Test, you’re likely familiar with the concept of the “Sit and Reach.” If you’re not, look it up.
While my peers all leaned forward and dropped their hands at the 10-, 15- or 20-inch marks, I couldn’t make it to the start of the measurements. Many moments of humiliation stemmed from that Fitness Test (being unable to do a pull-up, slow on sit-ups, etc.), but missing the bare minimum on the sit-and-reach always cut a little bit deeper.
While I want to redeem myself for those failures, I do believe that there is something a little bit deeper to this than a godforsaken feat of flexibility. Big goals are awesome. I tried to set a half-hour social media screen time limit last semester, but once I passed that hard cutoff, thereby making the day a failed attempt, I figured I might as well get some bang for my buck, and I stayed on for well over my previous average. By comparison, the growth-oriented, novel, continuous and aspirational goal of becoming flexible enough to touch my toes allows for no failure. There is only progress.
Perhaps this exuberance and confidence is both misplaced and premature. I’ve been burned before. I’ve made it through previous Januaries eating vegetables and dragging myself to the gym before failing on Feb. 1. But the energy seems different this time. My goal — as well as my toes — feels nearly within reach, and I am eager about the process, rather than reluctantly wading through it to reach a desirable outcome.
By no means am I trying to oppose the practice of setting lofty goals. Aiming for the moon is tempting, especially when they tell you that if you miss, you’ll still end up in the stars. But the reality is that you never get the moon or the stars, because all you do is reach up and get your hand about seven-and-a-half feet off the ground. The bar is literally on the floor. I know I’ll make it one day.