5 New Year’s Resolutions That Intentionally Accomplish Nothing

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think we can all agree that 2020 has been a year. It had months and weeks and endless days and, though it didn’t seem like we’d ever make it this far, it’s about to end. Misplaced optimism about the upcoming year is a ritual that runs deep — like decorating Christmas trees and gathering with friends and family for holiday dinners. Setting New Year’s resolutions is woven into the fabric of American life.

Of course, this year we couldn’t easily gather and there was a Christmas tree shortage, so we had to make due with some alternatives. My family scored a tree, but only after we spent a couple of hours wandering the ravaged fields of our local tree farm — a place we’ve visited every December since 2016. The farm had been picked clean, so we left empty-gloved, and ended up paying too much for a spindly tree that managed to hang on to most of its needles until Christmas Day.

My point is that we maintained the echo of our traditions right up until the end of the year and now that we’re almost across the finish line of 2020, the urge is strong (at least for me) to hit reset. Traditionally, that means declaring my intentions for the upcoming year in the form of resolutions that will hopefully make me happier and more successful in the coming months.

But, let’s be honest here. Setting resolutions for the future while a pandemic continues to rage, our hoped-for safety nets crumble, and small businesses fold, is fucking absurd. Hasn’t 2020 been punishment enough? In any case, I stopped setting resolutions a long time ago.

In 2016, when my daughter’s cancer was in its final stages, I dispensed with setting New Year’s resolutions. At least, the ones that had actual goals and outcomes tied to them. I simply wanted to spend every minute with her and that meant I had to let go of all my expectations for what a new year would bring. She had no future in 2017. My own future without her was one I dreaded.

As I envision the year that follows 2020, I’m feeling some of the same existential dread. We haven’t even hit the worst of what this virus can dish out, with the projections for January classified as “nightmarish.” With this in mind, I’m going to set a few resolutions that 1) I’m not worried about keeping and 2) are not aspirational or remotely ambitious 3) aren’t tied to time limits or pesky goals.

Who’s with me?

#1) I’m going to read between 1 and 70 books.

I realize that reading between 1 and 70 books is a large differential. It implies that I’ll either be reading constantly or never. My point is that I intend to read, but also that I don’t plan to to hold myself accountable to reading anything at all. Now, having said that, I’m reasonably confident that reading will be on my 2021 agenda because I recently renewed my library card and I get a kick out of sending library books to my Kindle. Also, reading almost always leads to napping and taking more naps is definitely something I can commit to doing more of next year.

#2) I’m not going to watch “Emily in Paris”

Back in March, I binge-watched The Tiger King on Netflix just like millions of other homebound people. I’m only human, after all. I recently finished watching The Queen’s Gambit which was extraordinary (and world’s above The Tiger King as far as TV goes). In between the two shows, I’ve binged several other series including the entirety of Star Trek Voyager which, at seven seasons long with roughly 26 episodes per season, is absolutely endless. But it’s starting to feel like Netflix is manipulating me into staying on my couch. I’m tired of watching TV and I’m really tired of watching bad TV. I’ve seen the buzz around the Netflix series, Emily in Paris and I’m putting my foot down. I’ll read a book (nap) instead. I reserve the right to change my mind though, so if I end up publishing a review of Emily in Paris please don’t hold it against me.

#3) Birds

That’s right — this resolution is simply the word “birds.” It’s cryptic and yet intriguing. What could she mean by saying one of her 2021 intentions is simply…birds? I want more birds next year. I want to feed them more, watch them more, photograph them more, and cross off more “lifers” from my list. (A “lifer” is a bird, like a peregrine falcon, that a birder hopes to see in their lifetime). I intend to embrace all the nuanced obsessiveness of the most dedicated birder — but I’ll do it in my own way, which means I’ll probably just take more walks and post lots of bird photos starting in March with spring migration.

#4) I’m going to write a novel

This sounds like an actual resolution with an accomplishment tied to it. How did that get in there? I want to write another novel and, to this end, I’ve already begun the process of doing research to help with inspiration, premise development, and plot. I doubt I’ll have a completed novel by the end of 2021. Instead, what I hope to have is more knowledge and information that will help the book begin to take shape. So, this isn’t so much a resolution to write a novel as it is a statement of intent to seriously begin thinking about and planning the process of writing a book. How’s that for lack of commitment?

#5) Naps

I’ve saved the best for last. Here’s another one-word resolution that can mean anything. Maybe I want to take less naps. Maybe I want to take more. Maybe I want to structure my naps so that they fit into a regimented schedule that allows me to get the maximum amount of work done next year. That last point sounds awful. The truth is that I love taking naps and I plan to continue my current napping approach which is to loudly announce to my family that I’m “taking a break” around 2 pm every day and put myself down for a one hour nap. I love napping. If there’s one thing I can definitively commit to in 2021, it’s this.

There will come a time when we can look ahead again with more certainty, but no one can say when that will be (and, believe me, I tried to find some kind of definitive timeline). With vaccine distribution already underway, we may emerge from the dark tunnel of lockdowns, infections, and social distancing by mid to late 2021.

That means we can look ahead and maybe even create some real New Year’s resolutions for 2022 (well, you can, I don’t do that anymore). For now, I have birds, naps, books, and the prospect of thinking about writing a novel to look forward to in the coming year. And I will not watch Emily in Paris, which is a huge relief.

Written by

Occasional poet. Writer of sad essays. Novelist. Birder and amateur photographer. I enjoy trees.

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