In Defense of Change

We’re at that time of year again when people talk about how ridiculous it is to make New Year’s resolutions. I used to use them as a conversation topic in the beginning of January with my English courses.

After a few Januaries, I quit. The responses I got were perpetually ridiculous: “I can pick any time to change, why would I pick this time of year?” Another person made a bit of a presentation to me about how he took his kids out in the outdoors on the first of the year, and in his words* “I ask them ‘has anything changed? Do you feel different?’ That way they know that it’s a day just like any other day.”

Aside from the fact that I had several reasons not to like that particular student, he’s an idiot: regardless of how hard you work to kill it, there is a bit of magic in every new beginning. There is potential. There is a sense of What Can Be.

What he did was like following his child out on a first date and constantly saying “This is a date like any other. The person across from you is no better and no worse than any other person.” A reduction of everything to the ‘bare facts of the matter’ kills the magic of human experience.

In all the time that I heard the idea of New Year’s resolutions being mocked, very few of the people who mocked those resolutions managed to appear genuinely content with their lives. They were people — as we all are — ripe for making a change, and while it was true that they could have made the change at any point in time, but they didn’t.

Which is precisely why we need a day like New Year’s.

We can be thankful on any day of the year. And yet, it’s nice to have a day set aside on which we make the embarrassing effort to list the things for which we are thankful for.

I suppose I could write another five hundred words on why everyone should be eager to change. Suffice it to say that I like the idea of being on the way to becoming more and more my ‘best self’ or, if that seems a bit too arrogant, ‘more like myself.’

This year, I’m keeping my New Year’s resolutions modest. I’d like to meditate more (for me, that’s going to me four times a week), to work out until I can climb a tree that has no branches (like this guy, my hero as far as that goes) and be able to do pull-ups.

There are things I want to learn: to identify trees, to make basic knots, I want to work on my apps. But, experience has taught me to pick a few things this time of the year when you can easily find some people to keep you accountable, and to focus on them.

After all, I can change anytime.

* It should be clear that I’m remembering the sense of what this student said, not the exact wording. Besides, my English is bound to be better than his was.

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