Moya Crockett once thought that New Year’s resolutions weren’t worth making. But if anything was going to change her mind, it was 2016.
I used to believe that New Year’s resolutions were a total waste of time: a futile exercise in hypothetical self-improvement, hung upon an arbitrary date. We all spend altogether too much of our time on earth worrying about our potential flaws, so my anti-resolution theory went; I didn’t see why we needed another excuse for self-loathing navel-gazing. Every year come late December, when people started talking about their plans to take up kickboxing or stop smoking or cut out carbs, I’d roll my eyes and pledge to carry on as normal.
Then 2016 happened.
As we drag ourselves from the smouldering wreckage of what has been a supremely cruel twelve months, the time seems ripe for a bit of useful self-reflection; to ponder how we can try to make this year a bit less bleak than what preceded it.
To help us all have a happier new year, here are my five resolutions that are actually worth sticking to.
I think we can all agree that the world could do with a bit more kindness right now, but no one oozes good-hearted benevolence from their pores 24/7. Being actively kind (rather than simply not actively unkind) requires engaging properly with the world. It takes work. It means noticing the woman struggling with her pram on the stairs at the train station. It means calling your friend who’s been depressed and just letting them talk.
It even means – and I hate to bring money into this, but here we are – donating what you can afford to causes you care about, whether that be domestic violence charities or the crisis in Aleppo (compassion should, after all, translate into action). It’s an underrated quality, kindness, and it requires more conscious effort than we often think.
As a Harry Potter nerd, 2016 frequently reminded me of The Deathly Hallows: the Ministry has fallen, and they are coming. Actually, scratch that, “they” – they being the bigots, the xenophobes, the far right – aren’t coming; they’re already here. Let’s not let them become a permanent fixture, eh? I’m all for freedom of speech et cetera et cetera, but the time for sitting quietly when someone starts spouting racist/transphobic/sexist/homophobic nonsense on a train is O-V-E-R.
The inimitable Leslie Jones said it best this year, after experiencing devastating racist and sexist attacks online: “Stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones. We have to make people take responsibility for the hate they spew.” Look after yourself; it might not always be safe to put yourself on the line, and only you can be the judge of that. But if you feel able to, it’s time to invoke your inner Hermione Granger and call people out on their bullshit.
Own your feelings
If that sounds a bit self-helpy, a bit Californian group therapy-y, guess what: I don’t care. Because this is important. If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard a woman say she’s not sure if she’s “allowed” to feel the way she does, I might be able to afford a deposit on a studio flat in London (Zone 5, but still).
This habit of women downplaying or undermining their feelings manifests most often in Modern Romantic Relationships™, where the lines of what is and isn’t OK – and often, what is or isn’t, full stop – are increasingly blurred. If you’re not technically a couple, are you allowed to feel upset that he ignored your birthday? If she didn’t call it a date but it sure seemed like one to you, is it OK to be annoyed when you find out she already has a girlfriend? If they break up with you but you always knew that they didn’t want anything serious, are you entitled to have a three-second cry in the toilets at work?
Yes, for God’s sake. You’re not a robot; your feelings are your feelings, and they have legitimacy whether you’ve been dating someone for two weeks or married for ten years. Make 2017 the year you stop berating yourself for having emotions.
Watch: Jane Austen’s life lessons
Very very VERY important, in these heady times. Keep reading, and not just the recommended articles that pop up on your Facebook news feed. Go to trusted, reliable news sources, listen to podcasts that offer different perspectives on the world, watch the News at 10. The temptation to shut out the world can be strong, but it’s not one we can afford to succumb to.
Get out more
In 2017, I want to spend less time staring at a screen and more time doing things. I want to do all of the things. I want to go on day trips to the seaside and visit a European city I’ve never been to before and go stargazing and start life drawing again and dance more and fall head over heels in love and oh, all kinds of things, because the world – for all its faults – is full of magic, and I want to experience as much of it as possible before the apocalypse inevitably comes.
Join me, won’t you?