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31st January 2019

In defence of the New Year’s resolution

Eva Gerretsen discusses why today’s youth are so opposed to New Year resolutions, and some alternatives that could help us to be less self-centred
In defence of the New Year’s resolution
Photo: Navy_NADAP @Flickr

We love a festive platitude, especially those which emanate a sense of rest, joy, and unity. Or, even better, those which provide weak qualification for certain uncalled for or slovenly actions. We justify various binge-behaviours with a slurred: ‘but it’s Christmassssss!’ You do not need me to tell you how marketable the myth is.

This time of year requires a very particular store of spare energy from the ‘FAMILY’ tank – a reserve of patience and frustration you often forget you have. There’s the added fun of no-one your age around and as a result, enforced chastity. You’ll inevitably try phone sex in your childhood bedroom. As you try very hard to hold onto your mobile and muffle the loud whirring of your recently acquired vibrator, you become acutely aware that the door to your parents’ bedroom is across the landing and ajar. Not to mention the abundance of the family Christmas platter and inevitable overeating. Under the pretence of needing a wee you will gnaw surreptitiously at the cheesecake in the fridge while the family watch Strictly.

Then, of course, comes the sibling warfare. Unless your parents blessed you with their undivided attention, you need at least 11 months of really good insults and/or embarrassing Instagram stories stock-piled. Even if you have agreed on a temporary truce (I won’t tell mum about your nipple piercing), come washing-up time they disappear completely. You are left betrayed and outflanked by grease-covered pans. Without allies. Without Empire. No one will remember or care that you are a vegetarian as you scrub at the turkey dish, and your meek protestations will not be heard over the Queen’s speech.

We regurgitate this list of trials and tribulations every year. You hope that this year will be better followed by the crushing disappointment that it is not. It is our favourite moan. Our favourite topic to roll the eyes to and greet with an abject sigh. Come New Year’s Eve and your ‘FAMILY’ tank will be empty apart from maybe a 2L bottle of gin. Alongside the drinking (and usually proceeded by it) is the greatest festive platitude of them all: “New Year, New Me”. What this demonstrates is how narcissistic our New Year’s resolutions are, and of course, how often they involve sentiments of so-called “self-improvement”. I have compiled a list of some of the most popular*:

  • I will lose a stone.
  • I will read more/watch the news more/engage with a variety of cultural mediums/ have more interesting things to say at parties/ become the brooding intellectual who sits in the corner smoking and reading a paperback.
  • I will meditate or something.
  • I will visit more greenspaces, which the city I live in actually has loads of but I’ve become too accustomed to the great indoors and that’s really quite shameful because there’s a park not 500 metres away and I know this because my supertoned neighbour is always out jogging and tells me about how nice it is to jog in these fast-dwindling green spaces and I find myself more and more reluctant to leave in order to validate her perfectly modest, unaggressive and healthy habits but most of all her really lovely muscular legs.

Never fully accomplished, these resolutions hang about your consciousness like pig’s corpses in the Butcher-shop window; grotesque, in-your-face, smelling of blood and failure. I asked some people I know if they were making any resolutions this year. They all said no .This somewhat confirmed my belief that we belong to the generation of the apathetic. Maybe this is who we are, or maybe it’s just a bad case of teenage indifference which resurfaces when you’re obliged to spend time in your family home. The lack of resolution in the face of a bleak January ahead, which didn’t surprise me, did however sadden me. Not because I would enjoy the failure of my friends (although, I wouldn’t mind if they stopped being so successful, kind and beautiful and got on my level), but because I really like the sentiment of the resolution.

That January the 1st – which looks an awful lot like December the 31st- can set off such a surge of inspiration. It is an almost cloying drive to see the world differently and do things in a different way. Perhaps part of the reason these resolutions are so quick to dwindle is because the available stock of self-improvement(s) are unabashedly self-involved.

In this respect I believe my family to be truly revolutionary. Instead of resolutions we make ‘pledges’ to each other, promising to do something for another in the family. The aim is to encourage a more conscientious approach to the year ahead. But even if you fail, your family, like mine, might be the most forgiving of your fickle and childish forgetfulness. They will let you off the hook far more easily than you might yourself. We are our own most virulent enemies. Perhaps focusing on someone else might be the best kind of peace treaty.

So, I tell you this: relish the regularity of medium-to-well-done family bickering. Make the most of the turkey fat now caked firmly in your hair for the next month. And finally, shrug yourself into a humble stupor at the failed promises to yourself and others. You are not perfect. Christmas is not perfect. New Years Eve is not perfect. But at least you have 2L of gin and a vibrator.

*Total conjecture. But, let’s be honest we’ve all hear em at some point.

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