New Year, Who Dis?
If you subscribe to the concept of the linear passing of time, then you probably just celebrated the completion of another year of counting days on earth. I’ve been a bit disenchanted by the negativity surrounding the new year on social media in the last weeks, having seen countless posts making fun of the idea of new year’s resolutions with “witty” sayings such as “No new year, new me bullshit, I’m gonna be the same asshole I was last year.” I’m sure somewhere along the way there was a seamless transition from the idea of acknowledging the passage of time and seeking an opportunity to catalyze growth, to the idea that perhaps you are already in a cycle of growth and the rolling over of the calendar is not a necessary catalyst at all, that has somehow been bastardized to suggest that we are all awesome the way we are and people should not consider personal growth at any time during the year and should feel free to just continue rampaging through life and salting the earth for good measure.
I’ve done a lot of soul-searching in the last few weeks to determine whether a new year’s resolution is appropriate for me and the conclusion I have come to is this:
The accomplishments and growth that I have sought out and occasionally achieved in the last several years have not necessarily coincided with the calendar; as a matter of fact, they almost never have. I do not recall the exact date I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, I do not know the date I began running for the first time, I don’t remember the date of the last cigarette I smoked, or the day I decided that alcohol was no longer serving me. I have general ideas of the times at which I decided to grow, to change, to try harder at becoming, but the date was never a key factor.
There are boatloads of tips and tricks out there to guide seekers toward the path of improvement, how to start a new habit, how to quit an old one, how to stick to it, how to be gritty, how to beat the odds. But I think the key that so many people are missing is the honesty with oneself to admit that you actually just don’t want to change, not yet. Change is scary, our habits are our comforts, our habits are complicated, a lot of them fill us with shame and pleasure, they help us relax, and they numb difficult emotions. We drink, we eat, we smoke, we zone out on the TV not to grow, not to better ourselves, but because it feels safe, nonthreatening, easy, comfortable.
When I decided I wasn’t happy with the “old me,” I didn’t have a “new me” just waiting to get out. I didn’t have a history of hiking and backpacking and climbing and a love of the outdoors in my past. I didn’t know if I had those things in me at all. When I found out about the Appalachian Trail, I was a girl trying to invent a “new me.” It wasn’t Jan. 1 when I suddenly decided I was a backpacker. It was a random day in September when I thought, “There’s a me, maybe that’s the me I want to be.” And it was a cold day in March when I put that pack on and walked out on the trail in Georgia and I thought, “I dunno, is this me?” And it was at some indistinct moment between April and May that I thought, “I think this me is alright, I could stick with this me for a while.” And on that day in June that I thought, “I have found me, and I am going to be this me, but this is not where me needs to be right now,” I left the Appalachian Trail just outside Pearisburg, VA, just past a quarter of the way, but I did not feel like I had failed. I had found me, and was that not what I’ve been looking for this whole time?
Every year, we mark the passage of time and we reflect on who we are in the past and we think about who we could be in the future. And sometimes we set lofty goals or think about the things we “should” do to be “better.” But how often do we think about who we want to be, or who we have never thought of being because it is so far outside our comfort zone, that perhaps it had literally never crossed our mind. One of the most challenging things I hear from people when I talk about my life is that they “could never do what you’re doing” and my response to them is always, “Couldn’t you? Or have you just never considered the possibility.” We are often overcome with fear of the unknown or more precisely, fear of abandoning the known. If there is anything I have learned from my decision to hike the Appalachian Trail and dozens of choices I have made in the years since, it is that I can be anybody. The me I want to be is completely up to me.
So, this year I am not setting a new year’s resolution, I have no intentions of becoming a new me. But I will stay open and on the lookout for any potential me that I might not yet have considered, because me could show up in a new way unexpectedly, any day of the year ,and I don’t want to dismiss that me without even giving me the consideration me deserves.
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