A note from Camille: My friend, author Crystal Velasquez, is here with an awesome and insightful post on New Year’s Resolutions. Feel free to share yours in the comments section. Don’t worry, we won’t hold you to them.
When I was asked to write a little something about New Year’s resolutions, I thought, Piece o’ cake. I’ll just ask around and see what everybody else’s resolutions are this year, sort of like one of those roving morning show reporters who stop people on the street and stick a microphone in their face. Oh, it would be delightful! People love talking about themselves, and they’d be eager to tell me all the ways they planned to make their lives better. They might even try to outdo one another, coming up with ever more challenging, original, or just plain crazy things to achieve in 2012. They’d love me for asking, just as they love Al Roker. Right? Right?
Instead, every time I posed the question, “So what’s your New Year’s resolution?” I got only uncomfortable silence and suspicious glares, as if I had just asked them who they voted for or how much money they make.
My first attempt was at a lunch outing with a bunch of coworkers. We’d gone to a Turkish restaurant where the waiter also seemed to be the owner—and part-time comedian. Pretty sure he was a dad, too, since he came by and chastised me for not finishing my vegetables, then stood there until I ate every last piece of lettuce. Still we laughed, we talked, we griped about work. A good time was had by all…until we started drinking our coffee and tea, and I asked the dreaded question:
“So, what are everybody’s New Year’s resolutions?”
Immediately I got nervous chuckles and sideways glances. All four of my friends shifted uncomfortably in their seats, craning their necks to see if any of the other restaurant patrons were within earshot of this conversation.
“Why do you want to know?” one of them asked.
“Do people still even do that anymore?” another one said, avoiding eye contact. “I don’t.”
“No one sticks to them anyway, so what’s the point?”
Then there was silence. Um…what just happened? Had I had some kind of temporary break with reality and what I’d actually asked them was “What’s your favorite sexual position?” Or was their defensiveness just a kneejerk reaction thanks to telemarketers who call and ask what kind of laundry detergent you use and if you drink alcohol more than twice a week? (Tide, and only when I’m on vacation.) I realized I’d have to defend my horrific intrusion into their lives. I told them about the blog and that I’m asking everybody.
“Oooh,” they all said, visibly relieved.
“We’re actually in the middle of fulfilling last year’s resolution right now,” Derek said. He had vowed to visit Turkish restaurants more often. Mission accomplished. His other resolution was to drink a V8 for the first time. As far as I know, that one has yet to be completed.
Anyway, we paid the bill, the owner/waiter encouraged us to return and bring friends, and we went back to work. Only when I sat down at my desk did I realize that not a single person at the table had given up a resolution for this year. Bastards! Didn’t they know I had a blog post to write?
But I got the same response from everyone I asked in person—even my mom, who talks to me about everything.
So I did what anybody in this day and age would do: I took it to Facebook. These are people who don’t mind telling me and the whole world how much weight they’ve gained or how many times their newborn has peed on them. I know when they start dating someone and when they break up. I’ve seen their wedding pictures and their most recent haircut. I know where they work. I know where they went on their last vacation. I know which friends hate Kim Kardashian with the burning fire of a thousand suns (Hi, Camille) and which ones love her and watch her show religiously (you shall remain nameless so that Camille will not smite you). I know which ones worship Jesus and which ones are hard-core atheists. These are not people who would keep their New Year’s resolutions some big secret.
And yet…when I asked my 292 Facebook friends what theirs were, I was met with the cyber equivalent of crickets. No one responded at all for a whole day. Mind you, these are the same folks who replied immediately when I asked if I should go see Hugo or the Muppets movie. (The answer, of course, is Muppets, by the way. It is always Muppets.)
I complained to Camille about the lack of cooperation I was getting one night when we went to the Central Park holiday market together, where I temporarily turned into Scott Pilgrim. “What’s the deal? Seriously?” I whined. What was so scary about this question? Why was everybody being so weird and cagey about it? Was it a more personal inquiry than I realized? Or maybe my friends were all secretly like the most interesting man in the world, who, according to a new radio ad for Dos Equis, won’t tell you his New Year’s resolution because it would blow your mind.
As we strolled through the market, eating empanadas and drinking hot apple cider, I contemplated asking complete strangers. Maybe they’d be more forthcoming. But I pictured myself getting slapped, or arrested by the holiday market etiquette police, and held my tongue.
Then we ran into a friend of ours, who had just finished jogging in the park. Maybe it was the endorphins from all the exercise, or the fact that I asked her right in the middle of a conversation that had nothing at all to do with New Year’s, catching her off guard, but she gave me an actual answer.
“I don’t know,” she said reluctantly. “I could say ‘Open a savings account,’ but then I’ve been saying that for two years now and still haven’t done it. And I could say, ‘Lose weight,’ but that’s more of a life decision, not a New Year’s resolution.” She shrugged, and I could tell she wanted more than anything to change the subject.
Then it hit me: The question itself seems to be rife with judgment and reproach. What it really says is, What should you have been doing all along that you haven’t been? In what way have you been loserly? So when you tell people the answer, not only do you admit to something you don’t like about your life, but then you’re saddled with some kind of weird social obligation to fix it. And since most people’s resolutions are things they don’t particularly want to do in the first place (like drinking that V8), they feel destined to fail.
I also realized that while I was asking everyone else for his or her resolution, I had never offered up one of my own—because, jeez, how many times was I going to resolve to lose weight, pay off my debt, meet a guy, and stop being late everywhere I go? At least when you’re giving up something for Lent, it’s only a forty-day commitment. This New Year’s thing is supposed to be for life—or at least a full year. Talk about pressure. Suddenly I felt kind of bad for putting my friends and family on the spot.
The next day, Derek called me at my desk.
“So, how’s the blog post coming?” he asked.
“Not too great,” I said. “Nobody wants to tell me their resolutions.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll tell you mine. I’m resolving to keep my DVR list down.”
“So you’re going to watch less TV? That’s a good one.”
“No! I’m just going to watch it faster so the list doesn’t build up so much. I’m going to try to keep it to only eighty percent full.”
“Nice,” I said. “I guess you’ve gotta start somewhere.”
“Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it,” he confessed. “Seems like it would be easier to resolve to give more money to the poor or something than to keep my DVR list down.”
By the time I got home, my Facebook plea had finally yielded some answers too:
- Get more pedicures. Oh and be a nicer person.
- Mine is to write a darn book already! (There. I said it. Eek!)
- Exercise enough to justify desert more.
- I resolve to bring aliens into the conversation at least once a week.
- Run a 10k!
- Save money!!!
- Increase my exposure to the arts and continue to develop my artistic talents.
- The usual: Lose weight! Save money!
- Go back to a regular gym schedule, same as every year!
- Reduce ordering out and save money eating groceries.
All fine resolutions, if you ask me. Especially the one about bringing aliens into the conversation at least once a week.
But my favorite came from Danielle, a high school friend of mine, who I haven’t seen in years:
- I resolve to be easy on myself in 2012.
I like it. There’s an acceptance in it. It says that life is hard enough—I don’t need to be hard on myself while I’m at it.
So my resolution will be to take whatever I loved doing this year, whatever made my life more awesome, and do more of that. Take more vacations, see more movies and plays, write for fun, eat for pleasure, spend time with friends and family when I want to, say no when I don’t, help people when I can, and above all, stop pressuring anyone else to stick to their goals and just cheer them on when they do.
And if I fail at this resolution? Eh, there’s always next year. . . .
Crystal Velasquez is the author of four books in the Maya & Miguel series and three books in the Your Life, But… series. She holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Pennsylvania State University and is a graduate of the New York University Summer Publishing Institute. Currently a production editor and a freelance proofreader, she lives, writes, and obsessively takes personality quizzes in New York City. She is at work on her next book.