On One Hand

January 2, 2007


Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:49 am

It is my observation that most New Year’s resolutions, guised as “self improvement,” are really anything but that. Most involve the subject taking some annoying trait that is at the center of who that person is, and vowing to completely annihalate it. I would also submit that the person’s disdain for that trait has more to do with the influence of other people than it does that person’s own desire. You essentially vow to stop something you are deeply predisposed to doing, or to give up one of your favorite things because it recently got you into trouble. It’s vowing to stop drinking, or to lose weight because other people have recently made disparaging remarks and it’s suddenly no longer a petty issue – it’s real because it’s noticeable to others. It’s vowing to lower your cholesterol, quit smoking or to get your house organized, not because you want to, but because you think you really should. It’s the fifteen-year-old girl’s desperate resolution to have a boyfriend by the end of the year, which she can neither predict nor expedite and she doesn’t really need to rush it anyway.

I submit that there are two kinds of New Year’s Resolutions: the kind you roll your eyes and come up with because you need to think of something, and the one that you’ve been wanting to do forever and hope the fact that it’s January 1 ads some imputeus so that the change will finally come. It’s probably something you’ve resolved to do before and failed, because it’s something you’ve long hated about yourself but is against your nature to be rid of, and your effort is already doomed because you don’t realize that you will always have to work hard to acheive this thing. You expect that a month or two of conscious work will have this resolution permanently engrained in your routine, and then you can just coast. For example, you decide to start going to the gym three times a week, desparately longing for day that you have a perfect physique and can eat junk food again. You’re doomed to failure – first, you’ll never go to the gym often enough with a drive as weak as that, and then you’ll soon give it up, reverting to your former, pudgy but lovable self.

The first kind of resolution of the two types, the “oh, I guess I’ll do this,” kind, is probably more likely to succeed, because it’s something that, for you, doesn’t even require work. You’re already a clean and neat person, and you resolve to be more, well, clean and neat. Ultimately you are just as organized as you were before, but as you look around at your polished countertops and bills folded nicely in the filing drawer, just the way it has always been, it seems somehow novel. You pat yourself on the back and feel really good about yourself for accomplishing it.

I have a new idea for New Year’s resolutions. They don’t involve making any extra effort – they’re predictions. You predict something that seems half reasonable, then you don’t think about it again, and the end of the year you look back and see what got done and what you didn’t. It’s a scientific process, and what you accomplish is that you learn about yourself. You reflect that you don’t really make yourself change, you just sort of change, bubbling passively through life, yet somehow you manage to accomplish amazing things. Your accomplishments don’t have to do with goals and hard work, but with passion; with the things you spend time on without actually working because you’re just doing what you love. It teaches you about what you should be, what you can be, what you should give up on trying to be, what you should love to be, and what you should expect or not expect other people to be.

In January 2005 my first resolution was to start working out. I didn’t do it that year, but I started this summer and ultimately gained a lot of weight doing that. The final achievement of the ongoing goal had nothing to do with the 2005 resolution. My second resolution was to have sex by my birthday, which I did, and also ON my birthday that year, with someone I still occasionally see. I wanted to be published by the end of the year. It didn’t happen by the beginning of 2006 unless you count the Campus Press, but I’ve been published now, a year delayed, so that’s good enough for me. I resolved to raise my GPA. It went down since then, and down the year after. And now I don’t really feel like GPA is even important. I resolved to earn enough money to cover my life, without help from family. It happened by the end of the year, except for groceries. Now a year after that I don’t even have a job, doing multiple internships instead, and would consider making the same resolution again.

In 2006 I resolved to be “more graceful.” That means I resolved not to challenge the will and needs of other people, and not to worry about saving face when another person challenges me. It means not beating myself up for what I can’t control. It means giving up on things that I’ve lost, to get out of other peoples’ heads, and to suspend judgement. I didn’t think of it again past January, but I think I managed to achieve it anyway.

In 2006 I gave up on a person who was a very negative influence in my life without calling him names or trying to hurt him back – even though I wanted to. I took messages that struk me as patronizing and degrading and simply didn’t respond. He sees the world though his lens and I through mine, and being as they are incompatable, they are separated and neither has to be better than the other. The last message I sent him was completely positive, completely graceful, before I cut off contact, which is exactly what I needed to do. Essentially I thanked him, and I told him I was glad for what we’d had. Now, I don’t even miss him. He flowed in and flowed out of me without leaving a mark. If I would have offered insults or failed to be completely honest in the end, or begged him to be different from what he was, or tried in vain to “still be friends” when we were never friends to begin with, I would still feel loose ends tugging me and his absence might be something I think about with longing or embarrasment rather than accomplishment.

I remember telling him my resolution last January on the phone, perhaps with the inkling of premonition that he would be the center of the struggle. Now I can look back and it’s clear that times I was not living gracefully were times I was beleiving him and hurting, and times I lived the graceful attitude I idealize were times that I let his words past over me and the bad things were no longer important.

This year, if I must resolve something, I resolve to keep working out, and to keep gaining weight, and be a stable 160 pounds by the end of the year (now I traverse between 145 and 155). I resolve to travel somewhere, somehow, on my own. I resolve to have a job that involves writing by 2008. I resolve to be published in multiple places by 2008. I resolve to be finished restoring. I resolve to find love and have it be unrelated to me being or not being in a relationship.



  1. My resolution

    I remember you telling me your resolution on the phone last January. It scared me. For the first time I saw exactly what you wanted and I felt really pressured, not by you, but by my own shit. Since you cut off contact, though it sounds great for you, it really hasn’t been so great for me. I am not saying this in any way to make you feel guilty or anything. I am just trying to be completely honest. I miss hanging out with you. I miss hearing all the crazy stories you have. I used to hate listening to you tell them because it made me feel so lame. And your writing, after a while I just couldn’t read it because it brought out my insecurities. In general, you did that better than anyone I know…you brought out my insecurities. I hated it at the time. Now, thanks to you, I learned to embrace my insecurities and if I wish to, change them. The point is, you taught me a lot and I owe you.

    My resolution this year really started after my mom died. I realized how important it is to love, let yourself be loved and to tell the people you love that you love them. In the end, that’s all that matters.

    I love you, Matt. Always will.

    Comment by pruittc — January 2, 2007 @ 6:54 pm | Reply

    • Re: My resolution

      Fuck – I didn’t think you would still read this journal. I’m really sorry.

      Comment by ononehand — January 2, 2007 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

      • no need

        Don’t feel sorry about anything. I like reading your journal. I check it like once a week. Anyway. Hope you don’t mind. You don’t have to filter anything. It’s fine.


        Comment by pruittc — January 3, 2007 @ 10:14 pm

  2. you could always go to futureme.org and send it to yourself to be sent on the 1st of next year. i would prolly forget it. also, uh, i don’t know if i should put a non-serious comment here, but oh well.

    Comment by pinklaura — January 2, 2007 @ 11:06 pm | Reply

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