It’s happening again. New Year, new me.
It’s the last day of 2015.
Thanks to a nasty cold, it’s also the third day in a row that I’ve emerged from bed at 2pm, unable to breathe through my nose, my head swimming, with a voice that sounds like Ross Kemp overdoing it on karaoke night.
I had Soothers and Lemsip for breakfast, followed by a mince pie and a Kinder Bueno for lunch. Oh, and a Satsuma- you know, for vitamin C and general good health.
According to social media, I should be using the time spent blowing my nose in bed to reflect upon 2015. I should be thinking about what a magical or traumatic or transformational or crap year it has been, and using those reflections to fuel some wildly aspirational and spur-of-the-moment resolutions for the year ahead.
In the library of life, today is supposed to symbolise page 365 of 365- and tomorrow should mark the beginning of a new book altogether.
I’ve never felt entirely comfortable about the ‘new year new me’ ritual. Of course, as I’m lying on my bed surrounded by mounds of snotty tissues, the ‘turning-over-a-new-leaf’ parade was never going to be met with anything but criticism today. But I find the whole time-to-reinvent-myself thing more and more irritating and almost farcical every year. Here’s why.
Self-reflection should happen all year round. Call it meditation, therapy, yoga, Zen, downtime- whatever- it is a healthy part of managing the pressures of adult life. It should happen all year round, whenever you have the time, not crammed into the 31st of December without any real thought or consideration.
Real change happens slowly. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve, and striving to be your very best self. But making real change is a matter of refining and adjusting, not aiming for a complete and utter overhaul. It’s unrealistic, self-critical and unhealthy. Old habits die hard, but it’s a lot easier to change them in baby steps- not just in January.
Everyone is different. So the idea that we must all place our lives under the microscope at the same time of the year seems bizarre and prescriptive. Stop worrying about what everyone else is vowing to do in 2016 and go at your own pace.
Life is not a checklist. I’m 22, so naturally, my social media cohort is full of young professionals and graduates trying to figure out what on earth to do with their lives. It’s also full of go-getters who believe that finding success and/or happiness is like climbing a ladder and ticking boxes.
If anything, I think that writing checklists at New Year is like taking a shortcut to unhappiness. Life is unpredictable and complicated, so things might take a lot longer than you first expected. There’s nothing wrong with having goals, but I don’t believe they should be shoved under a time constraint of 365 days.
Some chapters are bigger than others. I love the idea that life is like a great book. But I hate the idea that with the passing of each New Year we must start a new chapter, or even a new book entirely. That’s because some chapters are simply bigger than others. You might not have achieved the success you wanted or found happiness in 2015, and you might not find it until 2022. That’s just life.
So, what’s my parting advice for 2015?
Take all that New Year’s self-reflection, positivity, gratitude, determination and resolution and make it part of life’s long and bumpy ride- not just 2016.