Right then. January is underway. Quick, let’s CHANGE EVERYTHING. The way we eat, exercise, feel, think, be. CHANGE IT ALL! Immediately! From this moment forth, I shall have only positive thoughts and sunbeams shall shine from my face like an overweight white female Jesus. My CHANGEs shall be so complete that when thou lookest at me, there shall, from mine visage, emanate a soundtrack of sweet cherubs wordlessly ahhhhhhhhh-ing and butterflies shall flitter around me like a cliched simile.
What. The. Fuck?
We wait for January like Usain Bolt waits for the starter’s gun. IT’S OFF AND HERE WE GO SPEEDING ALONG CHANGING EVERYTHING ABOUT OUTSELVES, CH- CH- CH- CHAAA… Aaaaand I’m spent. Finished. Done.
Actually, it’s magnificently less dramatic than that. More like Usain Bolt cracking off the starting line, eyes on the prize, powering strides lengthy and strong and sure… only to get distracted by somebody in the crowd, a passing javelin, a speck of dust on the ground. Wouldn’t a smore be good right about now? He slows. Realises he has an itch. Wonders if he left anything back at the starting line. A jog now. Barely. Distracted by other things. Sees everyone else at the finish line. Now a stroll, casual-like. Not quite within the lines. Everyone else is done already, no point in killing ourselves. We’ve got as long as we like. Wonder what’s going on in that sandpit over there? Haphazard meandering, grass under feet, now, strayed way off-course. Where were we going, again? Stop still. Look around, spy the track in the distance – it’s a long way off. Blink. An unsteady step forwards. Hesitant. Does it matter? It’s fine here. Slowly sit down, eyeing the track, bemused. How did it get so far away? Shoulder meets soil, the smell of cut grass like a sleep potion. Eyelids lower. Next time, we think, Maybe next time.
That’s how we end up – asleep in the grass, far from the track, putting it off until the next time the gun fires. Not exactly full of that New Year cheer, is it?
We’re delusional. For most of us, change does not happen at the crack of the starter’s gun. There are no sudden revelations or immediate cessations of all our bad habits. True and lasting change is the work of a lifetime. Slow, repetitive, dull, largely immeasurable. It is a choice we make every day, and easier if every day we remind ourselves of the new choices we want to make. There is no real reason to wait until January. Unlearning racism and sexism takes self-awareness, personal responsibility, time and many failures. Want to do a photo-a-day project? Start now or start mid-May, it makes no difference. Missed a week in your new exercise regime? That’s OK. What about today?
Change happens one day at a time. Little by little. Choice by choice. Year by year. Sure, New Year is a great time to reaffirm the changes you’re making, or to check in and assess whether or not you’re going in the right direction. But, then again, so is EVERY day. And the individual days are really what matter. The habits you try to build on an individual day are important. It doesn’t matter if you spent the past 2 weeks stuffing yourself full of deep friend Mars bars and marshmallows, today is a different day. Today you can choose something different, and that’s one day you’ve succeeded. Mark it. Mark every success and discount the other days: they’re in the past; they can’t be changed; they do not affect your choices today. It’s like roulette*. The ball falls red twelve times in a row. What’s the liklihood that on throw 13, the ball falls red? It’s 50-50, baby. Having fallen red 12 times makes it neither more nor less likely that on throw 13 the ball will fall red. Every throw is 50-50 and every day is a new throw. Sure, the odds of 13 reds in a row are pretty damn high, but who’d place a bet on that unless the table were rigged? You place your bets one throw at a time; take your days that way too.
Today is a different day. My future is trying to remember this fact and trying to build better habits accordingly. Oh, I can assure you that I’ll forget all this or just straight-up neglect it many times, and I’ll feel guilty and I’ll feel like schlumping down on that grass and closing my eyes, just a bit, it’s so warm and comfy and I’m so tired… Hell yes. It will happen.
But that’s OK. The times I’m mindful of it, my successful days, they’re the ones that count. They are the days I help myself change.
And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Happy New Year, humans.
*Gambling is for chumps or pros only. Often both.