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Don’t Laugh At Resolutions

I am always skeptical of formal New Year’s resolutions. Lose 40 pounds by June. Stop pressing the “snooze” button in the morning. No more drinking alcohol. The problem, in my experience, with concrete goals like these is that they can cause a lot of stress. If we fall short there’s a feeling of failure. If we give up we invite ridicule.

January gym memberships are now basically a meta-joke mocking our vanity and naive expectations of our ability for self-improvement. I suppose it is a good thing in general to set ambitious goals to improve some area of one’s life. It is just that we (or I) often feel shame when they’re not achievable. Or we (I again) worry how we’ll be perceived by others for giving up entirely and pursuing a new course before January has ended. Who among us actually lives up to the idealized version of themselves they aspire to, 365 days a year? Please come forward to reveal your secret.

I believe shame to be a productive emotion. It has incredible corrective power when borne of serious matters. Shame will do me no good though long term, if I fritter it away on something trivial like breaking a promise to myself to eat less pizza. I love pizza.

I should read more. I should use my phone less. I should write and submit my column before the extreme last minute Thursday evening every week. Hopefully I can sustain these endeavors until March at least. If not I won’t feel surprised or terribly ashamed.

The first 20 years of this millennium in retrospect have felt awfully dark. It started with the attack on 9/11, followed by two senseless and costly wars which we are still in. Then we had a stock market crash, recession, student loan crisis, and growing nasty political division. “It All” can feel bleak and hopeless. “Screw it, what is the point anyway?” Sarcasm, jadedness and fraudulence are everywhere in our culture, especially online. It is easy to be cynical in response.

I think to myself, “Why set a resolution to be more financially mindful when the current crop of Baby Boomers are sucking Social Security coffers dry anyhow?”

Therefore in great defiance of all the cynics who laugh at our New Year’s resolutions, and all the gloomy circumstances surrounding them, my resolution for 2020 is to be more hopeful. I am willing to risk naivete and sentimentalism. I’ll try to be more sincere and earnest when dealing with others. Please join me. I’ll try to remember everyone in the checkout line in Tops is just as hurried and frustrated as I am. Maybe this broad strategy will result in getting up earlier and healthier lifestyle choices. Check back with me in February.

Derek Smith is a Frewsburg native.

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