Well, here we are. 2013. A new year, full of resolutions and commitments of renewal, reinvention. It’s a tradition that we have, this reinvention. We do it every New Year, every birthday, every spring, every new school year, every time we embark on some “new” timeline. This time will be different we think to ourselves. Maybe we genuinely believe it will be, or at least we genuinely want it to be, but it usually isn’t. So what? We all excel at goal-setting and fail at follow-through? Perhaps.

But maybe it has more to do with our tendency to get swept up in well-intended, but empty traditions. Our tendency to believe in the media-spun myths of self-improvement. We cannot be content to be content with ourselves. Instead, we must strive for “improvement” which is more likely to mean “perfection” but we know that’s pointless so we call it something else. What was that Shakespeare said about roses and their names?

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with trying to better ourselves; it’ good to have goals. What I wonder about–especially this time of year–is our motives and whether they’re as productive as we usually claim them to be. You want to run a marathon? Great; start training for it. But why do you suddenly want to run a marathon? Didn’t use your gym membership as much as you should have in the last twelve months? Okay, fine, but what’s different now? What’s so special about January that will suddenly make you get off your duff and pound the treadmill regularly? Nothing.

Nothing is really different. It’s just that in the days surrounding our holiday festivities, we’re inundated with advertisements for discounted gym memberships and Quitplans and the like. We’re encouraged to participate in “commitment days” in which we all pledge together to do whatever it is we say we’re going to do. Hoping that maybe going public will keep us accountable. It’s a public relations stunt. It’s a tradition. It’s something to talk about once those other holidays have passed. It’s just one more of those things that we do.

And yet, there’s something…human, I guess, about reflecting when we come to the end of a time and approach a new one–even if it is constructed for us and rather orchestrated. We learn from reflection and it is through that reflection that we can make changes, it’s just a matter of whether or not we do. And that, it turns out, has nothing to do with the season. 

 

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