The Thing About New Years’ Resolutions

DefaultUncroppedMegan Grammatico, ’15

Full disclosure: I spent the two weeks after New Years’ groaning about the amount of people at the gym. To be fair, it was always packed. Not college-kids-home-from break sort of packed, but the “every New Years Resolutioner that vowed to get healthy in the New Year descended on my tiny YMCA gym” kind of packed that ultimately convinced me to run (read: freeze and give up) outside rather than wait for a treadmill. As I was leaving, the woman working the desk said to me “just give it a week, and they’ll all be gone.” I laughed a little and left, but the comment made me think about New Years Resolutions in general, and how easy it is to get sucked into a mentality that is both unsustainable and unhealthy.

First of all, let me be entirely clear that if your resolution is to get healthy this New Year, good for you! Take up all the space at the gym that you need—a commitment, new or old, to fitness and health is something we should encourage and admire; not groan because there’s a tiny wait for a treadmill. With that said, if your anything like me, your list of New Years Resolutions can easily start to look like a “Things I’m Going to do in 2015 to Be The Perfect Person” list. When I went back on my computer to look at mine after leaving the gym, I actually laughed out loud. It was an entire page long, broken down into sections and sub-sections: academics, fitness, professional goals, and books to read. It was ridiculous, and it would have failed miserably. Despite my best efforts to resist, I had once again gotten sucked into the allure of doing everything perfectly. It’s a temptation that us first-born perfectionists have to be particularly on guard against—tying your identity to your achievements pretty much always ends badly.

So, rather than having a crazy list of resolutions that involve Doing All The Things and Being All The Things, I decided I would take a different approach this year. Rather than an obsessive list of goals and rules and obligations to meet, I decided to make a list of things I’m not going to try harder on in 2015. For me, this is about giving myself permission to be imperfect, permission to slow down, and permission to let some things just fall by the wayside. And so, I give you, Friarside readers, my 2015 anti-New Years Resolutions:

Things I am Not Going to Try Harder on in 2015:

  1. Being on time. Five minutes has never changed anything (except maybe brain surgery, and that’s not exactly on my list of daily activities). If the Dunkin line is going to make me 3 minutes late for class, so be it. One of my favorite things about living abroad was learning that an obsession with punctuality is more of an American cultural phenomenon than anything else. It’s just not something I’m going to worry about this year.
  1. Trying to make Not My People happy. There are important people in my life: family, close friends, roommates—they matter, and I will try as hard as I can to make their lives easier and happier. Everyone else? Not something I can control, so I refuse to worry about it.
  1. Counting carbs/calories/any number that has to do with food. If I can eat reasonably healthy, most of the time, that’s good enough for me. Brownies are good for your soul. And don’t dare try to tell me the amount of calories in Panera mac’n’cheese. Ignorance is cheesy, delicious, not-good-for-my-lactose-intolerance bliss.

That’s it. Those are my resolutions for 2015. Try it: go ahead and cross out any ridiculous resolution that you’ll abandon by mid-February. We don’t need to manufacture failure—real life does that well enough on its own.

Make Gentle the Life of this World

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Abby Hevert, ’15

On April fourth 1968, a man died. The adjectives used to describe him could probably never accurately define the breadth of his impact or the depth of his life. He did not pass away peacefully, but instead was robbed of a life that helped to change, and is still changing, the social and political framework of the United States of America. Many people know him for a speech that he gave on another April day. It is often called the “I have a dream speech,” and Martin Luther King Junior delivered it. In it, he details his dreams for America and its youth: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…I have a dream today.

And while many people know and love this speech, they often do not reference another speech that is, in my opinion, one of the most eloquent addresses in American history, the speech that Robert Kennedy gave on the day that Martin Luther King Junior died. In it, he pleaded for peace, nonviolence, tolerance, and solidarity among all Americans in the wake of King’s death:

 So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love – a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke

….

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

The phrase “life of this world” always struck me as important. It implies that the world is not a place where we live; it is a place that lives and is affected by the actions of the people who populate it. It has a life of its own, and has stories of its own. We are all involved in a kind of plot where we climb the climaxes and stumble into its valleys. King even mentions these ups and downs in his speech:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight…

 And this is what the life of King did; it started to make his dream come true. This is the life well lived. It dreams extravagantly and works toward those dreams day and night. It is consumed by these dreams and must accomplish these dreams. And while many of us have many dreams, only some are these all-consuming kind of dreams that seem as though they are requirements for living instead of things in life that we would like to have. Sure, I dream of one day owning my own jeep wrangler and a house on the beach, but I must become a social worker who will help to heal the human spirit. One of my professors calls this phenomenon a kind of “internal musting:” actions that we must perform instead of actions that we think we should perform. Some people call it a calling and it can come in many forms. Maybe you are called to be a teacher or a lawyer or a banker. Perhaps you are meant to be a father or a mother. Maybe you are called to open a nonprofit or a foundation. Or maybe you are called to level the metaphorical playing field for all of America’s youth by working toward fairer governmental policies. No matter what this “musting” is, you must do it. Listen intently and make decisions accordingly.

And, yet, it is especially important that we all follow the same dream that Kennedy delineated in his speech. We must all work toward making “gentle the life of this world.” It is necessary that we use our gifts, with which we are all undoubtedly bestowed, to create straighter paths, lower mountains, and higher valleys. After all, we are all given one life and these collective lives make up the life of this world.

 So, we may as well tame the savageness of the human condition in the name of Martin Luther King Junior and all of the martyrs who have died to make the life of this world just a little more gentle.