I don’t like New Year’s resolutions. It seems silly to me that we should choose January as the month for renewal. January is dark. It’s cold. It starts with the letdown of holiday finality. Sure, we get some Mardi Gras fun here in New Orleans, and it isn’t as cold as it is in other places (Wisconsin, I’m sending warm thoughts of cocoa and cashmere and double-digit temperatures). Still, I’m not buying into it. Even the word “resolution” is daunting. What if I don’t actually follow what I resolved to do? I’ll feel like a failure, that’s what. It’s a losing situation all around.
And yet, despite all this, I like the promise of renewal. The positive side of this resolution business is that it can, when done right, push positive change. Perhaps this is why, when my birthday rolled around last December, I decided that I would embrace not the New Year’s resolution tradition, but, rather, my own New Year Intention. Do you see how I put the entire thing in caps in order to emphasize its worth? It simply makes more sense to me to think of an intention for one’s own year cycle. It’s a more personal timeline, not to mention a tad more forgiving in terms of parameters. If I don’t succeed, it’s okay. I intended to do it, but life got in the way. It’s a calmer, friendlier sort of resolution.
What I’ve discovered so far is that I’ve already accomplished more with my New Year Intention than I ever had previously with a New Year’s resolution. It is as though simply acknowledging the potential for failure has enabled me to risk it. It’s also provided me with the inspiration to give my thirty-first year a theme: Casey’s Year of Bravery. What more fitting theme could there be for a mildly paranoid, comfort-zone-seeking girl whose first name literally means “brave one”?
When I presented this concept of bravery to my friend, t, she initially balked at it under the grounds that I was already, in her opinion, pretty brave. She listed previous events and actions that might constitute courage: traveling abroad, eating adventurous foods, surviving cancer, finishing a novel, singing karaoke in public, and, perhaps most courageous of all, facing eighth graders every day. While these are all very brave things, I pointed out that there are also a million things I’m too chicken to do. We’re not talking skydiving and snowboarding. I mean, I’m not limiting myself, but this Year of Bravery is just as much about the small things: eating at a restaurant by myself; talking more freely to people I’ve just met; opening myself to dating, even if it means dating outside of my type; acknowledging that what I do for a living, teaching, is not just a stop gap, but, rather, something I am really good at and should keep doing; acknowledging that the other thing I do for a living, writing, is also something I am good at and that, to improve, I must heed the advice to “kill my darlings”; saying yes when I normally would say no, and learning to say no when I feel too nice to not say yes. Welcoming risks, taking chances, suffering setbacks, and believing in my own ability to bounce right back.
None of it is revolutionary, but all of it is necessary for me to grow. The dawn of a new decade is as fitting a time as any to cultivate such growth. As a karaoke-singing, world-traveling, cancer-ass-kicking writer-teacher, it’s time I owned my fate as a Brave One. It might not be pretty (and, let’s face it, at least 42% of it probably won’t be), but I hope you’ll join me as a post throughout my journey.