2016 marked the first time in my life I made a new year’s resolution: to write an autobiographical essay every single day. From January 1st on, I envisioned this project as a tattoo and knew no matter what, I couldn’t stop in the middle. I simply didn’t allow for sentiments like “I want to…I hope to…I plan to…” There was only: “I will…”
What I pledged to do was something I was physically and mentally capable of and I knew not finishing was not an option. If I was alive, I would do it. It might not be hundreds of Pulitzer-prize winning essays, but it wasn’t about winning contests, it was about establishing a habit, about proving it to myself, about commitment, about solidifying myself as a writer in my mind, about strengthening a muscle, about producing a body of work, about discovering myself, about cleansing out some of the multitudes of stories bouncing around in my brain, about following a dream I didn’t want to admit I had.
In actuality, pursuing ambitious 365-day resolutions are lonely. The dedication and willpower required to govern yourself and hold yourself accountable is challenging. No one else will check your work, grade you, or give you a raise and because you do something every single day, the results are hard to spot right away and sometimes may not even be tangible. I may not have made a shitload of money (yet) from this project, but I’ve written 239,289 words so far this year all under one theme. (Incidentally 80,000 words is the average length of a novel so I’ve written the equivalent of 4.) I could write about almost anything at the drop of a dime and I refuse to entertain notions such as “I don’t feel like it.” Writing every day this year means at the very least writing mind is more limber than it was 348 days ago.
The most difficult part of any resolution is how even with your best intentions, life will barge in and laugh out loud at your plans and make it inconvenient as hell for you to succeed. These days are the biggest growth days; the ones where you see how much you’re capable of accomplishing. These are the days which feel like you’re playing Super Mario and you have to defeat Master Bowser before you can open up a new world.
I couldn’t have imagined my apartment would get flooded and sending my family into a four-month renovation. I didn’t think both my aunt and my husband’s aunt would die, three months apart, both of ovarian cancer. Luckily I’ve never had to take my husband, son or daughter to the emergency room, instead, I took all three. I went on vacation but wrote every single day there too. I wrote in uncomfortable places at inconvenient times often when I didn’t “feel like it.” I learned to narrate into my phone so I could “write” as I walked to pick my daughter up from school or when I was driving hundreds of times over the George Washington Bridge to pick up my son from school. I wrote in waiting rooms, in notebooks, on scraps of paper and I cried almost every day. I cried because it was hard and because it felt heavy and I got vulnerable and insecure and I was still in the discovery mode of understanding that emotions are not my enemy, despite a lifetime of trying to banish them.
As we celebrate an official new calendar year, the world is chattering about resolutions; about living our best lives. I’ve done it now, I know what it takes, what it feels like and it’s not easy.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Your resolutions cannot be for anyone else or about anyone else. Only for you.
- Understand how this resolution will make your life better and remember this on the days you just don’t want to do it.
- Don’t let perfection paralysis stop you. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s part of the overall journey and you can’t judge it until it’s over.
- You don’t control the future.
- Forgive yourself for mistakes but don’t make excuses.
- Get support. My husband was my editor; my sister, my biggest fan. It doesn’t have to be a squad, but it has to be real.
- “Embrace the suck and you move the fuck forward. What other choice do we have?” – From Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
What does 2017 have in store for me in terms of resolutions?
- Learn how to relax
- Practice, repeat
I’ll also be going back to my pieces, rereading them, loving them for what they were individually, and appreciating the part they played as 1/365th of a whole project. A project so organic, I had to reacquaint myself with it each day, akin to performance art, where the world watched as my life narrate what I wrote. Oh, and turn them into a book. That too.
Planning a 365 Commitment? I’d love to hear about it and cheer you on!