I started getting low around the holidays in my 20s, probably. Something about feeling spat out from the optimism of childhood. It’s almost charming to me now, how early I started feeling old. I liked holidays parties, of course, with their cranberry-colored cocktails, one endless glass of red wine, a little dose of amnesia to make me forget I was faltering. December was all drink, drank, drunk, and then New Year’s Day was staring me in the face, with its promise of new beginnings, self-improvement, purity. This year, it’ll be different.
I must have quit booze a dozen times on January 1. Quit for a month, quit for 15 days. Or the classic unquantifiable: I’ll cut down. Usually that meant I’d cut down for an evening or two, but soon enough I’d be raring to go again, glass filled to the brim. What resolution, now? Change is hard, and change is rare, and it usually doesn’t happen with a flip of the calendar. What I’ve learned is that change comes when you’re ready for it. Change comes because the cost of staying the same gets too high. I didn’t quit booze in June 2010 because purity and self-improvement recommended themselves so strongly to me. I quit booze because drinking got so bad. There is a saying in recovery, I’ll leave it here in case anyone needs it: When the pain outweighs the fear, change happens.
Today there are things I’d like to change. I wish I spent more time outdoors. I’m more disconnected from people than I’d like. I wish I were better organized, paid my bills faster, but I got bored just typing that sentence. What’s amazing to me is that I don’t feel some gripping need to change myself each January 1. The calendar flips, a new start. I hope for things. But this year, it’ll mostly be the same.
And then, it won’t, because each year really is different. Usually in ways that defy prediction and resolve. I will meet some new person. I will encounter some new idea, the universe will swerve off-course, I will write a sentence or two that might shimmer when I hold the words to the light. We live in uncertainty, knowing only that change is constant and stubborn at once. Still, and nonetheless: Happy New Year.