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Updated: Jan 3, 2023

It’s a new year. For some, it’s a big deal, one that has been extended because January 1 fell on a Sunday. That means if you’re lucky (you know who you are), your computer calendar lists today as “New Year’s Day (observed)” or in my case, “New Year’s Day (substitute)” which means you get another day off. Woo-hoo!

I get the idea of using the Monday following a Sunday holiday as another “observance” of said holiday; and hopefully, a well-deserved day off for those who most need it. The thing is, the people who most need it (those who aren’t the lucky ones I referred to above) are often working in jobs that don’t observe the “substitute” holiday anyway, so they end up working for and servicing those of us who do get the extra day off. So, for them, the bonus/substitute holiday becomes just another day.

I’m rambling, I know, and it’s not even about the topic I’d hoped to cover. Well, it’s sort of on-topic, but not really. What I’d hoped to discuss with you today – on Substitute New Year’s Day – is my indecision on how to treat the arrival of the new year, or more specifically, how I should attack it. Or maybe I should say how I should let the new year attack me, given my attitude and level of grit, things that seem to be moving targets that don’t care about the calendar, days off or even if “observed” or “substitute” is a more appropriate description of a holiday that really isn’t a holiday, simply the day after a Sunday holiday, so why not give a bunch of people – but probably not the people who really need it – the day off. (Still rambling.)

In some respects, I (like so my others) view the new year as a fresh start (or to use more modern jargon, a “reset”), allowing me to reflect on where I’ve been, and use that wisdom (what little I have) to look ahead to right my wrongs or account for past mistakes and stumbles.

I fully understand – and support -- the desire and need for people to create new beginnings, and to announce and pursue ways to approach certain challenges in their lives. And that iconic ball drop, the page-turn from December to January (or whenever it happens for you if you don’t follow the Gregorian calendar) provides precisely the low-hanging fruit some of us need to get moving on to “what’s next.”

It’s an obvious choice, allowing us to draw a line in the sand, to wipe the slate clean, put our ducks in a row, get our shit together, and all the other cliches you can think of, to make this year “MY year, damnit!”

Thing is, if you’re anything like me, the luster begins to fade from those New Year’s promises, commitments and goals somewhere between January 21 and February 15 (and I’m being SUPER generous with February 15).

Don’t worry, it’s human nature. Thing is, no matter how over-ambitious we are when making those New Year’s resolutions (whether it’s waiting in traffic in late December, or cleaning up the cocktail sauce stain Uncle Marty left on your white sectional at last night’s New Year’s Eve party) these commitments are fricking hard … because we make them hard, often too hard. Instead of saying, “You know what? I’m going for a walk today,” we announce, “I’m running a marathon in 2023!” Instead of, “I think I’ll cut back on my weeknight drinking, we proclaim (through our New Year’s Eve hangover), “I … AM … NEVER … DRINKING … AGAIN.” And the list goes on.

And then, when (not if, but when) the air starts to leak out of our brand new, super-ambitious New Year’s “tires” (because we overinflated them, and then drove them across glass, nails and barbed wire for three weeks), we start to feel the shame and the regret of something we would never establish or announce as our New Year’s resolution …

“I plan to fail in 2023.”

But why do we fail? To reiterate: because this shit’s hard. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t have to make resolutions, right? Quit smoking. Cut down on drinking. Exercise. Leave work at work. Stop eating junk food. Stop wasting time on Candy Crush. Meditate. I could go on (and normally, I would, but I promised myself I wouldn’t ramble or dwell on things in 2023; hmmm …).

But you get the picture.

Then, we take these things that are already hard (and that’s OK) and make them HARDER! I do it, you do it, and basically everyone -- except the true experts who have all the answers on productivity, goal setting, happiness and inner peace -- does it.

And I have news for you: they do it too. They just have ways to tell us how “not” to do it, and to their credit, they’re probably more resilient and strategic when they realize they’re also perfectly human (i.e., imperfect) so they’re better equipped to adapt and succeed when they fall of their “goal wagon.”

I don’t always fail at ambitious goals, and I’m proud and happy to say some of the changes and commitments I’ve made to myself over the years have stuck; but they generally weren’t those I made on January 1 (or as a substitute, January 2). They were the ones that I started on March 8, August 14 or November 26. And they were made not because the calendar said, “Hey Dave, isn’t time you grew up and started living a better life, working harder, eating better, exercising more, taking more cleansing breaths, flossing, reading the classics, using the stairs instead of the elevator, throwing out all the junk food in the house, being kinder to people, not speeding on the freeway just because everyone else is, showing up on time, blah, blah, blah …”

No, those things that have stuck – things I will not mention 1) for fear that it might appear that I’m boasting and 2) because it’s none of anyone’s damn business – are because I wanted to do them, or I felt my life, health or happiness depended on them, not just because the calendar said so, but because I said so.

I’m not a New Year’s resolutionist (a word I may have just coined; feel free to use it … on the other hand, if I’m coining a phrase, what about resolutionary?), so January 1 doesn’t have the same personal motivation for me as it might for you. That said, I don’t have any right to criticize those who make January 1 resolutions. Far be it from me to judge or advise. (As you can see, I’ve already failed miserably in my resolution to “not ramble or dwell” on things … and I really thought I’d make it to February 15.)

All I can say is this: be kind to yourself. Reward yourself for working at it – whatever “it” is – and don’t give a shit what others think. Remember, when you make promises and commitments to yourself (and we all do), failure is always waiting for us, and that’s not always a bad thing. It can help us in the long run.

But you’re a good person, you deserve good things, maybe even a substitute holiday. All I’m saying is don’t put too much stock in the calendar; go with what motivates you when it motivates you.

And know I’m behind you all the way: on January 1, January 2, March 8, August 18, November 26 and all the other days of the year. For me, I’m setting a few accessible – if not important –resolutions, getting information and answers to questions that have been plaguing me for months, if not years:

What’s a rational number? (Math people please don’t sigh at me for this one; remember, I do the words.)

Finally get to the bottom of the MSG issue. (Is it bad for us, and why does it make food taste so good … or does it?)

Learn more about the history and significance of the kepi. (It’s a military hat).

On a map, which one is New Hampshire and which one is Vermont? (This also works for Colorado and Wyoming.)

Confirm the spelling of “beignet” (though I don’t know I’ve ever had to use it in a sentence).

How many leaves are on an average maple tree? (This came to mind one fall day as I saw the lawn covered in leaves and the tree still looked like it had a full head of hair.)

Doable. Accessible. Fun. That’s what I’m going for in 2023. But you do you, and I’ll support it, whatever “it” is.

Happy New Year, and if you’re working today, thank you. I hope today finds you well and you get rewarded in other ways.

Let’s make 2023 OUR year damnit!

© 2023 David R. Haznaw

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