Gym memberships, according to an acquaintance of mine who once worked at a Planet Fitness in Manhattan, spike considerably with the advent of a New Year. These same memberships are collecting dust by the first of February, however. I envisioned myself walking into a location, people lined up behind me in droves, enticed by the prospect of putting an end to my tenure as a potato with hair.
The thought itself was harsh, divisive. But it served as a stark reminder of how deeply we are conditioned to pick ourselves over with fine toothed combs, hunting for inadequacies, traits to fix. These feelings are not exclusive to the New Year, but they are exacerbated the more tangible the end of December and the loss of a further 365 days becomes. We feel the pressure mounting with every TV commercial, every sale, and even with every party invitation boasting of the opportunity you’ve been given to showcase the brand new you.
The quintessentially American adherence to pressure, of less and less body fat, of longer and longer work hours, of #TeamNoSleep, sneaks up on you. The ease with which we lose track of time becomes ever more discernible. Whatever we did (or didn’t do), whatever we wanted (that we didn’t get), whatever we expected (that we didn’t live up to), whatever we got (that we eschewed), comes together, a chemical reaction of self-recrimination hitting critical mass.
At such a point, pressure ceases to be a principle or even a catalyst through which we can filter desired results, and more a thoroughfare to policies we increment.
At such a point, we disregard what is truly at center stage of this menagerie of self doubt: a human being with valid worries, fears and time constraints which can leave them feeling directionless.
When did I realize that such lofty and unrealistic expectations of myself could destroy me before even mustering up the courage to get out of bed?
I suppose you could say it was when I resigned myself to not pumping out a literary masterpiece by the age of twenty-five, that I was pushing myself to limits which severely hindered my output and disrespected the necessary cycle of writing, revision, then revision after revision after revision which would signal and cultivate my artistic growth.
I suppose you could say it was when waking up at God-fearing hours to get things done (but not actually getting anything done at all) threatened to mire the moments where I was actually productive.
And I suppose you could say (though there are many other examples I could add to this conversation) it was when I acknowledged that I could not ignore the way Taco Bell made me feel while stoned (and that to ignore the occasional craving—when I had already been raised with respectable eating habits—would not negate the fact that chewing on kale while high as a kite would feel false, as if I’d assumed the form of a brontosaur overnight).
No true resolution bursts into bloom, into the product formerly only envisioned, over the beginnings of the hangover you’ll nurse in the morning. The seed might be planted, yes. But how can you make a choice to spring into action while under the influence? How can you make an informed choice if you’re not mentally present to weigh the trade-offs of said choice?
How can you make a choice without actual introspection? How can you make a choice while under the pressure to decide? But, you might be saying to yourself, it’s just a New Year’s resolution. Maybe. But no resolution of any kind comes out of your head without addressing a very specific need: In this case, time.
Is it the need for time which relegates us to making rash decisions?
Is it not because of time, for all its ebb and flow, that we find ourselves at an impasse, crushed, once again, under yet another year of pressing obligation?
Is it not because of time that we remember or become aware of what we need?
Is it not because of time that we forget to nurse those needs outright?
But pressure does not—and will not—follow the laws of common sense, let alone address your merits or capabilities within a singular moment in time. In only a moment, we can lose our way.
Here we are: Less than two weeks away from 2016 and I still wonder who I am and what I’m capable of. But I’ve stopped wondering for the day.
There’s that young boy within who played with his brother in the front yard, running around in gloriously aimless stretches of tag and hide-and-seek.
There’s that teen who smoked cigarettes and drank like a fish but still went to his mother’s home at night and who, come morning, would be sprawled on the living floor reading the newspaper and having a gander at the week’s grocery coupons.
There’s that young man who, on his first day of college, stood in the atrium of the main building on campus to gaze upon a riverside which looked so close from that plate glass window that he felt he could take a cool drink in the moment it’d take to sprint down there while the wind whipped the leaves of the trees dotting the bank which were obscured beneath the shadow of skyscrapers.
There’s that young man who, while homeless on the streets of New York, found himself appreciating the beauty of Central Park for what seemed the first time, climbing atop a boulder, gazing at the children running about while their parents attempted to shed themselves of the summer heat which they’d wear like a second layer of skin and then lose himself in the sound of taxicabs, the call of street vendors, peddlers, the slurring swirl of midday traffic.
There’s that young man sitting down on his sofa with his laptop on a Sunday evening getting ready to wrap up this article.
He has made many promises to himself in the past, some of which he meant to keep and some of which he didn’t, because he couldn’t. He doesn’t know what he’s going to tell himself this year when 11:59 on the 31st disappears. Because accepting his limitations and working within them to eventually free himself from them is one of the hardest things he’s ever done. He feels this now, at 24. He will feel this a few months from now, when he rings in 25. He will feel this at 40 and feel this at 60 and maybe at 80 and you will do this at those ages, not to mention all the years in between.
And we might even look at each other and ask ourselves: What took us so long?
But it’s okay. More than anything: it’s okay.