It’s probably a bit late in the month to be writing about resolutions for the new year, but then I realised a few years ago that making new year’s resolutions was not really my bag. I was pretty terrible at maintaining them for any significant length. I just don’t have the willpower or, at the very least I forget about the specifics of them over time and so the resolutions wilt through lack of effort and eventually die off.
However, I have always been a fan of lists and with the luxury of time over my Christmas break I decided to sit down and make a list of the things that I wanted to look back on from 2018. And now a few weeks into a new year, I thought that I would revisit that list and think a bit deeper about what I was going on about in the first place.
In April last year, I celebrated my 35th birthday. I have a memory somewhere at the back of my mind that jumps up to remind me (notably on birthdays and other for celebrations), that I would have accomplished great things by the time I reached my mid-30s.
What do I mean by great things? I am mildly embarrassed by the two things that I write now but during my twenties what seemed paramount to me was to have a house of my own (or with someone else) and also be married.
A little context to add some colour to these perhaps wildly modest ambitions to some, but at 25 I was relatively fresh into my teaching career and I was living with my then boyfriend. The idea of owning my own place and being married somehow settled my busy, chattering mind that also dreamed of other things.
And now? I rent. And I am not married. What would my twenty-something self say?
Probably not much. My plans and priorities have changed. My life is different from what I foresaw. Ask the 25 year old me and the prospect of leaving the UK to travel, work and live would have been an aspiration and a distant one at that.
Also in April, I joined a new gym. Not necessarily a remarkable feat, but one that has made a difference both physically and also emotionally. Old but familiar gremlins had resurfaced over the course of the year, and although I am used to the taunts, by simply moving my body I have managed at times to shut down the jibes. There is a joy in movement that I don’t recall ever experiencing, or perhaps I appreciated before.
By the end of the summer I had completed my first year at my new school and also had visited New York City on a holiday. A city that awoke my senses in a way that some other cities have failed to do so. It was important for me to see New York through the eyes of my boyfriend who had lived there for six years. We wandered for the most part off the tourist trail and, fortunately for him, the city did not disappoint. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel and its ability to open my soul.
I have also made new friends and met some wonderful new people. Two from the gym no less, and another through a book club that I joined about halfway through the year. I am still working my head around how to make friends as an adult. I catch myself drawn to articles from people in a similar-ish age bracket, providing advice about how to make friends as though just joining a new club or striking up conversations with someone in a queue in a shop is the answer. Ta-dah! But it seems that some of the anxiety of making friends is a universal faced by many. Having said that, something clicked when I returned to the UK over Christmas and I saw some of my oldest and dearest friends. Somewhat unconsciously I had been auditioning any prospective new connections with wildly unrealistic expectations, or rather there had just been one, be a mirror version of one of my besties from the UK. Nigh impossible.
In some cases in recent years I have chosen new friends poorly, failing to acknowledge a sense of loneliness and, ultimately craving a meeting of minds so much so that I have found myself acting as a sounding board for their needs and desires (and often as a recipient of their moaning), but when I express my own they have shrunk back. Fearful perhaps of me wanting to create space for myself, or they have simply just not been interested in what I have to say. So I have ignored the feelings of unease that have either precluded or followed meeting someone, and ignored that something needed to change, and that could only come from me.
I am more aware now more than ever that not everyone is going to like me, and this recognition has provided me with a much welcomed if somewhat blinding clarity. For decades the fear of being disliked has driven me to self-flagellate at the slightest hint of criticism from someone, so now I aim to readdress this. Balance. This is the way forward in all my relationships. When my views have been dismissed or met with apathy, I hope to be bolder and speak up or walk away. Either way, accept the differences nonetheless.
I have also become more accepting of the lengthy periods of self-imposed and necessary solitude. My job involves talking and listening, both often at length. And so having the time to be still or just pottering about with silence or a podcast for company is a form of essential nourishment. I enjoy the quiet. I live in a vibrant and loud city but the apartment that I share with my boyfriend is thankfully for the most part, a sanctuary.
I have been active in some more creative pursuits in the past year such as participating in still life drawing classes (a drawer not the model) and doing embroidery, and I am not awful at either as I anticipated, although for the latter my drawings do resemble my ability from when I was about eight years old. I will improve in time but if I don’t, why does it matter? It’s not like I made some resolution or anything.