Around this time of the year, I sit in my room and flip through my journal. Curled into the covers of my bed, I read over old diary entries, small notes, lists, and poetry. I see names repeat entry after entry only to see them disappear entirely after a few more. As I turn the pages, issues I fought with stare me in the face again and again, with no known resolution. Then, there’s the occasional doodle with a quote of encouragement; words I held onto when I had little else.
Keeping a journal gives me the ability to transport back to the exact day, hour, minute that I felt something worthy of writing. It is a record of every deafening heartbreak, every brilliant idea, every scrap of boredom. It is a physical reminder of every goal I’ve made for the past year. December is almost over and last night, I sat in my room, flipped through my journal, and was reminded of it all.
The year is ending and these final days of 2015 feel like the swift winter sunset: before you know it, the painted sky fades to black. 2016 looms on the horizon like a predicted natural disaster. Why compare a fresh start to something as destructive as a hurricane? Much like enormous storms, there’s an heir of finality as we close out this year and enter the new. There’s also a sense of growth. Rebuilding yourself in light of new goals and aspirations mirrors that of rebuilding a city hit by destruction: you pick up the pieces and work to make it better. Sometimes there’s a foundation and other times not, but you always rebuild.
Thankfully, I have a strong foundation from posting monthly goals on here since September. But, we are more familiar with the term “New Year’s Resolutions” and a resolution is not the same as a goal. By definition, a goal is the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result while a resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. They’re pretty similar, right? They’re easily confused, interchanged, but they are not interchangeable. I could sit and list goals for years. A resolution is more definite. To make a resolution, a true resolution, I have to make a firm decision.
My good friend Sarah wrote an article on making resolutions recently. Specifically, on how difficult resolutions are to keep (read it here). If you think about it, we have so much working against us when we try to change. Our lives conform to our habits, our small, everyday decisions. It takes a long time to realize we’ve engrained a negative habit into our lives. It takes even longer to change it. Our minds get used to certain processes. We surround ourselves with like-minded people. When we decide we want to change, sometimes you have to change more than just one basic action. You have to change your mind, your environment, your life. It seems more than a little daunting. Though it may appear so, it’s not impossible! Resolve to change something singular and specific. If you have too many things you want to change, it’ll be that much harder to be successful.
With that in mind, it makes choosing a resolution more difficult. Usually, it’s easy to say “I want to be more healthy” and call it a day (a year?). It takes more to choose one course of action with direct plans. One pinpointed decision can be harder than a sweeping one. How do you make such a choice?
In the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to Hamilton, the hit Broadway musical (this ties in, I promise). As the title suggests, it’s about our founding father Alexander Hamilton, a man that inspired great love and great hate in those who encountered him. This genius piece of theater tells the story of Hamilton as he rises above the obstacles placed in front of him, rising from the forgotten orphan in the Caribbean to the illustrious political figure. Oh, and all of the music is inspired by hip-hop, rap, and R&B. I highly recommend it.
Hamilton’s character finds his foil in Aaron Burr, the man who eventually kills him in a duel. The motif that follows Hamilton is “I am not throwing away my shot.” He sees every step in his journey as an opportunity. The motif that follows Burr is “Wait for it.” Burr sees opportunities, but values the ability to wait and see how things will turn out before committing entirely. There are times when Hamilton’s view seems like the best way to approach life, but other times Burr’s strategy serves better. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda mentions the importance of balance between the two in his commencement address for the students at Wesleyan University.
How does this pertain to New Year’s resolutions? As I said, choosing a resolution is hard. Do it anyway. A resolution’s specificity increases the possibility of successful completion. Be like Hamilton and take this opportunity to change and better yourself. Be like Burr and assess your options before committing. A blend will give you a resolution you can follow through with.
Hamilton and the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda inspired me and helped me choose my resolution. A journal entry I wrote recently best sums it up:
For a long time, I’ve felt entitled to it all. I’ve felt that I didn’t need to work for what I’ve got. In my defense, I haven’t, but I do have something to prove. If my dreams are to come to fruition, I need to fight for it, work for it. I yearn, I wait for my passion and ambition to come back to me. I now see I must instill it within myself. Let me write, let me read, let me work to learn in abundance and gather knowledge like it’s seeping away from my being at all times. I should wake up, treat myself well, then challenge myself to do better, do more. There is no reason for me to refuse. There are opportunities glaring me in the face every single day. It’s time to stop blinking first. It’s time to reach out and grab every opportunity that’s out there.
Here’s to a new year.