We’ve all seen the movie or TV show that starts with a timid girl packing her bags, buying a bus ticket to the “big city,” moving into a shitty apartment with no furniture, and feeling satisfied because she’s “starting over.” (Okay, maybe I just summarized the first 10 minutes of Christina Aguilera in Burlesque, but you get the point.) As a teenager, I remember feeling a magnetism to the Laguna Beach season two finale when Kristin Cavalleri drove off to college and the song “Farewell to the Old Me” played in the background. In both cases, we see a passion-fueled change assumed to be meaningful because “nothing would ever be the same.”
Maybe it’s true that moving on and living somewhere new can inspire significant identity shifts, and for some people these changes are positive. However, I’m skeptical about people’s insistence that we can so easily press a reset button and start from scratch. In my experience–and the experience I know of others–we cannot just reset and start from scratch. Kristin should have watched Lauren Conrad’s finale episode from season 1 in which the same intensified emotions ran rampant. But what actually happened? LC moved to San Francisco for a semester, learned that she wasn’t able handle that magnitude of change, and moved back home to get her airtime in season 2.
So how do we “start over” without failing? How can we make changes in our lives that are sustainable and realistic? New Years resolutions are popular right now, and although I haven’t formally conceptualized any of my own, I don’t think they’re a bad idea because the root of resolution is intention. You gotta speak it into existence, so yas girl, tell the whole world that you want to travel and learn a language and read more books.
(Of course there’s a but…)
You have to do some self-work to realize why these things either didn’t or couldn’t happen prior to you setting this resolution. For example, if you didn’t like going to the gym last year, you’re not going to like it this year either, pumpkin–so rather than abandoning the idea that exercise makes you healthy, figure out a plan more feasible to you than walking on a boring-ass treadmill. Running with your dog? Joining an early-to-mid-twenties frisbee league? Going to group exercise classes with loud music blaring? Find a creative solution.
But it’s more than just the how–it’s the why. Being well-traveled, well-read, diversified in language, and feeling healthy are things many people want, so why does this matter to you? What is your motivation besides “this is something I should do?” Starting over or resetting a behavior is rarely an issue of intention; it’s an issue of commitment. Are you going to splash around in the messy shitwater of change and transition and really do the challenging, good work that needs to be done, or are you going to dip your toe in, realize the water’s a few degrees too cold, and run for the hills?
You don’t need January 1 in order to decide your life should be different, but if you do, we wish you well on that journey. Just remember that we can’t all be like Christina Aguilera and have a washed-up show queen named Cher launch the platform for our dreams to become the most successful burlesque dancer in LA. You have to be your own fairy godmother and wave the wand by working harder than you ever have before. I promise you the sweat will be worth it.