Expectations. That kind of sums up the whole New Year’s thing for me.
Expectations that even if you’re more than happy curling up on the sofa waiting for the New Year to tick over, you SHOULD be out somewhere having EXTRAORDINARY fun. Camping. At a festival. A concert at an exclusive bar (as opposed to that seedy one with terrible music that you doggedly stick it out in because damn it it’s nearly midnight and you queued for 40 minutes just to get in). Glamourous parties like they always seem to have in movies (maybe that’s a Northern hemisphere thing? certainly never been to one in NZ).
I lived with that expectation for a long time. This year I realised that although I love parties and I love people, I’m also totally fine with ringing in the New Year with a movie by myself. I’m actually going to spend this New Year with friends watching fireworks, which is perfect too. I’ve had wonderful, extraordinary, fabulous New Year’s Eves before. Many of them. I’ve been to Hogmanay in Edinburgh, I’ve hosted cocktail parties, and I’ve also had those serendipitous ‘just come and join in’ relaxed BBQ evenings where you go knowing one person and leave having met so many more. Some of my favourite NYEs lately have been spent with my family, watching the fireworks over the bay from the beach house on the cliff. So perhaps it’s easy to shrug off the weight of expectation for this one. A virtue of getting older (there has to be some, right?).
Expectations that a New Year heralds big changes and you should be reviewing everything you didn’t accomplish so that you can resolve to do better is harder to shrug off. We see it everywhere:
BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR.
LOOK AT ALL THE TIMES YOU FAILED LAST YEAR
I’m a big fan of self-reflection and aspiration so the goal setting isn’t too much of an issue, and the turn of a year is as symbolic a time as ever to do so (after all, we already do the ‘Diet Starts Monday’. Have to wait til Monday because that’s a new week. Won’t work if we do it on Wednesday). What I’ve found for me is that the weight of expectations that I place on myself for resolutions and goals always ends up squashing the motivation, the incentive, to do better.
So this is what I do.
Every year for the last 5 years I have sat down on New Year’s Eve or the next day and emptied my Happy Jar. Instead of looking over all the things I didn’t do well or making resolutions to FIX myself, I look at all the wonderful things that made me happy, joyful, grateful, or proud. It’s a truly delightful thing to do. The rediscovery of a moment in time that made you laugh out loud when it happened and that you beam over for a second time. The tears as you are reminded of something so beautiful and tender that your heart bursts all over again. This, for me, has become the way I say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new one – emptying a jar of happy to make way for new happinesses.
(see here for how I do my Happy Jar).
I also make goals.
Every year I buy a planner or a diary. I intend to use it. I don’t always. BUT I always buy one. The last two years I’ve combined a daily planner with a bullet journal. I just don’t have the commitment for a full bullet journal, even though I think they look incredible. But I’ve noticed that the fuller and more consistent my pages in my journal/planner are, the happier and more organised and less stressed I am.
This is what I’ve set out so far. I start with a basic daily planner and write a key for tasks that you find in most bullet journals.
I write out a baseline of goals – where I am now and then annotate it with ideas. Then for the last Sunday in each month, I write a Goal Review.
I have found that having the Goal Review ‘template’ already written up makes me keen to be able to fill it in with successes and give myself a sticker or two. This coming year I am also going to put checkpoint or reminder dates during the month. EG – weekly budget reminders. A writing word count countdown. This will hopefully avoid the possibility of getting to the Goal Review and going ‘Oh yeah… I’d forgotten I wanted to do that….”
I’ve also included more detailed goal breakdowns for Writing and Health on other pages, with specific goals and specific steps.
This works for me because I like colour, I like mindmaps and lists, and I respond well to praise – even when it is a self high-five or my own gold star. I’ve even been known to write down inspirational quotes in the margins of the day’s plans from time to time. It’s about finding what does work for you. Some people find that sharing their goals keeps them accountable. I tend to find the opposite sometimes – I get the praise and validation from the proposed goal so there’s not as much impetus to fulfil the goal… make sense? It’s okay if it doesn’t, our brains often don’t make sense.
There’s so much pressure, so many EXPECTATIONS around New Year’s Eve, that it can get in the way of actual reflection. It is the end of a year. We can take the change to a new one and make it meaningful to us, and we also don’t have to. We can go camping or wait in queues for bars, or we don’t have to. We can make goals, and lists, and buy journals, or we don’t have to.
This has been both a difficult and a rewarding year for me personally. Although I’ve faced burnout, gone backwards with my health and fitness, and didn’t accomplish all my writing goals, I also have made some important steps to what I want out of my life. I’ve started this blog. I’ve kept writing it. And thank you so much to all of you who take the time to read it and have found something you like in it. That has meant so much to me. I have become braver with sharing my fictional writing. I have found more writing friends and have learned a lot from them. I have learned also to take a step back. To say no. To look after myself. To be kind to myself.
This year I have really felt that I’ve come into my own again. I’m becoming both who I want to be and becoming more of myself. I’m pretty sure that I won’t complete all my goals for 2018. I know that there will be disappointments aplenty ahead. But I also know that my happy jar will be full again, with all those delightful moments that make up life. Free from expectation.
Happy New Year!