Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Hi-Def Resolution

I bet you thought I'd forgotten. Didn't you?

Well, I haven't. You see, as my dedicated readers will know, I pretty much always do a New Year's blog at the start of every January of the same vein: talking about New Years' Resolutions and what a crap idea they are. #

But oh no. Just like an elephant who witnessed 'Nam, I will never forget.

I've had 21 New Years. I don't remember a good few of them; either from them being too uneventful, me being too young to understand, me being too drunk to comprehend, or some combination of the above three reasons. But I remember the Millennium. Maybe it was because it was the one night in my childhood when I was allowed to stay up as late as my parents.

Do you remember, Dear Reader, how terrified we were of the old Y2K? The Millennium bug? I remember a classmate telling me about it in school: "Cars will stop working and slide off of roads. Aeroplanes will stop and fall out of the sky. Computers in hospitals will stop working and people will DIE." Charming little doom-mongers that young children are, I knew plenty of adults who thought exactly the same thing: And then I remember waking up on January 1st 2000 and not finding the X-1447 to Frankfurt in my back garden. I went downstairs: the toaster wasn't trying to kill my Mum, Dad was tinkering happily with a computer (being the level-headed, sensible IT tech who had dismissed electrical Armageddon as 'crap' and got on with his work) and all was fine with the world.

A New Year changes a few things - the calendar and the clock, and I'm afraid that's it kids. I'm sure you're old enough to know that you won't go to bed up to your eyebrows in debt on Dec 31st and then wake up on Jan 1st a millionaire. But what you may not know is that no matter how much you want to quit cigarettes, or save money, or lose a stone, the day or date doesn't make the blindest bit of difference.

What you need to do is change your attitude first. You can choose to stub out your last fag just as Big Ben chimes, hating yourself two weeks later when you're lighting up out of desperation or sheer habit, or you can choose to use the first few days in January getting a bit of help - finding a support group, setting yourself a realistic goal, asking for advice from sources who've been there and gone through it. If you go 'cold turkey' from the start, chances are you'll be asking too much of yourself. Smoking, biting your nails, comfort eating, over-spending, swearing: they're all habits which can become deep-set and under your skin. Could you go a whole day without saying the word "the"? Not without hesitation and difficulty - and that's exactly how I want you to envisage the first few days of your Resolution. (Notice I said "the" during that latter sentence - if this was my resolution I'd be knee-deep in Quality Street wrappers by now.)

Then there's the other side of the coin: Resolutions aside, if you're in a bad situation then the New Year isn't going to make much difference to you. But rather than dwell on your circumstance, revel in well-wishes from others. Who did you spend the New Year with? Did they hug or kiss you at the strike of midnight? Did they raise a glass to you, or wipe a tear away and promise "This time next year..."? There's a good chance that these people wished you a Happy New Year. Stop and have a think about that: they're not saying "you will clear your debts" or "you will meet the love of your life" - they're telling you to choose happiness. After all, isn't happiness a choice? Yes it is - why else would rich people and poor people, old people and young people, people of all races and creeds and circumstances have it?

I'm not saying it's easy to be happy when the world seems to be against you. But the odds are you've heard someone say to you "Happy New Year" at least once recently. Share yourself and your New Year - spread yourself among your friends and family, your community, your activities. Don't worry about what could happen, or you're doomed. Yes, you might put the weight back on. Yes, you might slip up and have a sneaky smoke or two. Yes, you might fancy a drink after a hard day at work and yes, one day you will die. I'm very sorry about that but it's true. You are a person, not a machine designed to follow one limited pathway to success.

Whatever you set out to achieve this year or in the future, go for it, but pick the right road for you. And chin up, kiddo.

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