“Auld Lang Syne” state of mind


Illustration Credit: Alexa Druyanoff

Daphne Davies, Assistant Opinion Editor

In Ancient Rome, Jan.1 served as an occasion to honor the god Janus with offerings and promises to act more virtuously than in years past, according to The Atlantic. Throughout its history, New Year’s Day has carried the expectation that we will commit to doing good and being better. But what should be a lovely notion––the idea of starting fresh with new positive habits and goals––is instead tainted by undue pressure. 

In the days leading up to Jan. 1, 2022, I felt crushed by the weight of trying to reinvent myself completely this year. I wondered how, especially with COVID-19 cases rising, I could be sure I would follow through with any resolutions I made. My conclusion? I couldn’t.

Many other Americans also seem to feel a similar sense of hopelessness with respect to this COVID-19- stricken new year. According to a CBS poll that surveyed a random sample of 1,009 adults across the nation, only 29% of Americans said they will make New Year’s resolutions this year, down from 43% last year. The poll also found that most Americans making resolutions hope to lose weight or improve their health, while others seek to improve their finances, spend more time with loved ones or further enjoy their life.

These are good resolutions to make, and I do not mean to suggest we should keep from making resolutions altogether. The new year gives us the uniquely metaphorical opportunity to start over––after all, we are living exactly the same life whether it is 11:59 p.m. in 2021 or 12 a.m. in 2022––and we should use that opportunity to improve our lives. The problem with our New Year’s resolutions, from eating healthier to practicing more empathy to spending less time on electronics, emerges when they become extreme.

We often make resolutions that are unrealistic when the promise of an entire new year stretches itself out before us, but these goals are often too difficult to follow through on and achieve. Challenges can be exceptionally motivating, but setting unreachable goals only works against everything New Year’s resolutions should stand for. Daunted by the goal itself and our inability to fulfill the promises we make and goals we set, we feel inadequate and ultimately give up.

Moreover, the gravity of making overly ambitious resolutions can become especially harmful amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In our situation, one in which the state of our community and our broader world is changing so rapidly, it is nearly impossible to establish, and much less execute, a concrete plan for any of our New Year’s resolutions. One could start their year aiming to go to a new gym every day; a week later, that gym might be closed due to a sudden spike in cases. Additionally, the mental toll of the pandemic is not to be overlooked; it is hard to make good on any promise to yourself when you are barely getting by.

As high school students, we feel immense pressure to perform well now in order to set ourselves up for a successful future. It is very easy for us to doubt ourselves or think we must change the path we are on to get there. We have to trust, though, that things will work themselves out. We have to accept that although there is much to be enjoyed during this time of our lives, it is a hard place to be in, and we should refrain from increasing the weight of the pressure already on our shoulders by adding our own large, impractical expectations. A new year is a natural time for this to happen, and we must remain vigilant to set goals that are both healthy and reachable. 

The cycle we create is useless, and it must end. For far too long, we have tried to persuade ourselves that we should create huge changes within our lives as one year becomes the next. Instead, we should reward one another for steady progress towards smaller-scale changes and prioritize the self-acceptance that makes us better people. 

We should absolutely avoid becoming complacent or pessimistic about our ability to improve the parts of our lives that we can. We must realize, however, that not everything in our lives can be modified to anything near perfection or even changed at all,  except for the outlook wwe have on changes in our lives themselves.