Time is often cyclical, or at least we seem to enjoy finding the loops in life. Like the sun circling the sky, the trees perking and fading with the seasons, and the rounded tracks we run on, time is often packaged in beginnings, endings, and rebirth.
The notion of renewal and change pivots on these closings and openings, and New Year’s Day is the grandest opening of all. After a night of celebration and excess, we open our eyes to a crisp clean morning and vow to remake ourselves; to be better by the time we finish this next lap of life. There are vows to be made, weight to be lost, and bad habits to squelch forever.
All this we pledge with good intent and unwavering commitment. Yet, most of us fail and fail quickly. The commitment dulls as entrenched habits sneak back and reassert their dominance. We loose our tight grasp of our vows, shrug away the disappointment, and promise next year will be different.
There is a fundamental flaw in this cycle, in these continuous revolutions of resolutions and disappointment. The flaw lies in our notion of rebirth – that its occurrence must be held hostage to a specific date.
New Year’s, like many of the loops we twist in time, is an artificial beginning on which our burdens of improvement are placed. Its transparency as any sort of actual and meaningful conclusion or rebirth contributes to the ultimate failure so many of us will face in our resolutions. There are no doors on time, and when we try to paint them on, it is only with imagination.
Cycles of seasons are continuous, but in our efforts to keep count and put meaning into the process, we have painted on an ending and a beginning to each revolution. Walking around a track (perhaps in accord with that resolution to shed some pounds) is a similar process. We travel along the path and end at the exact spot we began.
Therein lies the problem. In any interconnected loop, there is, in reality, no end or beginning. On a track, we merely pick a spot to begin and designate it as a starting and ending point. That point becomes a reference to us, an integral part of our workout. If, for instance, we begin by walking and decide to increase our pace, we will most likely complete the lap first before trudging into a jog. Or, we will sprint a lap and stumble into a walk as soon as the imaginary line is crossed. Always, that invisible point is the catalyst for change even though it is merely a figment of the mind.
New Year’s is this same artificial starting point. It is the time when popular belief and social convention encourage us to unwrap our insulated flaws and scrub them away. Yet, common sense tells us change cannot be necessitated by date. There is no rationality in squirreling away improvement until January is reached. If the commitment to change is seeded only in social convention failure is nearly preordained. In that case, we are not changing ourselves because it is in our best interest and we have rationally weighed the steps and sacrifices we must endure; rather, we simply responded to tradition and a year of collected guilt. Such resolutions are like lofty wishes we hope are strong enough to endure without much pain. It is hardly surprising such frail convictions so often and so quickly evaporate.
Change is necessary; it should be pursued with diligence and concrete effort. Those who most often reach success recognize the need to improve throughout their lives. They are not the ones crash-dieting, but the ones who leave an extra bit on their plates and who wave away the brownies on most days. When they decide to take up running, they do not tuck it away for those cold January nights long in the future; they pull on a pair of running shoes and step outside.
In other words, change and improvement is not a New Year’s exclusive. It is the pursuit of a lifetime. Don’t let flaws linger. Don’t wait until the lap is finished to pick up the pace. Doors can be painted on any moment and rebirth is an abstract notion that can occur in any breath you take. Progress. Improve. And don’t wait.
Jessica Bennett has enjoyed writing her whole life, and has worked as a news reporter and occasional freelance writer. She is a student at Truman State University, and hopes to integrate writing into her future career.