Commentary

A New Year’s Revolution

Hello oh nine! The New Year arrives with promise, beckoning us to jump in and leave our messy tracks all over the place. It’s a new beginning, but also a drawn-out closing for yet another dying holiday practice: the New Year’s resolution. I hardly noticed the festivity at my family’s annual, cusp-of-the-new-year banquet. Sure, we were all happy — joyous, even — eating good food, talking and laughing like real-life Hallmark family photos. Yet I could feel something nagging at me, a blemish on an otherwise perfect day. For the first time, our New Year’s resolutions were missing. We obviously wanted things. That never changes. But instead of making promises to ourselves to work hard for our desires, we lay back on our hard, wooden chairs, imaginary pipes in hand, just sitting, waiting, wishing for our aspirations to pop to life, like a magical Jack-in-the-box. It’s not just my family that has given up on this important self-pledge. The people around me seem to have yielded as well. Even worse, those who have vague “resolutions” have no plans to follow them. Talk about wasted endeavor. News flash: What you want seldom comes without effort. The resolution functions as a valuable road map for the coming year, a way to start anew, to wipe the old habits away — in short, to change. We need to start making goals and begin following through with them. Richard Wiseman, author of the book “Quirkology: The Curious Science of Everyday Lives,” conducted a study on New Years resolutions. The study found that, in a participant pool where 52 percent of the people were confident of success with their New Year’s goals, only 12 percent actually achieved them. I might state the obvious here: this is an abysmal performance. The resolution is meant to be an annual self-promise, a reason to strive harder, because in the end, you cannot successfully lie to yourself. Can we all just try a little harder? Think of how much happier we would be, how much more self-confident and fulfilled we would feel if we could make a promise to ourselves and keep it for a whole year. Individuals need resolutions. But more importantly, our nation needs to step up. A homegrown, metaphorical nuclear bomb is in our midst. Let’s stop self-destructing ourselves, pretty please? Unless we all enjoy debt, bad investments and economic crises. Oh and war. And unnecessary consumption. And the constant degradation of the environment. Students, government officials, home-owners, people of America — can we promise to pay with real money, not IOUs we never pay off? Oh America, with all your trumpeted pride and banners and mind-numbing entertainment — can you resolve to fix yourself for the New Year? We can all pledge to do our part, however insignificant one feels that may be. With the promise of a new year, 2009 has brought along a great amount of baggage. We need change— that oft empty, deceptive, little word— that New Year’s promises help create. We need to bring the resolution back, now more than ever. Tina Su is a new Lower from Andover, Mass. tsu@andover.edu