A Personal History of New Year’s Resolutions

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A.P. Scheiderer

Senior Contributor, Associate Editor
Feminism and Snack Eating Enthusiast

When I searched the hashtag #NewYearsResolution on Twitter, most of the accounts that came up were businesses, organizations, or promotional ads of some sort trying to sell innocent tweeters products that will help them achieve their self-promises of 2015 for the lost cost of whatever. Most of them are directed toward women and their bodies, or their relationships, or their families, or the organizational status of their homes. Very few tweets were from actual humans, but those that were followed similar themes of being appreciative, sticking to a workout routine, or breaking away from deadbeat relationships (both friendly and romantic), with most of them written by [what appeared to be] women. The fuss is just beginning to die down (since we’re in week three of January and, let’s be honest, most folks have given up by now), but these past few weeks all of my feeds have been bombarded by “7 Steps to….” and “11 Ways to Stick With…” and “New Year, New…” articles. To me, these types of resolutions are not news. I have been making similar New Year’s resolutions to myself since I was about fifteen. And I know this because I wrote them all down. A few days ago I decided to peruse through my old journals to see what younger me was up to around this most arduous goal-oriented time of year. Here’s what I found:  *Note – I have always dated and timed my journal entries because… I just think it’s important.

28 December 2006
5:52 PM

“New Year’s Resolution #1
Become fit: Mentally and physically”

[I had just gotten back from seeing a holiday dinner theatre production in the Wisconsin Dells – the hub of Midwest dinner theatre greatness. After seeing the women performing in it, I decided that if I did not become stronger “mentally and physically,” my theatre career would suffer (it did anyway, but more so because I just wasn’t very good). I also promised myself to not “grow exponentially in size” while eating “really crap food” and “watching sappy movies” … … … -____-   ]

1 January 2007
2:23 PM

“New Year’s Resolution: Forget XXX. Have nothing to do with him. Move on. Don’t think about him”

[XXX is code for a disaster of a boy that I was hopelessly in love with for too long. A following resolution embedded in this entry was to replace XXX with QQQ (a different boy) which proved unsuccessful in 2007, but 2008 threw me a bone for a hot second (LOL OMG NONONO NOT THAT).]

“Otherwise, I really don’t have any other resolutions; basically lose weight, stay focused, mind & body, yada yada yada.”


31 December 2007

“List of Things to Do”

  1. Clean room
  2. New Year’s Resolutions
  3. Mix

[This was found not in a journal, but rather a notebook specifically designated for “lists” of all kinds because duh who doesn’t have one of those. Before working on my resolutions for 2008, I knew I first had to clean my room and celebrate after by making a mix cd. #Priorities. Resolution number four will forever remain a mystery.]

1 January 2008
7:56 PM

“New Year’s Resolutions ‘08

1. NO McDonald’s (and limited fast food intake altogether)
2. Get a job and a car
3. And actually become fit, not just say I’m going to
4. Don’t be afraid

[I had just moved to a new city about three hours north of my hometown. I was still getting to know my surroundings and community, and was spending a lot of time by myself, where I was able to think about things like interpersonal relationships, societal standards, and the concept of failure. I got really into Fair Trade products and watched “Supersize Me” like three times, hence the McDonald’s thing WHICH, I should add, was the only successful new year’s resolution I have ever kept in my entire life. It was a weird time. And I still don’t have a car.]

1 January 2009
5:26 PM

“New Year’s Resolutions 2009

  1. Continue to remain fit. Don’t slack. Don’t waste time or make excuses for it. You can do it   [I’m so motivational, my god]
  2. Finish senior year strong
  3. Enjoy the freedom of 18 and summer
  4. Create a plan for fall that I will love (Do not stay at home) [I stayed at home]
  5. Love everything, everyone, and time spent with both” [Just plain unrealistic]

[If you have not noticed yet, there is a theme here having to do with my body, my weight, my fitness level, or self-motivation. This is important. Remember this.]

1 January 2010
1:00 PM

“New Years Resolutions for 2010

  1. Get into college
  2. Make out with someone…seriously
  3. Come home from France with lifelong friends
  4. (par usual) Stay healthy
  5. Have a better great summer at camp
  6. Take opportunities when they knock”

[I had graduated from high school that previous June, spent the summer working at a camp, was living and working at home in Wisconsin, was planning to go to France in February, and already knew I was working at camp again in the summer. A resolution concerning my body moved down to number four, but I can tell you honestly that it was more important to me that the list leads you to believe. Thankfully, making out with someone…”seriously”…was the second most important resolution of 2010, after getting into college. Again – #priorities. After this entry I proceed to tell a story about how I was at a party at a friend’s house, and there was this guy there who I thought was cute, but then I broke out in an allergic reaction to the cat hair and dust in the house so I went home. The End.]

I couldn’t find any more resolution lists after the 2010 entry, but I think New Year expectations are always there whether you write them down or not. While flipping through all of these, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other women’s resolutions looked like this when they were teenagers. I also couldn’t help but wonder how many women’s resolutions still look like this as adults. Lists, tweets, or promises concerned with boys and bodies instead of themselves and their interests. Resolutions made for resolutions sake, not because you actually want to achieve any of them. When I wrote these journal entries, I wasn’t on twitter. I wasn’t on anything, really, besides my red portable DVD player that I watched all of the Sex and the City and Friends DVD box sets on. I didn’t have promotional ads or videos popping up telling me what to do to be my Best Self. Worse, I had Seventeen Magazine and hormones (at least you can put video ads on mute). I was totally obsessed with being liked and looked at year after year after year. Now, I am able to articulate why most women’s New Year’s resolutions focus on their bodies, relationships, or domestic desires. But that doesn’t really change how I create my own goals in the present. I still would like to look a little different, I still would like to clean shit more often than I do, and I still want to focus on healthy friendships and cut out the icky ones. The only thing I don’t want is a boy because I found a girl and she’s way better than anything I could have ever detailed in a list.

New Year’s Resolutions are not bad. They might, actually, be really great for some people. For me, they never really worked out (minus the McDonald’s thing). And I think that’s ok. And if you’re ok with your resolutions maybe not working out, then that’s ok, too. If there’s anything I’ve learned from re-reading these again, it’s that guilt for the undone is unnecessary. Especially if you didn’t even want to do it in the first place.