It's a funny thing, this new year malarkey. There we all are minding our business through October, fighting colds through November, shopping madly through December, making leftover turkey sandwiches and then BOOM! It hits you, like a sack of glitter and disappointment to the face. A drunk guy with a silver sequined glove is terrorising the dancefloor, Prosecco gets spilt on your new shoes, and as you attempt not be trampled during Auld Lang Syne, a downer washes over you. All the things you meant to do that you didn't do; all the achievements you haven't yet made; all the weight you didn't lose; all the career aspirations still sitting on the backburner. You look around the bar and wonder why everyone is so excited when they've spent the evening being overcharged for shots no one likes the taste of, and everyone will be back into their usual routines come Monday, still with so many things outside of their control.
I'm being a tad melodramatic and generalising, I know. I'm sure not everyone feels this way, but I'd hazard a guess that those people are older and wiser than me. They are probably better adjusted to handling the curve balls of life, and have learned contentment, that enviable state of zen-like gratitude to which I aspire, all the while unsure that I could ever drop ambition entirely. But let's be honest: the frenzy of 'new year, new me', 'this is my year', 'good vibes 2016' etc can feel like (please excuse my French) absolute bollocks. You can't magic 'good vibes' or whatever else into existence. Literally speaking, nothing changes with a new year apart from the calendar and tax codes. The only real life changes are driven by attitude, hard work, the support of friends and sometimes, a bit of divine intervention. I have aspirations like anyone, but I don't really like feeling the pressure as one year lapses into the next of cramming them into a 12-month period in order to buoy my self-esteem.
I can't wish myself into the kind of progress I would like to see in my life. I am going to have to work really, really hard at it, and I am going to fall on my face sometimes and fail at some things. However, I'm confident that on balance I can totally rock at some other things. The biggest lesson I had to learn in 2015 was to lose the fear that prevented me from trying. I felt incapable of things that actually I am more than capable of doing. I was terrified of the opinions of others on certain subjects, and it wasn't until I tried to let go of that terror that I was able to breathe more freely and re-learn who I am on a deeper level. If this sounds a bit too introspective then I understand, but I do think that we struggle to help others and function well in community if we don't know ourselves well enough. A degree of honesty needs to underpin our thoughts, decisions, and actions if we are going to do more than just run the gamut of work-eat-sleep-repeat. And who wants their entire life to be that way? There is so much more.
I didn't make new year's resolutions for the exact reasons above, but I am resolved on certain things which have been in play already for some months. Firstly, I have been working on stripping away goals that are not important for anything other than pleasing others or fitting a prescribed mould. This is the first year in five that I've not written a weight goal into a notebook. I have been improving my fitness steadily because I love how it makes me feel and I like competing against myself, but none of it is designed specifically to make me thinner, because I already sacrificed years of self-loathing at that altar and I am done with letting the scales impinge on my value. With that in mind, and knowing many people who have struggled with eating often for image-related reasons, I went on a training course earlier this year and can now help to run the Tastelife course for people wanting to recover from eating disorders. If I hadn't been working through my own food and body issues in the past couple of years, and I hadn't discovered the body positive community, I don't expect I would have felt capable or willing to do that.
I also went through a process this summer of interrogating my reasons for wanting to make certain career decisions. I realised that I was aiming to give off an appearance of success in order to justify having an Oxford degree, whereas all I actually want to do is have a job that uses my skills and interests, and that I enjoy and can grow in. It matters a lot less what others think than what my experience of work and life is. I have some big plans, but I no longer feel the need to frame them in a way that will impress other people. Instead I feel free to create, to think and develop in new ways, and I wake up on Mondays excited to go to work, which is amazing to me! I discovered that by putting time and effort into the things I love outside of a job as well as in it, I feel so much more fulfilled and creative than before, when stress was running my life.
So, 2016. I am not expecting fireworks. I am not going to wake up in a week or three months with perfect hair and skin and all my problems solved and a beautiful instagram feed full of holidays and seemingly accidental perfect shots of my happy laughing face. My modest hopes are that I will learn to be less selfish, but also more confident, will progress in work I love, and that I will finish my novel draft and invest in my blog and website more. My immodest hopes are that I can miraculously make the money for a trip to the States and get into plus size modeling and start a business: big things that some people will laugh at me for but hey, a girl can dream, and more importantly, a girl can do. I titled this post 'unafraid(ish)' because in the main, I am unafraid of many things that held me back before. But the 'ish' shows it's still a work in progress.
Whatever your new year experience has been so far, I hope you at least have hope. We should be less hard on ourselves, and stop setting absurd goals chasing after appearances or achievements that don't actually matter. Let's be resolved to be unafraid, and see where that gets us.
P.S. After I published this post, it became apparent that several people felt I was getting completely down on resolutions and goals as a whole. This was not my intention, so I'm sorry if you were one of them! I didn't intend to be so entirely negative as to say we shouldn't have goals and plans at all; I was just trying to address the stress we put on ourselves to achieve impossible or very difficult things that actually don't help us or make us happy. Please, by all means, dream big and reach far! I will always be supportive of that.