Happy New Year, everyone!
I expected to get this post up by January 1st (I didn’t). I expected to write about starting a new year with new goals in mind (I did…kinda?). A blank slate. A fresh start.
But as I was writing, I realized that we can’t just put the past behind us and start each new year from ground zero. Sure, we can choose to let go of things we’re holding on to. Friends. Jobs. Ugly sweaters. Gum we’ve been chewing for way to long. Things that we control. But what about the things that hold on to us? What about the things that, no matter how hard we try and let go of, will never be gone? Snot. Clingy people. Feelings. And chronic illness. Things we can’t control.
Around this time of year, people like to say the phrase “new year, new me.” They set goals to “be healthier,” “workout more,” “eat better,” “be happier,” and “be more positive,” to name a few. But in reality, the things that held us back on December 31st aren’t going to just disappear the next day.
The thing with goals is that they aren’t about expecting yourself to change. They aren’t about expecting others to change for you, either. You can’t aspire to eat healthier and then wonder why you don’t crave kale for every meal. And you also can’t expect every restaurant within the tristate area to change their menu to fit your needs. Goals aren’t expectations. Because while it’s good to have expectations, we often set them without considering the challenges we must face to meet them.
This brings me back to the very first thing I said. I expected myself to write this post over a week ago. I also expected myself to complete 3 days of history homework in 2 hours, read 200 pages of a book, and hang out with friends. And although I did accomplish some of this, I didn’t meet the expectations I set for myself. And it made me upset.
Not only was I annoyed that I had leftover history homework, but I was annoyed at myself for telling me to do all of this when I knew it was unrealistic and then feeling like I failed.
Why did I do this? Why do we set goals way too over the top? Why do we set New Year’s resolutions we know we won’t be able to fulfill?
The answer is simple: we think too much about leaving our struggles behind, forgetting that in reality, they are trying just as hard to pull us back. And it’s easy to say “then just push them away.” But you can’t push a disease away. I can’t shove IBD out of my life. And even though it’s a new year, I’m still me. You’re still you. And there are things about us that aren’t going to change. There are things that are going to drag us down.
But that also doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set goals for fear of not achieving them. Instead, we should set goals that are reasonable and make sense for our own circumstances.
So this year, I’m not expecting myself to change who I am. Instead, I want to learn to be content with the idea that sometimes I can’t do everything. Sometimes I need to take a break. We all do. Even if everyone else keeps going.
This year, I challenge you to take some time to focus on you. Not changing who you are, but accepting yourself and your needs with contentment and appreciation for how far you’ve come. Because this year isn’t a new beginning. It’s not square one. You aren’t a new person. You are you. So do what you can, because that is the one thing you can expect of yourself.