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The Eternal Folly of The New Year Resolution


A solitary ray of sunlight cracks through the curtains, penetrating the dank grime of the post New Year’s Eve party carnage, announcing the dawning of a new age. For dramatic effect, Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt morning suite is playing in the background. You cast off the filth and scrum of the night before (it was a particularly heavy party, we can assume), and you stand before the sun, naked as the day you were born, sreaming in the face of the eternal, “THIS TIME WILL BE DIFFERENT! I AM THE MASTER OF MY OWN DESTINY!”

At least, that’s what a lot of us plan to do, anyway. With some of the details changed, perhaps. New Year’s resolutions are the false promises of the damned, the last refuge of the idle, the confused, and the weak. We know we want to change our lives for the better, and we kid ourselves that by making a commitment to some act of transformation, we’ve fought half the battle.

And then we promptly forget about it, and go back to being a slob.

The first two months of the year are littered with the graves of these empty promises, but most of us still make the same mistakes every year. Some of us scoff at the very idea of a resolution, and indeed, they may be the wise ones. But all too many of us spend time looking at the hideous, harrowing mess we’ve become, and agonise over what we have to do in order to achieve change. Then, satisfied we’ve made an effort, we give up, plummeting headfirst into a yawning chasm of failure.

And when we look at it, what kind of hard choices do we have to face up to? What Gorgon stopped our Odyssey in its tracks? Losing weight. Stopping smoking. Doing more exercise. Tidying our spare room. These are hardly the kind of Herculean tasks that our forefathers had to grapple with, yet still! We are defeated.

Recently through a convoluted set of circumstances, I found myself on the receiving end of advice from film critic Mark Kermode, he of the most sturdy quiff in human history. He told me that in all these endeavours that we would love to have a go at, simply wishing wasn’t enough; you had to stop thinking, and start doing.

That’s what he did, so the guy might have a point.

So this year, rather than wallowing in self-doubt, just try doing something. I guess it doesn’t matter what it is, giving something a go is better than pretending to do something, knowing you’ll fail. Don’t set challenges you know you won’t do, just pick up the pen, or the camera, or that musical instrument gathering dust in the corner of your dungeon. Give it a bash, and at least you’ll have accomplished something.

And if it still goes nowhere, at least your ol’ pal Failure will be there to greet you.


Illustration: Meagan Hyland

is a writer and broadcaster who has spent his entire life being an elderly version of himself. He believes in the power of True Rock, and discovered heavy metal at the age of 30. He has never married, but has been divorced twice.