To many, the new year is a time for looking ahead to all that comes with another year of life: new memories, new experiences, and new lies we tell ourselves. While New Year’s resolutions are a popular tradition for many, a University of Scranton study suggests that as few as eight percent of people actually keep their resolutions. And yet, resolutions continue to be made and broken each year.
Which is why I, the Ghost of New Years Past and Future (yes, I am both – the Department of Holiday Apparitions has had some budget cuts), am here to warn you of your folly. The tradition of New Year’s resolutions can, in fact, be traced back to my life. I was born Sir Charles F. Resolution in 1879. A compulsive liar, I attended a New Year’s Eve party and spent the entire night rambling wildly about the many things I was confident I would accomplish in the new year. I died the next day, and to honor my memory, my friends and colleagues began gathering annually on New Year’s Eve to fabricate unrealistic goals for the new year. Eventually, the tradition spread around the globe, with ordinary people from New York to Newark (the long way around) joining in the annual cavalcade of lies.
But while the empty promises of our New Year’s resolutions are all in good fun, they come with a certain amount of risk: the possibility of actually coming true! Let us consider a few common resolutions and their consequences, so maybe you’ll think twice before resolving this year.
Go to the gym: Let’s imagine you do finally pay for that gym membership. You’re spending a lot of money each month for a generally unpleasant experience that takes up a significant amount of time you don’t have, all to conform to societal body standards that aren’t fair to begin with! Save the money, and put it towards something more enjoyable— perhaps a new hobby?
Learn a new skill or hobby: Perhaps you finally pick up that guitar, learn a new language, or start collecting those model trains! Then suddenly, you’re confronted with an unfortunate reality: this takes a lot of practice. It seemed simpler before you started. You didn’t know this would take so much time! Or even worse, what if you have an impressive natural talent for your chosen skill? Suddenly you’re tirelessly playing sold-out arenas, translating international trade agreement negotiations, or speaking to model train conventions around the globe. But you failed to consider the price of fame: you’ve lost all your real friends; paparazzi, reporters, or train-heads follow you everywhere; and your passion for your craft is fading. This resolution can only end in disappointment. Save your self-esteem and/or privacy while you have it.
Make more friends: Sure, you may be lonely right now. But once you have more friends, you’ll be out of the house more, paying money for overpriced drinks or events you’re only sort of interested in. Friends are expensive, and they’ll usually disappoint you, or at least forget about you once they have kids. Save the money, and put it toward something more practical, like a gym membership!
Stop smoking: This is one I can get behind. Quitting smoking can greatly reduce your risk of disease and early death. And it saves money! Win-win. What’s that? You don’t smoke? Congratulations, you just accomplished your New Year’s resolution!
Start saving money: You finally start saving for retirement—cutting costs, staying at home, avoiding pricey hobbies. As the years go by, your savings account accumulates a respectable sum. It’s finally time to spend it, but now you are old and full of regret. Oh, all those wasted years! You were foolishly obsessed with saving money when you should have been enjoying your youth! Saving is for suckers—live a little!
I hope you can see how dangerous the repercussions of New Year’s resolutions can be. And while the sinister corporate interests of the New Year’s Glasses lobby would like you to think otherwise, New Year’s is not a holiday about celebrating a fresh start.
If anything, New Year’s is a cold reminder of the fleeting nature of time. In the cold, final hours of Dec. 31, year after year, we gather for the same rituals of alcohol-fueled parties, midnight countdowns, and fireworks on TV, as some form of half-hearted acknowledgment that another year of life has come and gone since the last time we did this. New Year’s begs a question of us that we’d rather not address: Must we spend all our years in vague regret, haunted by our inability to control the wild ride of our lives? Yes. Yes we must. As a wise man once said, “The years start coming and they don’t stop coming.
This article originally appeared in the print edition of our January 2018, issue.