In January 2019, I started writing in a red spiral notebook. I'm not much of a journal person, but apparently in January 2019 I must have thought a last-minute Walgreens notebook purchase would make me one. I wrote nine entries that month, and like many of my past attempts to be someone who journals, I left my notebook with many, many more untouched pages.
This time last year, like many folks, I made a list of things I wanted to do to better myself. I wanted to include healthier habits in my life, like writing daily, being outside more, getting up early to exercise, learning a new language, and reading a new book every week. Today, I can't say I fully checked off all of those goals. I read books, but not 52. I exercised, but I blame the sporadic, cold Memphis weather and the fear of street harassment and cat-calling for not running outside consistently. Je ne something parle français.
It wasn't that the goals individually were asking a lot from me. In fact, many were pretty reasonable. For example, another goal was to drink more water. I'd say that's a pretty low-bar ask of myself. The mistake I made was that I was trying to do too much at once. I was stacking up so many things at the beginning of the year that by the end of the first month, I had forgotten most. The timeline I set up was not reasonable for me. With all the things I was juggling then, I could have probably found time to read one leisure book a month. One a week was nearly impossible with my work schedule.
I was exhausted by the end of the day, and I felt worse knowing that I hadn't read through 30 pages of a book. I would even talk myself out of it. I'd think, I didn't hit 30 pages today, tomorrow I have the same schedule so it's probably not going to be different. As someone who sets really high personal expectations, the number of daily goals I laid out for myself was stressing me out. No one was forcing me to do this. I wasn't being evaluated for my progress. What began as simply making goals to better my health was actually steadily doing the opposite.
For someone else, these goals may be a walk in the park. This may also already be a part of someone's daily routine. It just didn't work for me. It was too much. I never paused to think about how these goals aren't fixed and that I could actually shift them since I was the one who set them. I was overwhelmed with getting through a day of work, resting, and then getting through the next, and I kept pushing my goals back further until February when I dropped them altogether.
- Mikalai Bachkou | Dreamstime.com
- Baby stepping to a better you.
That second month, I threw my list out except for one goal: exercise. My roommate was walking to the gym in the morning anyway, and doing one goal with a buddy, and accountability, helped me keep my goal as a habit. By going to the gym, I inevitably got into the habit of drinking more water. In March, I wanted to learn to skateboard, which many people around me advised against since I'm not a 13-year-old with time to heal any broken bones and, well, health care is expensive. Despite all warnings, I began skateboarding to the gym because I convinced myself that skateboarding would get me there quicker, meaning I could sleep in for a few more minutes. At first, my logic wasn't sound, as I could barely stay on the board for more than a few seconds, but in time, I was knocking out three goals: exercising, being outside, and drinking water. Four weeks into my skateboarding journey, I actually did fall and break my foot, but now I know more about my body and can name my metatarsal bones. Win, win.
So, this new year, my advice is to hold off on those goals until February. If you do make goals in January, make your list, but give yourself the space to realistically do three, or at least start out at three and then add on. Besides, time is what we make of it, so who's to say you can't set up or add resolutions on the second week of March? Any new week or new day can be our time to make small, steady changes in our lives.
Aylen Mercado is a brown, queer, Latinx chingona and Memphian exploring race and ethnicity in the changing South.