It is hardly a new insight that new year’s resolutions are an odd custom. Not only are they more often broken than kept; I think they also make us all look a bit desperate: As though our quest for self-betterment required a specific occasion rather than a strong will. Nevertheless, they exert a strange appeal. Perhaps because each coming year seems to offer a blank slate on which we can project an idolized image of ourselves. January arrives and one almost has to fight the urge to come up with some kind of resolution, some kind of project or idea for the next months. Just don’t call it a resolution.
Over the past years, I have been let conveniently off the hook by my employer, who has granted me and my colleagues a very generous vacation that ranges from Christmas into the first days of January. It is period, which feels so reminiscent of my school years that I like to call it the “winter break”. And truth be told: It is the perfect time for self-betterment. I make a list called “winter break” and, once the holidays are over, hit the ground running. I know. Using this break for little projects and then calling them something else than a new year’s resolution is hypocritical at best. But what can I do?
A few years back, all available spaces in our neighborhood were plastered with posters of a certain marketing campaign. Big, white posters with huge black letters. It would later turn out that it was commissioned by a cigarette brand – but in one of those vague, ephemeral ways that have become so commonplace in the last years. A campaign that leaves out the brand name in an attempt to radiate suave coolness. What was interesting about it was the message they had chosen: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
People loved it. Said it out loud when passing the poster. I saw countless photos of it popping up online. Something about that question appealed to everyone – and I believe it was that such a simple question was hard to answer. We have our routine and tend to get settled in. When I look at my list called “winter break” (of which I accomplished only a fraction during the actual break), I find that most of the items on there look like a reply to the question on the poster. See new places. Type with ten fingers. Learning to swim freestyle. Hell, even “writing an invoice” for my nascent photo business is something I am far from familiar with. All of these things constitute a little daily effort. But I believe that in sum, they are exactly what I need to escape the routine trap. To challenge myself ever so slightly – and to learn a ton of new lessons in the process.
How’s that for a new year’s resolution?