At the Bottom of the Mountain

new-years-grumpy-catThe thing about January is that nobody likes it. The air is thick with New Year’s Resolutions already hanging over heads, about to go up in smoke. The year ahead suddenly looks insurmountable and altogether like not enough time.

I don’t make resolutions. In fact, I have never made them. When people ask what mine is, as you do this time of year because it’s better than starting a conversation about the weather–it’s Chicago, it’s bitingly cold and grey and is a thing to be accepted in silence–I always say “I don’t make those.” And it sounds like I deliberately don’t resolve out of some principle; like maybe I am a cynic who only sees the failure rate and thus believes herself above trying, or that I am arrogant or naive enough to think I don’t have something to change; or even a sunny optimist who believes every day should be a tiny achievement.

None of those are really the case. I have a lot of things I want to accomplish this year. I am just afraid to lead with them. I could list dozens of things I need and want to do and overlay it on twelve clean calendar pages, and then what? The year is too small but somehow looms too large. I am (forgive me) a hobbit standing at the base of a mountain and I’m not sure if I want to go inside.

For instance, if I write:

  1. Get an agent
  2. Become totally financially independent
  3. Eat regularly, and better
  4. Improve my credit score
  5. Go on one vacation

This is what I actually see:

  1. I don’t have an agent yet, I can’t get any really good work without one, what is wrong with me? I need new headshots. I can’t afford new headshots. I can’t submit to anything with these. I’m stuck. This person and this person and this person all have shiny new contracts and we were on the same level before and now I am left behind and what if I am still in the same place when I am thirty? How am I going to look my parents in the face and hear “We knew this would happen” in their voices in my head?
  2. I still have to call my mom sometimes and ask for help paying my rent on time; I have so much debt it’s unbelievable. I’ll never get out. How am I going to do it? How does anyone do it? I wish I’d learned that in school. I wish I could just book something that would give me like $20k and then I could start over with a clean slate. I shouldn’t wish for that, that’s stupid. I am going to be middle-aged and still need a cosigner for anything important in my life. 
  3. People think I have an eating disorder and I don’t. I just don’t enjoy food like a lot of people. Anyway, I should eat more. I’m probably anemic. I have been before. I should make my running routine more stringent. I would feel better. Endorphins, right? Maybe I should get serious about cooking. If I do it enough I’ll like it. Then maybe I’ll live to be 100. Do I even want to be 100?
  4. See #2.
  5. I haven’t been anywhere since 2008! I can’t afford to travel. I love traveling. I will die an uncultured wretch. I really need a vacation.

It’s all very overdramatic and silly, but my resolution list, you see, instantly becomes a hydra of Reasons I Feel Bad About Myself. I realize for a lot of people, it’s helpful and inspiring to focus on change. I don’t really work that way, but I’m trying. That’s the point of this post. I wrote a list, it has an audience–and now I have to be accountable for it.

Perhaps an overarching theme, something to strive for this year, could be Positivity. I’m choleric by nature and I see a list of things I have to do and shut down. That needs to be different. I’m excited to push myself, but that has to start now and every day when I wake up. I can’t look at the peak of the mountain and hate myself for not being there.

Thus: even though it’s slow season at work and my hours are almost nil; even though the show I was just cast in has been cancelled; even though I’m not where I want to be; I can get there. Baby steps. As cliche as it sounds, I have never wanted to make a change more. Instead of asking “What will the future bring?” I am going to mentally bitchslap myself when I am passive, and ask “What am I going to bring the damn future?”

That’s it. My somewhat painful inaugural post of the year. Feel free to share your resolutions in the comments, and let’s encourage each other.

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4 Comments

  1. I love this post. “…a hydra of Reasons I Feel Bad About Myself” – perfectly said. This is the monster I battle every day and it’s really tiresome.

    Truly, I feel like my entire adult life has been spent at the bottom of the mountain, and every time I feel like maybe base camp is in sight, I get knocked down. And yes, I spend a LOT of time hating myself for it, and hating other people and circumstances over it, too, if I’m honest. Like right now, my car is 8 months out of inspection, and I know it’s going to cost about the same to fix it as to replace it with something that’s better in snow. But my credit is sh*t – and the money I’ve been saving all year long won’t cover everything – and I feel like such a massive failure as an adult that I might have to ask a parent to co-sign for THIS car loan when I got my last one all by myself. And I have the opposite problem than you, I love to eat, too much, and I’m fat and gross, and I get mired in that self-loathing, too.

    Anyway, that’s not really productive, but it felt good to say. I like your idea of asking what you will bring the future and not the other way around. I feel like that’s been my problem too and I need to ask myself that question. My reflections on 2012 and what a crap year it was, and my list of fun and practical things I’m trying to do more of in 2013, are here: http://byjacki.com/2012/12/at-the-close2012-in-review/

    and here: http://byjacki.com/2013/01/more-in-2013/

    I hope in 2013 you are able to push yourself and dwell in that positive spirit and celebrate what progress you DO make. And, FWIW, I appreciate what you put out there.

    1. Thanks Jacki 🙂 It’s rough, isn’t it? Nobody ever told us how hard it was going to be to be an adult, or if they did I didn’t listen because look at all the adults there are!

      We’ll get there. xx

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