What if Nothing’s Changing?
We’re now a few weeks into 2019, and the flow of New Year’s messages about “reflecting on our growth” and “starting fresh” that welcomed us into January has now almost completely subsided. For those first few weeks, everywhere we looked, there was the usual bombardment of campaigns telling us that now is the time when we have to make resolutions and change our lives. And in our era of self-empowerment, there were also tons of blog posts and Instagram pages telling us that it’s okay if we don’t make radical changes like major beauty companies tell us to, and that we can redefine ourselves in more realistic and reasonable ways. No matter what, the message that this is a time of growth and that right now we should be completely different than we were a year ago – that we should be doing everything we can to change who we are right now – was inescapable.
Some of us were inspired by the atmosphere of renewal, and some of us were annoyed or even triggered by the incessant societal insistence that the stroke of midnight on January 1st means anything more than the beginning of just another day. Most of us probably felt some combination of the two. But no matter how you you felt about it, a lot of things were starting over at the beginning of January, and that both means that there were new opportunities for all of us and that the pressure was on to “revolutionize” ourselves.
But now that atmosphere has dissipated – there isn’t anyone encouraging us to keep up with those resolutions or to remember to have perspective and keep our goals realistic. There is pressure, as there always is, to keep improving our lives and to be able to show that it’s drastically different by the end of the year. But without that onslaught of New Year’s spirit, there’s a silence when it comes to encouragement for self-improvement. We’re alone in our beliefs that we need to rush to improve ourselves and somehow it makes those beliefs all the more daunting.
What if we aren’t a completely-evolved version of our past selves? What if when you look back on the past year, after seeing how everyone talked and posted about how much they’ve changed, you see that the things in your life are pretty much the same?
I always hear my friends roasting their past selves, looking at pictures from a year or two ago and seeing a completely different, childish person, cringing at every feature of their clothes and faces. I never really identified with them. In fact, sometimes when I look at pictures of myself from the last few years, I’m self-conscious of how similar I look. This represents how I’ve evolved over the past few years overall; there have been a few notable developments in my thinking and there have been gradual shifts in how I dress and look, but overall I’m a slightly more knowledgeable and older version of the exact same person I was 3 years ago. In our society, it feels like this should be weird, and wrong, but the older I get, the more I realize that my own perception of time and my rate of personal evolution are independent from other people’s, and even if they’re far from the norm, they’re totally okay as long as they work for me.
The thing is, 2019 isn’t a separate era from 2018. We construct these arbitrary marks of time because we need a way to keep track of time, but they don’t need to dictate when you personally reach certain milestones or achieve certain goals, because everyone is different.
If using the new year as a time to reset your goals is beneficial to you, then that’s great – keep doing it! And if you use other points in time, like your birthday or September when school starts, to look back, reflect, and reset, and it has a positive effect on your life, then that’s also great – do whatever works for you! But don’t feel like you need to have changed a certain amount or left certain things behind in 2018 (or have to do those things by the end of 2019) to be successful.
You don’t need to have a certain number of great transitions and redefining moments every year – some eras of your life will be very transitional, and in others the changes that you go through will be more gradual and low-key. Often, the things that change us are so subtle that we don’t even notice when they happen, and it’s only when we look back after years that we notice how far we’ve come. Just keep doing the best you can at every point in time, reflect on the past and be excited for the future, take the smallest steps that you need to, and eventually you’ll get to where you’re supposed to be.
Written by: Sonia Randhawa