As The Clock Stuck Midnight, I Lit The Fuse.
The rocket shot into the sky with a high-pitched scream, yelling in excitement as its shackles were released and it reached for the stars. I hugged those nearest to me and we told each other this would be ‘the best year of our lives’.
Filled with hope, expectation, and endless possibilities, something felt different about this year. Over the next 12 months, we just knew that everything was going to fall into place.
And then, 2020 happened.
It would be easy to sit down and write yet another ‘2020 was rubbish but it wasn’t all bad’ post. But then I’d just be doing the same thing as everyone else.
And besides, who wants to do things the easy way? That’s not very 2020.
Diverting From The Script
Of course, in many ways, 2020 was indeed rubbish. There’s no point in sugar-coating it.
2020 became the year we feared for our health; we isolated ourselves from loved ones in order to keep them safe; we fought over toilet paper; we worried about our jobs; we saw events, holidays and celebrations canceled; we had to say goodbye to relatives via FaceTime instead of holding their hands as they took their final breaths.
No amount of positive thinking or me shoe-horning a story such as ‘how running across the Sahara Desert will stop you worrying about how to pay the mortgage next month’ will change that.
Sometimes we just have to accept that life has pulled our pants down and given us a spanking (and not in a good way).
And 2020 was one of those years.
It stole our sandwiches, trod on our toes, jilted us at the altar and rained on our parades.
Rather than trying to think positively about it, I’m accepting it was a shocking year.
Now, however, I’m going forwards and refusing to look back. A bit like my 6-year old son when he’s storming off in a Mario Kart-related huff.
But, as 2021 dawned upon us, I found myself asking:
What kind of person do I need to be in this strange, not-quite-post-Pandemic, world?
And then the answer hit me:
Exactly who I am today.
New Fear Resolutions
Although COVID-19 has turned so many of our customs, habits and beliefs on their heads, one thing remains as constant as a Trump trip to the golf course when the world is falling down around his ears:
The New Year’s resolutions.
Right now, personal trainers, dieticians and yoga teachers are rubbing their well-manicured hands with glee.
The shoddy life coaches are printing off yet another certificate they found on the internet.
The dubious ‘wellbeing experts’ are preparing a special discount code for their cobbled-together ‘change your life in 90 days’ programme.
Why are they so excited, you may ask?
Because their big January payday is around the corner. And when the promises they’ve made you fail to materialise, you will be beating yourself up whilst they are eyeing up their new villa in Majorca.
I say this as someone who has made every New Year’s resolution you could imagine and paid numerous ‘experts’ thousands of pounds to try and keep them.
In 2017 (and 2016, 2015 and 2014, for that matter) I vowed to take a seriously long break from the booze…but found myself necking red wine before the Christmas decorations came down.
In 2018 I resolved to lose the dadbod that was spreading across my midriff like I’d rolled in Nutella-coated nettles…only to discover that Insanity DVDs don’t work if use them as plates.
In 2019 I tried to write a book whilst joining the 5am club, practicing yoga and spending 30 minutes meditating every day…but my children kept interrupting with their pesky insistence on being fed, taken to school and receiving their asthma medication.
I was so busy trying to listen to all the so-called experts who told me I needed to change that I forgot who I was supposed to be.
And because constantly trying to transform into someone else was so tiring, I stopped giving a damn about whether it was actually the right thing to do or not.
So, in 2020, I took a different approach:
Instead of spending so much time, energy and money becoming a different version of myself, I decided to focus all my efforts on loving the person I already was.
A New Version Of The Old Me
I’m not saying that a desire to get a little fitter, healthier, richer or wiser is a bad thing. Far from it.
But at the end of the day (or, the end of the year), these things are just window dressing. What really matters is how you feel about the person who stares at you in the mirror.
(I mean your reflection, not the strange sales assistant who pops into the changing room to ask if you’ve got the right size a little too often)
So as 2021 begins and the world breathes a tentative, mask-covered sigh of relief, why do you necessarily have to focus on being someone ‘different’, ‘new’, or ‘better’?
Look, I know loving the true version of yourself is hard.
I say this as someone who spent years hating the person in the mirror, who desperately wanted to be different whilst simultaneously beating myself up for not being like everyone else. I thought I was worthless, useless and undeserving of success, and spent too much energy trying to be a different person (personality-wise, I mean, I didn’t start buying disguises).
But this year, how do you love yourself for who you really are?
Well, this is where I have some 2021-style home truths for you.
I could throw in some copy-and-pasted bullet-points here regarding ‘write down your strengths’, or ‘think of a time when you felt really happy’, or perhaps ‘say nice things to yourself in the mirror every morning’.
Fuck that. I’ll leave that type of generic motivational gruel for the wannabe coaches.
How do you truly love the real, genuine, perfectly imperfect version of yourself this year?
Embrace the darkness.
Don’t shy away from the hard times, the embarrassments, the drunken mistakes, the betrayals, the sleepless nights when you weren’t sure how the hell you were going to make it through to the end of the week, let alone the end of the year.
Write them down. Feed off them. Revel in the gluttony of fuck-ups and failures.
Love THAT person. For that person is the real you. You took all that shit in your life. Shit that would have floored another person…
Yet here you are, reading this.
So next time you sigh into the mirror and mutter something to yourself about ‘new year, new me’, take a closer look.
That person just survived 2020, for fuck’s sake. Why on earth would you want to change them?
You didn’t get this far to only get this far.
And here’s the final twist:
The more you love yourself for who you are, the more you will respect yourself. And the more you respect yourself, the less you will want to eat junk, smoke like a chimney, sob into a glass of Merlot, take drugs or think negative thoughts.
So this year, why not spend a little less time trying to be someone else, and a little more time loving the person who got you this far instead?
I will if you will.
Happy New Year.