Opinion: Don’t sweat the resolutions this New Year’s

Sofia Miller, Final Focus Editor

Art by Grace Tseng

After the initial shock of March 13, I tried to write out a list of goals to achieve during quarantine, with the knowledge that I would have plenty of free time to work towards them.

I could start finally writing the play I had an idea for before. Or I could get back into art and paint those jeans I thrifted a month earlier. Social media provided me with even more options to fill the time: I could learn how to make whipped coffee or how to bake bread. 

In some ways, early quarantine felt like the first couple of weeks in a new year, brimming with creativity and cautious optimism, with people around the world intent on maximizing productivity—after we adjusted to the idea of being home, many encouraged looking at the bright side of quarantine: here we were with all this time on our hands to start a hobby, or produce meaningful work. Not participating in this productivity maximization felt like wasting the opportunity of a lifetime—when would we ever get time off like this again? 

But not everybody has had the freedom to enjoy the large amounts of time associated with quarantine. Not everybody has been equipped to maximize this time to become their best self. We need to acknowledge that, although 2020 has been awful on a base level for everyone, many people have also, for the most part, been spared: those who have financial security; stable access to the internet and technology; a healthy home dynamic; access to food and housing, and so much more. 

These small advantages add up, and have allowed many in wealthier areas to succeed in online learning, keep up with extracurriculars, and generally take advantage of free time during quarantine. 

Inversely, to ignore the disadvantages that may be holding some back while simultaneously expecting that we all maintain the same (or higher) levels of productivity as before quarantine can unintentionally minimize the struggles that some have experienced during the pandemic.

After all, when the rhetoric is that 2020 is awful for everyone, it can be easy for those who are struggling to feel shame for not producing the same quality of work as their peers who are able to maintain steady work levels.

So why have we often implicitly continued to put pressure on people to “make the most of this time” when now, more than ever, we’re seeing the cumulative effects of social inequity add up? 

We need to remind one another that it’s okay to not have picked up a new hobby during quarantine, or to have single-handedly founded a non-profit. You don’t have to twist the pandemic into something positive if it all seems like too much. 

As we get closer to 2021 and begin to see a return to calls for fast-paced lifestyles filled with resolutions for the new year, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay if, when reflecting back on this year, you just barely made it through. It’s okay if that’s your goal for next year: making it through, taking things one day at a time. You know your circumstances best—if you find that you´re able to form resolutions and want to pursue them, that’s great. But know that it’s also valid to take it easy on yourself when looking ahead. 

Something that may be helpful when considering resolutions this year is taking the time to think about what´s achievable for you within the context of your situation. Maybe you have a great support system at home, but have fewer hours in the day from working a job alongside attending school. Your goals might and should look different from the goals of others based on your unique individual experiences. It’s time we stop force-feeding the masses with the same tired resolutions year after year. You don’t have to lose weight, for example, just because it feels like the right goal to have. Do what’s right for you. Your goals don’t have to be grand. They can simply be to take care of yourself. 

As we turn toward the new year, don´t forget, too, to take time to process and reflect on this past year. Count your blessings. Thank those who helped you through this year.

If there’s one thing to be gained from 2020, I hope it’s clarity on what really matters: keeping family safe, checking in on friends, maintaining mental health.

Be gentle with yourself. You don’t need to always do “valuable” things with your time in order to be someone who has value. 

Here’s to a new year in which we´re a little wiser and a little kinder to those around us as well  as ourselves. A new year in which we carry hope alongside loss.

Have a wonderful New Year.