personal

The enjoyable business of living

I’ve come to realise that my resolutions every year are the same.

Every year, I am fundamentally still the same person, but older and more experienced and hopefully just a little bit more attentive to the enjoyable business of living*. I wrote this at the beginning of 2018; now, at the end of 2019, they still reflect my feelings:

Resolutions are a romantic thing. In our making, they imply so much: that we are creatures of hope; that we know our faults enough to forestall our undoing; that we are stories, travelling upward towards joy and gentleness and, yes, resolution.We prefer not to think of ourselves as recursive things, doomed to run thin on a cassette loop of repeated mistakes. In January, we wilfully, willingly, suspend disbelief. Like everyone else, I am eggshell-quiet and still hopeful… I hope to draw away from the productivist imperative to do, to improve. I think resolutions can be like that. That they can be a thoughtful reprincipling—bringing some things into better focus—rather than a categorical change. That while resolution means a “firm decision” or a “quality of being determined”, its root word in Latin, “resolvere”, means to “loosen, release”. That, hopefully, we get better at the business of living with every year of life.

* Funny to discover that I wrote this exact same phrase back in 2018!

In 2019 I lived a very nice year of life. I learned how to raise a dog and saw him grow longer and taller and glossier each day with my love and attention. I enjoyed living in my house, tending to its many small chores, returning it again and again to cleanliness as things begin to gently wear down with use and life. I read forty books. I watched some good movies. I played a lot of volleyball, a game I loved. I played a lot of D&D, making stories with my friends every other week. I did fieldwork. I worked my job and was grateful for its time, autonomy, freedom to think and dream. I graduated with my Master’s degree, passed my GRE, applied to a number of schools. I went to Bali and floated in a pool, reading a book and drinking whiskey. I went to Shanghai and was lost and unhappy. I went to Malaysia and ate with friends. I fought with Mo and laughed with Mo and learned to love him better. I lost my grandma. I stayed in touch with my sister. I lost touch with some friends. I became closer to others. I became too politically disconnected. I started volunteering at the senior activity center near my house. Some of my plants lived, and others died. I feel like I did hundreds of loads of laundry. I walked my dog hundreds of times. Most days I was calm and buoyed, confident in who I was, understanding my flaws and my strengths, looking to older women to see how I wanted to age, what I wanted to become.

It was a year well-lived, fully inhabited. I’m excited about the next one. And here are the resolutions I’ve been making since I was 16 years old:

  • Respond kindly. Refrain from reacting with instinctive emotion. Take time to understand why I’m feeling things rather than lashing out.
  • Exercise. Enjoy existing in my body. In pursuit of this over the years I’ve run, done yoga, played volleyball. I’m always grateful for all that this body has given me, no matter its shape or size.
  • Make something. This year the process of writing and taking photos for Chai’s Instagram has been a great deal of fun. Next year I’d like to do something, maybe photograph more, or write more (like this blog!).
  • Become more politically involved.
  • Write stuff down. I’m always an inconsistent diary-er but I’ve come to realise that any space I have to write and reflect is welcome. It doesn’t have to be a perfect archive.
  • Consume less. Buying secondhand clothes, borrowing more books, just buying less stuff in general.

It’s nothing earth-shattering. It never really is. In some ways the resolution I feel is the act of coming into resolution, of going from a reflection of light from a body of water to something more certain and real, of knowing my self as a fact rather than having to insist myself into existence. That for me is enough.

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