Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolutions for the Same Beginning



Normally I write about how much I hate things, and talk about how much I hate things. Hate and hate and hate. My friends know. I use the word ‘hate’ far too often, especially since I don’t ‘hate’ as much as I lead on that I do.

I thought about starting this by writing: I hate New Year’s Resolutions. That I hate the people who make them, how resolutions are pointless, and no abides by them after January 2nd, etcetera (we’ve all read, said, heard, written, all this before). But I didn’t want my first post of the year to be about hate, so I decided not to. Instead, I thought about resolutions. About what they really are, what they really mean for those that make them, and I realized I just don’t like them, or understand them.

Over the years I’ve made resolutions along with the rest, mostly during high school, during that time when I still believed that I could change the world, make some kind of difference, be an influence for good; when I believed in individuality and the importance of the ‘One’. Somewhere between high school graduation and attending Sac State, I stopped resolving to ‘change’ solely because the date changed. I wish now that I had a list of all the resolutions I made as a teenager: be nicer, exercise, eat better, learn to play the guitar better, whatever. Something like that. But I digress.

The point is: I don’t make resolutions. They are meaningless word fodder. A list of hopes or dreams or desired outcomes for the year that I didn’t achieve the previous year. That’s all it is. And the list is always the same, a repetition of what was not accomplished from years previous. But we do it anyway, instinctually (whether inherent in genes or instilled by societal expectations), as if we cannot become better people without waiting for a number to change on the calendar and publicly announcing, “This year will be different. It will be better. I will do things. Because I said I will be, and now you know I mean it.” It makes no sense to me.

Internet news feeds for the last week have been filled with lists of “25 Resolutions You Should Make This Year” and “What Resolutions shouldn’t you make for 2014”. How do you what I need to resolve to do in the following year? Let alone at any time in my life?

Nonsense.

But all that is not to say that some form of resolutions can’t or don’t work for some people. They can. I’m sure they can. I know that there is someone out in the world right now who made some specific resolution to change in the New Year, that they needed a specific marker to initiate that change within their self, and that 2014 will actually be different for that person. To that I say: fantastic. For those that make and keep resolutions, you are far stronger than I am. And I’m okay with that. I know my limitations, and they include not making resolutions. Because I’ve never once kept a resolution. Not one.

Rather than resolutions, the Wife and I set goals. I know ‘goals’ and ‘resolutions’ sound the same, but they are not. Resolutions are arbitrary statements with no means or concept of how to achieve or complete. They are whimsical delusions of progress, made rashly, under pressure, without thought. Goals inherently are structured with a plan, an outline from beginning to end on how that desire will be accomplished. They are support by time and pondering, they are the way of pragmatism. When the Wife and I got married, someone gave us this black spiral-bound notebook. I don’t remember who, but that doesn’t matter. We got this book, and we decided that at the beginning of each year we would review our goals from the previous year, see what we accomplished and what we failed at, why we succeeded or failed, and then set new goals for the coming year. Here are a few of my goals from 2013:

  • Get the Novella published (fail)
  • Find a job (sort of)
  • Move out of my parents’ house (major fail)

Just to name a few. The outlook is not so good. But I tried. I submitted the Novella to half a dozen publishers, and one contest (I have only heard from two of the publishers). Technically I got a job, albeit not exactly what we were hoping for (but at least it’s a paycheck). And the parents . . . well that is just a straight up fail, but not for lack of trying. However, we also did a ton of stuff. Every year we have a theme for our family, and this year was the “Year of Exploration”. Each month we tried something new that we’ve always wanted to try but never have. I’m going to get into the specifics of it here, but if you want to know what we did, you can check out the Wife’s blog for details. I will say that we are amazing, and did some pretty sweet stuff (I don’t think I can be more vague than that).

My point in all this is that resolutions are too broad, too big, too unobtainable. They are crap. They mean nothing, and go nowhere. What we should be making (or setting) are goals. Aspirations that will make our lives better. As my good friend wrote just a few days ago: “Instead of making resolutions to live longer, let's resolve to live better.” And the Wife and I need to live better for 2014.

2013 was a difficult year (mostly for the Wife). Finding work was next to impossible for me. Thanks to a good friend I am teaching extremely part-time, which is better than my previous job: nothing. Before, it was a hard year of unemployment. A Master of Arts in Creative Writing means you have no marketable skills but are over qualified for regular jobs, or so it seems. But the part-time teaching has only been for the last six months, and that’s only one to two classes a term. Work has just not been good. Schools don’t want to employ you because you have no experience, but you can’t get experience without a degree, and you can’t get adequate experience while getting a degree. It’s a vicious cycle. Add on the disappearance of tenureship, and that basically kills the possibility of a stable, if even possible, teaching job at any Junior College or University. Now add over a hundred reject letters for short stories, flash fictions, prose poems, a few attempts at the Novella, even job applications at Junior Colleges, and it gets depressing (John Daulton if you are reading this, I know, self-publish, the eBook is the way of the future). But, like I said, it has been much much worse for the Wife. Compile all my stress and failures and put them on her shoulders, while taking care of our family with having the only somewhat fulltime job. Add our 17 month old child were trying to raise. And living with my parents. And being six months pregnant. That alone is enough to break the strongest of individuals. But that is nothing. Several of her friends and family members have been hospitalized, gone through surgery, or been diagnosed with stage four cancers. Then, her younger cousin died at age 17 of Ewing Sarcoma that he fought for six year, and a good friend from her childhood died at 26 from an intense infection that ravaged her already weak body. Both within a week of each other. The Wife has lost a lot this year. But she wouldn’t say it. Wouldn’t even think it. She, instead, worries about the families that have lost their loved ones, wonders how those families are doing, what they must be going through. Not a single complaint uttered. I know I wrote a month or two ago about empathy, stating that it doesn’t exist –- I still don’t think it does -- but if any mortal were to possess the actual ability to empathize, it would be her. She loves more than most can understand. More than I understand, for sure. By no means is she perfect, but when she loves someone, she loves them to the end, unconditionally.

We are glad to see 2013 finally end. It was a rough year. A year we would like to forgot. Maybe in 10 years it won’t look so bad. I hope so.

All I can say is that 2014 is going to be better. That’s not a resolution, it’s a choice. To improve. To live better. It sucks, really, that this rejuvenation has come right at the cusp of the year change, so this rant looks like a resolution, but it’s not. Trust me. It comes from going to two funerals in December for people younger than me, who were doing more with their lives than I am now; from a place where living with my parents may be killing me, my wife, my child(ren), and our marriage; from watching others be successful with their degrees, in careers that they are happy with, or publishing stories and books; from wanting to work on my own art, to focus on my work and taking care of my family. Wanting to be the husband, father, provider, friend, and artist that I want and deserve to be.

I want to live better. This year I am going to live better.

1 comment:

Lindsey and Jared said...

Jon, you are so great. And so is Steph. I am so glad I have gotten to know you both better over this year. See 2013 wasn't a total bust ;)