Dec 24, 2020, 06:27AM

Self Improvement? Not In This Man’s House

Does anyone really plan on making New Year's resolutions for 2021?

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As 2020 hisses to a close, does anyone plan on making New Year's resolutions for 2021? After spending nine months puffing along with interval training clips on YouTube, plus doing all the podcast-listening, artisanal bread-making, and French-learning that any human can stand, are we really in the mood to lumber ourselves with any more self-improvement?

Even under normal circumstances I’m immune to self-improvement. Year after year I’m stuck with the same old me. I’ve weighed myself and logged the results every morning for a decade, and yet the pounds keep clicking up every year. The only difference is that some years I feel bad about it.

Social media in 2020 has burdened us with expectations to put this compulsory clearing of free time to good use. We’ve had nearly an entire year to improve ourselves in some way, to boost our metrics on some personal progress graph.

But to what end? There’s no real-life showcase for your sleek physique, few to marvel at the taste of your sourdough, a calorific conflict of self-improvement anyway. Languages rust on the tongue unused, while passports collect dust.

The mental push-and-pull of everyday existence is draining enough in the days of COVID, when you’re playing the part of both prisoner and warden, navigating a mental cell partially of your own design whose parameters are in flux, depending on your state of mind and the anxiety-density of the last article you read.

Every interaction with the world, whether it’s the library (can I touch the DVDs while browsing?) the gym (can you really do the treadmill with a mask?) sets off cascades of calculations based on maddeningly insufficient data, balancing fears you aren’t sure are justified against basic human wants we’re constantly shamed away from. My ancestors, who had to fight off woolly mammoths for me to exist, would be ashamed at how much energy I expend daily on this timid calculus of survival. It’s as draining as a Zoom call.

So out with resolutions. I’ve never even worked up the confidence to entertain that job-interview evergreen, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” It seemed to tempt fate. “Man plans, and God laughs,” certainly resonates after a year like 2020.

Instead, if and when the vaccines start kicking in, I’ll be making good on some New Year’s Non-Resolutions: 

A packed concert in an “intimate,” under-ventilated indoor venue with someone’s armpit in my face for two hours.

Sunday brunch—even though I don’t like eggs, Bloody Marys, or other people.

A serpentine security line, preferably including a young family with a stroller ahead of me.

A ring at the doorbell that makes the dogs go crazy—but instead of more Amazon, it’s the religious tract-carriers that had the good grace to harass you by mail in 2020. I’m interested in learning more! Come on in.

Having the drunk guy at the other urinal start a conversation based on my t-shirt.

And most of all: doing anything at all enjoyable without feeling guilt or fear afterward.


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