On this final day of 2010, I went to the gym. Not because I really felt like exercising, but because I recognize that I might have to take a four to six week sabbatical from the gym as the machines become clogged with out of shape people making a half-hearted attempt to stick to their New Year resolutions. Which brings me to the point of this rambling diatribe - are New Year's resolutions even worth the breath used to utter them?
I've been a semi-regular fixture at a fitness center for some time. I say "semi-regular" because I have been known to blow off physical maintenance when writing a thesis, editing an article, or doing some other time-consuming effort. But I go enough to recognize the ebb and flow of gym usage. Every year, just after the first of January, it becomes all but impossible to get a treadmill or weight machine before midnight because it seems that most people resolve to either lose weight or get in shape. By mid-February, the onslaught ceases as the vast majority abandon the fitness machines in favor of their couches and computers.
There is a laundry list of other common resolutions, most of which are discarded as quickly as a used diaper in a Walmart parking lot. People say they're going to go back to school, read a certain book, get a new job, quit smoking, etc. But when it becomes apparent that accomplishing these goal requires some effort, the whole thing is forgotten or explained away by saying, "I didn't have the time" or something similar.
So, what's the point here really? I'm all for self-improvement and everyone could use some. I've spent the last 15 years of my life trying to improve myself. But making an effort to improve one's self does not require waiting for the start of a new year. You just start. My theory is that people who make New Year's resolutions really aren't that interested in improving themselves, but they want people to think they are. Waiting for New Year's allows people to procrastinate just a little more. And when the effort is abandoned, they get to make jokes about another broken resolution. Everyone nods and agrees, thus absolving the quitter of any guilt.
Now, I really don't care if a person resolves and fails to quit smoking or read War and Peace. Those things don't affect me. But when you've deluded yourself into thinking that you're actually going to stick to an exercise plan just because it's a new year, you interrupt my life and the lives of those that are fairly serious about staying in shape. I know that a few of these people will actually stick to the exercise plan that they set for themselves and good for them. But that number is so minuscule as to not cause a mass disruption at the gym.
Of course, I'm completely dismissing the symbolic power of the New Year. Everyone feels that it is a chance for a new beginning, never mind the fact that you're still going to have all the same problems and worries on January 1st as you did on December 31st. And as cynical as I am, even I'm not immune. 2010 has been kind of a stinker for me with a few notable exceptions (finishing grad school) and I'm eager to see it dead and buried. But I still recognize that tomorrow is just another day.
My point is that if you're not happy with some aspect of your life, you don't have to wait for New Year's Eve to do something about it. As soon as you realize that you're not satisfied with yourself, you should do something about it then. If you find yourself saying that it will be your New Year's resolution, you're only kidding yourself.