The first time I put real thought into my New Year’s resolutions was the winter of 2018, my first winter in New York. I sat with my then-boyfriend, five months into our two-year studio lease, in the palatial Rose Main Reading Room in the central branch of the New York Public Library – a sacred space to me – and let my writing hand reveal what I didn’t realize was brewing beneath the surface.

“I sometimes feel I’m watching the days pass from a high-speed train, never quite getting a clear view,” Caroline Levy writes. “The new year is an opportunity to pause, honor the journey, take a few pictures and plan the route ahead.” Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock.com

I sometimes feel I’m watching the days pass from a high-speed train, never quite getting a clear view. The new year is an opportunity to pause, honor the journey, take a few pictures and plan the route ahead. A welcome opportunity to do more than just barrel along.

I don’t know whether it’s the state of our world, the end of a relationship, extra alone time or the excess candle fumes in my apartment, but I’ve been especially meditative these past few months. In the internal silence that only grief and gratitude can create, I listened to my intuition. She asked: Who will you be in 2021?

Resolving to do something different seems to imply regret, which is not an emotion that deserves air time. What could we call them, these resolutions? Aspirations? Meditations? Truths? You pick. What matters is that they come from introspection, curiosity and imagination. Not self-loathing, inadequacy or stubbornness. After all, seeds can’t grow on concrete.

So, get cozy, grab a pen and imagine your possibilities.

• First, start from a place of self-love. This is not an exercise in writing personal mandates or things to hate yourself for not doing a year from now. It’s a process of self-exploration. You’re not setting New Year’s resolutions because you did something wrong this year; you’re setting resolutions because you deserve the most fulfilling life possible and you’re figuring out what that looks like.

• Second, make them declarative. While I have at times been skeptical of the “manifest your dreams” approach, which it seems everyone and their mother is talking about these days (or is that just my Instagram feed?), I think they’re on to something. Writing resolutions in present tense, as though they are already happing, is actually a game changer. State your aspirations as truths; internalize your future reality.

• Third, focus on how you want to feel. Just you. Not how you want to be perceived, not how you want to look. Instead, how you want to feel and what you’ll do to feel that way. Put the “shoulds” in the compost bin and make that *#@% mulch, because they have no place in your life in 2021.

• Fourth, set goals that are within your control. It’s tempting to establish resolutions like “win the race” or “get the award.” After all, who doesn’t love receiving a superlative? But personal fulfillment can’t be measured in external rewards. Instead, focus on forming new behaviors, habits or routines.

Where do we go from here?

While no one is sad to see 2020 end, the hard truth is that the passing of a calendar year doesn’t erase loss. And healing doesn’t happen overnight, nor does growth. Whatever the past year looked like for you, I can’t imagine it was easy. Let’s be gentle with ourselves and each other as we move into 2021 –  that’s one resolution we can all commit to.


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