I crossed the threshold from childhood to adulthood when I was 15.
That was the year I discovered New Year’s Resolutions. A new year, a fresh start, a healthy dose of optimism and a fiery determination to rid yourself of anything that interferes with your attainment of perfection. At the age of fifteen, that was my three pairs of hand-me-down Rugby pants. And then I threw in ‘kiss with actual boy’ for good measure. I kept neither resolution that year.
Very quickly I graduated to more serious pledges, like learning how to drive a stick shift. And as the years went on I promised myself-slash-the-universe that I would be thinner, less emotional, fluent in two languages, more educated, less sarcastic, increase my income and do what I love, less of a martyr, more patient. In short, the perfect woman.
By the time I was in my 30s, I’d hung up my resolutions like a retired construction worker hanging up his utility belt.
Year after year I’d made promises to myself that I hadn’t kept past Washington’s birthday, so I finally figured: why make them at all? I was just setting myself up for disappointment and then creating self-fulfilling prophesies wherein I could point at myself and say, “See? I told you you wouldn’t do it.”
The last couple of years I smugly sat in the bleachers as I watched everyone else stretch and warm up for the big Resolutions Race. The minute January 1st rolled around, these people took off running, head high, posture straight, optimistic gleam in their eyes. Oddly, I felt the same sense of failure at not making any promises as I had in years past when I’d broken my word to myself.
This year I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection (also known as being broken up with and out of a job) and I’ve realized that the craziest declaration that I could ever make to myself is to accept myself caveat emptor: As-is. When you buy a used car, for example, you have no recourse against the seller should any hidden defects be discovered after the purchase. Well, hidden defects had definitely surfaced in me but to whom was I going to return myself?
I was with myself for keeps.
So come December 31st, I will boldly stand up and announce my New Year’s Revelation: “I hereby decree that I am thin enough, emotional enough, fluent enough, educated enough, sarcastic enough, rich enough, selfless enough, patient enough, and perfect enough!” For now, anyway.
As someone said, “Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” So for now I’ve resolved to stop trying to escape who I am.