Hayes: Rethinking New Year’s


Bob Hayes, Columnist

What is your New Year’s resolution? Can you even remember it after the eight whole days that have elapsed since New Year’s Day? That mild case of amnesia emanating from the late-night blur during the waning hours of 2013 and the first few of 2014 probably is not helping much.

If you can remember your resolution, how is that going for you? Have you made any active changes to your life since that sentimental essay you posted on Facebook about how great a year it was but how you want to make 2014 even better?

I don’t mean to admonish individuals for their actions — or lack thereof — in the first week of the new year, but I do think that it is important for us to take a look at how we view and celebrate the turning over of the calendar.

In the literal sense, the first day of January is no more than an arbitrary benchmark of when the Earth has completed its orbit around the sun. For many of us, as Christmas has come and gone, the arrival of Dec. 31 represents the abrupt arrival of stress from the ultimate questions we ask ourselves each year: First, “What the heck am I going to do for New Year’s Eve?” — because we are all losers if the last night of the year is not the best — followed by, “What should my New Year’s resolution be?” and finally, “Wait, what was my New Year’s resolution last year?”

As we realize that we have no real answers to these questions, we sneak into the other room while the relatives are in town for the 47th day of Christmas. Maybe creating an Instagram montage highlighting my best photos of the year will help me with my New Year’s resolution? Nope, that’s no help. Perhaps checking out the published-in-November “Biggest Fashion Fails of 2013” will help? Nah, not that either. How about seeing if that girl you sort of knew in high school is hosting a gathering tonight, just because she has parents who don’t mind spending their first day of the new year with a completely trashed house? Yeah, sounds good. A resolution can wait. There’s no way I’m missing another year of staring at a clock that is two minutes slow — or is it fast? I can’t remember — pretending that seeing 11:59 turn into 12:00 holds any significance in our lives.

Then the day finally comes. We spent all of yesterday promising ourselves that beginning today, it’s a fresh start. A whole new person will be born. We just didn’t imagine the rebirth would begin with a throbbing headache and a volcanic stomach. Any New Year’s resolutions we made were hastily thrown together, mere excuses to say that we had a resolution — wait, what did I decide it was again?

To be clear, I believe it is great to take a look back at the year that was and consider how we have changed as people and how our lives have changed. A year ago today, the idea that right now I would be a Northwestern Wildcat was far from my consciousness. However, the problem that I seek to bring to light is that New Year’s for many people represents a superficial, temporary moment of sentimentality that is quickly forgotten; moreover, it is often immediately enveloped by a night of partying and foolish decisions.

If Jan. 1 really is a catalyst — the first day of a new, better you — I totally respect that. Even if you want to call New Year’s Eve — an excuse to party for most — an ultimate catharsis before you change yourself for the better, that is fine with me.

I just ask that if we are going to evaluate our past and look forward to the future, why does it have to be on New Year’s? Jan. 1 is no better a day to improve ourselves than Aug. 14. It is great if the Instagram montages inspire you to change yourself on New Year’s, but for many, it is just an annual deja vu of false promises and alcoholic beverages.

Oh well. Maybe next year.

Bob Hayes is a Weinberg freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].