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It's OK to Be the 'Same You' in the New Year

This particular season inevitably brings with it a barrage of messages concerning “starting over” and the plans you must make for a “new year, new you.” We are all told this is it — the perfect time to acknowledge, address, and plan to change the habits you’d like to leave behind in the changing of calendar pages from 2016 to 2017. For those of us whose synapses, neurotransmitters, and hearts march to the beat of their own drums, these messages can do more harm than good. For me, a person who has spent the latter half of this year acknowledging and speaking out about her depression and anxiety, these messages to “begin again” and “fix what’s broken” seize me with an overwhelming sense of shame and disappointment.

It’s difficult to reject the messages and ideologies of New Year’s resolutions because we are told we should be actively improving ourselves and our lives. I wonder, though, what it would be like if we could reflect without shame and honor ourselves for the people we have become. Isn’t there value in this you, the one who, at the very least, survived this past year? Is it possible to bow down in acknowledgment to ourselves (struggles, triumphs, stall outs, etc.) and stop the shame machine that profits upon our internalizing the things we’d like to change?

In the hours most rife for self-reflection, generally between 1:30 and 5:15 a.m., I begin to reconsider the decisions of the days that have led me here, the end of an important and valuable year. The moments I recall are rarely the shiny, happy ones, and I doubt this surprises you. In a more sinister version of Facebook’s Year-in-Review, I see myself sitting on the floor of my closet, rocking back and forth to the rhythm of my own self-loathing soundtrack. I am alone in every room of people. I am silent, burning alive, trying to finish a sentence in an email that will never be sent. I see the brilliant performance of a woman who needs the people around her to know she has a wonderful life she’s truly grateful for, all the while her mind considers the logistics of leaving it all behind for a waitressing job in North Dakota or South Carolina or west of anywhere but here.

When I am well, which is often due in large part to this amazing community, I can conceive of a reality wherein these moments don’t constitute my entire life and identity. I can see who I am and what I have become is so very much more than any one arbitrary day, month, or year can measure. I refuse to see these past 365 days, this discrete unit of time, as an adequate measurement of who I am, and it certainly doesn’t have to serve as an expiration date for who I’m going to be or what I’m going to do. This number of days, like so many other numbers in our lives (the number on the scale that’s supposed to measure our mass, not our worth to ourselves or one another), is insufficient in determining worth or value — of me, or you, or the life you’ve lived in its span.

Resolutions are incredibly powerful tools and catalysts for some people, but I am not one of them at present. I can’t see myself as anyone other than who I am right now because there have been many moments over the course of my life when I didn’t know if I would be here, if I’d ever see this moment and this woman. Instead of focusing on myself as deficient and deciding how many parts of myself I need to change, I choose to focus on seeing myself as I am.

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Thinkstock photo by DmytroKozak