Sail forth – steer for the deep waters only.
– Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, and journalist
When I was young, I was very diligent about making a list of New Year’s Resolutions by New Year’s Eve. Throughout high school, college, and my mid-twenties, the process involved spending several hours poring over my journal entries of that year and then listing major events and reflecting on lessons learned.
Thinking about that ritual compelled me to retrieve stacks of my hardcover journals from the attic. I lost track of time as my past – at times as clear and crisp as a winter’s morning – flowed forth from my neat cursive handwriting. I marvel at and envy the leisurely time I had to write such lengthy and faithfully recorded and detailed passages. I can’t recall the last time I actually wrote in cursive, and journal and letter writing are all but lost arts to me now.
I was particularly drawn to my 1983 year-end assessment, which ran a not-so-surprising-for-me 40 pages in a journal that was 5 by 7 inches in size. I was a senior at UC Davis, finding my voice and confidence in my fiction writing; preparing myself for my very anal-retentive, post-undergraduate path in life; and head over heels in love with a classmate who was also majoring in English and just as idealistic as I was. Those were heady times indeed! Even then, unrequited love aside, I knew I was at the beginning of an important journey.
It is that sense of hope in today and tomorrow, however, that I realize one should never outgrow or discard as being unrealistic and sentimental, no matter what we did yesterday, how old we are today, or how much time we have left in our lives. Oftentimes and understandably, we lose sight of this within our busy, technology-driven lives, but it is never too late to renew our hope. I dutifully wrote out specific goals such as sign up for volunteer work or read and write more, but the themes of those resolutions throughout my youth and recorded in all my year-end reflections remained constant: Live fully, touch people’s lives with the gifts you were given, and strive for self-actualization (Psychology was a favorite college subject of mine, and I was a big fan of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.)
For me, New Year’s Resolutions are like wishes you make in your head and heart before tossing the penny over your shoulder and into the fountain. You don’t tell people what you wished for – not because you are afraid of what you may end up not accomplishing but to keep distractions at bay, listen to your inner voice, and keep your eyes on the prize. The themes remain constant, though the specificities change. I don’t need to write down my resolutions anymore. They have come home and settled comfortably into my being.
As we head into 2013 and greet the New Year, may you find peace and joy in all that you do. As Whitman entreats, find the deep waters. They are full of challenges and possibilities. Hope blurs the lines and makes them one and the same. Our journey continues to unfold.
Happy New Year!