I have a theory that you’re either a Christmas person or a New Year’s person, but rarely both. Now, before you say you’re both because who doesn’t love two occasions in the span of a fortnight where you can eat, drink and be merry, the theory checks out.
On the one hand, you have people who are like my older sister, watching Love Actually and every other (woeful) Christmas movie Netflix has to offer you while baking gingerbread and carefully wrapping every Christmas present with coordinating ribbon. On the other, I’m a New Year’s person. I set goals, I’m superstitious about the way I spend the evening because it’s foretelling of how the year will pan out, I reflect on key moments of the year as I wait to see the fireworks. You either like one or the other more.
This year, I made the journey from Melbourne to Sydney for Christmas and New Year’s to spend some time with my grandmother. And, despite a lingering bout of tonsillitis, I had a lovely time. It was lovely to go for walks around the harbour and lie in the sunshine and have physical distance from my life in Melbourne to reflect and recuperate from the year that had been.
One of my favourite parts of New Year’s are the resolutions. I love thinking about how I can improve and do things better; I love thinking about all the things I know I can achieve in the new year. Being a naturally driven person, a position which secured me a place in law, I usually set the bar high when it comes to resolutions. Last year, I resolved everything from getting at least one clerkship to maintaining my grade average.
I resolved these tangible things which I thought were achievable and were attached tangible things which I thought I could accomplish. Boy was I wrong. Before my eyes, life got in the way making every single one of my New Year’s resolutions entirely obsolete. And when I thought about why the year had panned out this way, all I could think of was how I had spent the previous New Year’s Eve: having too much Prosecco and disintegrating into tears in my best friend’s arms over how stressed I was about clerkships.
But the more I reflected this year upon my goals and the way they panned out, the more I realised that maybe I had had conflated my expectations and my resolutions. My resolutions didn’t better myself in any way, they were just the fulfillment of expectations. Even worse, I resolved to achieve something which was totally out of my control. So, each time one of my ‘resolutions’ fell apart before my eyes, feelings of disappointment, dismay and worthlessness engulfed me like a small duckling, trapped in Hokusai’s wave.
All too often, as law students, I think we’re afraid of disappointment. We’re afraid of disappointing ourselves, or our parents, maybe even our bosses. We’re a highly ambitious cohort of people who have achieved highly throughout our lives. Because of this, many of us shy away from adversity we think we can avoid. We’re hardwired to be win/lose people. But in my short 22 years on this planet, I’ve come to learn that life is more than just winning and losing.
This year, I decided to do things a little differently. I resolved to do things like spend more time building my friendships and showing my friends how much they meant to me. I resolved to buy fewer things but to buy more quality things. I resolved to eat food and do activities which nourish my soul. I resolved to celebrate my achievements at the end of every day, so I can go to sleep knowing that I’m kicking goals. And all of my resolutions reflect my 2019 mantra: to do what makes me happy.
New Year’s resolutions should be less about getting a position on the Law Students’ Society or maintaining grades, and more about what we feel. Maybe we should be resolving to spend more time doing activities which nourish us or with people we love or celebrating our achievements. Maybe our resolutions should be tied to our own personal development, rather than to how good of a law student we can be.
Resolving to achieve things which are out of our control and in the hands of an assessor, a handful of voters or an HR officer, takes the power out of our hands. It throws our achievements, our expectations and our feeling of worth to the wind. It denies us the opportunity to be whoever it is we want to be.
So, this New Year’s, I challenge you to find whatever it is that makes you happy and resolve to do it. Then, I challenge you to celebrate those things. Celebrate moments in the car singing at the top of your lungs with your best friends. Celebrate understanding a concept in Corporations law or Equity you never thought you would because you conquered something terrifying. Celebrate the smile on your dog’s face when they run through the park, ear’s flapping and eyes wild.
Celebrate the strong, fearless, brave and accomplished person you are.
Because as I watched the sky illuminate with the fireworks and renewed sense of hope the new year brings surrounded by thousands of people in the pouring rain overlooking the Harbour Bridge, it dawned on me that we’re all just people mesmerised by the sparkles in the sky. That no matter where we are in the world, we will still find a fleeting moment of joy when a loud bang follows a cascade of glitter against the night sky.
And those moments, the ones which make us truly happy, are the ones to resolve having more of.
Flynne Tytherleigh is a law student at Monash University and is the founder and owner of men's accessories label PocketMan.