With the New Year approaching, I can’t help but entertain the idea of resolutions. As I think back on past years and try to recall goals I set for myself, I can’t think of any. I certainly can’t think of any I’ve actually achieved. However, I can think of many things both in my personal and more public life that I feel I’ve conquered since December, 2008. This makes me wonder if the idea of New Year’s Resolutions is actually incredibly contrived, artificial, and unrealistic.
In the past, I always said I couldn’t think of something good to resolve to do. Everything was either too trivial to be worth calling a “resolution” or too difficult a goal to ever expect to reach. The truth is, resolution ideas are plastered all around us. Sometimes, they’re spelled out clearly like this page of beauty resolutions in Cosmopolitan, and sometimes they’re less obvious. While shopping online for New Year’s Eve outfits, I came across tons of advertisements of skinny models laughing and flaunting their flawless makeup and perfectly blown out hair. In a way, these ads are resolution suggestions in themselves. It’s almost like all the insecurities we hold about ourselves are allowed to come out on New Years, when we swear to fix all of them at once. On the days leading up to New Year’s, we indulge in all sorts of pleasures, like holiday sweets, extra socializing, and stumbling home incredibly late on New Year’s Eve. Then, we’re supposed to feel okay about it all because supposedly we begin a strict regime of acting, eating, and feeling right the next day? Maybe we should be making resolutions to accept ourselves as we are, rather than seeking around for what we can change, tweak, and perfect about our bodies, minds, and souls. On the other hand, maybe a chance for self-examination is a good thing.
Yesterday, I watched Julie & Julia, the Norah Ephron movie about Julia Child and a young woman who cooked her way through Child’s entire cookbook in one year, while blogging about it. Throughout the movie, Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, says she feels like Julia Child is almost in the kitchen with her, and that she is forming a connection with the older chef. When Julie and her husband get into a fight, she writes a blog entry about how she feels badly about herself, and how she wants to be more like Julia, who would never have let things get out of hand, like she did.
Something about this moment really struck me. I related to the way Julie spoke about this older woman who had inspired her. In the course of my many papers and schoolwork over the years, I often find myself intrigued by a woman I stumble across in history or literature. Similar to Julie, I’ve felt a connection to these women, whether they be Russian Revolutionaries like Alexandra Kollontai or Medieval feminist writers like Christine De Pizan. Sometimes it’s a quote that first grabs me, or a portrait of them standing alone amongst five men. Whatever the case, I become personally invested in their stories of strength and fortitude, and find myself—often sidetracked—researching them further.
You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about all this in a New Year’s Resolution post. Well, that scene in Julie & Julia struck me for another reason. Here was a young woman who was not just inspired and awe-struck by a historical heroine, she was beating herself up about how she had be imperfect, something she claimed Child never would have done. In the rest of the movie, however, we see that that’s not the case. We see that Child was a human being just like Powell, and that she too made mistakes from time to time. So, Julie’s resolution was a little impractical too. However, there is some merit in trying to learn from women who came before us, so long as we keep in mind that they weren’t perfect either.
This year I might try something new. I’m thinking of channeling some of these great women I’ve encountered through the years whenever I find myself in a difficult situation. Yeah, it might be strange to think, What would Senator Jeanette Rankin do? when trying to decide which classes to sign up for, but I want to let their stories guide me. I want to remember what they went through, and I want to try and feel that connection, not just when I’m reading their Wikipedia’s, but when it really matters. The next time I have to speak in front of a crowd, stand up for something I believe in, or give credit to a peer, I’m going to try to remember these women. I guess you could say, I’m resolving not to forget…because, despite the new year, sometimes it’s most important to look back.