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She Goes On: resolute

A yellow notepad and pencil, ready to write a list of goals.
Tawyna Gibson Photography

To be resolute means to be unwavering or determined to follow through. You purposefully mean to do something. Except, maybe, in January when it means to have a lofty goal to completely overhaul your entire existence and then ignore it almost immediately.

Funny how a definition can change like that.

It was my dad, long ago, that said he didn’t understand the need for beginning the year with a list full of resolutions. One of the things I can hear him say, so clearly, in my cells is “when something in your life needs improving, don’t wait until the new year to change. Just do it.” It was with that sage advice we were raised.

Every year I watch the furor from the last week in December until the first day of January from an amused distance. When I was younger there seemed to be two camps, clearly defined. One was the change all the things camp. Their lists were mighty and detailed with one or more goals in a variety of categories laid out in perfect steps. The second camp came with a sneer of derision that one could be so pedestrian as to even think about setting New Year’s goals. They took pride in their disdain and their outspoken opinions on the matter were a brand unto themselves.

My dad seemed to fit exactly…nowhere.

Except, maybe he was just ahead of his time, really. Today, I see far more than two camps. I see variations on a theme everywhere I turn. Sure, the first two camps have dialed up and taken their respective opinions to extremes, it seems, but there are others chanting loudly, as well.

There is the word of the year camp, of which I’m a decade-plus long member, where you take one word and let it be a sort of guide throughout the year. Within this camp are those who set goals surrounding that word and those who do not. Those who actively search for experiences and activities that stop just short of goal setting and those who meditate daily with that word front and center as a guide. Variety, it seems, for as many people who chose this particular outlet.

And then there are those who set goals but are much looser with their interpretations and executions. Those who set a goal per month as to not overwhelm. Those who change a habit, only, maybe until it’s done and maybe for a quarter of the year or maybe it changes with life. There are those who build around a family mission statement or a personal mantra or those who have a nebulous concept of improvement but are loathe to form anything concrete for fear of real and actual change.

And then there are those who, like my dad, don’t see the need for a manufactured fresh start to spur them to change. They accept life and change as it happens and, I suspect, are much better at living in the present than some.

I understand I’m very similar but a bit different from my dad. I don’t write down New Year’s resolutions favoring instead a guiding word each year to tuck away without any specific goals attached, but I also try to change as needed whether that reflection time corresponds with the turn of the calendar or not.

Sometimes I’m more successful than others and makes me wonder when does being resolute – of having that determination to do something – change into resolution – the act of completing what you determined to change? Those are the stories I’m interested in, it seems. I scroll through the phone and read the intentions of friends and strangers, but would love to scroll again come March and see some resolution to those intentions. Spend the hour and see that being resolute matters for longer than that strange week between holidays where no one understands what day it is and are too drunk on soft-centered chocolates to comprehend real life come April. When does being resolute fade? Melted with the snow in the spring or buried with the extra blanket in January? I’m curious why the spotlight every year when, even now, ten days into this new year, the shine is already beginning to dull and real life, it turns out, really is a daily thing and for most of us, is a continuation of and not a start of that life we’re already living.

Tawnya Gibson is a freelance writer and photographer who grew up in the high desert of southwest New Mexico. She received her degree in journalism and communications from Utah State University. You last heard her on Utah Public Radio as a regular contributor to the segment Bread and Butter. She currently lives and works in the mountains of Northern Utah, but her New Mexican roots still occasionally bleed through her work.