Resolutions and Reflections: Looking ahead to 2017

“The one thing I would change about myself would be to have greater flexibility.”

Yes, I really did write that as a resolution at the beginning of eighth grade, circa 2009. That’s the one thing? The one thing I would have changed about myself then would have been to bend over and freakishly touch my elbows to my toes?

Apparently. But that’s also when I thought I would become either a professional dancer or an author (at least one of those predictions turned out to be true).

But that was before the fall, before the ends of my earth got slammed inside the jaws of one mouthy beast called depressionanxietyanorexia and I suddenly had a whole lot more I wanted to change about myself. Change I did, but it wasn’t mostly for the best.

And it took 7 years to get out of its clutches, to resurrect and start breathing normal-people air again. It took 7 years to finally stare life into the face and say, with confidence, Bring it on. 

But don’t be fooled. My battle scars are far from healed.

“Visit Hawaii. Visit Germany. Have published work in a newspaper. Meet Taylor Swift.”

That’s the start of another “Life List by 40” resolution catalogue I wrote at the beginning of ninth grade, a full year after writing my aforementioned “Self Image” sheet.

The list is chaotic, sporadic wishes thrown haphazardly in a row. Live on the beach, if only for a summer. Have an amazing all-you-can-eat party, just for one day. It’s practical … Become a part of the high school chorale. Go back to Nashville, Tennessee. Visit Seattle. Travel to Niagara Falls. It’s a little fanciful … Swim with dolphins. Make a perfect snowman. Ski the Rocky Mountains, and not die. Eat authentic Italian pizza with any of my Italian family in Italy. 

It’s surprisingly touching, at times … Give money to charities every Christmas. Take care of my grandmother, no matter what that means. Watch my cousin Caroline grow up to be an amazing person, in whatever she decides to do. Always come home to have Christmas with my family, the holiday I feel is most important. It’s incredibly optimistic … Live to see the day where global warming is completely eliminated. Try not to break any bones in the next 26 years. Have a dance solo when I’m a senior. If not absolutely naive … Stay connected with all of my high school friends and go to at least one class reunion. Live to see the day where the Browns win the Superbowl. Win the lottery, at least over $2.00. 

It shows what I thought I wanted, with the unwavering assurance only a 14-year-old can demand … Continue to play the piano. Raise a family. Become a dance choreographer, if only for a summer job. Attend college with an English major and graduate. 

It also shows my sometimes warped view of personal happiness, suffocating as it was during this time of writing … Continue dancing for as long as I possibly can. Become successful in whatever I do, so I can feel “accomplished”. Have a job where I love waking up every day to work. Live life to its fullest, every day, with no regrets. 

Senior year of high school, I wrote another set of ‘resolutions’ — this time, just before embarking on the undergraduate experience. I found it recently in my annual Archivist’s purge, and the summary starts out like this: I’ve known what I wanted to do with my life since the third grade. Talk about egotistical confidence! 

Again, my determination and rigidity for goal-setting stands out. After stumbling into a sophomore speech class, I realized my call to transcribe non-fiction events into compelling narratives, fit for all readers – the dream to become a journalist was born … Fortunately, I have plans to further indulge in my Erudite nature; I hope to achieve another degree in Marine Biology. I was so sure, so confident in my abilities and my beliefs — no wonder it took an extra couple semesters to figure out what I really wanted to do at college, with all this mental roadblock.

Looking back on these various declarations of resolutions has made me appreciate perspective. Now, I am seasoned enough at this life-list business to make resolutions based on personal goals that can be flexible with the fluidity of life.  

Even better, I surprise myself every year by making resolutions and stubbornly refusing to look at them until the beginning of the following year.

Maybe I keep from psyching myself out that way.

Last year, I wanted to: Keep doing yoga. Find rewarding internship work this summer. Publish a book. Stay true to myself. Be a little fearless. Love my body. Believe it can happen. Remember how good it feels to laugh. Don’t live in absolutes. Live simply. 

This was all before I found myself a truly incredible summer experience in Berkeley; before I knew I was going to publish my second book of poems; before I really knew how good it felt to be surrounded by laughter; before I really found myself.

I’ve come a long way — centuries instead of decades, it sometimes feels like — from that girl who only wanted to sit in perfect splits, to the woman who now only wants to give the world her best.

This new year, I’m reflecting on how far I’ve come and how far I still have yet to go. How to keep my dreams in check and my imagination far from contained. How to let creativity rule my spirit and how to restrain anxieties from running the ship.

This captain is setting her sails, and she’s not about to retire to creature-comforts any time soon.

-bnb