New Things 2k18: An Introduction

I have abandoned New Year’s resolutions.

Yes, finally.

I have spent many years following this process: Make approximately a zillion (read: twelve or more) New Year’s resolutions. Proclaim that this year!! will be!! the year!! I get my life together!! Try to change at least a dozen ingrained things about my life at the same time. Fail. Get frustrated. Abandon resolutions. Feel guilty. Come next January, proclaim that this year!! will be!! the year!! I get my life together!! Repeat.

I’m tired of this. I’m tired of the guilt and shame that comes when of course I can’t completely uproot my entire life in a single moment of overconfidence. And frankly, I’m tired of numerical goals. I love the validation that comes from tracking my academic progress, but it turns out that when I try to apply that to self-improvement, SMART goals and charts and logs don’t help me. They just make me feel awful.

So this year, to mark the turning of the Gregorian calendar, I’m taking a leaf out of Sarah von Bargen’s book. Sarah writes the phenomenal website Yes and Yes, where she blogs about (among other things) her New Things practice. The essence is this: Once a year, on a particular day (she chooses her birthday, but I love January 1st), make a list of new things you’d like to try in the next twelve months. They should be affordable and require relatively little prep or training (so no marathons on this list!). A requirement I’ve added to my own list is that checking an item off the list cannot require being successful at it.

Why? I want to learn to be mediocre at things. I’ve lived my life as “the smart kid,” always being successful at academic things pretty immediately and not trying much else. I’m so used to being good at things right away that I tend to give up pretty quickly if I’m struggling. That’s not exactly a trait I want to encourage in myself.

The reason I’m writing about it on this blog is that I think trying new things is a spiritual practice. When my life is stuck in ruts—same foods, same activities, same TV shows—my spirit feels stuck in a rut, too.

I thrive on routine, and I don’t want to pretend that I don’t or that I have any intention of changing the general well-worn routine-ness of my life. I like being comfortable. I like how secure routines make me feel. But when most of my life is routine, that actually gives me the safety to try new things! To open myself to new experiences. To meet new people and be bad at things (hello, #5 on this list). To stretch my abilities. To find God in new places.

So here is my list.

  1. Host a dinner party
  2. Take a salsa dancing class
  3. Attend an iftar during Ramadan
  4. Attend a Passover seder
  5. Take an aerial silks class
  6. Get a tattoo
  7. Read East of Eden
  8. Make my own laundry soap
  9. Have a tarot reading done
  10. Learn the words to Bohemian Rhapsody

I’ll be posting as I complete each of these items. (Spoilers: I’ve done one already this year, and the article is coming on Wednesday!) I’d love to hear about new things you’re doing this year, too. Give me a holler in the comments and we’ll make our journeys together!



One thought on “New Things 2k18: An Introduction

  1. Michelle says:

    Dear Jess. What did I do my first 33 years of life without you? Great post – super inspiring. And I could hear your voice while I was reading it. I would like to do #5, #6, and #10 as well.


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