Happy…new year?

Frankly, I don’t give a damn. I understand that having a concrete “new beginning” is really helpful for some people, and as much as concrete-ness really help me to process things, this feels different for some reason. It feels limiting to see it as a new start when I’ve realized that every day I wake up is a new start.

I mean, duh. That’s so obvious. But the pandemic, the seemingly endless months that I sat on my couch just waiting for life to make sense again…what was I waiting for? Why did I waste so much time? I have never felt so drained of purpose, of energy, of meaning. It was easy because I didn’t have to run into any problems to solve, but it was terrible because I didn’t have any problems to solve. Author Mark Manson talked about how solving problems is often the key to happiness — while his book is apparently slightly controversial and not for everyone, I think he has a point. When we are given a task, a purpose, and a reason to exist — life is much, much better.

I am not going to make some claim that “right here, right now, everything changes!” Because I know that simply isn’t sustainable or reasonable. Am I upset that I ate a few handfuls of popcorn and drank 2 sours and went over my calorie count? I’m scared, because I think — what if it ruined my path to weight loss? Truly ridiculous, because that’s not how it works. One small thing isn’t going to screw me up.

The other side of the coin is that going for big goals right away and immediately expecting success is a good way to screw things up (the issue is the expectation, not going for big goals, because that’s pretty cool). Success is not a right, it’s something you have to earn, so you should never expect it. But the main thing is that — if you expect success and you fail, that can lead to giving up and then nothing ever gets done. If you don’t expect success, and you just try out of sheer curiosity and you don’t fear failure — well, I’ll let you know what happens when I actually get there. I’m doing a lot better, but, oh boy!

So when people ask me about my New Years resolutions, I like to make either entirely vague or entirely concrete ones. One or the other, for some reason. I missed countless opportunities for growth last year simply because I was struggling mentally (an excuse, but also not an excuse…). In the end, all that matters is — I failed, I’m not happy about it, but I’m going to do better. So now, instead of making vague resolutions like “personal growth” or concrete resolutions of fitness or hobby-related goals…I’m going to go in-between.

  1. I want to remember that personal growth requires me to hear ideas that are not my own — I need to get out of my own head. Well technically, I guess I’ll be spending time in my head in order to grow…but the reality is that I’ve gone far too long just thinking I’m doing fine. I want to be better than that though. I want to carry this idea with me though and use it to fuel my paths to self-growth. So that will involve reading and maybe finally pursuing therapy again.
  2. I want to get into the habit of doing things the first time around — instead of not doing them and then punishing myself for it. Also, it’s efficient! I don’t waste time being emotional over my failures. In this case, my failure would be the lack of action, not the actual outcome (ex. meditation, workout, etc.)
  3. I want to remember to be more observant. I’ve noticed that while I have the potential to be extremely observant simply because of my curiosity…I often choose not to carry it out because it takes quite a bit of work. It’s not really out of laziness, I think it’s more just forgetting to remember! And being more observant means seeing patterns, talking less, reading people, all things to make me a better communicator.
  4. I want to learn how to be more firm. I think a big way I’ve been working on this is taking out filler words — Whitney Cummings talked about this and I think taking away descriptors lets you be more honest. Instead of saying “you’re so incredibly smart”, you’d take out “so” and “incredibly”. You don’t really need those. That’s just one small way, but in general, I need to remember to stop trying to immediately defend myself when I am questioned, even if it’s an innocent question — I just need to say what I need to say and be done with it. Then, I need to let people tell me that they are questioning me…and not jump immediately to conclusions.
  5. I want to figure out this whole “trusting other people” thing. What I’ve realized is that my difficulty to trust people may not be out of “brokenness” or fear, but what if it’s out of pride? What if it’s out of this belief that I know best? I really struggle with this concept and I need to remind myself that being a good clinician/friend/person requires humility.
  6. I want to make room for all of the stuff that I’ll be learning! I don’t know what things I’ll be learning though! Fun, right? Honestly, yes. For the first time ever, I’m ready for the unknown. Weird, because COVID was technically the unknown, but for months I just sat. I knew that the next day, the next week, I’d be waking up with seemingly very little to do.
  7. Just because I couldn’t miss out on the concrete goals: run a 10k and a half marathon, learn how to handstand at will (I’m getting there), clean my bodyweight, lose 10 pounds, read a bunch of books, write a bunch, hike a lot, and take my next career step — hopefully.

I think my key here is — remembering not to forget things, and NOT forgetting to remember things. Hmm…are those the same things? It may also mean filing my emotions away for later. I like to process my emotions, which is great, but I need to learn that there is a time & place for everything. A lot of my problems have come from trying to immediately process those emotions to get to the logic…but that means I’m immediately in my own head which keeps me from thinking of new ideas, possibilities, and solutions.

So these aren’t just goals for the new year, but for forever. Day 1 down…here we go.



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Jen Xu

Jen Xu


Athletic trainer, PhD student, coffee lover. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.