Shoutout to all the womxn who have made New Year’s resolutions to be their most productive, successful, best selves this 2021. Especially after a year that will go down on my personal top-worst-years list, I admire your dedication to do more and your unwavering optimism. Seriously, I truly wish I were in the same boat, even on the same ocean, as you.
But I want to acknowledge those of you who aren’t totally psyched for 2021. Maybe you tried your best to make the most out of the circumstances caused by the pandemic, but overall, the year was a disastrous letdown. While the pandemic is an event every single one of us is living though, its impacts don’t quite hit us all the same; some are dealing with financial troubles, the loss of a loved one, declining mental health, poor physical health or combinations of multiple issues. Seeing that we aren’t even close to being done with this pandemic and must continue making the best of our varying situations, the coming of 2021 isn’t quite awakening that typical sense of ambition felt at the start of each year. If you feel this way, I want you to know it is totally valid, and you are not alone.
I’ve decided that the most purposeful resolution I can make for myself this year is to work less, as I want to truly prioritize my wellbeing. Of course, I’m not going to drop out of school and spend the year binge-watching everything on Netflix, as tempting as it is. I’m just refusing to feel ashamed of myself for not putting my very best effort into everything I do to the point where I compromise my happiness and mental stability. I’ve always struggled with pushing myself to unrealistically high standards just because I can, but that doesn’t mean I should, especially in a pandemic. At this point, staying alive and coping with the sadness and frustration I feel from losing invaluable and irreplaceable time, experiences and people to Covid-19 is much more pressing than getting an A on an assignment that I’m not going to even think about in 5 years.
During fall quarter, I made that mistake of giving into the pressures and expectations I held for myself before the pandemic, which as I said before, are ridiculous even in normal circumstances. I have never and hope to never again feel the burnout the way that I did by December. In the middle of week 10 and finals week when virtually every other student was downing energy drinks and cramming for exams, my therapist literally “prescribed” a week off to relax because I had been in a constant state of stress since week 1.
My attempts to take advantage of sitting around at home doing nothing turned into me doing too much of everything. Objectively, I was succeeding with the careful balancing act that comprised of all my commitments, even doing the best I ever had in school and being the most productive I have ever been. Simultaneously though, I was absolutely miserable; I couldn’t even be proud of what I had accomplished then because I was too depressed to appreciate it, and even now, because it’s been difficult to recuperate from.
Just because we can adapt our technology to continue our schooling and pursuing careers doesn’t mean we can adapt ourselves just as easily. Since we first entered quarantine back in March, I’d been hearing all these sentiments like “You’ll never have this much free time ever again” or “Write that novel and start that business you’ve always wanted to!”
What we fail to realize is that we aren’t just laying around in our sweats at home doing nothing all day. We’re laying around in our sweats at home coping with the rare experience of living through a traumatic and frustrating pandemic with no end in sight. You don’t need to strive to achieve more than or even equal to what you’ve handled in the past. Just as you shouldn’t compare yourself to your past self, you shouldn’t compare yourself to others who seem to have a handle on everything as normal; our conditions and our means of managing them are vastly dissimilar from one another.
Even besides the fact that these are stressful times, productivity and hard work isn’t a measure of our value as a person. Measuring your success by what you can accomplish in school or work is an arbitrary concept (and a product of living in capitalist society, but that’s another story). Just because you aren’t writing the next great American novel or finding the cure to cancer doesn’t mean you aren’t a beautifully special person who deserves to be wonderfully happy. Think about your loved ones and the many reasons you adore them, because I can guarantee your thoughts don’t go straight to “they work hard” or “they have a 4.0.”
This year, make a resolution that will allow yourself to heal from all we have been enduring. Forgive yourself for any perceived shortcomings and stop feeling as though you need to take on the world when simply existing in this world right now is already a heavy feat. It’s respectable to take advantage of all the time you have if you are in the capacity to do so, but it is just as valid and acceptable to take advantage of the once in a lifetime excuse, “we’re living through a pandemic.”