February 2018

Line in the Sand: Why Not Change Your Life Today Rather than on New Year’s Day?

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Opinion 1: Barry Kaufman

Ah, February. That majestic time of year when the shallow and superfluous resolutions made back in December come crashing down in a flaming mass of laziness and broken willpower. For those of us who never bothered making New Year’s resolutions in the first place, it’s a glorious thing to see.

I’ll admit that feeling this way doesn’t really make me a great person. But my shriveled, blackened heart is in the right place, I promise. It’s not that I enjoy seeing people fail; it’s that I enjoy seeing people having to walk back ridiculously bold statements that they made solely because of the arbitrary flip of a calendar page. If I decided to take up yoga just because my car had reached 100,000 miles, people would think I was nuts. But if I do it because we’re all roughly in the same spot we were a year ago in relation to the sun, people would applaud my new lifestyle.

Then they would quietly start the mental timer until the date I inevitably give up the yoga and go back to my regular lethargy. And they’d be right. There’s a commonly cited statistic (which is more than likely made up) stating that 92 percent of people will fail in keeping their New Year’s resolutions. So why make them in the first place?

Why put so much focus on Jan. 1 as some kind of magic timer when you begin atoning for 10 months of decadence with two months of penance? What’s wrong with changing your life July 18? It’ll be the All-Star break, so you’ll have nothing else to do.

Let me just bring up a date in history that might help you understand how meaningless New Year’s resolutions are. It’s Sept. 3, 1752. If you look up what great moments occurred in U.S history on Sept. 3, 1752, odds are good you won’t find anything. Because in the United States, Sept. 3, 1752 never happened.

As we made the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, the powers that be decided to monkey around with a whole bunch of dates. Dec. 31, 1750 was followed by Jan. 1, 1750. March 24, 1750 was followed by March 25, 1751. Taco Tuesday was held on Fridays for an entire month. Toyotathon was postponed by centuries. And 11 days in September of 1752 just never happened.

As it was the British empire who forced these changes on us, it should come as no surprise we revolted shortly thereafter. The point being, don’t make any grand sweeping changes to your life because Julius Caesar was bad at math and now we don’t celebrate the New Year in March anymore. It’s just a date. In fact, don’t make any grand sweeping changes to your life at all.

By all means, if you want to go vegan, go vegan. If you want to quit smoking, quit smoking. But if you want to still be living that change past February, maybe just swap out that cheeseburger for a veggie burger. Start walking when you can. Quit smoking cigarettes, but maybe start smoking an old-timey corn cob pipe. I don’t know, I’m not the boss of you.

Over and over I’ve seen people make tiny changes to their life that had a tremendous impact on their overall health and happiness. But far more often I’ve seen people decide this was the year they were going to completely overhaul their horrible lifestyle, only to dive even deeper into it before spring.

It can be done. But don’t do it because it’s a new year. Do it because you want to. And if you really need a big date to set that resolution, what’s wrong with today?

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Opinion 2: Courtney Hampson

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a close friend’s mother. The first time I met Jay Walea, 13 years ago, I was straight off I-95 from New Jersey. I moved here on a Thursday and started a new job on Monday, where I met Jay, and we hit it off immediately. When his mom died suddenly last week, I was heartbroken. I’d met Sue “SuSu” Walea just a couple times, but Jay spoke of her so often that I felt like I knew her much better than I really did. He called her “Momma,” and he loved her fiercely.

When I arrived at the First Baptist Church of Garden City, Georgia, I knew the service would be special, because it was clear that Sue was special. Parking was at a premium, and a line of mourners snaked around and through the building. As the family filed in and took their seats, the pastor actually asked them to stand up again and look around. “This,” he said, “this is what a life well-lived looks like.”

Sue was a teacher for 46 years. She wrote personal notes—get well, thank you, just checking on you notes—weekly. She kept a prayer journal, and once you were in it, you were in it for good. She was generous and quick to say. “I love you.” She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a dog person (swoon).

And that got me thinking.

I wanted to write about love for this February issue, but cranky Barry didn’t bite. Instead, ever the cynic, he wanted to talk about New Year’s resolutions and how no one keeps them. I admit, it does seem silly that we pick one day a year to set a resolution, when wiser people may resolve to do things better, differently, or not at all, in the moment and every day, rather than waiting for a new year to make a change.

After celebrating Sue’s life and shedding some tears, I circled back to this column. I don’t think Sue had to resolve to be good, kind, Godly…she just was.

How many people consider the idea of a life well-lived and what that really means? How many people set their resolution and goals with that in mind? I fear the answer is, not many.

Most use New Year’s resolutions to set a goal, create a system of checks and balances, feel good about themselves for setting the goal and briefly being accountable, and then they fail. They fail because they didn’t go all in, and their commitment was driven by a date on the calendar, not the life they want to lead.

I’ve only set one New Year’s resolution in my nearly 45 years. It was January 1, 2008 and I have stuck to that resolution for 10 years. It was simple. Uncomplicated. Achievable. I’m healthier and happier. And, I think that is what resolutions need to be to have value and longevity.

Our resolutions aren’t going to change the world. It is who we are as a person that will make that impact. What if we woke up every day and resolved to do something different or better? What if our resolve wasn’t about whether or not we eat the cake, or drink the beer, or run the mile, but it was about living our best life?

In church yesterday the pastor asked, “Can I be your pastor for five minutes?” He knew many of us were not his congregants, and some of us rarely “darken the doorway of a church” (yes, he was totally looking at me when he said that), so he wanted permission to lead us, if only for 300 seconds.

I think his message was meant for me to hear. And, I think the message was, “What if we all lived like SuSu?”

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