If I had to pinpoint my own “moment at the beginning of the movie that serves as a pivotal prelude for the hero’s journey,” it would be that time when my sophomore year biology teacher looked around the room and said, “The only thing permanent in this life is change.”
Lately, I’ve had more reasons to dwell on this seemingly insignificant — but extremely formative — moment in my life. I turn to that little string of nine words whenever I start losing hope. Sounds cheesy, but it’s functioned as a great coping mechanism thus far. My capacity to change is what keeps me going. I’m not perfect, nor am I trying to be perfect. I just want to improve — and knowing I’m capable of bettering myself literally pushes me out of bed some days.
I don’t know what the opposite of nostalgia is, but I do know it’s powerful and it’s definitely been taking hold of campus this winter. 2018 is rapidly becoming a reality, a mere few weeks away from greeting us all with its promise of new beginnings. It is, like every year before it, a year promised to be spent fulfilling New Year’s resolutions.
I, a UC Berkeley freshman and writer for The Daily Californian, could easily set upon philosophizing about the futility of resolving to change. That take would be full of both Millennial and post-Millennial Generation Z pessimism, which no one needs right now. It’s also a take I don’t necessarily agree with. Will this be my undoing? In an uncharacteristic break from a brand of cynicism to which I persistently subscribe, I can’t bring myself to renounce a tradition that strives to break away from tradition.
Believe me when I say that I sympathize with those who think it’s a waste of time to come up with a New Year’s resolution. These days, there’s a lot of chaos brewing in the world, throwing ingredients into the Pessimist Pot and catalyzing a surge in support for the very Hobbesian, very Freudian belief that humans are naturally bad.
Is it possible to change? Is destiny ours to control? Has someone out there already decided that we are on a preset path, thus making voluntary change impossible? Don’t failed New Year’s resolutions just remind us of how tragic it is when we’re unable to change? There isn’t much data on the subject, but the data that does exist suggests that most people are unable to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions.
However, the power of a New Year’s resolution isn’t about the resolution itself. Its power lies in the acknowledgement that you want to change, the acknowledgement that you are capable of changing and the assertion that change is something to be coveted and pursued. The pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of change are one in the same. There is something truly beautiful in someone telling the world that they’re willing to change. Self-improvement can’t begin until one says, “I have something to improve.”
We all want the easy way out sometimes, right? All the English teachers I’ve ever had forbade me from addressing the reader, but I’m going to disobey them. As 2017 comes to an end, I have a dare for you: Resolve to change. I’ve already decided on my New Year’s resolution, and that’s it.
This New Year’s Eve at the family dinner table, I won’t be reading a list of resolutions to my relatives. Instead, I’ll tell them the simple truth: My resolution is to change. I know that the person I am now is not the person I was when I first got to Berkeley or the person I was when I graduated from high school. I’m excited to find out what changes 2018 will bring me and what person I’ll become next.
Resolve to become a better you, by any means that you discover are possible. Decide that you are going to change. It’s possible, and it’s in your reach. Where’s the fun in stagnancy? Constants never get to see anything new. Go ahead and call me an idealist, but I truly believe that change isn’t impossible. Call me a traditionalist (or, perhaps more fittingly, a sellout to the faux positive sentiments of self-help and self-improvement), but I don’t believe that New Year’s resolutions are useless, futile or made in vain. Rather, they’re reminders of this uniquely human idea that change is something to be desired.
If that doesn’t give you hope, I don’t know what else to tell you.
Finally, in the spirit of “the film’s climax when the mentor makes the mentee truly dwell on the person they are trying to be,” I’ll raise you this question:
Who will you be next year?