We have just reached the drearier side of the festive season and inevitably, are facing the prospect of reevaluating the way we orchestrate our lives – the ‘new year’s resolution’. As a generally sensible and conscious individual, I am no exception to the temptation of this typical Western pattern of thinking (and attempt at implementing over hopefully forever, but most likely, the coming weeks).
I don’t need to harp on about the various plates we each spin which could be spun a little higher in an attempt to contribute to improving both our individual lives and society as a whole. Insert *habit* and *influential body/ organisation* and you’ve got yourself the opportunity to set yourself up to fail to exercise compassion and understanding towards yourself in an age where striving for more and for better are daily bread and butter for each and everyone one of us – regardless of age, religion, gender, or circumstance.
But, an eternal optimist, a precious thought crosses my mind: what if it doesn’t have to be this way?
I entertain a level of understanding for the reason why we each, to some level, end up engaging in this self-loathing trap. Ironically, I am genuinely convinced that a key factor driving this cultural trend is our innate desire to contribute to and nurture both our immediate community and environment. Why else would various avenues of sustainable living contribute to the majority of our new year’s resolutions? Embracing veganism; suggesting a carpool to work (or even making a concerted effort to use public transport); exercising stronger commitment to those friendships which really matter. The list goes on. What strikes me as common to these varying resolutions is the improvement of the individual, with a view to being able to contribute to one’s surrounding community – or the preservation of their environment. Whether driven by guilt or not, who can argue that this reason, at the bottom of it all, is no bad one?
I am Christian – so once this series of thoughts had crossed my mind, I immediately reflect: ‘oh yes – of course’. Genesis, one of the first chapters of the bible, speaks of God’s primary roles for humankind in placing them on the earth – that is, to “cultivate and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Now, I don’t need to explain to you that the majority of the human population neither believe in nor follow Jesus – but I am convinced that, in spite of this reality, this purpose of God’s explains why humans across various diversities have an innate desire to protect and enhance the people and places which make up their immediate contexts.
Don’t get me wrong – I do think that we take it too far. We set too many goals for ourselves – the nature of which are unrealistic and thus, unattainable. All I am saying is that maybe, maybe there’s a way that we can engage in this culture which allows us to make a significant contribution to our local communities and environments.
My own ‘resolved’ list of resolutions paints a picture of the possibility. For starters, I would love to contribute to sustainable methods of farming and the consequential positive impact on our ecosystem through committing to a vegetarian or vegan diet. But unfortunately, I have a history of struggling with anorexia – so this sort of new year’s resolution is just not an option for if I’m going to protect my general livelihood. What I can (and will) resolve to do instead, in order to contribute to sustainable farming methods, is to actively avoid engaging with the production of fabrics through the industrial (and largely unsustainable) farming of crops – such as cotton farms. How? By only buying clothes and accessories which are recycled (vintage or charity shop finds), are produced using organically produced fabrics – or are from shops which seek to encourage the recycling of unworn clothes (‘& Other Stories’, for example, practise a fantastic scheme in which they offer a 10% discount on your total bill if you bring in a bag or old, unused clothes). This way, I can still challenge myself to make a positive contribution to our environment in a way that is both realistic and attainable for me, in spite of my individual circumstance.
Of course, there will be times when trying to source underwear made of organic cotton (I draw the line at vintage underwear) is going to be quite frankly inconvenient and difficult to source. But I’m pretty sure that that’s a healthy level of struggling with a challenge that I’ve set myself – which I believe is possible and is rewarding for us all.
So, for the next time you do what I did days ago and flippantly dismiss each and every ‘new year; new me!’ social media post, I encourage you to bear in mind what is likely that person’s real intention behind said resolution. And, if you agree with that reason, is there something you could do to care for the people and place you surround yourself with?