My mom gave me a diary for Christmas the year I was in the fifth grade at Edgemont Elementary. The cover, embossed with gold lettering, was made of faux leather the color of a Bass Weejuns penny loafer. It had a lock and a key, and I thought that diary—my first — was the most sophisticated thing I’d ever owned.
Just imagine! If you owned a diary, even if you were just an ordinary girl growing up on an ordinary street in an ordinary town in America, you could still write a book (with 365 pages) about your own life!
I could hardly wait to start my story, which I began doing on the evening of Dec. 31. That’s when I wrote the following six New Year’s resolutions on the inside cover, next to my mother’s handwritten inscription.
1. Be patient.
2. Don’t talk on the telephone too long.
3. Be nice to all my friends.
4. Be a good student.
5. Don’t show off like (name deleted to protect myself in case she grew up to read this column).
6. Don’t swear or spit.
I enjoy revisiting these resolutions made by my earnest 10-year-old self. Did I really talk on the telephone too long? What did I even talk about? And with whom was I doing all that talking? My best friends — the ones I rode bikes with all day — who lived just across the street? Did I really spend hours with them on the phone as if we were our favorite TV teenager, Patty Duke?
And what about that third resolution? Did I have friends I wasn’t nice to? Is that even a thing? A category called FRIENDS I AM NOT NICE TO?
My favorite resolution, though, is the last one about swearing and spitting. I do remember running around the playground at Edgemont Elementary, dropping some swears here and there as fifth-graders often do if they want their peers — especially the fifth-grade boys — to think they’re all badass.
But the spitting part? Wow. Where was I spitting? Why was I spitting? Did I get in trouble for that, too? I spent a lot of time getting in trouble when I was a fifth-grader for reasons I only understood after I’d grown up. Let’s just say I’ve never done well with heavy-handed authority figures.
Fast forward a million years. I still swear. In fact, I fully expect that the last word I utter in this life will be a swear word. Something will happen. I’ll swear. And then that’ll be it. So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, etc. But hey! At least I don’t spit anymore. Unless, of course, I accidentally swallow a bug. Otherwise, I’m spitless these days. That’s why making resolutions is a good thing, right? It’s an opportunity for self-improvement.
Which brings us to 2018.
I’ve spent a lot of time privately lamenting the meanness that seems to permeate our culture right now. And by “meanness” I mean a lack of generosity — particularly toward one another. Everybody demonizes everybody. That’s what we do. I do it, too. Welcome to our world.
Which brings us to my resolutions for 2018.
Oh, sure. I’m definitely trotting out a few of the usual suspects. Get more sleep. Drink more water. Eat better. Spend less. Read books instead of surfing the web. Brush up on my Spanish, which I haven’t brushed up on since the seventh grade.
But in 2018 I want to try this: I want to live more generously. Lend assistance where it’s needed. Cut people some slack, especially when I don’t want to. Refuse to take offense. Listen. View change as an opportunity, not as a threat. Wake up feeling grateful, if for no other reason than I was lucky enough to wake up again.
Will I succeed?
Sometimes. Sometimes not.
We’ll see what a new year brings.