I am just going to say it. I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions.
All this “can’t eat chocolate” or “must go to the gym eight times a week” or “I’ll get up at 7am” – c’mon, it’s just unsustainable unless you’re some kind of human cyborg. We all know that by February we’re probably sitting on the sofa watching Netflix and gorging on that tin of Roses we’ve had lying around since Christmas and need to ‘eat up’ before they go off in July.
If you’re someone who makes resolutions and manages to keep them, then I not only envy you but I would like you to teach me your dedicated ways and tell me how on earth you have the willpower to hold yourself to account. I am not a person who keeps promises to myself. Promises to others is a different matter, but I definitely put myself last on the list. Perhaps I should invest a bit more time in self care and looking out for number one, but it really just feels better (and maybe, dare i say, easier?) prioritising everyone else and avoiding all those things I should do for me that I just don’t want to. Woah, this got deeper than I thought it would. Lighten up, Caz.
So, I don’t believe in resolutions. But I do believe in having goals. These aren’t specifically for 2019, but they’re all things I want to be further towards by the end of the year. I think, if anything, I’m resolved to being further along my journey by this time next year – whatever that journey might be.
So, without any further ado, this is my list of definitely not resolutions:
- Try new things.
- Connect with new friends and reconnect with old friends.
- Look back less, look forward more.
- Plan better.
- Celebrate the small successes instead of constantly moving the bar.
- Get outside more.
- Stop avoiding things because they are hard.
- Be less afraid of failure, and put myself out there.
- Always eat lunch.
1. Try new things.
I often think about trying things but never find the time. Okay, that isn’t strictly true, because I can always find time if I really try to – it’s that I guess I don’t sit down and plan well enough in advance, or I find myself distracted or anxious about trying something new in an unfamiliar place. I’m awfully afraid of social rejection and it means that I can avoid doing something, just in case I don’t click with people or I feel alone. Well, I think it’s time I grew up and realised that a) not only is it life that not everyone will like you, but b) often people are just as afraid as you. I’d really like to do some more crafts or more classes – maybe try my hand at pottery, or do an improv class. I have a list as long as my arm of things I’m curious about doing and it’s about time I got round to some of them.
2. Connect with new friends and reconnect with old friends.
I’ve met some amazing people in the past couple of years, most of them online – which 2014 Caz would be shocked to hear. I thought people meeting others online was a myth that just happened when people had their fifteen minutes of fame. I actually want to cringe writing that. I’ve learned so much about having an online presence, and I squirm thinking how awkward I was to start with. Now I realise that life online can be a fun, supportive space to meet other amazing people and I’m so pleased I got over myself and embraced it. I think it has made me a much better, much open, much less judgemental person. Instagram has a bit of a bad reputation for making people self-conscious or lonely, but I have found it the opposite. Long gone are the days where I would agonise over my pictures in poor lighting, perhaps Facetune away those parts of my face that I hate.
One thing I have spoken about on Instagram is my struggles with BDD and body image. I have come on such a journey since I started my quirkandfolly account, which began as a project to take pictures of my outfits every day to challenge myself to become more comfortable with my body. It wasn’t just Facetune; I mean, I would crop out my head because I was so ashamed of how I looked. Now I post pictures where I dance in a Boomerang, or maybe I’m laughing my head off because I fell of a kerb or saw a dog or something. I’m so proud of the person I have become online, and it has been a much harder and tougher journey than perhaps some people realise, but by being more open and honest with people, and being genuinely open to others rather than being afraid to connect with them, I have met some of the most amazing people. I am even proud enough to call them my friends and that makes me want to burst with happiness.
So I want to spend more time doing that. I’m not here for the followers – I am here for the friendships, and they are absolutely 100% worth it.
It reminds me too that there are many people I have lost touch with over the years and I’d like to reach out to those people more. I’ve been doing this a little – but let’s go back to the bit about my fear of social rejection. What if I did something that really upset them in the past? What if the person they remember me as is not as a good person? What memories – if any – might they have of me, and are those good, positive thoughts? I can’t tell you how much those anxious thoughts plague me. I am absolutely certain that I have said and done terrible things in my life – I am a human. But I am learning and growing, and I am beginning to unravel some of those demons that have been haunting me. I guess I want to reach out to people that have been there when I’ve been through patches, good and bad, and hear their stories. What have they been up to? Are they happy? Where is their journey taking them? If you are an old friend reading this, please reach out. Tell me what I did to upset you. Tell me what we did that was daring, courageous, embarrassing, or hilarious. Tell me what last made you laugh so much you cried. I’d love to know.
3. Look back less, look forward more.
Perhaps you’re noticing a theme?
I am trying really, really hard to let go of things in my past. Some of those have been hard to deal with. I have had a number of traumatic experiences in my life that have scarred me, quite deeply. I’ve been seriously assaulted not just once, but a number of times. I have been in abusive relationships. I’ve suffered emotional abuse, eating disorders, clinical depression, anxiety disorders. I have suffered loss. I have been harassed. Sometimes I created narratives to avoid truths that were too difficult to face. Yeah, I lied. Often I lied because I needed to protect myself, and sometimes I lied to protect other people from knowing the truth.
There are a few experiences that crop up time and time again when I think back. Experiences that made me feel such a level of horror or guilt that they’ve been forever imprinted on my mind. And because it’s time I let some of those go, I’ll tell you about a couple that I have never, ever told anyone. That’s right – I’ll let you into some of my deepest, most painful secrets, but I’ll avoid the truly dark ones because I’m not sure I can even tell those ones yet.
Remember the fashion of the early 2000s? I wasn’t really into fashion per say – in fact, you could say that I actively fought against it. But let’s remember, I was in my early teens and I wanted to at least fit in. I begged and begged my parents to let me have streaky highlights in my hair, at an age where I didn’t really understand how expensive that kind of thing could be. We couldn’t really afford them, and my mum bought me a D.I.Y home highlighting kit for my birthday, and I was so excited. It was the first time I had ever dyed my hair, and there were two steps; first, the allover colour, a dark coppery mahogany. The second, the lighter streaks. My mum helped apply the tubes of pigment to my hair and I still remember the strong, sweet chemically scent of the hair dye and the feeling of joy as I stared at the woman on the box, her beautiful shoulder-length hair with those streaks I so desired.
It was only once I’d washed and dried my hair that I realised that something terrible had happened. All of my hair had been bleached orange. Just one colour – orange. I was mortified. And then? I had to turn up to school. I was so deeply embarrassed that I felt that I couldn’t tell the truth; I’d relied on my mum’s help and it had gone horribly, horribly wrong. I didn’t want to blame her, and I didn’t want to admit that I’d tried and failed to do something that my heart ached for. So I told everyone that my hair had been ‘naturally bleached by the sun’. Bahahaha. I am literally cringing as I write this. Why couldn’t I just tell the truth? Because I was afraid of failure. I felt like I’d messed up. I felt stupid.
What’s even funnier about this story is that OF COURSE the orange grew out, and my roots started to show, and it was blindingly obvious to everyone else that I’d just dyed my hair orange – and for some reason, I’d lied about it. They must have thought I was a right weirdo.
Moments like this haunt me and I find myself often plagued by thoughts, memories of situations. Stupid things I said. Idiotic things that I did, that were in aid of something so meaningless. Like the time the heel on my boot broke on a night out and I pretended it hadn’t and had to try and walk as if I still had the 3-inch heel attached to my foot, because I wanted to impress a boy – who was definitely not worth my time. Then when he finally left, shortly after I squatted and peed behind a bush which turned out to be a garden with one of those motion-sensor lights that turn on, I took off my broken boot and walked three miles home along and A-road in my socks. Then I got home, wolfed down a microwave mushroom stroganoff, and proceeded to throw it back up all over my bed. And you know how some people just deal with situations like a pro? Yeah. I slept curled up next to that pile of vomit until the mid-afternoon when the stench of it woke me up.
Yes, I know. I am disgusting, and I will forever come out in a cold sweat whenever I think about that night.
And that is why I need to look forwards more, if only to forget all about mushroom stroganoff and how sun-bleached my hair gets. Thing is, that person is me, was me, but I’m not the same person anymore. Now, I wouldn’t dream of pretending not to break a heel, or pretending my hair has supernatural powers. I’d just say “yeah, I tried to dye my hair but it went a bit wrong, you know? I guess I can get used to orange though.” or “ah shit, the £10 boots I bought have broken, so I guess that teaches me for buying cheap things. Will you call me a taxi?”. (To be honest though, if I were that desperate I’d probably still squat behind that bush, because that’s much better than the alternative.)
People talk a lot about being in the present. I feel like I do that a lot more, and I’m slowly moving away from those haunting memories. I’m not afraid to live a bit, I’m happy in my own company, I like travelling on the train or in the car, just staring out of the window and letting myself enjoy the views, or the peace and quiet. I am happy to go to the seaside and spend an hour doing nothing but listen to the waves and let my brain wander.
But I definitely do not think a lot about the future. Saving for a rainy day? Not me, I’d rather splash out on a trip to the sea. However, how will Caz in ten years think of frivolous and ‘living in the moment’ Caz? Perhaps she’d say “get an ISA, you wally” or “think about where you want to get to, and make a plan, and stick to it, instead of just coasting through your life”. I think future Caz is probably on to something, and I should listen to her more, rather than letting past Caz remind me constantly about that one time I slept in a pile of my own vomit.
4. Plan better.
That leads me on nicely to this one – plan better. I want to be better at thinking about where I want to get to, and considering my future and how I’ll get there. I’m not saying I have a plan and I know where I’m going to be, but there are still things I can work on and improve.
Like birthdays. I’ve been trying to get better at birthdays, and remembering to send cards and gifts, and I now keep a calendar where I highlight all the upcoming birthdays so I don’t miss them. I’ve been working on it, and I’m getting better. I’m buying gifts weeks, sometimes even months, in advance now so I’m thinking well ahead of time.
I still need to be more of a planning person though as it’s so easy for me to let myself off the hook or avoid doing things for me. Taking up a new hobby has gone to the bottom of the list, or getting enough time in the day to practise the piano or a language, or just to read. If I can get a handle on my habits by planning my time better, maybe I can find the hours to try new things (see 1. Try new things.)
I’ve tried a few things, and there are some that just don’t work for me. Bullet journalling is one – I love it, and the journals are stunning, but I just do not have the time for it. I’ve tried keeping a diary – you know, one of those ‘week to view’ ones. But I forget to take it with me, or I don’t note something down, and I can’t fit everything into it. Or it’s too bulky so I end up getting to March and just not using it.
I use Trello now to keep across some of my personal goals, a website and app that helps me plan and track things. It isn’t perfect, but I use it at work so it helps that I’m familiar with it. I need to find something that works better for me though, as I often forget to check it – and because I use it for work too, I often have to switch between accounts, which I then forget to do, and don’t get the reminders so can often go months between checking it. Which isn’t a great way of holding me to account. Goal? Find a better way of tracking and managing things. And plan a heck of a lot better so I can really make the most of living in the moment without future me breathing down my neck.
5. Celebrate the small successes instead of constantly moving the bar.
Psychologists have observed something quite fascinating in humans and our attitude to a positive change in a situation. We spend a lot of time imagining how something is going to be, because it helps motivate us to get there. Only, when it happens, it is no longer as joyous as we’d hope. We’ve got so used to the idea, that we’re already expecting it – and it underwhelms us, no matter how big or exciting it is. So we hope for something else, bigger and better. And we keep hoping, and hoping, and we are never satisfied. And then we die, and a few people that we may or may not know very well come to our funerals and make small talk about how “brave” we were, or how “kind” or “selfless” we were. Maybe they have a funny story about mushroom stroganoff, or maybe they don’t.
I came across an article about this, the way that we raise our expectations, and it stayed with me. Because this is exactly what I do. I am my own worst enemy, always looking for reasons to do myself down. I achieve something and suddenly because I’m used to it, it just isn’t as impressive or important anymore and then I feel sad that I’m not [x] or [y] instead. Why do I give myself such a hard time? Because I do not spend enough time celebrating those small successes, stopping and recognising what I’ve learned or done. I am far too busy creating an unachievable stretch goal, and ending up disappointed and demotivated.
I feel like everyone has this. Every time we compare ourselves to someone else on the internet, we are doing that. “They have 1,200 more followers than me? Well, that isn’t fair. I only have 200.”. Let’s do less of that, and more of “I have 200 people who engage with the content I make. 200 people! That’s amazing, and a lot more than the zero that I started with.”
I definitely still experience pangs of this in my career more than anything – comparing myself to other people at my level, always trying to be the best in everything. Thing is, I am never going to be the best in everything. Instead, I should focus on being the best at some things, and then celebrate in that success. I’m doing this online (honestly, I am THRILLED that people care enough to like my photos, comment on them, message me, and follow me) but at work I definitely need to kick myself into celebrating the small things and giving myself credit when credit is due. Because I am bloody great at what I do – I work really hard at it, and I deserve to sit back and feel good about that every so often. So sue me.
6. Get outside more.
I love walking. I love the countryside. I love parks. I love the sea. I love being outside. So why the hell don’t I do it more?
I’ve been spending more time on my own – out of choice, really, as I’ve grown to appreciate my own company more. A few years ago I went to Cornwall for a few weeks and stayed in a small fishing town, and went completely digital free. I used the tourist information office, I had bus timetables, and I walked 15 miles along the coast. It was a glorious – albeit a little cold – holiday, and it reminded me how much I love being outside.
Every year since, I have been going to the coast a few times. I love the sound of the sea, the fresh air, the screaming seagulls, the inexplicable number of dogs. I love all of it, and I feel much better for going.
That feeling isn’t just me. According to research, being outside has a ream of benefits – it reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety and high blood pressure. All that just from being surrounded by nature. Wow.
I work from home now, working remotely. It’s something that I’m really enjoying – however, I do find myself sometimes going for days without venturing outside. It doesn’t help that the cold wintery months are for snuggling on the sofa with a blanket and a cup of tea, but I’ve been keeping an eye on my daily step count, as my phone has a built-in pedometer, and often I’m not even getting above 2,000 steps. The suggested aim is at least 10,000 so I am way under.
I’ve been attempting longer walks at the weekend, but I should be doing more daily trips outside. I’ve had a severe bout of clinical depression this year and if the research suggests that being outside can take the edge off it, I should probably prioritise it more. I’m hoping one day soon I’ll have a dog which should kick me into long walks at least once a day, but until then I’m going to keep trying to find excuses to leave the house and get my daily steps up towards the 10,000 mark. If I can get to 50,000 steps a week, I’ll feel pretty happy.
7. Stop avoiding things because they are hard.
I have a pile of official-looking unopened letters next to my desk. An incomplete budget spreadsheet. I have some tricky paperwork that needs completing, and I am so distressed by it that I’m struggling to get through it. So it sits in the pile of ‘things that I need to do and I guess I’ll do one day’. It’s like that pile of things we’ve promised ourselves that we’ll put up on eBay – only, six months down the line, the items have been untouched and sit there in the corner gathering dust.
How about dealing with that ongoing issue with the builders? Or the noisy neighbours upstairs? Or that person at work who is being difficult and isn’t pulling their weight, and you know that they’ll react really badly the second you ask what’s going on?
Yeah. I avoid things. Guilty as charged, your honour. I am a serial avoider. I’m not entirely proud of it, but mostly it is because I am an emotionally sensitive person and I try really hard to not be in a situation where I feel so distressed I burst into tears. If something feels hard and pushes some of my buttons, you’ll bet your bottom dollar I’ll be putting it off until I feel ready to deal with it. But when will I be ready to deal with it? Good question. Honestly? Probably never.
So instead of letting things build up, maybe I need to rip off the damn bandaid and deal with the things. I’m getting better at this, but I have a very long way to go. I dealt with some tricky things in December and though it did not feel great, it’s now out of the way. Go me. More of that going forwards, I think.
I’ve found that a good way to get things done is incentivise myself. Clean all the glassware? Well done, you can treat yourself to that Hotel Chocolat mini slab you’ve been salivating just thinking about. Oh, you replied to that tricky letter? That sounds like an excuse for a meal out if ever I’ve heard one!
That eBay pile I have is still collecting dust, and it gets bigger by the week. I think it’s been there for over a year now, staring at me sadly from the corner. Maybe I’ll cut my losses and haul it all down to the charity shop in the next few weeks. That’ll be a load off my mind.
8. Be less afraid of failure, and put myself out there.
A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me what I was most afraid of. For them, it was death. I think that’s quite normal. Lots of people are afraid of death, but I’m not really scared of it. The only fact of life is death – really, it’s the only thing we can be sure about. Maybe you weren’t expecting this to take such a morbid route so quickly?
I hardly gave it some thought before I told them: I am afraid of failure. And I think that was the first time I really said that out loud. I am afraid that I am going to fail at every single thing I do, and I look for opportunities to say to myself, “Ha! Look, another failed attempt at something. See? You are a failure.”
Instead of really trying things, I give up before I start. I assume it won’t go anywhere, and that I’ll do badly. I imagine the things I can do but never put them into reality because I am so deeply afraid that it will fail that I don’t even begin them. That’s kinda fucked up, isn’t it?
I guess there’s the element of social rejection too. I worry that people will find what I say or do embarrassing or awkward, or that they’ll think “oh, she’s trying too hard”. Thing is, people probably will say or think that. But why am I letting those people dictate what I do with my life? Why am I keeping quiet because the people that do not support me…well, don’t support me?
Instagram is a funny place for this. There is one person who always reads my stories, the snippets of things I get up to or funny jokes or sometimes tongue-in-cheek questions that are often jokes. Instagram has a thing called polls where you can ask a question and offer two replies that people can choose from. This person always, without fail, responds with the negative response. It’s like they want to bring me down. Why do they even bother engaging with my stories if all they want to do is try to make me feel bad? They don’t even follow my account, so why are they spending so much time watching my stories and finding any opportunity to make me feel bad?
So here’s the thing – do I care? No, not really. I think it’s kind of funny actually. I do care about my friends, and what they think. But a stranger on the internet can do one.
My fear of failing or looking stupid has held me back for my entire life. I am so afraid of putting myself out there that I just don’t do it, or I half-ass it which means that it never does as well as it should do. I really am my own worst enemy. I don’t post things on my Facebook page, I don’t update Twitter, I don’t advertise these blog posts on any other platform than Instagram. Which is really stupid, because I’m not even sharing it with all those supportive communities I have around me. Instead, I hide.
Well, no more. I’m going to be bolder, I’m going to be less afraid, and I am going to put myself out there. I’m going to stop half-assing so much. In some small ways I am already doing that, by using Instagram in the way I do I am breaking through some of that fear, but I don’t do it as Caz. I do it as quirkandfolly. And maybe I need to be less of a pseudonym and more of me, because as much as I tear myself down, I am worthy of being…well, myself, unreservedly and uncensored. Some people might not like or appreciate it, but I cannot please everyone and I should be less afraid to be myself.
9. Always eat lunch.
I am terrible at remembering to eat regularly. I’ve nailed breakfast now, and I’ve got into the habit of getting up, taking my tablets, making a coffee, eating breakfast and checking emails. And I try to get dinner at around 6. But lunch? Sometimes I forget, and it gets to 3pm and it feels to late to take a break. I work at home, so it’s easy to lose track – or book meetings in between 11 and 3 and not prioritise me. Maybe there is a bit of guilt there about being at home, knowing that I am privileged to not have to do a horrible commute every day. Perhaps I’m just not prioritising my own needs.
I’m getting better at lunch, but I need to make sure I plan ahead at the beginning of the week and have some things ready made. And put a meeting with myself in the diary – a date with the dining table. Maybe I can take it outside and breathe in all that greenery that’s great for my mental health. Maybe I can pop to that coffee shop a 13-minute walk away that makes beautiful cappuccinos. Maybe I can give myself permission to take some space for me, without feeling guilt, or shame.
So those are my un-resolutions. My goals. Here’s to a 2019 where I finally put myself first, where I let go of the past and move into the future. Here’s to making even more friends. And here’s to finally clearing out that eBay pile that represents all of those things that I just need to let go.
Also published on Medium.