Living Well

Dear 2016: An Open Letter to the New Year

Dear 2016: An Open Letter to the New Year #theeverygirl

Dear Twenty-sixteen, glad to meet you. I thought you’d never get here. But like clockwork, you arrived just in time. And with all the possibilities and opportunities twenty-fifteen had to offer, only better. Better because you’re spankin’ brand new with no mistakes or disappointments in it. Kind of like the thrill of a beautifully packaged lipstick that hasn’t yet been tattered by the wear and tear of daily use. Don’t get me wrong, twenty-fifteen had its star moments. But if I were to be honest, there were some really hard lessons I had to learn and challenges I needed to overcome. Sometimes I handled them well, sometimes I didn’t. And I’m not naïve enough to think you won’t come with challenges too. But I also won’t be so presumptuous to think that you will be exactly like twenty-fifteen. No, you are your very own year, a chance to start afresh. And I’d like to start off our time together by making a few promises to you.

I promise to see you with new eyes.

Twenty-fifteen and I were doing pretty well until I started treating it like twenty-fourteen, and then it got a little salty (some of us are so sensitive). You see, I couldn’t change some things. So I blamed my twenty-fourteen problems on twenty-fifteen and it caused tension between us. Instead of perceiving my twenty-fourteen stressors as isolated, short-lived experiences, I overgeneralized them and carried my bad attitude into twenty-fifteen. But I can assure you I will not blame you for twenty-fifteen’s problems. When challenges arise, I will reevaluate and reconsider the way I see them. Good experiences and bad ones often go hand in hand, and I’ll do my best not to catastrophize problems or overestimate what I think I would do if I had everything I think I needed while underestimating what I can do with what I have. In short, I’ll do my best so see the big picture. If twenty-fifteen taught me anything, it’s that I have control over how I tell my story and the parts of it I emphasize or minimize.

I promise to take responsibility for my happiness.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been known to be a little too demanding of previous years. I wasn’t as appreciative as I could have been and let my emotions get the better of me. I had high aspirations and my reference point for success was a little off. I didn’t always know how to be happy when certain things weren’t in place, and accused twenty-fifteen of not keeping up with my increasing demands. You see, I was so fixated on reaching goals, that I was missing most of my life. You know, the meaty stuff that stretches us, gives us satisfaction, and makes the journey worth it. But I will no longer be preoccupied with unrealistic goals that are triggered by anxiety or fears. Rather than base my happiness upon some ever-changing standard of living, my standard for happiness will now be determined by whether or not my life meets my needs. I know, I know, you’ll offer lots of opportunities for happiness along the way. But I’m well aware that many of my feel good moments are fleeting and temporal, and it’s my response to events, not necessarily the events themselves, that govern my happiness. I promise to redirect my energies towards activities and things that are meaningful. And when I feel the urge to make comparisons, I’ll distract myself by doing something I enjoy or I’ll acknowledge all that I’ve accomplished and focus on what my next steps will be.

I promise not to get bored with you.

Twenty-fifteen started out really dreamy. But all the excitement of the new year eventually fizzled out and life felt just so… well, status quo. The strange thing about it is nothing significant changed. I still had a great job, committed friends, and a loving family. I just got used to it all, and let daily hassles affect me more than it should until I no longer felt the passion I had when twenty-fifteen first arrived. I felt awful about it and reassured twenty-fifteen “it’s not you, it’s me.” But things will be different now. I promise to interject variety and surprise into my days to offset periods when I’m feeling a little less than interested. I’m going to travel to new places, meet new friends, notice new things about old friends, and seek out new adventures. In short, I will let my curiosity lead me. Hope you’re ready for me, twenty-sixteen!

I promise to be resilient...

...even if I don’t feel it all the time. Because resiliency isn’t just about having tough skin, it’s also about self-compassion during those times when we respond less than optimally. I’d love for you to promise me that nothing bad will happen this year, and I’ll coast through with no unfortunate occurrences, mishaps, or regrets. But all the years before you taught me better. It’s a good thing you heal all wounds. I won’t try to slow you down since I already know you wait for no one. So instead, I’ve learned not to waste you by getting stuck with past regrets. I’ll respect the past but live my life forward. And in the name of resiliency, I’ll commit to developing a personal sense of freedom—freedom to ask for help, freedom to pursue activities that give me inherent pleasures, freedom to make decisions that are healthy for me, all of which will make me more resilient.

So there you have it twenty-sixteen. We’ve only just met, and I know there will be periods of adjustment. Let me warn you that I may fall short of these promises at times. But if you’re anything like twenty-fifteen, I’m sure you’ll be a dedicated teacher, giving me plenty of chances to try again. I’m anticipating all that you have to offer and expect to grow in leaps and bounds as we take this journey together.

Looking forward to the next 365 days!

Sincerely,

Forward-looking

Credits

Sarah Seung-McFarland #theeverygirl

Sarah Seung-McFarland

Licensed Psychologist; Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.