2016 has been, by any measure, a year that nobody will be sad to say goodbye to. (If I never hear the phrase “trash fire” or its variants again it will be too soon.)
And so right now all you probably want to do is make it across the finish line. After these next few weeks of rushing and excess are over, you reason, the blank slate that is January will come, and then you can go about the real work of becoming a better version of yourself. That’s when the exercise can start; that’s when you’ll begin to write thank you notes and novels, and call your grandparents every Sunday, and eat chia seeds and replace that one light bulb and cut back to drinking the amount of booze your doctor already thinks you do.
But listen: I think you should start right now. If you’re into New Year’s resolutions (which you absolutely do not have to be, you are complete just as you are), start rolling them out a few weeks before the ball drops. It doesn’t have to be all of them, and it doesn’t have to be the full dose. Just a few little tweaks here and there — a quick jog before or after work, a couple hundred words of writing in the notes app on your phone, two hours a week at that place you always thought you'd like to volunteer.
What matters is that it’s deliberate, and that it gives you time and space to start forming a habit, and helps prop the door open for some bigger and more permanent changes. It’ll make you feel more in control even if the rest of your life feels a little helpless; it might even help you carve out some space for yourself amid the craziness.
It probably seems like terrible timing: your December nights and dollars have already been pledged, you’ve promised yourself a stint of last hurrahs, you can barely force yourself to do the joyful stuff, let alone the decidedly less joyful work of measured living.
But it’ll help take the pressure off of January 1st — off all of 2017 — to begin ahead of schedule. Humans literally invented the concept of time! And so while dates on a calendar can be comforting and compartmentalizing, they can also be much too rigid when it comes to the messy and non-linear work of personal change.
I say, with all due respect to the New Year’s baby, fuck that. Because, spoiler alert, 2017 is not going to solve anything. We won’t become exactly who we’ve always dreamed of being and the world will not right itself. The things that troubled us in 2016 (many of which look suspiciously like the things that troubled us in 2015) aren’t going to magically disappear after 11:59 p.m. on December 31st, but nor will the things we’re already proud of — the miles we’ve already run, the families we’ve already built, the words we’ve already written.
All we can do is add to the good pile and try to counterbalance the bad, and be kinder to ourselves and others than we ever thought possible, and find the worth in striving to be better even if we know we will never fully arrive. The work of living is long and hard and forever, so heck, we may as well start today.