Updated: Mar 12
Dear Asian Youth,
I have something to confess: At 11:59pm on New Year’s Eve, I’d watched fireworks go off in an oversized sweatshirt and parka.. My hair had been tied up by rubber bands underneath a shower cap. I’d worn socks with sandals, too. Excuse my fashion sense.
I hadn’t texted any friends or family. I hadn’t even put on an evening dress or attended a viewing party. Taipei 101 had exploded into brilliant technicolor. Fireworks had painted the city pink, purple, and blue until buildings had resembled the insides of a nightclub. Instead, I had stood on a tiny 5F apartment balcony, closed my eyes for exactly 59 seconds to savor the glow, then opened up a laptop to study.
SAT Vocab. The Spanish Future Subjunctive Tense. Gas Stoichiometry. History. Math. Music. Art. Any subject I had neglected to pay attention to in 2020 received similar treatment.
An hour and forty-five minutes into my study session, I’d written this into a notebook: 2021 will be my year. 2020 was awful. In 2021, I’ll put it behind me once and for all. I’ll be a better student. I’ll self-study. I’ll even write at least once or twice a week. I’ll become a better the best, most productive version of myself possible - starting today. I’m pulling an all-nighter.
I’d been a verifiable mess of a human being but determined nonetheless. Unfortunately, I’d also been tired. Two hours and forty-five minutes into my study session, I fell asleep. So much for productivity.
The next morning, I woke up. I brushed my teeth. I made my bed. I opened up a Spanish workbook… then, I closed that Spanish workbook and un-made my bed (by sleeping in it). I achieved nothing. And the morning after that? Nothing again. I’ll let you figure out for yourself how January 3rd went down.
If I’m being fair, I hadn’t really accomplished “nothing.” I brushed my teeth. I made my bed. I breathed. I opened up all my textbooks and flipped through them… I’d completed all my assigned homework. But why did I still feel like a failure? .
I’d still been recovering from an extremely difficult 2020. I’d read somewhere that goal-setting is most effective on important dates (birthdays, the start of a month, etc), so I’d really wanted January 1st, 2021 to be a fresh start. But my brain and body hadn’t been ready.
To be honest, my brain and body still aren’t ready to get back to work. And that’s okay. I’m not going to say, “Oh. I messed up. Now, I have to wait until 2022.” I messed up. I’ll wait for however long it takes to get back on track.
In my notebook entry, I’d equated my “best self” with the “most productive version of myself”, but our best selves aren’t our most productive selves. They’re our most brave or kind selves. They’re our most responsible or honest or fun-loving selves. They’re whatever-adjective-you-want-them-to-be. If that adjective is only productive? Well, you can’t be productive if you’re burnt-out anyway.
On New Year’s Eve, 2019, we all had visions for 2020. 2020 didn’t really follow a set schedule. It’s okay if 2021 goes that way, too.
Quarantine was and still is an awfully isolating experience that exacerbated many people’s mental health issues. It’s okay if you need to use up a considerable portion of 2021 to recover from 2020.
If you need a permission slip, this is it: You are allowed to do whatever you want wherever you want. Go back to a normal schedule on your terms in your own time. Or don’t. Re-define normal.
Happy Belated New Year’s. Happy January 3rd, 4th, 5th or whatever day it is for you because every day is just as good a do-over as the last.
Cover photo source: https://bit.ly/36SLgwi