At some point in my life, I moved away from the self-improvement New Year’s resolution. You know the kind: get fit or eat less. No doubt there were too many failed attempts. Instead, I compiled a list of the places I would like to visit; more a ‘bucket list’ than a statement of good intentions. And that’s the essence of a New Year’s resolution, isn’t it? A chance to do something different.
I checked my list before starting this blog. I last updated it in March 2020. I’ve no idea if that is a coincidence or whether I was looking to select something off the list just as the coronavirus struck. Either way, there are 27 items on there, and nothing had been crossed off or added at the time of writing. And, let’s face it, there’s not much chance of me kissing the Blarney Stone or riding on the Orient Express in the middle of a pandemic.
Our New Year’s resolution 2021 needs to fit the parameters of how we live now. Painfully for some, visiting faraway places is not an option currently, but nothing is stopping us from learning something new. A quick scan of my list reveals (disappointingly for the purposes of this article) only one entry that requires me to learn something new: gliding.
If you knew me, you’d choke on your coffee reading that. I am the least likely person to put myself forward for anything remotely physical. Truthfully, I can’t even recall adding it to the list. Still, there it is, item 26, listed just ahead of ‘Wimbledon’, where, presumably, I meant the tennis tournament and not some random District Line trip to the underground station.
For me, learning to glide is the biggest flight of fantasy ever. My husband holds a glider licence, which is probably the only reason it ever entered my head. COVID-19 or not, there is no point in me pretending it’s going to happen. So, present global pandemic permitting, what New Year’s resolution will I commit to in 2021?
My learning style is kinaesthetic. You can show me how to do anything from computer software to baking a cake but, to feel comfortable and confident, I need that mouse or spatula in my hand, thank you! My reluctance to learn from watching others even stretches to how-to videos on YouTube. I will gratefully view demonstrations of a new appliance when the instructions are incomprehensible, but that’s about it.
Once a bookworm, always a bookworm
I have always chosen the written word as my go-to method when learning new things. Maybe this is the best way, then, for me to find an appropriate New Year’s resolution? As a child, my favourite pastimes were drawing and writing stories. I suppose that when your greatest pleasure comes from creating using words and pictures, you will also appreciate books. I was (almost) as happy working through textbook comprehension exercises – the mainstay of 1970s primary education, as I was reading my much-loved Chronicles of Narnia, Famous Five series or The Borrowers.
There was nothing outstanding about my written ability then. Besides getting a commendation in a story competition when aged about ten, I just indulged my passion for reading and made childishly written efforts to emulate my favourite authors. I liked everything to do with books: trying not to crease a paperback spine, adding to my tasselled bookmarks collection, or my childhood guilty pleasure of sniffing the paper and ink in a newly purchased storybook or even a catalogue!
Looking back, I can’t decide whether books expanded my mind (I tried hard to obey teachers when they asked me to “read widely”) or left me with fewer career paths. Either way, by the end of the sixth form, there was only one study option for me – as I saw it – and that was to complete an English degree.
Little did I know back in 1990 that writing would become a major part of my working life. A career progression from English degree to marketing manager to copywriter certainly wasn’t apparent to me 30 years ago. Much as I loved character analysis and identifying major themes in works of literature, I had no idea then that the skills learnt from reading and critiquing books would give me the tools to research and craft content on a range of topics.
Finding a home-based New Year’s resolution
Hopefully, this brief trip down memory lane will help me answer my question: what New Year’s resolution will I commit to in 2021? As discussed, the coronavirus forces us into armchair pursuits or at least something to do from home. My cousin is practising her knitting, and my older daughter is learning how to embroider. I haven’t asked whether they are following online tutorials, watching video demonstrations or have bought themselves an instruction book. I don’t know if they have mentally labelled their pursuit as a New Year’s resolution. What matters is that they are using this unusual time to learn something new.
I’m still unsure what my New Year’s resolution is, but I need to decide before the week ends. A quick peruse of my bookshelves shows a surprising selection of possibilities: Farrow & Ball’s How to Decorate or How Computers Work by Ron White and Timothy Edward Downs. Or what about 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Great Beer Guide 500 Classic Brews by Michael Jackson?
It’s strange being cooped up at home during these lockdowns, but how much more restrictive would it be if we had no access to materials that enable us to learn? The pandemic has forced upon us a new way of living, and we hope the isolation ends soon. Meanwhile, we can use the time to reflect on what is important to us. Perhaps if we take this approach, it might take the edge off a bit and make choosing and sticking to a New Year’s resolution in 2021 just that bit more compelling.
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