It’s the start of another new year. The clusterfuck of 2020 is over. And while the pandemic is still raging, there is an end (hopefully) in sight. This is the time of year when we typically see people signing on to gym memberships, starting diets, and buying fashionable new workout gear. Things might look a little bit different this year, but I expect that many of us are still making some New Year’s resolutions. Maybe it’s because my birthday is right on the heels of the holiday, but I’ve always had a soft spot for reflecting and making resolutions for the year ahead. It’s an opportunity to name the ways in which we hope to become the best versions of ourselves. It’s how we set our intentions for the next go around the sun. It’s a commitment to continue growing.
I had a film professor back in college who told me that many of his contemporaries had long ago resigned themselves to only watching the movies they already knew. They found what they liked and stopped giving new films and filmmakers a chance. He was in his seventies at the time and was glad that he had resisted the temptation to do the same. I just hit the halfway point of my thirties, and I think I’m beginning to understand what he was saying. As we get older and develop better senses of ourselves, it’s easier for us to stick to our comfort zones. It’s harder for us to make new friends and be exposed to new ideas. This applies to everything from tastes in music to ideology and personal philosophies. We become less malleable; more certain. Our identities start to become fixed points.
This process itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t miss the uncertainty and mess of insecurities that made up my twenties. I happen to like the person I have grown into. I know a lot of people who feel the same. It only becomes a problem when we begin closing ourselves off to new things. When we are no longer open to the possibility of change, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow. We get stuck in echo chambers and repetitive behaviors. We lose our sense of wonder. I never want to stop learning new things. I never want to lose my passion for creating. I never want to lose my sense of excitement for geeky things. I hope I never settle for bitterness and complacency. I hope I continue growing and evolving into a better version of myself for as long as I possibly can.
I took the title of this essay from a song by the band Strata. “Stay Young” is a song I’ve come back to frequently over the years; it has a centering effect on me. It’s one of those songs that helps remind me that I am unfinished and it is OK. This isn’t a Peter Pan fantasy about refusing to grow up. Quite the opposite, really. It’s a plea for all of us to not lose touch with our roots. It’s about not letting the world break you, and picking yourself back up when it does.
For a lifetime of paying dues and ruthless reviews
Yeah, it’s hard not to end up a cynic
When everyone’s too scared to walk in your shoes
But can work up the nerve to be critics
Growing up should never mean surrendering our souls. Dreams might have to adapt to new realities as you learn and grow. You may even need to let go of the dreams that no longer inspire you. Failure can be a great teacher if you let it. The world will be cruel, but that doesn’t mean we need to be in return.
Oh, can you still remember your very first kiss?
Or the future you hoped for when we were still kids?
Just trying to keep up our innocence in this fucked up world
Stay young, stay young…
I have a few New Year’s resolutions. I wrote them all in my Passion Planner (which I highly recommend) and will be revisiting them throughout the year. My goals range from reading more novels to developing better sleep habits, with lots of other things in between. I will inevitably do better on some than others. Where I succeed, I will celebrate. Where I fall short, I will forgive myself. I am a work in progress and I hope I never figure it all out. I hope you never do, either.
Learning from the best old man I know.