Kate Does the New Year, Part 1: How I Feel About Resolutions

I realize I’m about a month late on New Year’s Resolutions bandwagon, mostly because I’m lazy and haven’t really given much thought to setting any resolutions myself. (I’m also sorry I couldn’t think of a more creative title for this post, but again with the lazy…)

I tend to be a non-believer in the idea of setting resolutions at the beginning of every year, because really, if you care about something enough, you shouldn’t be waiting until the beginning of the year to actually take action on it. Yet there have been a couple of things that have changed recently in how I think about both the annual pageantry of setting resolutions, and about goals in general.

To start off with, I had an experience on New Year’s Eve that sort of changed the way I think about welcoming the new year. I had the great fortune of spending most of my winter holiday with Ivan in London. During that time I had the doubly good fortune of videochatting with his parents (via Skype) on several occasions. We talked a lot about their time spent in the States, about music, and about Russia. They even scanned some of Ivan’s childhood pictures to me, much to his chagrin!

One of the most special things we did, though, was welcoming the Russian new year with them. At the time Ivan and I were actually at my old flatmate’s house for a party, during which we excused ourselves and commandeered an extra room for some privacy. We chatted with Ivan’s parents for 15 minutes or so, until it was midnight in Moscow.

Then we stopped talking. (I realize this might be unfathomable to some Americans who are used to counting down the new year loudly.)

In Russia there is a tradition of listening silently to the bells tolling as the clock strikes 12. You’re meant to reflect on your past year, let it go by, and welcome the new year with open arms. Of course, once that’s done everyone has a toast and then carries on with their business, whether that be sleeping or getting really drunk! But while the bells are ringing, you shut up and listen.

So we all sat in reflection, shared a simple toast, chatted a little more across the time zones, and bid each other goodnight.

What struck me about this was how different it is from our own celebrations in the West. In America we tend to have a huge celebration. I’m sure some of this also happens in Russia as well, but I doubt you’ll find many Americans who will sit silently and reflect on their year when the countdown begins. In Russia there seems to be a reverence for this passing of time, as well as an importance for looking back on the past.

Maybe more reflection... and not so much drinky.

Me and Beth, celebrating NYE Western-style, in between some hummus, some brownies, and some wine. Next year maybe there will be more reflection… and not so much drinky.

I wasn’t expecting to be so touched by such a simple thing, but I really was. There was something so beautiful and simple about it, and I really did begin to think about what welcoming a new year meant for me. For most of my memorable life my years have been divided by school years (not by the years themselves) so it was a particularly moving thing for me to welcome my first year as it really was- a beginning of something.

In this reflection of my year, I was able to see something else that I hadn’t really expected: the value of setting my own goals.

Professionally, I had, for the most part, a really great year despite a couple major setbacks.

Things that were bad about the year: I completely overworked myself by June and received my two lowest marks at the Academy on my last two exams, one of which was worth 50% of my graduating grade. I therefore graduated with merit, rather than the distinction I deserved.

Things that were good about the year: I accomplished every single major goal I set for myself, had a few nice surprises along the way, and learned to really trust myself and my own commitment.

In other words, I set goals and I accomplished them, and no matter how much I fell flat on my face in the last month of my degree, I can still look back on the year and feel like I really did myself good.

Every goal was difficult but achievable. They were: 1) do a (sort of big) competition, 2) take one professional orchestral audition, and 3) apply to the National Flute Association’s Young Artist Competition.

For some musicians these might seem like silly or overly-simplistic things to strive for. After all, a lot of people probably apply to dozens of competitions and take dozens of auditions every year! But for me these were big things. The competition I chose to compete in not only took me to Germany for the first time but helped me cement a wonderful partnership with a pianist who I worked for the rest of the year with. The orchestral audition I took was the first one I had ever taken (and was also my first trip to Finland), and to my great surprise I nearly won the job. And while I was capable of applying for the NFA competition in years past, I always put it off too late and then crapped out at the last minute.

Point being, I’m not sure I would have done any of those things if I hadn’t set goals for myself to do them. I might have hemmed and hawed, or decided at the last minute that I was just a little too stressed, a little too tired, or a little too busy to actually put in the effort. Instead, because I made each of those things a priority, they became “no brainers.” If it was on the list of goals, I was going to do it when the opportunity arose.

I don’t even remember when I actually decided on those goals. From my memory, the actual decision on what the goals were was a really casual one that I made probably only a few weeks before term started. But man, it made all the difference!

Anyways, while I’ve pooh-pooed resolutions in the past, I’m coming around to the idea that maybe I really do have a chance to give myself a fresh start here, and that goals are actually a good thing for me to have, no matter when I make them.

That being said, I’ve begun to decide on some goals for 2015, both professionally and personally. I’ve just made you sit through the entire post and I’m not even going to tell you what they are yet (I promise that’ll be the next thing I write!), but for now I just felt the need to preface whatever my next year will be with those thoughts.

Maybe my first goal for the new year should be to strive for more succinct blog posts…? Maybe, just maybe. But probably not.

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