I am conflicted about New Year’s resolutions. I doubt they do much beyond remind us of how fickle our willpower is. The culture of the new year itself entraps us in a cycle of goals, effort, failure and guilt. It’s not the culture’s fault, however. The culture is simply a reflection of our society.
There would be nothing to complain about if we could keep our goals, but, as it turns out, such a task is a serious challenge. “New year, new me” gradually devolves into “new year, same me.” I want to know why a new, better me has to accompany every new year. If I had kept my resolutions from last year and stayed away from empty carbs, would I have to obsessively drink smoothies and eat kale again? The idea, I presume, is to use each year to improve upon our different weaknesses, not to repeat the same goal. But who actually does that? In reality, I think the path to a better self turns out to be like a treadmill — we get trapped in the same cycle. I also wonder if there’s something innately off target about our typical approach to New Year’s resolutions.
This year I have a resolution in mind that I’m actually excited about. Last year, in my opinion, was a historian’s dream. I predict it will be researched, discussed and debated over like World War II or 1776. Academics in the future will drool over the questions 2017 raised — questions about identity, citizenship, culture and the media.
I think that one of the central, yet latent problems that 2017 revealed was a breakdown of relationships. “E pluribus unum” might be America’s slogan, but it is not our everyday philosophy. America is a nation with many sub nations that have increasingly lost contact with one another. If you are a Republican, you’re probably not interacting much with Democrats, and vice versa. Even in universities, where worldviews collide, they instead segregate.
I grew up in a white, upper-middle class, Christian world, and the majority of people I have met or known in my life have lived in the same or a similar world. A Haitian-American friend of mine told me that he grew up with sparse contact with white people, let alone rich white people. My point is that the many subcultures and worlds of which America consists do not have as many relationships with each other as they should. Consequently, one culture treats another not as fellow citizens who are worthy of hearing and understanding, and who have legitimate reasons for their worldviews. Instead, cultures treat each other as the problem, the infection in the communal body that can only be healed if one repents of his pedagogical sin and believes what we believe. I think America is becoming a nation of strangers, and it’s my goal this year to try to meet and get to know as many people who are different than me as possible.
I want to do two simple things this year: talk, then listen. I want to talk with and listen to you, the person reading this, and anyone else who is willing to indulge the most sacred of arts, the art of conversation. 2018 will be defined by the quality of our national conversations, but anything national begins locally, in the everyday and with individuals like you and I. We have a part to play in the fate of our nation, a very simple part when you think about it. Talking and listening. Sharing what we believe, why believe it, how we came to believe it, and then listening to someone else do the same thing. Everything turns on our ability to do this, and not just with the citizens of the worlds we were born into.
So if you’ve read this far, and you’re hungry for a good conversation, don’t be a stranger. Regardless, I hope that this year will go down in history as the year people began to converse with each other.
Then again, about a month from now I’ll probably forget I ever made this resolution.
Scott Stinson is a UF English junior. His column appears on Wednesdays.