For millions of people, a new year—or even a new semester—is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf. It’s like there’s a tiny switch in the brain that flips once the giant crystal ball drops in Times Square, telling people they need to improve on something to make the future year better than the one before.
Gyms swell with sweating new members who gradually drop off the face of the earth, fashion magazines fill their pages with ideas on how readers can change their styles or hair, and even Oprah urges viewers to get the best out of their lives by finally having an orgasm. When a new year arrives, nothing is safe from scrutiny.
Change, though familiar, often comes unexpectedly. Most changes happen out of our control. The real world shifts daily, and the illusion of New Year’s promises rolls around every 365 days or so.
It was a March evening when I was asked out for the first time, an October afternoon when I learned my dad was taking a job nine hours from my old Kentucky home and a December day when I reconnected with someone I thought I’d never hear from again. Change doesn’t keep within the boundaries of the first week of January.
Change also goes hand-in-hand with time. As we grow and mature, certain aspects of our personalities fade into the past, while others become more prominent than Jay Leno’s chin. The subtle shifts seem to most damage our projection of life for the year; as people change, so do relationships. Mortal enemies can become roommates (it happened to two girls I went to middle school with), lovers can become strangers, and black and white can become yin and yang.
My best friend—who I’ll call Belle—has changed a lot in the five years I’ve known her. When we first met, her blonde hair was chopped right above the shoulder, and she reluctantly played for our high school’s softball team. She was quiet, hated to be touched and hadn’t yet experienced her first kiss.
Now, in the prime of our lives, she’s grown her hair down to her waist, hasn’t picked up a softball in years and fears becoming a nymphomaniac after breaking up with her last beau.
Belle’s first boyfriend changed his sexual orientation while they were dating and broke up with her for a closeted boy at his rival high school. Her second boyfriend cheated on her with his ex-girlfriend.
Needless to say, Belle isn’t too optimistic about relationships, but now, she’s finally evolved enough to have one.
For a long time, I was convinced the opposite sex was finally paying attention to me because I made an artificial change: I dyed my naturally blonde hair red. As an extremely self-conscious adolescent, I wasn’t used to the cat-calling and stares that followed my fiery head around town, but I was elated.
I shed my mostly black wardrobe for brighter, better-fitting clothes. I looked people in the eye when I walked by them instead of automatically looking down. Now that I’m older, I realize it wasn’t the hair that made other people’s reactions change – it was my reaction to myself. Confidence, so they say, is sexiness.
If your resolution is to change something about yourself for someone else, it’s a bad idea. In order for others to love you, you need to love yourself first. To quote the band Copeland, “Change if you want, but don’t you go and change for me.”
If that girl from the bar won’t date you unless you trade your beloved keg in for a six-pack, it’s not worth it. Find someone who would tap it. As for me, I’m keeping the red hair and breathing some fire into Pillow Talk in the coming months—a change you can believe in.
Libby Peck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.