The winter season is filled with beloved traditions. Nostalgic memories of people, places, emotions, music, and more. Who am I? I am years of making family recipe cookies, of helping Dad put up the lights, the jingle and the jangle of sleigh bells and loose change, holiday walks along the gulf, piano in a loosely packed sanctuary. I am my parents’ son, my sisters’ brother, my girlfriend’s partner. Even if not returning home or continuing with cherished traditions this year, it is hard not to reflect on those people dear to us, what we hold most important in our lives, and what we have experienced throughout the concluding year.
But we cannot stay on vacation or eat peppermint ice cream all day. There is such a fresh, thrilling feeling when we begin something new, perhaps memorialized with the celebration of each new year. There is a romance to diving into new projects, new self-improvement routines, new outlooks, new everything. Who am I? I am also an aspiring professional, a budding writer, a curious musician, an optimistic athlete. There are new people to meet, new depths for relationships to reach. Our new intentions have little value if they do not produce real changes. The challenge is when the romantic period plateaus. Losing resolve for our New Year’s resolutions could be considered a failure of will, but it would be more productive to consider it a failure of design. How else could you have structured your resolutions, how could overcoming personal resistance have been better incentivized, how could people have been incorporated or your environment adapted in order to improve your chances of success? One great aspect of humanity is not our individual intelligence, but that we live in networks and cultural institutions, that we can change our surroundings. We make a smart world so that we can be dumb.