New Year’s Intentions

December always offers a lot of juicy, culturally rich topics to discuss in the classroom as an English teacher. Different ways of celebrating Christmas, winter weather around the world, personal family traditions – the list goes on and on. Many of my students have had little to no interaction with Jewish people, indeed, often I’m the first Jewish person that they’ve met, so I love telling them about Chanukkah and about the wide variety of religions and faiths found in the United States. 

Building rapport with students has always been a strength of mine as a teacher. It comes so naturally to me that I was surprised to discover that what I considered the easy part of the job is not easy to all, and part of that is my willingness to share and exchange ideas with students on such a personal level. 

But there is one winter holiday tradition that I always lie to my students about: New Year’s resolutions. 

“I’m going to travel,” I tell them. Or “I’m going to exercise more” – really mundane, stock-image stuff. It feels very devious, but how can I ask them to tell me all of their resolutions for the coming year, only to reveal to them that I absolutely hate making New Year’s resolutions?

New Year’s resolutions just feel like so much pressure. It’s like they are doomed to fail from the start. I naturally have an aversion towards making goals, and New Year’s resolutions are like these big public goals where you have to state, loud and proud, who you want to become in the next year. Most of the time, I barely know who I am right now; how can I picture the best version of myself for the next year?

Thinking back to this same time last year, I was such a different person. I started off 2022 with Covid, which I caught on a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas. That should tell you everything right there. I had only been back in the United States for a few months and I still felt uprooted and adrift. The future seemed incredibly unclear. I didn’t know what direction I wanted to move in at all. I didn’t have any resolutions, just a desire to stay open to new ideas, connections and opportunities. 

As it turned out, I found them in abundance. 

If the first half of 2022 started out sluggishly, the year picked up the pace halfway through when I got accepted to grad school and suddenly, serendipitously, everything started falling into place. Every next decision I made was the right one. I spent a dreamy, delicious two weeks in Oaxaca, making Mexico the 28th country that I’ve been to and getting some travel in before hitting the books. I began my classes with relish, quickly realized that I have quite a robust knowledge of teaching but much still to learn about language, and changed my major from Teaching English as a Second Language to Linguistics. My housing was always meant to be temporary, and through a random conversation at a baby shower I found my next house, enjoying a shorter walking commute to campus. In case I needed more proof that I was truly in the right place at the right time, upon getting my grades back for the fall semester, I was pleased to see that I had gotten all A’s for the first time ever. I’ve always been a good student, but now I’m finally a great student. I’m truly where I need to be. I’ve even started contemplating the idea of pursuing a PhD somewhere down the road. 

After such a phenomenal fall, I just want to keep the momentum going and keep building on what I’ve started, and I suppose that I do have some resolutions after all. I’d like to keep learning a lot in my studies, and having conversations that make me think and give me more roads to explore when it comes to contemplating my future. I’d like to dance more, and hopefully get better at it, but at the very least keep enjoying myself and making connections through social dance. Dance has ultimately always been something that I’ve done purely for the joy of it, and joy is something I like to have in my life in abundance. I’d like to continue to spend time with friends and family. That is, after all, one of the key reasons that I’m staying in LA for now. And I’d like to stay open to and say yes to new possibilities and opportunities. When I first moved abroad, that was a philosophy that I decided to adopt. It’s served me well so far, taken me to far-flung parts of the earth, led me to experiences that I couldn’t have dreamed of, and gotten me into this latest chapter of graduate school. 

When it comes to new year’s resolutions, perhaps I just needed a different way of looking at things. I always avoided making them because I was worried about failure, but it would be more accurate to say that it’s not that I fail in my goals, but simply that they are constantly changing because my life keeps changing. So instead of putting all this pressure on myself to make big, life-changing resolutions, I’ll make these more reasonable intentions since life changes anyway. If I can keep on this trajectory that I’m currently on, I think it’s going to be a very good year indeed. 

Safe and Happy Travels,

Mo

A pretty drink from an awesome bar in Oaxaca.

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