January 1, 2020. I grumbled as I glanced at the calendar that hung on the wall next to my shiny desktop. I snorted and headed toward my small kitchen and fetched myself a hot, steaming cup of coffee. I have always hated this time of year, for it means that my family expects me at their house for their annual activity: New Year’s resolutions.
I headed back to my desk and sat. As I turned on my desktop PC, I glanced one more time at the calendar and at the date. A thought came into my gray matter. Perhaps I could continue with my family’s tradition. Perhaps I could decide that my New Year’s resolution was that I would never again take part in this folly. My face hurt as it stretched into a wide and evil grin. Yes, that sounded nice. No, not nice—it sounded brilliant!
I nodded at my reflection and sank into my unfinished novel. The phone rang. I didn’t bother to look to see who it was. I knew who it was: My sister. Her mission, as the eldest child, was to remind all of us about our family’s tradition. The phone rang a few more times until silence, glorious silence invaded my kingdom. My fingers banged noisily on the keyboard as I typed the most crucial scene of my latest novel, Maria: The Monster Hurricane and the Summer of ‘19.
I paused and sipped my coffee as my eye wandered to the calendar again. “New Year’s resolution—over my dead body,” I said behind my cup. “Biggest lie ever told.”
Throughout the day, the phone assaulted my ears with the beeps that blared with each voicemail, my cellphone attacked me with text messages, and the emails that kept popping up on the screen burned my eyes and interrupted me in my sacred haven. All said the same things: “When I plan on joining them?” and “Am I forsaking my family and their traditions?” or “That I need to stop being a Mr. Scrooge for this is the time for positive attitudes,” and on and on it continued. I ignored them all.
I swore on this day that I would not fall into that unhealthy trap where people write down unrealistic goals. Around noon, I stopped reading my novel and headed to the kitchen. As I rummaged through the cupboards in search of bread, ham, two slices of swiss cheese, mustard, pickles, and potato chips. I was searching for a Coke or some Sprite when my doorbell rang. I cursed. I placed my lunch inside the microwave and strolled to the door. I opened the door and sighed.
“Hello, John!” said my always happy little sister, Miriam.
“Hello, Sis,” I said. “What brings you here?”
“What, can’t I just come over and see my little brother?” she asked and crossed her arms.
“Don’t play with me, Miriam,” I said. “I know why you’re here, and before you bother asking me, the answer is no.”
I moved aside and let her in. I closed the door behind her as my sister shed her coat. She looked at me, brows furrowed, and lips tightened.
“How can you have such an ugly attitude at this time of year?” asked Miriam as she handed me her coat.
I placed her coat on the coatrack. “Because I have always had more common sense than all of you.”
“Meaning?” she asked as she sat on the sofa.
“Meaning that I will not continue with this folly. I will not participate ever again in this thing about writing resolutions.”
“How can you say that, John?” said Miriam. “New Year’s resolutions are an important part of our family tradition. Just because the holidays aren’t the happiest time, it doesn’t mean that you can’t hope for next year to be better.”
“And then continue with the unhealthy cycle of getting disappointed because you didn’t accomplish any of your previous resolutions, and then become delusional and write other goals that you will not achieve? Because that is not how life works, Miriam.”
My sister opened her mouth and closed it. I sat on my chair and turned to my computer. She then shifted in her seat. “Is that what it is to you?”
I turned to her with my eyebrow raised. Miriam brushed her black curls. “Unhealthy expectations?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said and crossed my arms. “Because despite the lies the media and people have fed us with, in the end, it is nothing more than a trap, a lie.”
I uncrossed my arms. “What people fail to understand is that we can make thousands of New Year’s resolutions and, still, our life will never change unless we take the first step.”
Miriam fixed her eyes on him. “So, according to you, these things are useless?”
I pressed the bridge of my nose. “It’s not because it’s useless, Miriam, but it’s what it creates: Unhealthy expectations.”
“I don’t understand what you mean, John,” she said.
“The problem with these things, Miriam,” I said, “is that people expect their lives to change magically by just simply writing down a set of goals—unrealistic goals that, in the end, hurt people more than they help them.”
“If you wish for a change, then make the effort to change. If you wish to lose weight, then make the effort to lose weight, but don’t sit around and wait for it to happen just because you wrote it down, because life doesn’t work that way.”
“I see,” said Miriam, her forehead wrinkled. “Then I guess I won’t see you tonight?”
“Not a chance.”
Miriam nodded and rose. “I’m sorry for bothering you, little brother.”
I rose and walked her to the door. She fetched her coat and paused.
“Are you sure about this, John?”
“I’m sure, Miriam.”
Miriam nodded and opened the door. The frost burned my face. She left, and I closed the door. I sat on the floor and I buried my face in my hands.