By Lincoln McElwee
It’s certainly the time of the year that most of us either love or hate. And I don’t mean the war between the holiday humbugs and eager elves. What I’m referring to is that time of the season that we lovingly refer to as New Year’s. What’s more, I’m referring to the promises we make during this time of the year, promises that can be at once outlandish – toning our bodies to look exactly as they did back in high school – and questionably trivial. That’s right: this is the time of year that we look back and, in doing so, begin to make all of our New Year’s Resolutions!
Perhaps more than any other holiday season throughout the year, the holiday season that culminates with New Year’s resolutions gives us significant cause to stop and take stock of what we have accomplished or failed to accomplish for the year. This holiday season is also the catalyst that propels us to make so many of the resolutions that, whether we like it or not, often end up as pipe dreams or improbable fantasies, resolutions that often make their way onto the following year’s end-of-year list.
In this way, our resolutions act as a type of recurring theme: we promise ourselves to hit the gym and/or work out more, to begin a walking or running regimen outside in the natural air whenever possible; we promise ourselves time to stop and smell the roses.
Some of us promise to budget a bit better, to dine in more, to exercise our green thumbs by cooking and gardening, to care not only for the earth but for ourselves.
And yet it all seems to play out the same way. Life happens. Obstacles get the better of our best intentions. Life and obstacles in the guise of work, play, kids, schedules, doctor visits and dentist appointments – as well as countless other ordeals – all manifest and, in their manifesting, steadily chip away at the supposed time and manpower we’ve set aside to fulfill each of our stated or unstated goals.
Instead of these run-of-the-mill results, however, instead of the strangely familiar set of resolutions we end up offering to the ether the following year, how about we come down from the clouds and make our resolutions a bit more forgiving, a bit more attainable.
In other words, why don’t we try and assign goals and/or projects to ourselves and our families, activities that we have a chance to fulfill throughout the year, useful and practical DIY artistries that we can actually craft without needing to own our own craft store or take out a second mortgage on the house. In short, when we begin thinking about resolutions during the end of the year, why don’t we back those ideas and projects that have a probable chance of seeing the light of day?
In keeping with the theme of resolutions and tradition, and in keeping with the reasons of the season, such as family, togetherness and reflecting, one such project that can help bring the family closer together and which makes for an even more memorable experience when traveling with the family and taking in all of our new experiences is any type of variation on the cherished traditions of photography and journalism.
Yes, you can think of this as a sort of scrapbooking, right? Scrapbooking combined with both purposeful journalism and photography, activities that most families engage in already. As we in fact take part in this activity to some degree in our day lives, I think it would be wonderful to use this crafty mainstay as a unique way to revamp our New Year’s Resolutions.
As we have been on countless family vacations and taken part in many events during the year, we already know that we’re capable of creating the memories needed for this activity. Each family trip, each life event and school project is a moment that we already hold near and dear to our hearts. These are moments that, as parents, we are often already chronicling. And so making the leap from a shoebox or book of old photos recalling this or that time, a digital file of pictures or video clips that might see the light of day every now and then, let us make a spectacular New Year’s resolution: a resolution to make a new tradition out of the year’s cherished memories!
I have many friends who take pictures of their family throughout the year and, along with quotes that their kids have said or written down while at school, even capturing those moments that we often think of as trivial or not exactly noteworthy, these friends then make decorative ornaments for the Christmas tree. These ornaments often include the precise year, age or date of the event as a way to differentiate the ornament from other ornaments and academic keepsakes.
And so in the same way that these memories and moments become personal, seasonal keepsakes, I encourage us to take this idea one step further and, as a sort of reflective resolution, look back at the memories of the past year, whether through scrapbooks, journals, family diaries, annual time capsules, vacation photos, etc., and not only be thankful for the wonderful times but, with our family there to share the time of reflection, think of ways to remember the happiness and lessons of the past year. In doing so, we can even think of a way to repurpose those memories, like my friends that create DIY ornaments from memories.
Indeed, with the family all gathered around, I look back on all of the occasions that transpired throughout the past year, all of the chances to make lasting memories through amazing and shared experiences. In the same vein, I encourage us all to be grateful for the myriad of experiences shared with those we love, the lessons learned and how we learned to love one another more and more during both the hard times and the amazing times.
My family keeps various photo albums. As my sister is a grade-school teacher and my mother a wedding planner and floral designer, there are always moments being remembered and placed down to posterity through a variety of creative ways in my household. It was that way all while growing up as well. And so when New Year’s is upon us, my family sits down to reminisce about the year’s activities, to look at film and/or photos from family trips, to recount major life events that struck us with happiness during the year, to recall times and places that, with the aid of a photo journal, scrapbook or diary, become real again and, in remembering, allow these events to exist in the present.
Taking stock of the year and all it has rendered for our families, including all of the ups and downs, is a great way to add everyday learning opportunities for our children as well. It not only teaches children about patience, family, goodwill, and endurance, but it teaches our children to treasure more than just toys and presents during this festive, yet often frantic time of year. In this way, we can help our children – our future generations – develop a true sense of appreciating the big things and the little things, which is, in my opinion, one of the true reasons for the season.
Revamping our New Year’s Resolutions in this way, revamping them to reflect on the past and, by doing so, creating new traditions – new futures – ensures that we are not only fostering our family unit in a wonderfully heartfelt and creative way, but that we are also instilling the importance of tradition, compassion, goodwill, and altruism – truly admirable reasons for this holiday season and, consequently, for living a fulfilled life in general – within ourselves and our children.