Pro tip. Never make a New Year’s resolution in a hungover haze on New Year’s Day, when feelings of guilt and panic (“What am I doing with my life?! I’m 36! I need to get my life together!”) prompt you to make foolish decisions: this year, I signed up for a writing class.
I’d been promising myself for a long time that I’d try to work on writing outside of work. I work as an advertising copywriter, but I had funny stories floating around in my head that I thought maybe I could get on paper (that time my friend was abandoned at a train station in the Romanian countryside! That time I was caught jumping a subway turnstile in NYC!), so I signed up for a class on writing Personal Essays.
Now, if there’s something I’m really, truly great at, it’s procrastinating. Yes, I have other talents like knowing how to re-wear a pair of tights a thousand different ways to maximize their lifespan or being overly ambitious when it comes to baking pies or falling in love with completely inappropriate people, but procrastination is probably one of areas of my life where I excel the most.
This class gave me the perfect opportunity to put my procrastination abilities to the test, all while kicking myself for making New Year’s resolutions my butt cannot cash.
In the first class, the teacher asked us about epiphanies. An epiphany, you see, is the crux of a personal essay, the moment towards the end when a flash of personal enlightenment illuminates the flow of thoughts and makes the journey for the reader worthwhile. Ah, you say, the writer is now at peace with being single/divorced/a psychopath/recovering cleptomaniac/etc.
When the teacher asked what we’d thought of as far as epiphanies were concerned, I immediately tossed out the only epiphany I could ever recall having – which was lugging a white piece of carpet back to my squalid, shoebox apartment in the East Village with my roommate, realizing that my roommate relationship was the closest thing I had in my life to a real relationship. As I tripped along 2nd Avenue sweating into a giant piece of white carpet for our hallway, I thought, from here on out, if I was going to be quibbling over carpet remnants, from then on, it better be with a man I love, not a girl I’d met on Craigslist who happened to have the lease to a rent-stabilized apartment.
Great, the teacher said. You can write about living alone and how much you love living alone.
Ugh, I thought. I don’t love living alone. I love not living in a shoebox apartment with an already-soiled hallway carpet and mouse problem. I don’t love coming home to an empty apartment and have no one with whom to share my cooking or curl up on the couch to watch Office reruns.
So, instead of setting to work crafting a long, pensive essay ruminating on the conclusions of my decision, I did the next worst thing: I procrastinated.
This served me well for a week and a half. Write about living alone? I thought. I’d rather scrap paint off the tiles in my bathroom and clean out my fridge drawers. I hit "resume watching" on the next episode of The Office.
I finally emailed the teacher. She wrote back a lovely email filled with tips about how to get started on the topic of living alone.
But I don’t enjoy living alone, I thought. I want a boyfriend. I mean, it’s nice to know I’m the only one leaving hair all over the bathroom, but still.
We had our second class. I concluded that my assigned subject was wrong. I was going to have to think of something else. But what?
The days slowly started to tick down. A war broke out in my mind. You’re going to show up to this class with nothing to show for yourself but failure raged against what does this teacher know? You don’t want to write about living alone, you don’t really care, you’re just glad you aren’t massacring Manhattan’s entire mouse population by your lonesome self in your squalid, shoebox apartment while your roommate dreams of white carpeted hallways.
A week passed; work got busy, the social calendar filled. I celebrated the Superbowl, got sick, went to yoga, slept, showered, panicked.
Finally, the day came. The day before the writing class.
I sat down to the computer, and I wrote. This. It's not much, it's not really anything, it's me crafting a piece of something to prove that I can put my fingers to the keyboard and come to a realization about something.
Which is that, ultimately, those New Year's resolutions we make when we're all fired up facing the fresh slate of a brand new year force us to follow through with something. Or at least follow something through until it reaches something that looks like a conclusion. The end result -- like this -- may not be the prettiest thing, or the most profound thing, or even the most satisfying thing, but it's a start. A first draft. A first canvas. A first stab to show procrastination it doesn't hold the final victory.
Oh, who am I kidding. See you in class next New Year's!