I don’t know about you, but this whole New Year thing makes me uneasy. Taking down the old calendar, putting up a new one, resetting the counter on our planet’s four-season, 365-day trip around the sun.
When I was a young person, I thought my elders overdramatic for such statements as, “And here I just got used to writing [whatever interminable year my tenderfoot self had just completed] on my checks,” but, blame it on the downtick in check writing or my own creep forward through time, but I still haven’t gotten used to writing 2014 on ... whatever a person writes the date in the digital age.
A new year is cause for reflection, a serious look back at the 12 months prior. To recount successes, however few, and ponder the areas in which we’d hoped to see more personal growth or overall productivity. I did a lot this past year, far too much for a Gamut to contain, though my list of chores undone, of mile markers unreached, is exponentially longer than my successes. There was a time I’d dwell on that latter list, to scrawl a bulleted catalog of reasons I’m not as good as I want to be, but I’ve come to realize this tendency is the two-sided blessing and curse of our place at the top of the food chain. Humans overreach and know when we fall short, but I don’t want failure to be the gas in my car. Not this year.
Instead, I want to look forward to 2014 ... er, 2015. (Sorry, still getting used to that.) While I try to live unaffected by clichéd formalities, I’ll admit new year’s resolutions have always held a dangerous allure for me. Whether petty, like the year I resolved to curse more, or self-defeating, such as my recent goal to publish one of these books I’m always writing, I invariably find myself facing a new year with something I want to accomplish within the boundaries of its fixed parameters. This year, I recognize this tendency in myself and, rather than impotently raging against it, just want to resolve better.
This year, I resolve to like more things. It sounds easy enough, but I think my work’s cut out for me.
The other day, trolling around the Internet in the time-wasting fashion of modern folks (this won’t change in 2015), I happened upon a comment thread discussing a very popular singer — I’ll resist naming the individual for the sake of journalistic integrity, but my appreciation for this particular performer isn’t a fact hidden from this magazine’s readership. And, boy, do a lot of people not like this person — an implausible number of untrained critics hold very negative opinions about not only her music, but her personage in general.
Opinions are difficult to write about. I can editorialize and tell you mine but can’t discuss yours in a meaningful way — there’s too much personal stuff shaping your perceptions. But I do wonder about the state of opinions in the mid-2010s. So many cultural influences barrage us every day — peer pressure isn’t constrained to youthful years, having found a welcoming new home on the digital playground. Browsers hand over new opinions each morning, which social media rampantly disseminates throughout the day and, by the time one’s head hits the pillow at night, his or her perception of a thing in this world has been shaped and codified. You can learn of a song’s existence at daybreak and fully believe yourself to hate it by dusk without ever actually hearing it.
I’m no Luddite; I think technology is pretty cool. But a few years ago, while listening to a new album on loan to me from a friend, I couldn’t decide if I liked the music or not. Instead of going back to the beginning and listening to the songs again, I clicked a bookmarked link to read a respected music blog’s review of the band. I’d performed this action many times, but on that day, for whatever reason, I realized I lazily adopted strangers’ subjective opinions instead of forming my own. In a supremely rare step toward self-betterment, I deleted the bookmark and each one like it (I’d bookmarked a lot of music blogs).
This year, I want to get better at liking things. I want to see the movie critics panned and feel free to enjoy it. I want to read an author’s least respected book with an open mind, and I want to sing the song some Internet commenter called “a plague on modern society.” Subjective voices are loud, and they are everywhere, but I don’t need them. Countless cliques, subcultures and belief systems exist to determine what I shouldn’t like, but I don’t need that. I don’t need to fit in with the cool kids; I need to like stuff.
And though I think liking more stuff will be enough of a challenge, I think I’ll take my resolution one step further: If I like something, I want to be okay with others not liking it too. An openly angry commenter hates the song I like? That’s cool. Another reader despises the book I love? To each his own. Opinions are important, and any preference come to in an honest way is valid. Besides, I can’t like everything.
Happy 2015, everyone. Let’s shake off the haters and go like some stuff.
/ Rodney Wilson is a freelance writer who can still be found slumped over his laptop, rewriting a young adult novel and, as always, listening to Taylor Swift.