There’s a stack of notebooks I have brought with me from house to college dorm to apartment to apartment and on and on. From the time I could write, I kept a diary and meticulously recorded my days. At first it was almost illegible stories about the sun and facts about snakes. Then it was school and neighbors and crushes. I can flip through them and see weird stories, foreshadowing hints of my future personality, scribbles, lists, interests—a map of a very weird kid with a creative, curious brain.
Whenever I stroll down this particular path of memory lane, I am amused and embarrassed and grateful I have them. I’m also always struck by the way, when I hit the 7th grade, my journaling and stories became about fitting into a bikini in the summer and then diet plans and then, as if I simply vanished, nothing at all.
There’s a stack of like half a dozen notebooks with the daily ins and outs of school, my neighborhood, my fears, my hopes, my crushes. And then somehow I became aware of the need to be smaller, and poof, that weird brain splayed out on the page for me to see turned into a meticulous list of what to eat and how to work out in the new year and then, after a few short pages of tracking calories—nothing but crisp white empty pages.
My journaling and stories became about fitting into a bikini in the summer and then diet plans and then, as if I simply vanished, nothing at all.
I don’t think entries like my last ones are atypical. In fact, I wager they’re pretty common, especially this time of year, and yet, they led me down such a diminishing path. It’s really clear from that stack of books that sits on the bookshelf the space and the time and the money and the years of your life that you can lose to thoughts like these.
About three years ago, I decided to just start anew with my journaling habit. I had left some journals blank for a decade, but that didn’t mean that they had to be blank forever. And this metaphor evolved as I flipped it over and over like a coin in my pocket. I decided to make New Year’s resolutions for my well-being as an adult about the most random, mundane, silly, or plain things. I call them anti-diet resolutions.
The first year, I started really simple, and it’s almost embarrassing what it was: I decided I would wash my fruits and veggies as thoroughly as possible. I have not shared this with many because a lot of people would be like wait, what, you weren’t doing that? And you know what, if I was cooking for others or taking the time to make a big meal: Yes, I would! But have I been known to take an apple and eat it right away? Yes. I decided this would be my resolution, though, because this was something that was actually related to my health.
This was a detail that I could adopt and commit to that was through and through good for me. It felt right to choose something new to try at the start of the year. Ever since my adolescence commitment to resolutions that were less than good for me, I have felt that phantom stomach drop or reflex to prepare for a serious new attempt at change. Well, I did change my produce washing, and there’s no way to see that I did. That was also important because I wanted a resolution that would benefit me without promising really anything more than that—they are just changes I make that are good for me, no more, no less.
Last year, it was about making good coffee at home and not forgetting to unsubscribe to pesky internet subscriptions. I kept those and make a mean oat milk latte now.
This year’s resolution is more intentional, though, because I wanted to show myself that I am still that kid sitting at her desk scribbling under lamp light. I am planning to send letters and cards for birthdays or just because. I even asked for a bunch of materials as gifts over the holidays.
It reminded me that I used to ask for workout clothes a size too small because I anticipated fitting into them soon after my resolutions began. It never worked or made me feel good about myself. But a wax seal kit with my initials absolutely does.
Every time I sit down to write to a friend, it feels like I am writing to that kid, too. I found myself writing to a friend this week and saying sorry I haven’t been in touch for a while, but in the letter I received back, my pen pal reminded me that it’s always okay to find your way back to someone you care about—when you’re ready.