I am not bacon, but I am an introvert.
Although Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, I feel like it has become somewhat overshadowed by an even greater cause for celebration, namely the end of 2016. This has been by all accounts an interesting year, which has had its fair share of ups and downs, much like the value of the pound. However, as well as celebrating the end of this tumultuous period, it is also time to think about something much more exciting. That’s right, we need to get ready with our New Year’s resolutions, to change ourselves into better people.
For a variety of reasons, some ethical and some health related, I have decided to pursue a vegetarian lifestyle through 2017. I say pursue because it is likely that this just means that I will attempt to eat a vegetable or two and then give up and allow my goal to escape me again. However, this change is easier for me to justify and enact than any other kind of resolution, especially those that would better me morally and spiritually as a person. It is strange that it is easier to forgo an entire section of the food pyramid than be nicer to my fellow humans, but the fact remains that it is, and next year will be too busy for me to do much in the way of social interaction and small talk. I am also in good company in the ‘morally-ambiguous vegetarian writers’ club’, and another step closer to being like one of my idols, Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Even though we learn about him in English Literature for the ‘weird poem about feet in the desert’, there is no denying the fact that Percy Shelley was as cool as it is possible for a Romantic poet to be. As well as writing many other incredible poems, he was a vegetarian, involved in many of the scandals of his day, and an advocate of ‘free love’. His home life was dramatic, too. Upon a guest requesting food, his wife Harriet remarked that ‘a murdered chicken has been prepared for her repast’, showing that the preachy vegetarian trope has been around for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, when Shelley abandoned her for Mary Godwin, Harriet committed suicide.
This scandal, as well as fuelling the imaginations of the contemporary society, also serves as a reminder that an otherwise ethical person can have character deficits that they either cannot or will not solve. On a smaller scale, this can apply to the millions of people who make weak resolutions each year, fixing flaws that do not need to be fixed and ignoring their other troubling traits. So why do people still focus on their bodies each year, rather than their actions? It does not matter what our minds are encased in, as long as they are kind and just.
The reason, as I have said, is that it is regrettably easier to try to change your physical shape rather than your mental state. For example, my vegetarian plan just involves not eating meat. If no meat products pass my lips then I will have succeeded. However, if I wanted to become a more sociable person, then this would require a constant effort on my behalf to change a fundamental part of who I am. I am not bacon, but I am an introvert, and this is why it is hard to make a moral change for a New Year’s resolution. It involves an active mental effort, and most people are inclined to be lazy when it comes to doing hard things. Which I evidently understand, as the extent of my resolution is to exchange steak for macaroni cheese.
In an ideal world, I guess that I would focus more on improving myself morally next year instead of making a random change to my life. Wouldn’t everyone? I would rather be a better person, given the choice, and it would be strange and narcissistic if I did not want to strive towards that. But change is hard, and such big changes should probably not be made just because it is the first day of a new year. 1st January 2017 does not have a magic resolution-granting factor, and there is no reason that it should be the day that you decide to change your life. For that reason, I have decided to start a superficial change on that day, rather than one that matters. I feel that starting a deeply considered spiritual change for the new year is kind of superfluous because in order to make these big changes, you need to start with small ones, actions that do not necessarily depend on what date it is. For example, I could start to be a more sociable person right now, through the small action of answering at least one of my many unread texts. Although the approach of 2017 is to be welcomed, no one is forcing you to have a sudden, spiritual revolution on 1st January. I think that it is important to be as good a person as you can be at that moment in time, rather than forcing yourself to be someone that you are not.
Following on from this, a ridiculous number of people get gym memberships each year that they never use. There is nothing special about January as a time to get fit, indeed, midwinter is a time to be under your duvet with a mug of hot-chocolate rather than to be running on a treadmill. If everyone took change at their own pace, then January would be a much less stressful month.