Years ago, I found my third-grade report card. In the comments section on the back, my teacher wrote: Talking in class and keeping her desk neat are Stacy’s two bugaboos. I felt that the teacher informed my parents of my weaknesses in a very polite, sweet way. Under my teacher’s comment, my mother responded in her typical no-nonsense way: There will be improvements or I want to know. (Cue ominous sounding music.)
Reading what my mom wrote, this is how I imagined the conversation to go in our house that night.
Mom: Can you fucking believe our kid?
Dad: Talking and being messy? How juvenile!
Mom: I could handle one of these bugaboos but two. Two bugaboos are outrageous!
Dad: She gets it from your side of the family.
Okay, that conversation was all conjecture, but here’s the thing: talking too much and not cleaning enough are still faults of mine. I long for a mild case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, one in which I want to Swiffer my hallway regularly but not debilitating enough that I need all my blinds to be at the same height. And as for the talking too much, if I don’t walk away from one conversation a week thinking “Why the hell did you say that?” then I just don’t feel like myself.
The start of a new year is the time when we are all wondering how to shed, improve, eradicate, or otherwise obliterate our bugaboos. I know I will never stop talking at inappropriate times. I know my personal area will always be messy. That is why I focus on resolutions that are not about changing myself completely but instead ones that build on improvements I have made the previous year. For instance, I started meditating last year. My goal this year is to gradually increase the amount of time I meditate each day, hoping to gain focus and calm in doing so. Actually, I mostly want to reach the point in my meditation practice in which my to-do list doesn’t make reoccurring appearances.
You should try this, too! For instance, if you eat only one fruit or vegetable in a day, don’t make your resolution to be “I will eat a large salad every day for lunch and dinner. When I want a snack, only iceberg lettuce for me. I will also slap myself with cauliflower florets until my cookie cravings go away or until I get kicked out of this grocery store produce section, whichever one comes first.” You know you won’t do that. But what you may be able to do is eat— wait for it— two fruits or vegetables. Make that tiny change in your life, whatever it may be, and relish with pride whenever you can accomplish it. Remember, Roma tomatoes weren’t built in a day!
So hold on to those bugaboos that are a part of you but try making small, gradual changes to your life. What I am trying to say is, don’t try to give up those things that make you who you are. Unless you are a rude, insensitive asshole, then yes, change everything about yourself. This is especially true if you were that way in third grade.
(And because every year is good with a little Beyonce: Bug A Boo)