Last year, I succeeded in sticking to my first ever New Year’s Resolution. Until 2016, I was of the opinion that New Year’s Resolutions served no greater purpose than creating an easy topic for small talk in the first week or so of the year, to prevent everyone from having to think too hard whilst still bloated and lethargic from the previous weeks of festivities. Most New Year’s Resolutions, I think, fail because they are based on what people think they should be, rather than what they want to spend their time doing. Very few people actually enjoy losing weight in and of itself – instead, they love running, or swimming, or finding new recipes with unfamiliar ingredients. So don’t make a resolution to lose weight or eat more healthily – consider what you enjoy that you don’t make time for. What skills or passions are you neglecting? What do you find fulfilling but push aside to make more time to skim over lecture slides and spend hours in the library trying to finish an essay you’re bored with already? The ease of wasting time on the internet, scrolling through Twitter or Facebook in a haze of light and dense, pixelated text, means that many of us are guilty of overlooking the things we really love. It takes far less immediate mental energy to open up an app and waste an hour or five than it does to pick up a book or get dressed and go on an adventure. For me, the main thing I was neglecting was my art. I have always drawn a lot and painted too, but once the workload of GCSEs set in I rarely made art outside of that which I had to create for my coursework and exams. At A Level, I unwisely listened to those who told me that an Art A Level was a waste of my time and that I could always have it as a hobby if I focused on purely academic subjects instead. I worked very hard at AS, and spent a lot of my time researching universities and focusing on my planned degree subject, Classics, in my spare time, trying to make myself the best possible candidate in order to achieve my dream of going to Cambridge. Why that didn’t work out is another story entirely, but art largely fell by the wayside as I became caught up in other things, and my inner life suffered because of it. Last New Year, after spending my first semester of university getting reacquainted with both art and myself, I decided that every month in 2016 I would fill an entire sketchbook. Not a small one with just a few pages, either – a 120 page Moleskine Art Plus sketchbook, which had the smoothest, creamiest paper of all the widely available I’d tried so far and which I was truly excited to use. And this January 1st, I can proudly say that I have succeeded. I have twelve beautiful sketchbooks, some more battered than others from being carried on the year’s travels with me, some close calls after weeks full of revision, exams, and bad news, completed hurriedly as the month breathed its last, but all finished. All full. And this year, I intend to do it again. It’s not a resolution this time, it’s just something I do. This year, I want to write and read more, another thing I have loved and love which has been squeezed out by deadlines and exam timetables and academic stress, and I hope that by 2018, the monthly targets I’ve set myself for both of these things will also be habits and not struggles. I think we can all thrive on rules, when we are forgiving of ourselves, and it helps that these are rules designed to make us make space for the things we really care about.
Article by Imogen Whiteley