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If you’re thinking about not making New Year’s resolutions for 2020, you’re not the only one. This thought has lingered in my head for several months this past year. A lot of my plans for ‘self-improvement’ fell through, terribly. I couldn’t even keep up with my Goodreads reading challenge, which was something I’d achieved for many years.

That being said, I’m continuing to make New Year’s resolutions for the first year of the new decade. Now, you might wonder why bother? Right?

Last year, I determined to look after myself and do more of the things that are significant to me. But my life started to go downhill. Shortly after my New Year’s break, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not long after that, my husband fell ill, and it took months for him to feel like himself again.

I couldn’t keep any resolutions at that point in my life where my family needed my support. Worry alone almost ate me alive. And to make things worse, I attended a class I thought would be useful for my career. Turned out, I hated it with a passion. To top that, I experienced anxiety to the point it left me crying in the bathtub.

You might find it discouraging to set any goal when you fail most of the time, but it’s normal that you find ourselves not in control. That’s life. Don’t blame yourself or feel bad if you can’t make it. Not everything is going to be as planned although it often takes you by surprise, still.

I never thought my mother would get cancer. No one in our family ever got cancer, and then suddenly my mother along with two of her sisters suffered from it. But when I realized that my family needed me, I have to be there for them, throwing my own needs out of the window.

As for making mistakes, I accepted them as they were. I found out that the class I attended out of my senior friend’s advice wasn’t for me. I didn’t blame anyone for the decision I made. Quitting would only make me feel worse about myself, so I suffered through it along with all the burden on my shoulders. I got myself into misery for months. After everything, I couldn’t just fail the program. In the end, though, I found something precious out of it. I realized I’d been on the wrong path for a very long time, and it’s time to stop and find my way out.

This wrong decision proved that it’s long past time I stopped listening to others. I’d been doing that for years. And where did it get me?

Here with a mental breakdown.

Now, I’ve made up my mind to pursue the right course. I may have advisors, but the sole captain of the ship is me.

I might not have—or couldn’t have—kept most of my resolutions, but I still got to reflect on myself. For so many years, as a workaholic, I’d wanted to change my working style but couldn’t. Last year, I tried to set a goal again and failed.

But eventually, I learned the hard way. Nothing is more important than my family and my sanity. Not my work. Not my social life. Not all the criticism people around me trying to shout at me. As for my career, I’m not going back to the same path again, no matter how greener it might seem. I learned to have self-compassion, also in the hard way. Mental health is crucial, and you seek help when you need help.

Even though I failed to attain many of my goals, I still achieved some of them. And that counts. Last year, I wanted to write more and I did! I wrote two novels, one I hated and one I loved. I’ve kept my blog regularly updated for longer than I ever did many years ago. I’ve also found my passion for poetry and wrote so many poems. Little might they be, but these small steps are encouraging. Now, I feel ready for something more challenging.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t think I would get so much from New Year’s resolutions when I made them last year. Like many of you, I’d lost faith. I made them anyway, but a bit differently. I tried to narrow them down to something I thought really mattered, not some long list of items I’d forget the next day. Somehow as I failed and thrived through the year, I learned many things along the way.

Aside from giving me a sense of achievement, New Year’s resolutions helped me find my purpose. At the beginning of a new year, and in this case also a new decade, we can’t help but think about our past and future. What we have achieved so far in life and what we still have a passion for. Some fire has already gone out, but some awaits to spark and might spread even wilder than the last one. I wanted to write more. More did I write, and it’s opened so many doors for me.

I look at New Year’s resolutions as a rough plan, something that could be changed to suit the situations. Something that I could still discover along the way. Something that could act as a reminder, not a rule. And for all these purposes, they’re worth making and worth keeping.

— Petra