I Followed Famous Feminists' Resolutions For A Week & It Changed The Way I Look At Self-Improvement
I don't know about you, but personally, I came very close to swearing off New Year’s resolutions this year. It’s not that I don’t think resolutions have value; I know they can be motivating (for a little while, at least). But I also know that resolutions are hard to keep, and setting myself up for small failures probably won’t help me rebuild my self-esteem.
On top of that, I can’t recall one single New Year’s Eve when I didn’t make a long list of mostly unrealistic goals for myself. (For example: when I was 11, I resolved to master a triple back handspring by 2002. I did not.) I thought this year might finally be the time to end the tradition. But last week, I followed famous feminists' New Year’s resolutions and actually enjoyed it — so much so that it inspired me to keep one resolution of my own this year.
This isn't to say that New Year's resolutions are necessarily a major part of feminist history, though. I found that famous feminists must not like resolutions that much either, because despite researching for some time, I only found nine New Year's resolutions made by famous feminists — and even digging those up was a bit of a challenge.
But while it wasn't that easy to find them, all of these famous feminist resolutions have made the past week of my life more interesting and purposeful — and in the end, they motivated me to resolve in 2017 to show myself as much kindness as I show other people and animals. Here’s what happened when I followed famous feminist’s resolutions for a week.
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I found nine different New Year's resolutions from famous feminists to follow for a week. Three of them — practice kindness, get up no later than 8 a.m., and write in my notebook every day — were from Susan Sontag. I also tried out Franchesca Ramsey's 2013 resolution to "not feed the trolls." And when I discovered Lena Dunham's non-resolution from last year was "not to order salad instead of fries if what I truly want is fries," I added it to my list without hesitation.
I knew Emma Watson's standing New Year's resolution to "speak French fluently" couldn't be achieved in one week, but I tried it out anyway. I also applied Lady Gaga's resolution "Never be afraid to be kicked in the teeth" to my everyday life, and adopted Meena Harris's non-resolution "to curse with the thoughtful intentionality of Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep." Finally, I followed Maya Angelou's non-resolution to "try to do better. See better. Say better. Talk better. Be better."
Spoiler alert: even though I got a lot out of this experiment, I kind of f*cked it up a little bit — and I'm fine with that.
Day One was pretty solid, even though my anxiety was high. As Sontag's resolution demanded, I was awake by 8. (It should be noted that I didn't actually get out of bed until 8:10, but whatever.) After having coffee with my mom, I thought about Maya Angelou's non-resolution to "be better," so I went for a walk before going to work. It was sunny and invigorating. I walked as fast as I could over rolling hills and listened to The Lumineers newest album, Cleopatra, the whole time. (I tweeted at The Lumineers later that same day, and I don't really tweet at people, so I counted this act as following Gaga's resolution to "never be afraid.") That walk left me feeling capable AF and set a positive tone for my entire day.
Unfortunately, that walk also caused me to get a late start working. This is where Sontag's "kindness, kindness, kindness" resolution came in. As I was driving to one of the cafes where I frequently write, a few squirrels darted out in front of my car, and then proceeded to zip all around the road haphazardly. I was in a hurry, but it was so freaking adorable that I couldn't even get upset about it. Instead, I stopped my car until they'd gotten their sh*t together, swore at them endearingly (thoughtful, intentional cussing: check), and drove on.
As for not feeding the trolls, I continued my practice of never reading the comments on my articles. I also eased up on my Facebook usage, because there's just so much negativity on my newsfeed these days — and because I've been harassed via Facebook Messenger for writing about rape and women's rights. I kept Watson's resolution by spending five easy minutes on my Duolingo French lesson, and I stuck to Sontag's third resolution when I took notes about Day One in my notebook. Oh, and I ordered soup and a roll when I got to the cafe, because salad sounded boring.
On top of all that, I chose to treat myself to a new haircut, because my old one was driving me nuts. So, all in all, a pretty successful start to my week.
On Day Two, I was up by 8 a.m. I completely forgot to do my French lesson, but I remembered to take the entire day off from Facebook. (It was rad.) I also took the time to feed and pet everyone's animals that morning, too — since I'm currently sharing a space with almost my entire family, that meant feeding and watering five cats, a parakeet, several fish, and a small roost of chickens. So, yeah, it was as time-consuming as it sounds. It was also cute as hell.
After that, I took the time for an anxiety-reducing walk. It was sunny that day as well, which really helped with my annual winter blues. Near the end of my stroll, my sister texted me to say she'd been awake since one in the morning, courtesy of my nieces. We decided to meet for lunch. I love my sister, and I want to get to know her better, so I was stoked.
During lunch, my sister asked me what I was writing about that day. Since I was writing about bisexual women, and I am a bisexual woman, I was kind of scared to tell her what I was working on and why. I mean, it's not like this was the first time we'd discussed my attraction to women, but it is a topic I feel like both of us have historically avoided. But everything from Gaga's resolution to my own self-esteem demanded that I speak up, so I did. It was more difficult for me than I'd like to admit (I couldn't even manage to look my sister in the eye), but I did it.
Before Day two was over, I had written all about it in my notebook. I also remembered to use one of my favorite swear combinations throughout the day: f*ck balls. (You're welcome.) Oh, and at the cafe, I passed on actual salad for the second day in a row.
On the third day, I was awake by 8, but I didn't get out of bed until 8:45. (Again, I can't compel myself to feel guilty for this. I work two jobs and I love sleeping.) With the exception of posting a couple of my articles, I avoided Facebook as if my health and happiness depended on it. (Because it kind of does.) I neglected my French lesson for the second day in a row, but took every opportunity to show kindness to the animals I live with. I got my mom her morning coffee.
When I finally left for work, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and work at a cafe I'd never written at before. I was a little nervous about it, because I knew I'd probably see my recent ex — he works there. (I still love him very much, but overdoing it on face-time with your ex doesn't usually help with the healing process.) As it turned out, he wasn't scheduled to work that day, so I was anxious for nothing. Luckily, I enjoyed the atmosphere of my new spot so much that I spent several productive hours writing there.
Day Four started super early. Around 1 a.m., I woke up to my three-year-old niece, Jane, coughing. I immediately jumped out of bed and ran to her, worried. I could tell something was up, because she'd kicked off all of her covers. When I asked her what was wrong, she feebly replied, "Get me a bag, I need to burp." I knew "burp" meant "barf," so I went to find her a bag immediately — but she fell back asleep before I returned, so I just covered her up and went back to bed.
Despite that rocky start to my day, I was up by 7 a.m. Before the day was done, I'd taken my walk, worked, completed my French lesson, written my first poem in years, and eaten a nice veggie pizza instead of plain old vegetables. On top of that, I found the courage to share my article about bi ladies on Facebook (but still tried to stay off the site as much as possible). After I finished writing, I stopped by my grandma's nursing home for a little bit. Oh, and I shamelessly swore in one of my Instagram captions.
Day Five was the first Saturday in weeks that I made a conscious decision not to work, so I slept in until almost 10 a.m. and felt no shame over it. (#sorrynotsorry, Susan.) I also Instagrammed a photo of that poem I wrote on day three, which took some courage.
I didn't mess up my French lesson, and I remembered to record the day's activities in my notebook. I kept my Facebook usage to a minimum throughout the day, and I spent some time with my cousin. While we were having lunch, he asked me what I thought of Trump. Since I think our president-elect is a sh*tty person, but I also know for a fact that my cousin voted for him, I immediately replied: "I will not talk politics with you. I'm sorry, but I have to set that boundary with you right now." He didn't push the issue, and we eventually moved on to nicer topics.
On Day Six, I was up by 9, because it was f*cking Sunday. I fed the animals after my morning coffee and then went for a hike in the woods. It was perfectly lovely at first, so peacefully still and sunny. I felt like freaking Henry David Thoreau and I loved it — until I got lost.
Since my phone was also dead by this time, my anxiety spiked pretty quickly. At one point, I thought I was going to have a panic attack right there in the Mark Twain National Forest. But instead, I used a calming mechanism my most recent ex (and lifelong friend) taught me. I sat down on a fallen tree, took a few deep breaths, and thought: what are my immediate goals. I realized then that I needed to pee, so I popped a squat and took care of that need. I sat for a minute or two after that, then I started walking in the direction that seemed right. Luckily for me, my sense of direction was correct and I was back on an actual road in about 15 minutes.
I was unsettled for a while after that, but got it together to write — I knew my cousin and his kids would be coming to visit for a few days, so I wanted to get a jump-start on my work week before they arrived that night. (They currently live in Bhutan, so it's not like they're in my area on a regular basis.) I ordered cake instead of salad and worked until my writing haunt closed for the night.
Afterwards, I went to see my cousin and his little girls. (No, I didn't swear in front of the children.) Because he and I are both fans of marijuana and he just had back surgery, I figured my cousin would be down to toke. He was. So while the girls were indoors getting ready for bed, we were outdoors enjoying quality bud and adult conversation in the winter air. It was fun and restful. And cold.
I almost forgot about my French lesson, but I remembered to complete it before bed. I also wrote in my notebook about getting "lost in the f*cking woods," and I didn't Facebook linger.
I started having flu symptoms on the final day of my experiment, so I didn't stumble out of bed until 9:45. I called my cousin and his girls to alert them that I might be contagious, but they wanted to hang out anyway. Despite being sick, it was a pretty nice morning.
I didn't spend much time on Facebook, and it was glorious. I continued not swearing in front of the children, and I finished one full French lesson. I chatted with family even though I was feeling socially awkward and sick, so I counted that as my act of courage for the day. And although my writing was so sloppy that I can hardly read it now, I did push myself to write in my notebook.
Like I said earlier, I'm still not a huge fan of making tons of New Year's resolutions — I think it's tough to stick to most of them. I don't think I'll be fluent in French by the end of 2017, and I will probably never be up by 8 a.m. on a Saturday if I don't have to.
That said, it was enriching to try out the resolutions, and some of them did make a real impact on me — I do want to keep striving to be better each day. But to figure out what that really meant, I had to look to myself instead of famous feminists.
For me, I think what that really comes down to is just being kinder to myself. Taking the time to practice kindness toward other people and animals has never been super difficult for me, but I've always been pretty hard on myself.
I've felt particularly down on myself lately, because I'm in a super weird place. But after spending a full seven days practicing kindness toward others at literally every opportunity, I've realized that I can't continue to be so unkind to myself on a daily basis. So from now on, I'm going to try harder to be as understanding and optimistic toward myself as I am toward everyone else.
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