Choose your adventure

The wrapping paper that littered the floor has been swept away, except for those little bits and pieces you’ll be finding under couches and in crevices for six more months. The fridge is full of half-eaten snack trays, and the trash can is overflowing with paper plates and candy wrappers. The Christmas tree is looking a little raggedy, but packing up the decorations and twinkly lights can wait a couple more days. You privately admit to yourself you might be a little “holidayed out.” 


At midnight tonight, many of us will watch the clock tick down with excitement and anticipation. A new day that starts a new year that starts a new decade – momentous, no? Some of us may feel less excited and more jaded, wondering what is so special about starting a new year with the same old life. For the eager and the cynical alike, the new year brings the same offer: Choose your adventure.


Choice is autonomy


There are some things in life that we have little choice in. We don’t choose our parents, our bodies, our health, or our taste for salt and vinegar chips. If we could, many of us would choose some things differently. After all, who would choose an abusive or dismissive family? A chronically ill body? Those chips? 


New Year’s Resolutions remind us of the choices and agency we can have in our lives. Many of the popular resolutions, such as weight loss, increased fitness, mindfulness practices, and more intentional self-compassion, revolve around choosing how to spend our time and energy. Where you have choice, you have autonomy. Embrace your agency. Choose.


Make it yours


You have probably all heard the phrase “you do you.” While sometimes used dismissively, this colloquialism gets one thing very right: You can – and need to – do things for yourself. I’ll say it again, for the people-pleasers in the back: You can and need to do things for yourself. 


This life, this adventure, and everything you do in your time here, is ultimately your legacy. Your life belongs to you, and you are the one who experiences every second. When you look at the seconds you’ve lived so far, and the ones you anticipate living with a flip of the calendar, what do you want to fill them with? Living your life for someone else’s benefit fills your days with worry, stress, exhaustion, and resentment. Practicing healthy self-care that fills your cup first makes it possible to give to others without becoming depleted. We are not guaranteed any moments beyond the ones we exist in from second to second. Make your moments – your life – yours. Choose yours.


Choose your adventure


Think about your favorite book, movie, or video game. At some point in any given story, the protagonist faces a journey of some sort. They may start their journey with fear and trepidation, like Frodo reluctantly volunteering to take the One Ring to Mordor. They may be propelled into their journey by grief, loss, and anger, like Luke Skywalker following Obi-Wan to the stars after his family is murdered. Or they may leap at the chance to chase a new horizon, like Harry Potter literally running to explore a new life of magic after a childhood of abuse and neglect. Whatever their starting point, these protagonists must go on a journey – physical, mental, and emotional – to tell their story.


I don’t have a magic ring, laser sword, or wand with which to change your story in an instant. I know that for many, a magical escape would be nothing short of miraculous. But I know that in each of these scenarios, the characters faced a choice: Step into a story whose ending is unwritten, or stay in the same place and wait for the end. That is a choice you don’t need a magic wand to make for yourself. Your adventure is what you make it. Chase something that feels big, exciting, uncertain, and (a little bit) scary. Pursue a goal that feels a little out of reach. Pick something you’re not completely sure you can handle – but you really, really want to make happen. Apply for the job. Ask her out. Start the new house fund. Go back to school. Keep getting up every day. Choose your adventure.