4 New Year's Resolutions Worth Keeping
Updated: Jan 27, 2019
✨ FREDDIE HUTCHINS
How are you doing with yours? I really like making a resolution - just one - come every new year. But strangely, inspiration hasn't hit yet for 2019. I'm proud enough of previous efforts, however, to share a few with you here. I can heartily recommend them as resolutions worth keeping - and I promise there's not a gym subscription in sight...
Admittedly, this an odd place to start. It may sound like the total antithesis of any kind of ‘good' resolution, but go with me here...
I’m lucky enough to see a LOT of theatre. Quite often, I find myself sitting in a darkened auditorium at least once a week. And whilst theatre is undoubtedly my passion, frequently my joy and sometimes my livelihood, it doesn’t change the fact that quite often, I find myself sitting in that darkened auditorium tired, hungry and wondering what the quickest way to get home will be after the show. This ‘Not Tonight, Josephine’ attitude to theatre-going, familiar to many I’m sure, is a passion-killer in more ways than one. When I stopped and thought about it, I was appalled at quite how regularly I was feeling this way, even when I was lucky enough to be seeing some of the hottest shows in town. The words ’90 minutes without an interval’ were enough to make me weep with relief before an evening’s entertainment had even begun.
This was clearly a ridiculous state of affairs. Theatre is too expensive, too demanding on our time and energies and frankly too precious to be undertaken in this fashion. I have always believed that the process of theatre-making is a two-way street: of course it requires the creatives involved to bring their A-Game night after night, but it also requires an audience to turn up open and receptive. Ready to lean in. Anyone who attends a theatre with an arms-folded ‘impress me’ attitude (and this has been me many times, either through tiredness, distractedness or just plain truculence) is, I believe, at fault. Yes, a great show and a great company of performers can blow an audience away, but it shouldn't have to be an uphill struggle. An audience should arrive hoping, prepared even, to be blown away. And I think this is the crux of it: an audience must arrive in hope. They must have faith. And when this faith is constantly, weekly, almost nightly tested through repeated theatre visits, it's naturally going to wear a little thin. Wouldn’t it be awful if it wore out altogether?
So I made my resolution: to watch more TV. A date night on the sofa is the perfect end to a long day at work. Food is as on-hand as you want it to be. And most thrilling and welcome of all: the journey home is however many steps it takes to get to your bed. Of course it’s also worth saying: telly is great right now. There is SO much worth watching. In a year filled with lots of theatre visits, Oli and I nonetheless had a great year of TV watching - The Bridge, Trust and A Very English Scandal were standout favourites, with episodes of Prime Suspect and The West Wing interspersed as and when (as well as Gogglebox, of course.) I just have one rule: no phones. If we sit down to watch something, we sit down together. It then easily competes as some of the best shared quality time we spend together - and isn’t that what it’s ultimately all about?
The thinking behind this resolution was to spread a bit more joy. Everyone loves receiving a card or a letter. And it’s an undeniably sad fact that fewer and fewer are being sent. The vivid joy of discovering your name handwritten on an envelope sitting on your doormat is one of those childhood sensations that I think never entirely fades away. In my adult years, I find a similar joy in the act of putting pen to paper to write such letters - the act of writing itself a rarer occurrence than it ought to be. No, I wouldn’t like to be handwriting this blog post, but I do keenly love the feel of a fountain pen in my hand, the swoosh of ink across paper, and the satisfaction of forming letters and words in a font entirely distinctive, because it is my own. I also love picking up postcards and notecards from museums and galleries all over the world, relishing their potential to spread joy to people I love. With this resolution, the time had come to get started.
The hardest part of this resolution was finding a reason to send a letter in the first place. It took a while to realise that no reason was needed.
Letter-writing in childhood is most associated with the dreaded thank-you letter - or worse, those ridiculous English exam questions (‘Write a letter to your local Councillor explaining why new sports facilities would be of benefit to the local community.’) Snooze. Once I’d managed to throw off the shackles of obligation and tedium associated with putting pen to paper, sending my missives became an unadulterated joy. It’s absolutely the thought that counts - and in the case of museum postcards, there isn’t space to write all that much anyway - I’d often let the picture do the talking. ‘Mrs Graham wishes you a wonderful first week’ seemed entirely appropriate to send to a friend starting a new job.
Strangely, I even draw satisfaction from the buying of stamps. Spending 58p on a second class stamp seals the act of sending something in the post as an act of giving: you’re taking time, and spending money, to let someone know you’re thinking of them. And at £30.16 for an entire year, this resolution works out as a hell of a lot cheaper than another failed gym subscription.
This one evolved out of the intention behind the letter-writing resolution made the previous year. Whilst it was fun to post off missives in scatter-gun fashion, and whilst it certainly led to the kindling, cementing and creation of relationships old and new, I was aware that the central relationships in my life could do with a resolution all of their own.
I’m noticing time speeding up as I get older. It’s what everyone says happens - you hear it all the time, so it shouldn't come as a surprise. But somehow I’m finding it very weird as it begins to happen to me. And I’m simultaneously becoming more aware of the people around me - the people I know and love - getting older too. And with everyone busy all of the time, the gaps between our meetings were getting longer and longer. This began to have its effect - appearances would change noticeably from one meeting to the next, with catch-ups encompassing a stack of life events, rather than just the gossip surrounding everyday details.
It was time to put on the brakes a little. I figured the best way to do this was to touch in more often. To make time. I realised that I could treat my family like my friends - if I'd put in a dinner date to see an old friend, why not do the same for my dad? And if I'd kill two birds with one stone by catching up with a mate at the theatre, why not invite a visiting aunt along too? A little like the letter-writing resolution, this approach requires a certain shrugging off of roles entrenched since childhood: family can be friends, and can be dealt with similarly. I encourage you to try it - there's something hugely freeing in the catching of a drink down the pub with someone you might otherwise only have visited for a long Sunday lunch as a child. It gets you both out of your established roles and routines, and allows you to appreciate each other afresh.
And here's my attempt at a resolution for this year: Stick it to the man. Let’s make 2019 the year of the little guy. Whilst the world as we know it falls down around our shoulders, entirely at the mercy of the big-wig power-players, I think maybe it’s time to look to our own lives, communities and surroundings to see how best we can live them, and live within them. We can all effect small changes, and we can all decide to make these changes overwhelmingly positive. And we can all, collectively, be an overwhelming force for good. We can’t all lead on a national stage, but perhaps national leaders are outdated? If we all decide to look to ourselves and those around us for the small changes, it may be the most powerful resolution we ever make.
Wishing you love, luck, health and happiness for a stonking 2019.