New Year’s Resolve
It’s the time of year when everyone seems to be talking about how they are going to change in the new year. Everyone appears to be busy making resolutions. “I’ll accomplish “x” by “y” date. I will be richer, thinner, more successful, healthier."
This is such a universally accepted practice, the New Year’s Resolution, that I just started to take for granted that “resolution” and, more specifically, it’s root word “resolve” are words that are all about fixing oneself. Today, though, I felt the rough edges of this belief. So, like any good word nerd, I spent some time pondering these words and wondering what resolve is all about if it gets stripped down to its dictionary definitions and etymology.
The words resolution and resolute come from the Latin resolvere meaning “loosened, released." That immediately surprised me. When I think of resolutions, it is always about shackling myself to an idea and forcing myself to shapeshift until I become something more worthy, more loveable, more marketable. I think of resolutions as something I seldom have the resolve to follow through on, because they always seem to beg that I shift away from my core self and become something better than me. I think of them as oh-so-much guilty weight on my shoulders. I think of them as tall orders that I’ll likely never fulfill because, more often than not, I have used them to try to be someone else.
This etymology, though? Loosened. Released. It started to shift my thinking about the term and the tradition.
The dictionary definition of “resolve” that jumped off the page for me was this: “firmness of purpose or intent; determination.” Now, yes, that can easily be tied to the concept of the New Year’s Resolution; but there’s something there that could also redefine how we enter the new year, especially as an artist.
Artists know a special kind of uncertainty. So much of our work is dependent on someone deciding we are worthy of the time and space to perform or present our art. We audition, we apply for grants, we submit to agents looking for doorways that our art (and our artist selves) can enter into. It is easy to think of this time of year, when we open up our crisp new planners (I'm a calendar luddite, what can I say?) and look into twelve fresh months of pure possibility and try to find a way to become something that the new year needs.
What if, instead, we stood firm in our purpose and intent and, with determination, said, "This is who I am. This is what I'm really good at. This is the space I take up. This is my talent. This is my body. This is what I'm bringing into the new year. I am determined to honor myself and my talent and I know there is space for me in this new year." You know, in Bridget Jones' Diary, Mark Darcy told Bridget that he quite liked her "just the way you are." What if 2023 is our Mark Darcy? What if it could like us just the way we are?
As actors, specifically, it's important to remember that we are the thing that makes us special. I often tell my students: "You are your tuba." Simply meaning the musician has their instrument; the artist has canvas and media; but the actor has themselves. It's why rejection can cut so close to the bone. That being the case, why spend so much time and energy trying to undo our trademarks? Why attempt to be more like someone who already exists? (We all know the famous quote attributed to Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.") Our "us-ness" is one of the reasons why we produce plays over and over again. As much as we might like to think there is a quintessential portrayal of a role, we keep doing Hamlet even after Olivier and Cumberbatch and Tennant took a swing at it. We keep doing it because each cast of actors infuses new life and perspective into the roles allowing for fresh discoveries because of each actor's "them-ness."
So maybe (just maybe?) instead of resolutions and a focus on how we must change this year, perhaps we can let 2023 be a year of resolve instead. What if 2023 is a year where we are loosened and released from the nagging weight of how we are broken, wrong or lacking; and instead embrace resolve: standing firm in ourselves, our skills, our talents and our big dreams.
Happy New Year to you, just the way you are.