Forget a New Year's Resolution -- just make a revision

Christopher Harris

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions. I tend to like myself the way I am.

You know the saying, "Be the change you want to see in the world?" That never made much sense to me, because, of course I'm already the change I'd like to see in the world. Everything I do, that's what I believe the right thing to do is -- if I didn't, I'd be doing something else. Now, I don't always like the results I get, but I can always say I had a good reason for doing whatever it was I did -- and I don't always like the reactions I get from other people, but that says more about them than it does about me.

Nevertheless, here I am, two weeks into January, and I'm doing the gym thing. I'm such a cliche.

The membership to the gym was actually a Christmas present -- one I was not expecting, and not entirely thrilled about at first. I opened up the package under the tree to discover a dufflebag emblazoned with the gym's logo (I won't name it in this space, but suffice it to say, it is not a literal celestial body dedicated to the pursuit of physical well-being). I instantly realized what it represented and my first reaction was, "So ... your gift to me this Christmas is you telling me I'm fat and I need to lose weight? Great. Thanks."

The gift was not intended with any hostility, however, and after initially asking the gift-giver to please cancel it, as I did not think I'd have the time or motivation to make use of it and didn't want to waste anyone's money, I reconsidered: "Well, maybe ..."

So this weekend, I found myself back in the saddle -- or back on the treadmill, as the case may be.

I'm a night owl, so a 24-hour gym is a necessity for me. Fortunately, I found that by attending after midnight, I was the only one in the whole place, save staff members. Which is just the way I like it. Try as a gym might to promote a philosophy of "no judgment," an encouragement to the people like me who are out-of-shape and might typically be surrounded by hardbodies showing off, there is still an awareness you have of people around you -- and the realization that they are aware of you too. You pretend like you aren't aware, you try not to be aware, you focus your attention anywhere and everywhere else -- but it's almost impossible for two or more human beings to inhabit the same space without being aware of one another's presence. It's just a survival skill. If we didn't have it, our ancient ancestors probably would have all been devoured by sabre-tooth tigers.

Alone in the gym, however, you can look as goofy as you need to while fumbling around the mechanics of an ab machine, and there is no one there to see it. When you manage to get in one or two good jogs on the treadmill in between lots of brisk walking, there is no one for you to imagine that they're mentally criticizing you for not going hard at the gym, even though they are most likely just minding their own business. And there are no unpleasant flashbacks to high school P.E. classes when you use the locker room -- not a bully in sight.

Now, I expect with time that will change and there will be more people in there around the witching hour like myself. But for now, as I'm just starting to get back into the "gym" mode of things after a long period of not doing so, it's nice to be alone. To have the tranquility that goes along with an expansive, quiet (save for pumped-in music) room, full of just your tools and your own consciousness.

It's a bit what being a writer is like. Not necessarily a journalist. The newsroom tends be a pretty noisy place. (It's a lot easier to get stuff done here when no one else is around, but that's rarely the case in the daytime.) But a creative writer? That's just you in a room -- expansive, quiet, just your tools and your consciousness.

That's why I was always a little envious in college of the dudes who played guitar, because they were an instant party. Break out the instrument, start strumming and singing, and everyone wants to hang around you. But a writer? I'm an artist too. I have a talent. But no one wants to sit around and watch you type. That's something you have to do alone.

So I've gotten used to working that way. Whether my computer with a blank page facing me on the screen, or a stationary bike in the middle of a fitness center, I'm more comfortable when that's all there is, and I can work, I can create, I can do what I do.

This realization helps ease my mind a little about the whole "going to the gym" thing. Whereas I took the gesture of getting me a membership as an unintentional slight at first, an attempt to change me into someone more acceptable to the world, I am, in fact, not changing but creating. I'm writing on the manuscript that is my body. I'm making revisions, fixing the little typos here and there. It is doubtful I will become anything resembling a "new person" out of this, and that's not what I want -- but a little editing doesn't hurt too badly.

If there is some area of your life that could see a positive difference but you aren't sufficiently motivated or able to put in the effort to make a dramatic transformation, realize that you don't have to change completely. Seeing the desired end result and knowing what it takes to get there can be daunting. So don't try to write your whole novel at once. Just make your edits. Fix your typos. Any steps you take represent progress -- because any steps you take are steps you weren't taking before.

Forget a resolution. Just make a revision, whenever and however is best for the perfectly-fine person you already are.

CHRISTOPHER HARRIS is a staff writer and can be reached at Follow him on Twiiter @charrisatcj.