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Over the years I have made several New Year resolutions and, it will probably be no surprise to you to know that I kept very few.
The trouble was that the resolutions I made went against my nature - give up something bad for me (chocolate, late night T.V.), or take up something good for me (regular exercise, a course of study). It meant a degree of effort, which doesn't come easy to me. It meant a self-imposed restriction on my life. It meant I cheated because no-one else would know. No-one but me. This resulted in a depressing sense of failure - the more resolutions made and broken, the deeper the depression. Of course I didn't keep those resolutions. Of course I got depressed.
It took a while (about 40 years) but eventually I realised that masochism is not my style, and if I was to change anything at all, I would start there. So, a few years ago, I made one more resolution, guaranteed not to fail.
I would not make any more New Year resolutions.
Now I don't get depressed over failing to keep a promise to myself. I don't make them. I don't beat myself about the head because I have let myself down. I don't let myself down.
Now I can start each year with a sense of having a pen poised over a blank sheet of paper, the excitement of "anything can happen and probably will", the freedom to decide for myself, at any time of the year, what I do and don't like about my life and to decide whether or not to do something about it. I have literally turned over a new leaf.
I have, of course, caught the millennium bug. I am as excited about seeing the clock reach midnight on 31st December 1999 as the next man (computer failure or no computer failure). There is something very special in the air for this coming year, and I want to be able to say at the end of it that I achieved something very special.
It goes without saying that the coming year of 1999 will be special for most of us in one way or another, not least because it is the last of this century and this millennium. Any resolutions made at the New Year of 1999 would have to be just as special to be effective, and if resolutions are to be made at all, it is hard to think of one important and significant enough to herald the new millennium.
Simply to look back at the achievements of mankind in the last century is mind-boggling. In my grandfather's time such things as radio and flying machines were the ultimate in technology (and technology was hardly a word). The world was very small. Only 29 years ago, less than a third of a century, man set foot on soil other than Earth for the first time, and we had broken an enormous physical barrier. Since his time we have had computers, microsurgery, and nearly destroyed our environment. Now we are well into genetic engineering and probing the possibilities of life on other planets. We have, in an astonishingly short time, expanded our personal, national and global horizons until nothing seems impossible.
In the light of that, how trivial my past resolutions seem, and how small my progress in the scale of things, but I take heart in knowing that, since my last resolution, whatever I resolve to do will be in accordance with my nature, and therefore in accord with mankind, knowing that every little bit helps.
So, to you, fellow Earthling, I wish not only a happy New Year but the rest of 1999, too.
And, I might add, I resolve to have one myself.