Quitting Time?

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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I make a New Year’s resolution each year, even though it’s an arbitrary thing to do and I never succeed at making the change anyway. This year, I’m turning 30 and I really do want to make a change in my life (to quit my job). So if I say that’s my New Year’s resolution, am I setting myself up for failure since I have never been able to stick to a resolution before? Are New Year’s resolutions even worth it? I’m afraid screwing this up will make turning 30 traumatic and I’ll get depressed and my girlfriend won’t want to marry me.

— Mark Alexander

Please see my last take on New Year’s resolutions. If you fear that you’ll somehow do something to make turning 30 traumatic (and this is a recent experience for me), turning 30 will assuredly be traumatic (you’ll make up something if you have to). If you say, “If I turn off the lights, I’m afraid the shadows on the wall will turn into demons,” when you turn out the lights, the shadows on the wall will probably turn into demons because that is your preconception. And once preconceptions enter the brain, they’re hard to get rid of, kind of like cockroaches:

And where there’s one there’s probably a million

more who lie and laugh in cracks close by.

At first they seem so pitiful and base

feeding on what we leave behind.

(“Cockroaches:  Ars Poetica,” by Chad Davidson)

But you’ve really got to learn to look at things differently (notice the way Davidson changes his perspective on those creepy bugs with “blackened exoskeletons”):

Content

to watch us watching them, their hidden grace

is endless procreation: it keeps them constant,

believing they’ll live to read our requiem

with the godlike eyes we used to look at them

Despite what you fear might go wrong, your situation is quite beautiful: You have a job (one that is somewhat dispensable), you have the confidence to make a career change, and you have a girlfriend who you want to marry. That’s fantastic, and nothing to get depressed about. But if you do get depressed after turning 30, that’s totally normal. And if this is the girl you’ve fallen for, I’m sure her desire to wed doesn’t depend on your mood. All in all, you will only set yourself up for failure if you continue to be afraid of setting yourself up for failure. Just be like a cockroach, following that sticky line of glucose wherever it leads you. The future will be bright. • 19 January 2010

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.

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