It’s almost here. After months of heavy rain, winter rain and tenuous references to That Guy everywhere you read, Spring is almost, almost here. Along with the lighter rain, we have all the heavy symbolism of the season to look forward to, with practically everything breaking out of chocolate eggs and busting out of (not chocolate) tombs.
Little wonder, then, that so many of us want to get in on the act, resolving to reemerge from Winter’s bunker as someone new, someone different; the true you, the real you, the You you were always meant to be.
Stop. Hold your horses. Remember – resolving to be a better person, You 2.0, is what you got you into so much trouble in January, and why you’re so achingly bored of yourself now. That’s what got you a twenty quid page-to-a-day moleskin diary, harpsichord lessons and the Gogglebox Keep Fit video. That’s why you have an alternative Youtube account that you’ve forgotten how to access, and a GoPro webcam that you’re too ashamed to use. That’s why you’d buy yourself a Toblerone every weekend without thinking, and now without even realising.
So instead of taking on additional, burdensome life-goals, let’s see the season as an opportunity to shed our winter coats of Cinzano fuelled objectives, making ourselves lighter and spryer in our aspirations. Besides, the only way to stop your friends and loved ones mercilessly reminding you of your faltering personal ambitions is to reimagine or replace those ambitions entirely. So, in the spirit of reformatting your core personal strategies into streamlined, value added imperatives, here are some things that you can just stop doing, immediately, right now.
Stop Trying New Things
If the big voices in your life – Trivago, Centreparcs, Alan’s Furniture Warehouse – are in any way a good judge of character (they are), then you’re the adventurous type, and you don’t let anything hold you back. So when you try something new, you try big. You try hitting the piano to grind out some tunes, you try lying online to impress the ‘People You Might Know’ Facebook suggestions you keep getting, you try rescuing your body from sugar. So when you fail, you’re the next big market for every ‘slightly-smaller New Things’ escape strategy going, not to mention all of that sugar you’ve been foolishly denying yourself.
No-one knows this, knows you, better than Greggs, the indefatigable high street bakers with branches literally everywhere – Hell, Chiswick, maybe even Japan. Where once Greggs was content to sell bridies, red soup and those yellow square cake things to pensioners and scottish teenagers, their new, rapidly evolving menu of pulled pork rolls and katsu chicken pasties feels like a masterclass in daily lunchtime shock tactics, expertly making your meal choice feel like a tasty New Thing, a delicious gamble, and keeping you off balance long enough for the baker to find new ways to take your lunch money. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, in your local Greggs, the hungriest thing is Greggs itself.
But while avoiding a lifetime in the tasty clutches of the Greggs ‘Limited Edition donut’ cycle could be the strongest argument for not ever trying anything new, ever again, perhaps we can actually give the baker a by here – there’s the warm, hearty truth that, despite it’s new-found vogue, no-one ever tweets their Greggs lunch as if it were interesting, not even when they did that Christmas ‘Santa on a Bag’ promotion. When everything in life has to end up being a rubbish viral video or a rubbish micro achievement, this resolute lack of any trendiness is as refreshing as a fresh Greggs tea or coffee. Plus, you can’t deny that their ever expanding range of delicious pastries and sandwiches are convenient, filling and incredibly good value. So why not check out today’s menu here, right here? Go on give in to Greggs.
Stop Writing Lists
When you’re an unproductive wreck like me, there’s nothing more uplifting than writing a list. In an instant, you can rescue a precious project from rudderless oblivion, investing it with new focus, new purpose; rather than let a hard earned weekend or bank holiday drift by, listing all of the exciting things you can do ensures that you won’t miss a moment, with no time lost to eBay or that Bake Off wiki you keep trying to contribute to. You’re really making something of your spare time, engaging with a value-added process, maximising your leisure potential.
And before you know it, you’ve organised an entire weekend in advance, with sets of micro-timed leisure tasks that MUST be completed, lest you fail the list, a monster of your own creation. You’ve unthinkingly supplanted enjoying yourself with achieving stuff, then deferred achieving stuff by scheduling to hopefully achieve a lot more stuff than you could ever possibly do. Sunday evenings and snow days and every other holiday all become chronically, brokenly listed, and coffee breaks and train journeys and entire unborn years are planned out in infinite, witless detail.
Your moment of clarity comes when, despite having done 2 full washes, watched 15 minutes of Bargain Hunt (the good bit, the bit at the end) and left your parents a voicemail message – all real achievements and ones you should be proud of – you still feel like a failure because you never managed to make that bacon sandwich that was on the list. And once you miss one scheduled enjoyment, the added pressure to fulfil the rest of your list makes actually doing so less and less likely.
So you decide to give up on listing, but actually giving up on listing isn’t easy because, while you’re really deferring the burden of doing stuff onto some unfortunate future instance of yourself, writing a list feels like an instant accomplishment, and one that promises to empower even more accomplishment to boot. Like water and lovely, lovely sugar, listing tries it damnedest to find a way back into your life.
So vigilance is all, as a list can crop up anywhere – a list can happen, without you even knowing. So isolate the problem – only use your lists on personal projects, or for going to the shops. You could try writing lists of things you’ve already done, nullifying their power instantly; you could hire a PA or personal assistant to organise you; you could just become so completely feckless that state services or a tired family member has to step in and organise you. Either way, keep an eye out, and you’ll be fine.
Stop Going to the Bank with Business Ideas
While it’s slow demise is almost always pinned on the greedy foreigners and the thieving conglomorates, our great british high street, with it’s cobblers, it’s newsagents, it’s single-bathroom bathroom stores, could easily be saved, if only we were all allowed to follow our dreams. If only we could turn our passions into businesses, then an emboldening new wave of cereal cafes and cat cafes and coffee-by-drone delivery depots would surely knit our ravaged communities and delicate interior lives back together. Unfortunately, along cames our old pal the Bank, merrily crushing our aspirations by not lending us the money we deserve. Even after we saved them from financial ruin, the Bank won’t cough up the loot for one graphic novel vending machine library, not one biodegradable headphone store.
Sheathe your anger. While we usually tackle injustice by rising up as one and brutally overthrowing the problem, and while it’s true that we DID bail out the Bank, and so should in fairness have our customised crockery and artisan seatbelt business ideas at least listened to, the Bank also has a responsibility not to allow our dreams to land us all in serious financial trouble. After all, it was the Bank following it’s own dream – the dream of getting stupidly rich from maddeningly inappropriate investment schemes – that landed them in so much trouble to begin with. Truly, if anyone knows the deep, lingering melancholy of following your poorly considered moneymaking aspirations, it is the Bank.
And as something you’ll still see on every high street, the Bank has also inevitably borne witness to all the very silly business ideas that grimly play out on that most unforgiving of stages. Every high street has a store that changes hands on an almost monthly basis – the store that’s a print-your-name-on-a-slipper shop, then a Members Only vaping store, a Bubble Tea takeaway, then a Gourmet marshmallow shop. Watching them come and go, the Bank knows how even that short dabble in the world of selling stuff can suck all of the passion right out of your passion, leaving only coldest, starkest business. And a business that’s just a business is just an exercise in shuffling money around – a Bank, basically.
So maybe we owe the Bank a thank you, for helping us keep our passions interesting and interests passionate, and not potentially ruinous albatrosses that condemn our families to a life living in the back of a van, flogging puzzle tea towels. While many of the Banks still owe us a debt of money, maybe we owe them a debt of gratitude for keeping our streets free from personalised chocolate birthday card stores and community owned art galleries. And maybe, perhaps, in the cold light of day, my proposal for a nationwide circuit of Cat Conventions wasn’t worth lending on after all. Maybe.
Stop Watching the Hootenanny
You did it. You finally did it. In an act of titanic courage and inner fortitude, you went against every human impulse and centuries of conventional wisdom, doing the thing that you once thought beyond you, beyond anyone. Despite the gnawing self-doubt, the waves of panic and naseua, the crushing bleakness, and the final breathless free-fall of self-examination, you did it. You stayed in on New Year’s Eve. By yourself.
And what you found in the end was a revelation; sitting at home with a raffle prize bottle of prosecco, your cat and, somewhat reluctantly, Jools Holland’s Hootenany, it wasn’t half bad. It was enjoyable. It was good. So good that, faced with the bleak and empty solitude of New Year’s Day, you found that second bottle of prosecco you’d been keeping for a special occasion, kept the cat up past her bedtime, and found Holland waiting, welcoming, on the iPlayer. Even a day late, the Hootenany’s mix of largely decent music and knowingly awful banter is strangely watchable. It’s stuck-in-a-Debenhams-advert studio theme is still kind-of appropriate on the 1st of January, Jools is still pretty obviously drunk and you’ll almost certainly have missed at least one enjoyably rubbish performance on the Christmas cake run. It’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with rewatching the Hootenany. There’s nothing wrong with you either, friend.
When there IS something wrong is when you’re so busy trying to monitor the results of the regional booze tombolas you bulk-entered while skipping between memorised, time-coded segments of 2008’s Hootenany, carefully editing out Roland Rivrond along with the guests that weren’t pretending to enjoy themselves enough (the ones you can see right through the bloody fakers) that you don’t see the cat run away to get a decent nights sleep – that, my friend, is when you need to stop watching the Hootenany. I mean, consider it. It’s just a suggestion. Put the broken prosecco bottles down…