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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, February 6, 2023
HomeCommentaryOp Ed: New Year’s Intentions (Not Resolutions)

Op Ed: New Year’s Intentions (Not Resolutions)

I intend to do my New Year’s intentions. Resolutions sound too resolute. (Photo: Mat Probasco)

It happens every year and I still don’t understand it. One minute I’m shouting Happy New Year and then next minute it’s February. This is why I don’t do traditional New Year’s resolutions. I set intentions.

I used to pick a word of the year — something I’d heard in the previous months that summed up the calendar year’s indulgence of idiocy. It was pessimistic and fun all at once. The malapropism or twisted portmanteau wasn’t always a word or phrase fit for print in this fine publication but here are some I’m comfortable sharing.

The 2011 winning phrase was “very devastational,” which I loved because of its augmentation of nonsense.

I had an office job that year rife with gibberish. A supervisor told a group of subordinates, “If you have a question, send an email to myself.”

People puffing themselves up say things like that, using “myself” instead of “me.” I can send an email to you and you can send an email to me, and I can send an email to myself just as you can send an email to yourself but you can’t send an email to myself and I can’t send an email to yourself. It doesn’t work that way.

Other word of the year winners and runners-up include scientifical, promiscuousity, concepting, and languaging. Almost any time a noun is verbed or adjective is nouned or noun is adjectivated you can expect it to make the shortlist. It took me a while to accept “text” as a verb.

Stragedy was a great one as it came up during a meeting with a marketing expert. When I asked if she meant “strategy” she laughed and said she always got those two words mixed up. What two words, I wondered. Anyway, consider me further educationated!

Not all were necessarily false words, just interestingly used. An old favorite was terrorisms. To summarize and paraphrase the person who introduced me to the word: We have nothing to be terrorized by but terrorisms themselves. Institutionalized fear is very, very devastational.

Some words are used to mask or muddle their meaning. Actioning or actioned are actual words. They’re just stupid. I’m actioning this sentence to you now. Consider it actioned. Bureaucrats love these sorts of phrases.

“Individuals” is a thorn in my side. Once you start paying attention to “individuals” it’s everywhere. It’s a fine word when used to differentiate from a group but loses all integrity when used in place of the actual object.

Here’s a sentence I read way too often: A group of individuals was arrested. Or more often: A group of individuals were arrested.

What madness is this?

These are people. People were arrested — or hamsters or conch shells or palm fronds but not “individuals” because that word loses all meaning when linked with “group.” A group is always made of individuals because if they were all one they’d not be a group!

A friend accused me of being pedantic on this point and I urged her to reconsider the famed phrase at the end of the 1973 ecological horror film Soylent Green. (Spoiler alert.)

“Soylent Green is individuals!” doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

OK. One more and I’ll get off my soap box: Unique means one of a kind, not unusual or quirky or fun or weird or pretty or unlikely. It means one of a kind. That’s important because we have words for things that are infrequent or strange or rare or surprising but we only have one word that I know of for a thing that is literally (and I don’t mean figuratively) unlike any other. That unique word is unique. Something can’t be very unique or somewhat unique or kinda unique. There are no degrees of one-of-a-kindness.

One word of the year winner was “tasty” used in the way to express approval. I’m tasty to it.

In January 2019, my word of the year became an intention for the coming year. That year it was “whimsy,” and it evolved into my creation of a fantastical clothing line. It was something completely out of my comfort zone, except that it was fun and creative. To my great surprise, other people were also tasty to it and we’ve been putting smiles on faces ever since.

The pandemic lockdown years were grim on New Year’s intentions. My 2020 intention was to be industrious. Ha!

In February of 2020, just before everything fell apart, I was at a convention of, to put it bluntly, high-achieving elites in Miami.

Wrongly assuming I was on the guest list, a young man working by the pool asked my secret to success. Success is not a word I embrace in the grand sense. I’m not tasty to it. So I explained I was a guest of a guest, a half-broke journalist and neophyte clothing designer who had always embraced the concept of material failure as likely, even inevitable (and thus not all that devastational).

But the young man, arms full of dirty towels, persisted. I had to come up with something. Abhorring a lie, I got as real as I could get. What did all the multi-millionaires around me have in common?

“Try not to die,” I said.

Well that didn’t sit well at all.

Everybody dies. I know. The time comes and sometimes it’s the right time. But away from that, young person: Opportunity requires awareness. Saying yes means being present. One symbol of Zen Buddhism is a finger pointing at a circle or moon. It means (as far as I understand) to look where the finger is pointing and not get hung up on the finger itself. It’s like René Magritte’s painting The Treachery of Images. It’s a picture of a pipe with the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” —  “This is not a pipe.”

My point is general success can’t be an intention. It’s way too broad. If you’re judging your life on some ideal of success, you’ll miss the life. Platitude acknowledged.

That said, how was I to know the global COVID calamity was a few short weeks away. “Try not to die” was accidentally prescient advice.

In 2021 I tried cutting some bad habits for half the year. Not 182.5 days in a row but scattered throughout the year. I did it but did not find it healthy as I overindulged the other 182.5 days. Stragedy failure. I also stopped using a certain dismissive vulgarity that always felt good to say but produced less-than-helpful results.

The 2022 intention was productivity: stop time-wasting activities and emphasize life-affirming activities. I started back up with the Source after more than a decade away and started working on supply-chain issues for the clothing company. I don’t know how successful I was at either but it felt good. That’s all we can ask for.

My intentions for 2023? Drive slower, be less judgmental, and rock-hard abs. As of late afternoon Jan. 2, I had not yet done a sit-up — and there’s a lot of leftover cake and chocolate laying around — but my intention has been concepted and languaged, and could very well soon be actioned.

I can’t set intentions for other individuals — ugh, I can hardly even write the word — but I hope you are tasty to whatever you do. Try not to die.

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