Nine years ago on New Year's Eve, I resolved to drink more. I was distressed and deluded, and as ironic as it sounds, it was the healthiest resolution that I ever made.
I was a senior at Stanford, with good friends and great grades, a suntan, a future, and an eight-minute mile. But I was incorrigibly unhappy from morning through night. Despite phi beta kappa and a 4.1 gpa, one problem consumed me and tortured my days: a less-than-expected score on the damn LSAT. All I wanted was to get into Harvard Law School, nothing else. And without a perfect LSAT score, I convinced myself, my chances were slim.
I was miserable. I was insane. I had lost all perspective.
How I reached that sad state now seems painfully obvious. I had dedicated that entire autumn to my singular goal, and had spent a dark, dreary semester hitting the books and painstakingly filling out application forms. My friends would go out to parties; I would stay in and work. The '89 earthquake shook campus, lessening our school loads; I made up the lost time holed away in the corners of the only library that survived intact the 7.3 blow.
So sure of what I wanted, and committed to get it, I had tossed away four months at age 21. Disconsolate and depressed, I had then let a (fine to all but me) test score destroy my vision and steal my hope.
But who could possibly think straight under such sad conditions?
On December 31, 1989, epiphany struck. Grabbing pen and diary, I sat down and wrote:
"This New Year's Eve, I resolve to Be Happy. I will not obsess on my faults. I will regain control of my life by buying a car, but I will realize that there are some things in life that I cannot control. I will not go to Harvard. I will go someplace else, and be happy. And, in the meantime, I will have fun. I will smoke and drink. I will scam and play and laugh and dance. I am not perfect, but I am very special. I will be happy with what life gives me, even though I will always hope for and work for my best. While giving it all my best shot, I will also keep it all in perspective. I will enjoy life. I deserve to."
It felt better.
I felt better, much better, and I stuck to my goals. Upon returning to Stanford, I bought my first car. I went to parties. I smoked. I scammed. I drank. I laughed and danced. It worked. Unbelievably, I was becoming happy.
And, on January 9th, when my Harvard acceptance arrived, my joy was genuine but also incremental. After all, I had already been accepted by something far more selective and strict: 10 days earlier, on New Year's, I had accepted myself.
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What's your New Year's resolution?