A girl of maybe 14 or 15 said, with a somewhat angry tone, “I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions”. I wondered what she thought New Year’s resolutions meant. She explained that it is when, on New Year, people decide to lose weight, or something else and fail. Wow, I thought. “… and fail”!
Many of us must’ve heard of midlife crises and the kind of odd or extravagant or even silly things people do when they reach a certain age. They’ve either achieved the main things they were aiming for or very little and now they are feeling the clock is ticking and there isn’t much time left.
What about the teenager at the end of their compulsory education? It can be a difficult and confusing time if it’s time to decide what to do next and they haven’t really given it much thought. Not sure about their likes and dislikes, talents or strengths. At the same time there are many outside pressures to be a certain person or gain certain qualifications.
The third case is the ‘empty nest’ syndrome. When the kids have grown up, left home and are busy with their lives. I think this may not be the dominant situation with many Muslim families as they tend to maintain their connections with their extended family members. However, the situation is moving towards that where the parents live miles and miles away from their children and grandchildren and don’t see them often.
So what is similar between a 40 year old man who suddenly decides he must have a Ferrari; a teenager who is being incredibly difficult about going to university and a couple who’s kids have left home and now the arguments seem to increase? It’s the presence of a trigger: age, stage of life or situation. These people are at crossroads and now they have to make a conscious decision as what to do next. For some reason I remember the story of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) peace be upon him, when he went to the temple where his people worshiped their idols. He smashed them all except for the largest one and hung the axe on it. Ibrahim suggested that they ask the idol carrying the axe. It’s like he forced them into a mental and emotional crossroads. ‘You know that your idols do not hear or speak so what is your next step going to be?’ We know what they chose.
However, do we have to wait until we reach a crossroad in our life to make changes? How about examining what we have now and change accordingly when needed. I personally don’t take regular medication, Alhamdulillah, but if I feel different in any way I would keep an eye on my health and then decide to either visit the doctor or take some pain killers for example. If I ignore my symptoms until I faint or can’t move, the situation may have become so severe that I’d need drastic treatment.
The New Year is a trigger, like birthdays. When the prospect of writing a new number, 2010, looms closer a person looks into their situation and they ask what have I achieved? Because of personal surroundings and the general mood of things common new resolutions tend to link to weight, health and relationships. These are major slices of one’s life, of course. Then, if they were so important why not tackle them ASAP with commitment and not wait six, nine or even eleven months to make a start? I think that 15 year old girl had a point. It could be the fear of failure or the need for a celebrated collective beginning. … and Allah knows best.