It’s a new year and, if you’re like most Americans, odds are that you’ve said “I’m going to make this my year,” possibly while looking at yourself in the mirror during your daily affirmations. But turning over a new leaf isn’t as easy as all the self-help books and can-do attitudes make it seem. Like these seven big life decisions that sound awesome – until you actually do them.
Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass, Flickr
7 Getting Back in Shape
Every year, most people in society look at themselves in the mirror, see an extra roll of fat or a cellulite dimple and goes, “Man, I need to get back into shape.” Maybe you want to be as lean as you were in high school. Or maybe you’re a woman who wants to squeeze into those jeans that make your ass look like two perky hams. It all begins with getting off your Miss Muffet’s tuffet-esque booty and hitting the elliptical, right?
Wrong. Fitness is a life-long commitment. For most people not blessed with the resting metabolic rate of an Olympic athlete, it involves changing your eating habits, being able to stick to a schedule, and dedication. It also involves planning: If you want to lose weight, you need to not only hit the gym, but also get rid of that Costco-sized pack of Nutter Butters you’ve been nibbling at for three months and replace it with enough grilled chicken to choke a horse (a horse who presumably doesn’t like grilled chicken, I suppose). So let’s save ourselves the two weeks of you adding to the early January overcrowding at the gym and just get back to the “Larry Sanders” marathon on IFC now, shall we?
If you still want to get back into shape: Try eating exactly what you’re eating now but throw away half the portion. That’s half the calories with significantly less effort. And don’t try going to the gym daily; it’s more beneficial for you to not fatigue yourself immediately by going three times a week (and will help you avoid over-training, which can stifle weight loss and muscle growth long term).
Photo credit: CherryPoint, Flickr
6 Adopting a Puppy
If you adopt a pet, you are doing a good thing. There’s no denying that. Millions of pets are put down each year because their owner didn’t care for them (be it not getting their pet spayed, getting sick of their teacup poodle once it grew bigger than a teacup, etc). So it’s a great idea, at the very least in terms of your karmic balance, to save an animal’s life and bring it into your home.
Small problem: Pets require a lot of effort, more than most people understand before making the commitment to getting a dog. Especially if you get a puppy from your local ASPCA, not only do you need the time to walk the dog every couple hours in the hopes it’ll stop pissing on your beautiful CB2 rug, but you also need to play with it regularly and build a schedule to try to teach it some sense of law and order. And even if the pup grows to love and respect you and not aspire to one day supplant you as the alpha dog so he can wear the khaki pants and eat all the bacon, you have to worry that you did something wrong in the dog’s upbringing that might one day make it snap and eat a small child like an onion ring in a Dora the Explorer backpack.
On the plus side, this is your one chance In life to get specially branded snacks like Scooby Doo.
If you still want to adopt a dog: Understand that this is a lifelong commitment; if you give a dog back to a shelter, you’re a dick. Research everything you need in advance, get training classes…don’t half-ass it.
Photo credit: grantlairdjr, Flickr
5 Quitting Smoking
Smoking is a terrible thing. You can get lung cancer, heart disease, and convince your school yard friends that while they may very well be chickens, you are in fact a turkey. So we would never tell you that it’s not worth a shot.
But you better actually want to quit smoking. There’s a reason that most people who succeed at quitting cigarettes have to try to quit smoking more than once. But there’s also a reason that quitting smoking is a billion dollar business and that you see people with holes cut in their throat still taking a drag: That shit is hard. Realistically, it’d be much easier building a time machine, going back to when you bought your first pack, and kicking yourself in the left testicle.
If you really want to quit smoking: Do it now. Don’t finish the pack you have left, don’t make excuses. Get whatever products you need (nicotine gum, etc), build out a roadmap for quitting. If possible, find a buddy to quit with you to commiserate throughout (and keep you on point).
Photo credit: Fried Dough, Flickr
4 Breaking Up With a Boyfriend or Girlfriend
Relationships are always a lot of hard work. Many people end up stuck in terrible, dead-end relationships for months at a time purely out of a sense of obligation to “see things through” and “ride out the rough patch” or whatever moral cliché abused housewives tell themselves while applying an extra layer of foundation.
But then there’s the alternative: Your relationship isn’t terrible. But it’s not as great as Hallmark cards and movies starring Matthew McConaughey may have led you to believe. Maybe you’re not soulmates, but you get along well and she doesn’t mind that your gut occasionally flops over your pants like a killer wave at an Australian beach. So, for some misguided reason, you think you can do better. Here’s a depressing reality: You probably can’t do THAT much better. Best case scenario: You find a girl .2% more attractive by your fleeting and illogical standards who ends up getting sick of you within three months. Worst case scenario: You end up forever alone in a pornographic rut so deep that even the most depraved tranny scat porn can’t get you out. Is it worth the risk? I’m going to guess no.
If you really want to break up with that special someone: Make a list of pros and cons, not just of your partner, but of yourself. Be realistic. Ask yourself: Is this someone I can spend the rest of my life with? Am I wasting their time and mine?
Photo credit: kthompsonstudios, Flickr
3 Buying Something Ridiculously Expensive
If you’re not balling in a way similar to Scrooge McDuck, like most Americans, most purchases over $500 can set you back in a serious way. So you finally convinced yourself that an iPad will make you more productive or that a fancy new suit will make you feel ready to make the move to senior management. Talking yourself into it is half the battle, for sure.
Oh, but you forgot that to make the most of your new gadget, you need $200 in accessories? And don’t forget the productivity apps…that’s another $50. Ooh, on the road a lot, are we? Well then you should probably get the 3G version and a high end data plan! That’ll run you another $300 up front and $50 each month. So when you end up playing Angry Birds HD for seven hours and cursing at the red birds for being completely useless despite their prominent place in the game’s artwork, at least you’ll look cool. Until the new one comes out in three months. Get with the times, Grandpa.
If you really want to buy something ridiculously expensive: Make sure you really need the product in question. Do your research, shop around to make sure you’re not getting ripped off and that there isn’t a newer version coming out next month. And pay for the item by saving a little bit each month; this way you have time to be 100% positive you want it and the financial hit isn’t each great.
Photo credit: FotoSleuth, Flickr
2 Moving to a New Place
Many people, particularly those in large cities, move on an annual basis. And it’s almost impossible to avoid getting sucked into searching for a new apartment on Craigslist and dreaming of all the Melrose Place-ian adventures at your feet.
But once reality sets in after you hurriedly pack your current apartment up in one day, you’ll find that you’re in a new place with some flaw that, even with the most thorough checklist, you couldn’t possibly imagine (“You mean during the winter, there’s a giant dinosaur that bites the heads off anyone who doesn’t wear Lycra?”). All for the privilege of paying a couple hundred dollars more each month. Smell that? Smells like the neighbors doing crack again. Oh, and victory.
If you really want to move: See as many apartments as possible. Take your own photos, don’t trust the apartment broker. Do not be coerced into an apartment by slick salesmanship and your ability to pull out being weaker than that of Bristol Palin.
Photo credit: aforero, Flickr
1 Having a Child
Having a child is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. They are a moldable lump of clay that you can impart all of your life lessons to, provide for, and hopefully make into a contributing member of society.
Then there’s the alternative. Not only is raising a child like raising a puppy times a thousand, you also are responsible for paying for everything they do in life for 18 years. Do they want to go to camp? That’s on you. How about books for school? Yours, too. Kid needs a new hand after you accidentally cut it off during an intense game of Chutes and Ladders? Definitely your bill, and you get jail time! Plus, no pressure, but as philosopher Chris Rock said, “Your one job is to keep her off the pole.” In this economy…good luck.
If you really want to have a kid: Try not to have a kid to save a marriage or to get top billing on Season 3 of 16 and Pregnant. Also, don’t have their daily bath in your dishwasher.
Photo credit: basykes, Flickr
(Previously published on January 5, 2011.)