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In Defense of Delightfully Self-Indulgent Days 4 min read

In Defense of Delightfully Self-Indulgent Days

By Cary Littlejohn
In Defense of Delightfully Self-Indulgent Days Post image

Happy new year, and here’s hoping that 2022 finally sees us get some relief from COVID-19.

I can’t help but love that moment when the calendar flips over from one year to the next. It’s not because of the glitz and glamour so often associated with big parties on December 31st, for I can assure you, I could take it or leave it when it comes to those.

But a new year is an essentially optimistic and hopeful time. There is so much to look forward to, and there’s the comforting illusion that somehow, with the flip of that calendar page, that crossing of the magical midnight threshold on the clock, things have fundamentally changed. A slate has been erased. A ledger wiped clean. And it’s nothing but a fresh start.

Now, the reality of that January 1st is much more depressing than all that. Most of the time, it’s just December 32nd. There is little magic. Things rarely change even a little.

What I really like about the new year is all the possibilities that we imagine for ourselves, usually in the form of resolutions. I can’t help but get wrapped up in the trite “new year, new me” mindset, and I love hearing what other people have planned for themselves. I like the lofty considerations, the broad strokes of new plans, and I like the nitty-gritty details of how they’re going to go about realizing their goals.

A friend told me she was going to learn a new skill this year and rattled off some possibilities. I asked her if that was on her list of resolutions, and she said it was more accurate simply to call them “goals.” And then she said she was resolved to survive the year. That was it. Anything else was a bonus.

It’s a healthy way of looking at a new year even in the best of times, but how much more so as we enter our third calendar year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It helped to put things in perspective, to remind me that this is not just another new year as any other. While I can’t swear I’ll stop asking people about their goals and resolutions for the next year, I’m greatly lowering my expectations for any answers or extended conversations on the topic.

In that vein, I’m highly recommending a day of deliberate self-indulgence. You can frame it as a carefree start to a new year that’s surely to come with its share of challenges, or you can call it a reward to yourself for simply surviving the past year’s challenges. Or you can eschew both and say, healthily, “I don’t need a reason to spoil myself.”

Whatever you choose, I can’t overstate how great it feels to simply indulge in your joys. To look at what makes you decidedly you, to recognize what brings you happiness and seek it out and avoid that which detracts from your life.

The day after Christmas, while home for the holidays in Tennessee, I went to Memphis to see Hamilton at the Orpheum. A cultural phenomenon that’s been in our lives for more than five years now has lost none of its excitement for those in the audience. Not even the democratizing force that is Disney+ putting a filmed version of the original cast up for all to see could dim its glow. Not even for me, who’s been lucky enough to see the original cast on Broadway and then again in San Francisco and Chicago. It was superfluous in that way. I did not need to make that purchase, but I was lucky enough to have the means and access to do so, as well as being vaccinated and boosted and thus feeling safe to be in such a crowded setting. And I wanted to for one simple reason: I knew it would bring me great joy.

After the show, I wandered around downtown Memphis (because the weather was beautiful) until I found myself easing up to the bar at the Rendezvous for a plate of ribs and a cold beer.

Not ready to call it a day and make the two-hour drive back to my family’s home, I went to Overton Square and had drinks at Local Gastropub and just generally killed time until showtime for a movie at Studio on the Square. Wanting to maximize that opportunity as well, I decided to watch not one but two movies before heading home.

I saw Licorice Pizza and Being the Ricardos in (happily for me personally, sadly for the state of movie-going more generally) nearly empty theaters.

I ate more snacks I did not need.

None of this may sound particularly appealing to you, and if that’s your main takeaway, you’ve overlooked the point. This was highly appealing to me; in fact, any single scene from this entire episode would have constituted a great day in my book, well worth the two-hour drive to Memphis.

My point is that once I broke the seal on the notion of having a day that was custom-made for me, I leaned into it heavily. It was so restorative, and in those moments of good feelings, I found myself wanting it for all the people in my life. I’m reminding you that whatever form that might take for you is perfect, and more than anything, you deserve it. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, as long as you’re in the mindset that, to whatever degree you’re comfortable, what you’re doing is just for you.

Only  you can say what that should be. Only you can determine what’s right for you in your life right now. But too often we deprive ourselves of even modest pleasures because we don’t feel like we’ve earned them. I’m here to remind you that’s not true. You did. We all did. Like my friend (and Lin-Manuel Miranda in writing Hamilton) said, “Just stay alive, that would be enough.

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