new-year-chapter-oneThe promotional emails flooding my in box promise all kinds of tips and tricks for a “New Year, New You.” I had no idea that I was in such need of a total makeover. But these emails seem to assume that there is considerable room for improvement.

And sure, I suppose there is. I could stand to eat more fruit and fewer cookies. I should cook more from scratch. I should spend more time meditating and less time obsessing over Donald Trump’s presidential prospects. I should drag myself out of the house occasionally for cultural events instead of watching way too many re-runs of Law and Order. I should be more sociable and less solitary.

I could definitely be a better, more productive and healthier person. And the truth is, I plan to be. I like new beginnings. I love to make lists and set goals. But this just means I’m going to work towards being a somewhat improved version of forever-imperfect me. I’m not going to be a new me. I’m old enough to know that this isn’t going to happen. And I’m insightful enough (I think) to know that it doesn’t need to happen.

I already have a fair number of good habits. I drink water instead of soft drinks and juices. I eat a ton of veggies and a ton of beans. I eat mostly whole grains. I also volunteer for animals and almost always remember my friends’ birthdays.

And I’m a vegan. Which in and of itself is something to be proud of. But even that lends itself to opportunities for improvement. Because, I’d like to be a better vegan. Not a level 5 vegan—I don’t care about that. But I’d like to become a better role model for veganism and a more impactful activist for animals. Some things I could do to that end:

  • Become a better and more confident cook, finding and perfecting a core group of fool-proof recipes that I can share with non-vegans.
  • Move outside my comfort zone more often, being more social and even willing to be the only vegan in the crowd so that I have more opportunities to introduce meat-eaters to good vegan food.
  • Once and for all develop a good elevator speech about why I’m vegan. (Do you have one? This alone would make a great New Year’s resolution).
  • Spend more time doing hands on rescue work, especially with feral cats. It’s where my heart is and it can be a good thing to follow your heart.
  • Write more, in order to advocate more strongly for evidence-based vegan nutrition.

None of those things will make me “new.” They will not make me any different than the person I already am. They are merely improvements to what (I think) is the best part of me—my commitment to animal rights. And I think they are all way better ambitions than incorporating green smoothies into my diet (which I can assure you is never going to happen).

But, yes I really am going to exercise more, too. And eat fewer cookies (maybe). If you desire to lose weight or need to get healthier, then I hope that the New Year gives you opportunities to pursue those goals. Taking good care of yourself is worthwhile and it’s certainly important.

But whether or not 2016 brings any of us perfect health and happiness, it will definitely bring us opportunities to advocate for animals, even if only in small ways. It’s nice to know that you don’t need to become a “new you” in order to do so.