A New Kind of New Year’s Resolution

Penny Street Art in Amsterdam. Image via Sagmeister.

 

Like most people, I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish in the new year. I’ve never been one for resolutions, as I’m notoriously terrible at sticking to them, and they generally just make me crabby. This time, however, I’ve been thinking about what I can resolve to *not* do.

My mom and I were talking about all the projects we did this past year, and how most of them were for other people. The vast majority of these projects were “commissioned” in some way. Friends or acquaintances would be impressed with our skills/talents/abilities/whatever, that they would ask for one of their own. Often it would be a barter of some kind, or even in exchange for money. Sometimes, and I’m more guilty of this, they would be presenting a problem and I’d jump in to offer a solution – usually one that involved me sewing or knitting or building or designing something.

Now, the problem with these opportunities is that while I like to make gifts and surprises for people, having a commitment usually leads to resentment. It’s not that I don’t want to help – I do! In fact, that’s the problem! I want to help everyone with everything. It obviously becomes a matter of validation. I feel like my friendship is of no use to someone unless I can offer a tangible service. Silly? Definitely.

Unfortunately, I’ve damaged quite a few friendships because of this. I underestimate the time and money I’ll have to invest in a project, and offer it in exchange for something that’s not nearly comparable. For example: a dear friend wanted a cute, Anthropologie style dress. I insisted that it would be quite simple to sew, and we arranged to barter. I would sew the dress and she would color my hair. ¬†We would both pay for our own materials. I’m really not sure what I was thinking – even if the dress had been a simple endeavor, it’s just not the same amount of work that goes into a color appointment. The dress ended up needing multiple fittings and alterations… it was too long, then it was too short; the bust was wonky, I didn’t know how to fix it… I spent so much time and energy stressing about the stupid project that I started to really resent the dress and my friend. ¬†She was frustrated because it was taking so long, and I already “cashed in” on my side of the bargain. It was a mess.¬†Was it her fault? No. I truly believed at the beginning that it would be a relatively simple undertaking.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to determine this isn’t healthy.

So, in 2013, I’ve resolved to not take on a single commissioned project for anyone else. If I make or do something for another person, it will be as a gift. There will be no expectation on their part. If they ask, I will politely turn them down. Maybe I’ll even explain why, though I’m sure it sounds silly.

In the end, I think this will only strengthen my relationships with people. They’ll be based on mutual respect and genuine interest in one another’s personalities. Additionally, I’ll get to focus on things for myself. I have so many unfinished projects!

Are any of you doing a similar thing, or have you done it in the past? I’d love to know what your experiences were.

Here’s to an awesome, productive 2013! Happy New Year, everyone!

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Hazel & Agnes is the creative blog of Natalie Matz. Click above to learn more!