New Year, New Me! (Yeah, Right)
Start Breaking Those Resolutions Right Now
by Hank Trout

Well, well, here we are in 2020, an all-new year, bright and glowing like a klieg light——and I would bet that many of you reading this went through the yearly ritual of making New Year’s resolutions.

And I would bet with even more certainty that you’ve already broken at least one of the resolutions you made.

Now, be honest. When was the last year that you actually kept the resolutions you made?

See.

The hopeful have made New Year’s resolutions for thousands of years. The Babylonians are thought to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to consider the new year auspicious enough for celebrating. For early Christians, the first day of the new year morphed into the traditional occasion for contemplating one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the nascent year. New Year’s resolutions today are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement.

That may explain why such resolutions are so hard to keep.

I suspect that, like a lot of other useless things we do——taking nutritional supplements, signing petitions, going to church——people continue to make New Year’s resolutions because it makes them feel better. Resolutions make us feel as though we have goals (alas, unachievable, but goals nonetheless). If we really mean our resolutions, they can make us take honest assessment of our lives and realize that we could use some improvement and are willing to work on attaining it (at least until January 3rd).

Most importantly, making New Year’s resolutions expresses our hope that we just might live through another year.

That’s why I stopped making New Year’s resolutions in 1989, the year I received my HIV diagnosis. Resolutions are forward-thinking, I reasoned, and I had no “forward” to speak of. Like nearly all of us long-term HIV/AIDS survivors, those of us who received the diagnosis before the advent of HAART, I was told to prepare to die. And I did exactly that. Making a New Year’s resolution in the midst of planning to die before year’s end struck me as the height of silliness. I haven’t made one since then.

Believe me, I’m really not trying to pee on anyone’s parade here at the very beginning of the new year. If you are successful at keeping the resolutions you make on New Year’s Eve, brava/bravo! That’s amazing! Truly——considering the number of us who have never kept one, that is remarkable. I and millions of other resolution breakers salute you!

The last couple months of 2019 were rather unkind to me. Actually, about 90% of 2019 sucked rope. Fortunately, there are steps I can take to alleviate some of the damage done. Now, please rest assured, I did not sit down on my birthday (yeah, I’m a NYE baby) and write out a list of resolutions and then stand and proclaim that “In 2020, I will ….” I just know that, as surely as I must take my HIV medication every morning, I must train myself to make these changes. But NO resolutions——I don’t want to jinx my chances of success!

First, my health. On Veterans’ Day 2019, I was rushed to the emergency room with convulsions due to dangerously low levels of potassium and electrolytes. This was the second trip to the ER due to my potassium levels; the last time, in the summer of 2019, I was hospitalized for four days. The solution is, obviously, to up my potassium intake. A nurse friend sent me a list of sixteen foods that are high in potassium content. I have the list prominently displayed on the refrigerator door and I have vowed to incorporate at least one of those items in every meal. Fortunately, I like everything on the list. But it doesn’t matter——if the only solution were to “do a Divine from Pink Flamingos,” I would. I have to get as tight a grip on my health as this goddamned virus will allow me.

Second, my community. Far too many times last year, my health interfered with both the volunteer work I do and my social life with my buddies at Honoring Our Experience and the Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus Network. I had to cancel two readings due to illness; I missed all of the candidates’ forums before last November’s elections, which is NOT like me at all; I missed out on many group dinners and day excursions and nights of theatre because I was too sick to show up. There are many resources in San Francisco for long-term HIV/AIDS survivors to combat isolation——but those resources work only if you’re well enough to take advantage of them. I haven’t been.

So, as I’m working on getting healthier, I wish for you in 2020 everything good that your heart wants. Now, get out there and start breaking those resolutions! You’ve got eleven months to make up new ones.


Hank Trout, Senior Editor, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a forty-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his husband Rick. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.