#7. Returned Gifts, Resolution Breakers, and You
New year, same me.
Christmas is over! Hanukkah is over! The year is almost over! What do we do this week? What are we doing…generally? Who knows? We’ll figure it out!
Last week, the Boston Globe asked me to recommend my favorite comedy special of the year, and I shouted out Sheng Wang’s Sweet & Juicy on Netflix. There were so many new specials I loved (and a bunch I haven’t gotten to yet) but Sheng’s hour is so fun and silly and personal and unique! The very funny Gary Petersen shouted out my special, which was so nice! (Obligatory link: People Pleaser is for rent and sale all over the internet, and it’s free for Prime members.) The Globe, as they have several times before, used this pretty rough 11-year-old picture of me for some reason. I look VERY stoned, which I was not. Oh well!
If you want a recommendation for a special, leave a comment with one that you’ve loved in the past, and I’ll reply with one you maybe haven’t seen!
On (Dasher! Dancer! Donner! etc.) to the pep talks!
PEP TALK FOR RETURNED GIFTS
Look, gifts, I am on the record as being a terrible recipient of presents, so I can say with all sincerity: It’s not you. It’s me.
I’m sure you are a great sweater that I could have fit into 15 years ago or kitchen gadget for expediting the preparation of a food I’m allergic to or gift certificate to a store that has no locations in my area and no online presence. In the words of “Good” Will Hunting’s therapist: “It’s not your fault.” You’re just not for me! It’s no reflection on your structural integrity or overall utility that I will never remember to use a set of refillable travel toiletry vials, no matter how highly Wirecutter dot com recommends them. So back to the Sharper Image you go, assuming I can find a mall nearby that hasn’t been stripped down to a Cheesecake Factory with a ton of nearby storage space.
Conventional wisdom states that it’s the thought that counts when giving a gift. And I completely agree. But sometimes someone thinks wrong. For years, I thought that paisley was a color (a light green shade; I was probably thinking about parsley). When I return a gift, it’s not a rebuke of the gift itself or the person who gave it to me. It’s an acknowledgement that I have looked deep inside myself and decided I would rather travel to the closest brick and mortar Bath & Body Works than let a brand new tub of fancy lotion that smells like an ex-girlfriend sit at eye level in my medicine cabinet until I muster up the guts to throw it out.
Honestly, you should feel flattered that I am returning you, because it means I had the respect to bring you to a store and exchange you for an item of equal or lesser value instead of passing you along to an acquaintance or tucking you in the back of a closet, forgetting about you entirely until next time I donate old clothes.
It’s fine for a person and a gift not to be suited to one another. It’s not a big deal. Although, just as a heads-up: I probably have a lifetimes’s worth of pug-related trinkets, and if you give me one more that I feel compelled to display, people will think I have some kind of chubby dog fetish or am planning some kind of nose-flattening surgery for my own face.
PEP TALK FOR PEOPLE WHO BROKE THEIR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
Here’s the short version: It’s fine.
The longer version: It’s totally fine. Giving a goal your best shot is great. Not achieving it yet is okay. You’ll either get there eventually (hooray!) or you won’t (probably not that much of an issue).
Besides, most new year’s resolutions are either too vague (Eat better? What’s better? Am I supposed to buy fresher ingredients? Chew more thoroughly?) or too intense (“Get dream job.” Seriously, version of you from last December? How did you think you were going to accomplish that within twelve months?) to actually complete.
A new year’s resolution is less about making a rule that you never ever break than it is about envisioning the kind of ways you’d like to spend your time, treat yourself, or treat others. Okay, so you didn’t read a book a week! Did you read a book…at all? Did you start a book? Did you buy a book? Hey! That’s something! And as my friend Casey (who writes about lifting weights but also so much more) likes to say, doing anything is better than doing nothing. (And, tangentially, as my friend Jaime likes to say, it’s easier to add good things into your life than to take away things with which you have slightly fraught relationships. That’s something to consider too!)
If a resolution is very important to you, you can pick it back up anytime. Your goal is not a Wordle streak. No one is keeping track of it but you! I’d also argue that if you’re trying to change a behavior that’s truly life-ruining, maybe it’s not the realm of a new year’s resolution. You shouldn’t have to wait until the calendar changes over to decide to stop snorting crushed up Adderall off a switchblade and then using that switchblade to hunt a man you paid $100 to let you chase him through the woods.
So set a resolution for 2023! Keep it up for a while! Break it! Try again! Abandon it entirely! It’s all good! And unless you’ve started posting about your “journey” on Instagram or TikTok, no one will ever be the wiser.
PEP TALKS FOR READERS
I took a few editing liberties with these requests, as usual, but none that fundamentally change the underlying intent!
I recently found out that my landlady is selling the flat I've lived in for the last ten years. Less than a week later I found out my job was going away, due to a big client pulling out. As a result, it looks like I'm going to have to leave the city I've lived in for 15 years, and the friends/life I've made along the way.
While I'm doing my best to see this as an exciting change and a big steaming pile of opportunity, it has me feeling really quite lost and more than a little AAAAAAAAA.
Any words of wisdom and general pepping would be hugely appreciated.
River! I totally agree with you about: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.” What an overwhelming and unpleasant set of circumstances to deal with! Finding a new job is so annoying. You have to do a bunch of work just to find someone someone who will make you do a job all day? Sounds like a scam. I don’t trust it. Finding a new place to live is possibly even more annoying. Putting all your stuff into boxes just to open it up a few days later, a few miles away is basically the world’s least surprising, most effortful Secret Santa. “Oh, I got me all my pants and most of my dishes plus one broken one! Thanks, me from last week!”
I also understand your reluctance to see these changes as opportunities. Because, sure, technically they are. But those same opportunities existed BEFORE your job and home disappeared. So this is an opportunity in the same way cutting your thumb off with a meat cleaver is an exciting chance to check out advances in emergency room logistics and technology. If you wanted to do it, you could have done it whenever.
Despite the pile of damp emotional garbage under which you have found yourself buried, this will almost definitely be a temporary situation! You’ve found at least one job and apartment before, and you’ll do it again. Will your search be a joy? Only if you love sending emails that never receive replies. Will it be effective? In the long-term, almost definitely. Then, it will be done! You’ll have a place to live and a way to earn money, and you won’t have to spend all day being outbid for apartments you don’t really want to rent (People are bidding on rentals now! Sometimes progress is bad!) and writing cover letters expressing your enthusiasm for work you aren’t that excited to do.
Even if you don’t wind up in an ideal next situation, figuring those big picture things out will be such a relief! And once you’ve restored stability, you’ll get to consider where you actually want to be living and what you actually want to be doing. And that will be an opportunity worth acknowledging. Even if it requires another several months corresponding with the absolute weirdos for whom LinkedIn is the preferred social network.
PICK-ME-UP SONG: The Mountain Goats - “This Year”
Obviously, with New Year’s Eve/Day coming up, there’s a clear choice for the week’s pick-me-up song: “This Year” by the Mountain Goats! Thanks to this song (which I first heard on the Brandeis radio station the very weird summer I lived and worked on campus; shout out to Jess for playing it), I start every year thinking: “I am going to make it through this year if it kills me,” which is occasionally melodramatic, but has always been true so far! “This Year” also contains one of my other favorite lyrics of all time: “Locking eyes, holding hands/Twin high-maintenance machines.” TWIN HIGH-MAINTENANCE MACHINES? Are you kidding me, John Darnielle? As a high-maintenance machine, it’s helpful to have that vocabulary for self-identification. Anyway, if you’re reading this, statistically you will make it through this year. See you in 2023!
UPCOMING TOUR DATES
I made it to and and from Texas without travel plans, and hopefully the bomb cyclone will through the midwest before I am scheduled to arrive! I’m really looking forward to these shows!
12/27 - Parkway Theater in Minneapolis
12/29 - The Milwaukee Improv
1/12-1/14 - Comedy Bar Toronto (three shows)
1/20-1/20 - Wiseguys in West Jordan, Utah
More info and dates available at joshgondelman.com/schedule!
Okay! That’s all for now! Thanks for reading! And as always, if you enjoyed the newsletter, please subscribe and/or share it with a pal!