Another year has come and gone, without my quite knowing how. People have been announcing their New Year’s resolutions left, right, and centre for more than a week now, but somehow I am always taken unawares by the advent of the new year, however much I have prepared and looked forward to the festivities beforehand. This year, I waltzed in the new year in the arms of a very dear friend: high on Strauss and carried away by my own dancing feet, I did not spare a thought for the clock stolidly ticking away the last few minutes of 2012. Waking up late the next morning in the half-light of a dark and rainy day, it seemed to me the air smelled faintly of farewell. Or was that just woodsmoke? In the days that followed, in the shadowy recesses of my mind there appeared dim shapes, ghosts of unfinished projects come back to tease me. What had I done this past year, they asked? Not much, all in all.
As a rule, I care little for New Year’s resolutions: self-discipline is not my forte, and I succumb far too often to temptation for resolutions to be of any use. I prefer not to start off the new year with a guilty conscience because I’ve gone against one of my grandiloquent statements – it gives me an illusion of freedom and keeps me serene.
But conscience has a way of creeping up on you nonetheless. I have heard the echoing footsteps of mine drawing nearer for some time now, but chose to ignore them – until Bang! You turn a corner – or the page of a calendar – and there it is, unavoidable, with letters large and bold staring you in the face, spelling DILETTANTE.
I used to have a fondness for the word dilettante: I liked its baroque, Italianate sonorities, and the way it conjured up fin de siècle dandies à la Lord Henry Wotton. Of late, however, its pejorative connotations have been uppermost in my mind; like the two-faced tragedy-comedy masks of old, it has switched from the dandy to the dabbler, and the change is not to my liking. Lurking in the background is the third – and most unpalatable – of the brothers, whose name comes to me in my mother’s voice, dripping with disdain: “Jack of all trades”. As I think of these three, I squirm uncomfortably. For it seems to me that I am well on my way to becoming one, if not all, of these things, me with my bright talk of becoming a writer and my manuscript lying still unfinished in my desk drawer.
So, this year I am breaking my rule and making a New Year’s resolution. Just one, because when all is said and done, there is only one thing which is important to me: to finish that dratted book, once and for all. No more dithering, no more spurious excuses. When January rolls around again, I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror with pride and say: “I finished what I set out to do.” I will not be a dilettante.
© Florence Berlioz 2013