A year ago, I decided to become someone who knows about wine. Instead of guzzling sauvignon blanc, I imagined myself conversing confidently about vintages and viscosity, impressing friends and family with my sophistication. To accomplish this, I purchased Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine, which had beautiful, helpful charts, and a Moleskine wine journal to document my journey. For two weeks, I diligently read about wine varietals and took meticulous tasting notes (“Green apple? Tennis ball??”) and then one day, while tidying up before a party, I tucked my wine books into my bookshelf, never to open them again.
There is something intoxicating about buying something you are sure will unlock your full potential. Of course, how simple, you think. Obviously my earthly problems stemmed from the fact that I did not have a bullet journal/air fryer/weighted blanket. I can’t wait for this to fix absolutely everything. Sometimes, these items help a little, sometimes they help a lot, but often, we use them a handful of times, and then fall back into our old, familiar habits. We store them away in shelves and closets and basements where they remain until we Kondo our homes, dusty reminders of the people we never became.
This month, as many of us are marking the new year by signing up for ClassPass and browsing Amazon’s “New Year New Goals” section, we asked a few women to tell us about the things they bought to change their lives. Below are some of these relics, a museum of failed self-improvement.
A Guided Medidation App
Last January, I decided, like everyone else, that my life would be much improved by meditation. If I could sit down for ten minutes and just breathe, I would finally have some chill, for once in my life. So, I downloaded Inscape, a guided meditation app that walks you through a short meditation session, and tried in earnest to use it every day for a month. Turns out meditation is horribly boring.
I’m normally pretty good with resolutions and am kind of hippie-ish, but this didn’t work for me. I just ended up focusing more on my various anxieties for each of the ten minutes, so I stopped and totally forgot about it. Fast forward to September and I noticed a recurring Apple charge for $14 a month. I had been paying $14 a month for the shame of not being chill. —Sarah, 23
A Fanny Pack
In the spring of 2016, I decided I was going to become one of those people who run home from work across the Brooklyn Bridge. It seemed like an elegant, efficient solution to two concurrent problems in my life: I loathed the subway and never had time to work out. Rather than standing passively in an aging tin can as it hurtled under the East River, what if I jogged over the river at my own brisk pace, backed by a glorious sunset?
In order to carry all my stuff on these runs, I bought a small black fanny pack. At first, the plan seemed to be working. I would bring gym clothes to work, strap on my fanny pack, and run home, arriving sweaty and exhilarated. But, well, the Brooklyn Bridge is always crowded. And I’m not really a very good runner. And the fanny pack was constantly riding up, except when it was riding down, and if I tried to fix it on the bridge, I’d inevitably get distracted and swerve into either a bunch of tourists or some angry guy on a bike. After about three weeks, I gave up. A year passed, the weather got good again, and I started over. It was great! The bridge! The sunsets! But also … the angry guys on bikes. I gave up again.
The fanny pack is now hiding in a closet, covered in dust. I will never get rid of it, because I’m convinced that some day, either I will change or the Brooklyn Bridge will, and running across it will make sense again. —Izzy, 38
Rosetta Stone Swedish
For New Years 2015, after a magical fall-time trip to Stockholm with my grandmother, I spent $250 on a Swedish-language Rosetta Stone software kit and resolved to learn my ancestral tongue. I had visions of fluency, partaking in fika everyday, moving to Sweden, and landing my viking soulmate. Nevertheless … I used it exactly once. The reasons why are fuzzy. 2014 had been weird for me: I turned 25, proclaimed my love for a friend who did not return my feelings, and gave myself a very short haircut that made my dad ask if I had started drinking again. Like the DIY haircut, I think the Rosetta Stone was a flailing attempt at some self-actualization that felt particularly elusive at quarter-life. It promised a connection to my Swedish roots and also the possibility of a future where I continent-hopped, lived on kannelbullar, and dressed in minimalist separates. The reality? I was a busy service industry worker who just wanted to watch Netflix when I wasn’t writing on the side. It lives on however, tucked away in my storage unit. Maybe one day. —Morgan, 30
A Pressurized Water Flosser
Back in 2015 I became convinced that a Waterpik pressurized-water tooth flosser would not only make me beautiful and healthy, it would be fun. The pictures of it reminded me of my Barbie swimming pool or something. I can’t remember how I first came across one, but I never floss and hadn’t been to the dentist in years, and it seemed like maybe this cute water-harnessing machine might be the answer to my avoiding any potential dental disasters. (All the reviews — dozens of thousands of them — claim that these devices are life-changing). I ordered one, but when it arrived, I discovered the Waterpik was much bigger than I expected. It didn’t really fit anywhere on my sink, and I never got the hang of it (the experience of water-flossing was powerful, uncomfortable, and messy). Over time, the water sitting in the little tank began to taste mossy, and I think the nozzle started to get moldy, too. Not a goddamn thing about it was of any use to me, and eventually I threw it out. But maybe I was ahead of the curve, given that in 2016 the government officially stopped recommending flossing. —Edith, 35
A Magic Bullet
In 2013, I decided a la Liz Lemon, “I am going to become wonderful!” Which I guess meant buying a Magic Bullet, the trendy, friendly, pint-sized blender. I don’t know what possessed me to do it, because I’ve never been a big fan of smoothies (they make me feel like I’m in a hospital or something and can’t eat solid foods), but if I had to venture a guess it was probably the age-old combination of “being constantly marketed to” and “peer pressure.” I had graduated college the year before, had an office job, and felt like I somehow needed to do more adult things. I used the Magic Bullet exactly once, made a strawberry banana smoothie and took it to work, thought that was okay, and then never used it again. I packed it back up into its box and stored it on top of my kitchen cabinets. I’ve had smoothies since, but never made one for myself. —Hayley, 29
A Vegan Cookbook
Toward the end of December 2017, I bought a “skinny dish” vegan cookbook from Trader Joe’s. I was convinced that in 2018, I would be a fit, money-savvy vegan. Like a broke version of Beyoncé. No more meals out, no more dinners consisting solely of butter rolls and mozzarella cheese. I figured this wouldn’t be so hard; I had been a vegetarian for six years.
The day I got it, I flagged all the recipes I wanted to try, made a comprehensive grocery list, and began planning my new life. Then I went to Colombia to visit family over the holidays and I forgot all about my wistful goals. I had my first bite of steak since 2011, and let me tell you, Colombian steak is delicious. By the second week of January 2018, I quit being a vegetarian and did not look at that cookbook again until January 2019 when I found it by accident while organizing my bookshelf. Frankly, this year doesn’t feel like the one to be a skinny, budget-friendly, vegan either. —Opheli, 22
A Squatty Potty
I got a Squatty Potty last year as a Christmas present to myself while I was in the midst of GI tests after having diarrhea for, I shit you not if you’ll pardon the pun, six months. Exhausting and painful, I set out to try ANYTHING to help make the inevitable more comfortable. People On The Internet spoke so highly of the Squatty Potty that I figured it was worth a try — though I think it’s really more meant to help people who have trouble going. I sort of had the opposite problem. If I can attest to its efficacy I will tell you that when it arrived and I Assumed The Position the result was a curiously no-nonsense shit. While it ended up being ill-suited to my problem, I do find it a comforting presence because it keeps my toes from having to be on the chilly floor. Plus, I feel slightly Extra pooping with a footrest. —Abby, 27