Writing Prompt: Write a story in the form of a list of New Year’s resolutions.
This prompt was originally shared on Reedsy, which has a ton of really great writing prompts if you’re feeling in a slump. I’ve started sharing writing prompts on the Redwood Writers social media page, and some of them have been inspired by Reedsy prompts. As I keep dodging the impulse to make unrealistic resolutions for the year, I thought it would be fun to write to this prompt. So here you go.
Note: This is a work of fiction. However, the list of things Layla bought from Amazon (with affiliate links, because, why not?) are inspired from my own 2022 order list….
A New List of Resolutions
The list held the usual Day 1 goals. Lose weight. Save money. Get a better job. Find a man.
Layla stopped writing as she stared at her journal, the one she’d bought last week to help track her progress in the new year. But now that she was looking at her New Year’s goals, she felt uninspired. Why did she do this every year? It was always the same—start out strong the first week, forget the entire list the next.
Grabbing a leftover Christmas cookie from the tin on the counter, Layla smoothed her hand over the journal page and scrutinized the list. She needed to shake things up, to make New Year’s goals she was sure to keep. The kind that would change her. Make her grow over the next 365 days.
Make her happier.
The first goal hit her like a blast of sunshine, and she broke into a smile as she crossed out “lose weight” and scrawled a new first goal.
Goal 1: Eat foods I enjoy.
This was definitely a goal she could keep. Layla took another bite of her cookie, then pretended to toast the journal.
“Already on it,” she mused to the pages. But even as she said it, she knew it was a lie.
Those cookies had been sitting on her counter for a week now, and were already stale to begin with. Her neighbor had dropped them off on Christmas Eve, just as she usually did. And just like every year, Layla found herself mindlessly eating them without actually tasting them. But enjoy them? Hardly.
Layla picked up the entire tin of sawdust cookies and tossed them in the trash. They landed on top of some coffee grounds, but were still edible, safe in their tin. For a moment, Layla eyed the cookies. She hated to waste food. Her mother used to remind her of the starving children who would have enjoyed her boiled carrots or bland oatmeal. They probably would have enjoyed these cookies, too.
“No!” Layla shouted the word in her empty kitchen. Then she snatched the dish soap off the counter and squirted a liberal amount on the stale cookies, just as she’d seen a character do on a TV show she loved, until the tasteless dessert was swimming in a sea of green gelatinous goo, absorbing the soap like a sponge. And then, because her mother’s voice was still in her head, she dumped the cookies from the tin, washed out the soap and crumbs, then put it in the recycling.
Strangely enough, Layla actually did enjoy carrots now that she was an adult. Not boiled, like her mother made them, but raw and cut into pinkie-sized sticks. The taste was good, but what she really enjoyed was the crunch. Honestly, it’s probably why she kept eating those god awful cookies, ignoring the taste in favor of the way it distracted her mouth. And right now, they sounded a million times better than cookies.
Yet, the refrigerator needed a lobotomy. The vegetable bin held a bag of salad that looked more like soup, and a few onions that appeared suspiciously dusty green. Luckily, underneath a bag of wilting cilantro, Layla found a few healthy looking carrots protected in a bag. She tossed the rest of the bin, promising to fill it again with healthy foods.
“No,” she corrected herself. “Foods I enjoy.”
No longer would she make herself buy food because she was supposed to eat it. Who said she was supposed to? She’d been out of her parents’ house for ten years now. She was an adult, dammit!
Taking an angry bite out of the carrot, Layla began listing the foods she enjoyed eating:
- Bell peppers
- Ice cream
- Sparkling wine
- Deli sandwiches
She spent the next hour listing every food she loved to eat. And when she felt she was through (she knew she’d never be through—there were too many off-limit foods she was now “allowed” to eat), she took a good look at the list. She was surprised to see how balanced it looked. Yes, there were many foods she considered “bad” (all those carbs!), but there were also a lot of healthier foods, too. Ones she never truly enjoyed because she felt like she had to eat them instead of getting to eat them.
For the first time, Layla was excited about this New Year’s goal, and couldn’t wait to start planning her meals.
With Goal #1 out of the way, Layla took a few moments to ponder her next goal. Save money. But would this year be any different? Because Layla had a bit of a shopping problem.
The first few days of each new year, she worked hard to stay on track. Every time Layla put items in her Amazon shopping cart, she immediately deleted them to avoid the temptation. But eventually, those Amazon boxes would just show up on her doorstep, almost by surprise. No, really. Layla would open the box, forgetting she had even ordered it. It was only when she opened it that she’d remember.
Like, the stiletto boots she bought to go with a jacket, even though she never wore heels because they killed her feet.
The steel tongue drum she saw on TikTok and bought to go with her meditation practice. It hadn’t even made its way out of the box it came in.
The Disney Theme Park Monopoly set she bought through a convincing Facebook ad.
The pink hair dye she purchased when she felt plain and boring.
The car diagnostic scanner she still didn’t know how to use.
The liquid fertilizer when she was convinced her plants were depressed.
The huge bin of lychee candy inspired by a friend’s trip to Hawaii.
The unused tarot cards.
The $50 candle that smelled like a man.
The dozens of salt and pepper shakers (when she thought she wanted to collect them).
A book she saw just because it had a cute cover.
Layla chewed the end of her pen, the Pelikan M800 ballpoint she bought with a discount code when she saw her favorite actress-turned-book club cheerleader using it to write in her signature line journals. The same journal Layla was writing in now.
She looked around, surveying the room. Well, what she could see of it. There were containers of things all around her. Once she began running out of room for all the things she was buying, she started filling the closets. She’d scoured The Container Store, feeding her small shopping addiction with tidy vessels for all her things.
Soon, every room in the house was lined two, sometimes three, boxes deep. She’d been doing this so long, she could hardly remember what was in most of the containers. And yet, she kept buying more things. She’d have a thought, and it would practically show up unannounced a few moments later, as if Amazon had a direct link to her brain. And almost always, she would stop caring about this thing she once thought she’d die without as soon as she opened the box flap.
She wanted to cry. Why was she like this? She’d worked so hard to afford this place. Her paycheck wasn’t really cutting it, and she was one emergency away from losing everything. And yet, she kept buying stuff. Her credit card was almost maxed out. Her savings, depleted. Her checking account gasping for air with three more days until payday. And the house she was starving for was completely filled with boxes.
In a fit of rage, she began flinging off box lids, going through any box she touched, trying to find the answer to whatever made her this way.
And that’s when she found it. A Patty the Platypus Beanie Baby she received on her eighth birthday. Twenty years ago, the bean-filled toy cost her mom $5 when Layla begged her to get it. But now? Just the other day, she saw it going for $1,000! She’d even bid on it, forgetting that she already owned one.
Shifting from her earlier disgust, Layla moved to the kitchen table and sat down in front of her laptop. She took a photo of the toy with her phone, then uploaded it as a new listing on eBay. As she did, she thought about the credit card bill that was two days overdue. If she could capture the right buyer, she could have enough to make the payment and get those new shoes she’d been eyeing.
No! She slapped her hand on the table. To hell with buying more things. She didn’t even have room. However, if she got rid of more things, she might be able to pay off the mountain of debt she’d amassed over the years.
If her mother knew, she’d kill her. As it was, Layla made it a point to never invite her parents to her house. One, she didn’t need their judgment to enter her home. But two, they’d take one look at the boxes and let her know they didn’t raise her this way.
And they didn’t. Her parents never used credit for a damn thing. They paid cash for everything, even for the car they drove. To have debt meant to be a slave to the man, they said. Except, paying only cash also meant they didn’t go on expensive vacations, or have nice clothes, or even take Layla to a real salon for a haircut. Her mom claimed she could do a good job.
Spoiler alert, she couldn’t, and Layla was known as Hairla all through high school.
Which was why Layla moved out ten years ago, skipped college, and got a shitty job—all so she could buy her independence. It was why she started using her emergency credit card for things like nicer clothes, dinner with friends, and yes, a real haircut. And it’s why she spent a week in the Bahamas, without vacation pay, forgetting she still had to pay rent for the week she didn’t live in the room she was renting, and why she had to open another card, which led to another. And another.
And while she now had her own apartment, she was still paying $300 more in credit card bills than she was in rent. No wonder she couldn’t seem to save money. There wasn’t money left to save.
But there was a whole lot of stuff.
Layla started opening boxes and snapping photos, putting them on Facebook Marketplace and eBay immediately after. She moved fast, emptying one box completely before she stopped to take a break. There were maybe sixty more boxes to go, but it was a good start.
Before she moved on, she couldn’t help checking to see how the Beanie Baby was doing, only to see that someone had opted for her Buy It Now price—double what the toy was worth. $2,000!
Her phone dinged, and she grinned as she scrolled through messages asking about some of the things on Facebook.
Then she brought out the list, crossed out her goal to save money, and wrote her improved direction for the new year:
Goal 2. Sell Some Shit.
As for Layla’s third goal, every year it was about finding a new job. And every year she ended it with the same dead-end career.
She’d worked as a receptionist for an interior designer over the last five years, and hated it for about four-and-a-half of them. But Layla’s lack of education kept her out of the running for many of the other jobs in the area. She didn’t have much choice, and an egocentric boss, rude customer base, and uninspiring workload were not good enough reasons to lose a paycheck.
Now here she was, feeling trapped. At this point, she didn’t even know what she wanted to do, let alone what she was good at. All she knew how to do was to answer the phone and forward the calls to the right people.
The job sucked.
Well, except for the Friday luncheons the company sprang for. It sure did kick off her weekend right. Oh, and the Monday morning yoga sessions her boss led to start the week on the right foot.
And maybe her boss wasn’t so much egocentric, but just eccentric. She had a lot of ideas, and was constantly running them by Layla, using almost all of the ones Layla suggested.
But then there was the pay, which barely kept a roof over her head…
No. It was the shopping that was killing her. Her pay was actually great. In fact, she’d had a raise every year she’d been there. And a bonus. And full medical benefits.
Okay, so she had it pretty sweet. And if she could curb her spending habits, maybe she actually could start saving—for real.
Maybe she could actually stay at the company and be happy.
Maybe she could capitalize on the idea sessions she and her boss had and ask for a promotion….
Layla crossed out her goal to get a better job, and felt a little excited as she jotted down the new resolution.
Goal 3. Flourish at my job.
Finally, the moment Layla had been dreading. Goal #4, the one about finding a man.
Where did you even find such a thing? Why was this one always on her list? All it had brought was disaster. Like Adam, who cheated on Layla with her now-estranged cousin, or her last boyfriend Jesse, who stole from her mom the one time Layla brought him home for a family dinner.
After she and Jesse broke up, her mom always made remarks full of lament about the fact that she would never be a grandmother, and that her only daughter was a disappointment and a huge waste of birthing hips and good family genes.
Or, she was just asking Layla to pass the peas—but the insinuation was there.
Let me get on that, Mom. Maybe I should call Jesse? See if he still has that iPad he borrowed without asking?
Why did Layla even want a man? She supposed companionship would be nice. It would be good to have someone to come home to. Well, except she liked having her own space. If she had to live with someone, there would be two personalities to contend with. Layla already knew how much of an empath she was with friends, how she would sometimes mute her feelings in favor of tending to her ailing friend. How she would take on her friend’s emotions, and end up wanting to isolate just to get a break from feeling the emotions of the world.
This she knew came from a lifetime of bottling her feelings to avoid a dramatic explosion from her mom. Any time her mom came unraveled, it was like the whole world went spiraling down with her. At least, it felt that way. There would be no dinner, wailing threats of walking out of the house, telling Layla’s father she wanted a divorce, laying into Layla about how they gave her everything and she had no reason to ever be upset.
Of course Layla walked away from her childhood only to absorb everyone else’s emotions. She didn’t know how to process her own.
If she invited someone into her life, and maybe eventually her home, she would inevitably lose herself because that was the way she was.
Besides, why did she even need a man? And why now? The more she thought about it, Layla realized it actually wasn’t a man she was looking for. Sure, her mom wanted her to settle down. But Layla was still coming into her own, figuring herself out, and enjoying the freedom of going out with friends or staying in at night—her choice and no one else’s.
Plus working on these goals for the coming year really made her excited to spend time with the one person she could learn to love and trust more than anyone in the world.
So Layla crossed out her resolution to find a man, and replaced it with something else:
Goal #4. Find a therapist.
She sat back in the chair, pleased as she looked over the list. This new year was going to be about her. Maybe she could change her life just by learning how to accept all parts of herself, and treat herself with grace. Maybe counseling could help her achieve her goals, even these much easier ones. And maybe, just maybe, Layla could stop hearing her mom’s voice, and start listening to her own.
I don’t just write short stories and rambling blog posts, I also write novels. Find them all here.