With plenty of failed attempts from New Years past under their belts, three marie claire writers take on a resolution challenge for 2023 – with varying degrees of success.
The Challenge: Digital Detox
Bree Player attempts to cut back her mobile phone screentime
Since the day I got my first mobile, at 13, I’ve constantly been told, “You’re on your phone too much,” by everyone in my life. But mostly my mum. “No. I’m not,” I’d snap back, not glancing up from my Nokia 3210.
Several years and many phones later, I’ve come to realise that maybe they’re right. Mostly because Apple iPhones rudely tell you your average screen time each week, and mine sits at a shocking nine hours a day. “That’s normal in this job,” I protest when I admit it to my colleagues. They are quick to prove me wrong – pulling out their own phones and announcing figures that were three to six hours less than mine.
“Are you even doing any work?” jokes my deputy editor, Mel. At least, I think she’s joking. I take a very gen-Z approach to work correspondence. We’ve all heard it said “that meeting could’ve been an email”; my mantra is “that email could’ve been a text. I can do 90 per cent of my job right from my phone!”
If it sounds like I’m trying to justify my usage, it’s because I am. I know nine hours a day is disgraceful and so as my resolution I agree to significantly reduce my screentime.
It doesn’t start well. I wake early and, on autopilot, reach for my phone. I check my texts, emails, Twitter and Instagram before I inevitably wind up on TikTok. Before I know it, an hour and a half has gone by. My commute to the office is long and I pass the time listening to Taylor Swift’s new album, Midnights, on repeat. I’ve hit three hours of screentime and the day has only just begun.
It doesn’t improve. Waiting for my morning coffee I absentmindedly scroll Instagram. First meeting of the day, I work off my phone. Several calls and a cover-star interview later I’ve hit six-and-a-half hours by home time.
I call Mum when I get home, cook dinner from a recipe that, yes, I googled on my phone and respond to several texts and work emails, all of which brings me up to eight hours. In a last-ditch effort to stave off the ninth, I leave the offending object in my room while I watch TV.
I decide an early night is the best course of action because, as my best friend points out, “You can’t clock up screen time while you sleep.”
Showered, cleansed and glad I didn’t completely fail on my first day, I hop into bed. “Ughhhhh,” I groan, when I automatically reach for my phone. You see, every night I’m lulled to sleep by the dulcet tones of Kacey Musgraves or Ariana Grande on the Calm app’s sleep remix series. Each song goes for an hour. I text my friend: “It turns out you can.”
The rest of the week I do better. I use my laptop in meetings, buy Midnights on CD and put a ban on TikTok.
By Friday, my daily average is five-and-a-half hours. And it’s underwhelming. I found the entire experience stressful and kind of bullshit. There’s no benefit to listening to a CD over Apple Music, aside from adding to Taylor Swift’s album sales. I get quicker answers by texting than emailing. And using a laptop or watching television without my phone is hardly cause for celebration – I’ve just traded one screen for another.
And so I give up on my New Year’s resolution a week into 2023. Which is great because I have 287 DMs on TikTok. To quote Ms Swift, “I’m the problem, it’s me.” And I’m OK with that.
The Challenge: All by myself
Harriet Sim gets comfortable with being alone
They say misery loves company. But as I pull up to tonight’s function sans a companion, I’m starting to wonder if it’s solitude that loves sadness. It’s a Friday night and my colleague has bailed, leaving me to fly solo at an intimate cocktail function. Dateless at the eleventh hour, I fire off a few desperate messages, before recruiting my brother to be my companion. I let out a sigh of relief as I slide into my taxi. Although it turns out my sudden solace is fleeting, as halfway through the car ride he texts: “Hey! I’ve been held up at work. Don’t think I’ll make it tonight.” Shit.
The car comes to a jarring stop. “Here we are,” my driver tells me through the rear-view mirror. I saunter up to the woman at the entrance, who glances over my shoulder before checking me off the list. “So your husband couldn’t make it tonight?” I pause, confused. They’ve assumed my brother is my husband because of the shared surnames. In a defensive panic about my single status, I don’t correct the mix-up. “No, he can’t make it,” I reply, instantly regretting it.
Having just ranked incest as a better-sounding alternative to solitude, I head straight to the bar. It’s here, somewhere between the first and second cocktail, that I realise I have a problem.
I’ve always loved company. What’s the point of life if you have no-one to share it with? No-one to share your appreciation for the new season of Emily in Paris? To laugh about the night you broke your shoe and were forced to distract the bouncers from your bare feet? Or the moments where words fail, but simply having company is comfort enough? For a while, I’d had my doubts about the so-called “solo travellers” and those who define the perfect morning as alone time in a cosy cafe. But as I clutch my drink like an emotional support blanket, perhaps getting reacquainted with myself is the answer to my solo slump.
The next day, I consult Google for an answer to my solitude-induced angst. “Fear of being alone” I type into the search bar, before diagnosing myself with a case of “autophobia”. Empowered by this new information, I prescribe myself the only available treatment: exposure therapy. I grab a towel and a book and head to the beach.
On a quiet stretch of sand, solitude and I reach our first stalemate: sunscreen application. With no-one to assist me, I use a degree of contortion to slather a heavy layer of SPF 50 onto my back. Scanning the beach, I watch as clusters of families set up umbrellas and pass around snacks. It feels as though I’ve turned up to a romantic restaurant on Valentine’s Day. I’ve never felt lonelier. With a wet towel hung over my shoulders like a losing boxer exiting the ring, I return home defeated.
As I walk in the front door, I feel a tightness across my back. I twist to look in the mirror. Burnt red shapes mark my skin in a pattern that could only be likened to an abstract painting. I’ve been branded a singleton.
My attempt at solitude didn’t leave me restored and full of clarity as I had hoped. Instead, it gave me a glimpse into a life without love. A life without someone to text when you make it home safe, without someone to share a knowing glance or to laugh with at the office politics. They say that if you’re lonely when you’re alone then maybe you’re in bad company. But if we are born alone and we die alone, then maybe there’s nothing wrong with recruiting a few friends to help you along the way.
The Challenge: Pilates Princess
Samantha Stewart signs up for a relentless workout challenge
Sorry, I can’t come to brunch! I have a …” I stop to think of a good excuse. Dentist appointment? Hmmm, unlikely on a Sunday. Migraine? No-one believes that. Food poisoning? Yes!
Feeling slightly guilty about lying to my friend, I shake it off and pull on my workout clothes.
It’s not that I don’t want to go to brunch. Eggs Benedict and a coffee the size of a beach bucket is exactly what I’d love right now. But when you’re a busy working gal and you take on a Pilates challenge, there simply isn’t time to socialise.
It sounded easy. Complete 20 Pilates classes in 40 days. But throw in work, pre-booked travel plans, friends and family commitments and suddenly I’m 20 days in and falling short of my goal.
I’ll be the first to admit I piled on the lockdown pounds during the great stay-at-homeification. Red wine and frequent Messina ice-cream orders became my solace in a time of chaos – and I was totally fine with it. But as I rang in the New Year, I decided it was time to become a healthier version of myself. I bought an Apple watch and new workout gear, and vowed to commit to daily hot-girl walks.
A week in, my New Year’s resolution ground to a halt when the rain hit. There I was, stuck inside once again, with my watch telling me I’m a lazy bitch. After scrolling through TikTok one wet morning, I made my way onto PilatesTok and was entranced by videos of women living the dream: going to reformer class decked out in Lululemon, nails glazed, hair blowdried to perfection and little-to-no plans other than coffee breaks and shopping. I wanted in on that. I booked a class and I was hooked.
I adored the full-body workout, the uplifting environment, the music and the energetic instructors. The classes left me feeling fabulous and strong, both mentally and physically. In TikTok speak, I became a fully fledged Pilates Princess.
Faced with this challenge, I was ready to take my love of Pilates to the next level – or so I thought. With time off work and energy to burn, the first week was easy. But week two saw a different reality when my summer break came to an end. I tried fitting classes in before work, which saw me sheepishly arrive at 11am looking more sweaty mess than Pilates princess.
I may have overcommitted to the Pilates dream, but as a very competitive double Virgo, giving up wasn’t an option. Instead, I canned all social engagements for the next fortnight.
Eat, sleep, Pilates, repeat became my life. I was officially a hermit, albeit a healthy one. But then the pain set in. At one point, I had five consecutive days of classes. I was limping around the lounge room and groaning with the effort of sitting down and standing up. My social life was nonexistent and now my boss was being fed questionable excuses so I could WFH. I even rainchecked my grandmother in my quest for abs.
It was crazy – and it was all me. My instructors reiterated the importance of taking rest and recovery days but the clock was ticking and I needed to reach the finish line.
On a cold, wet Sunday morning, my muscles aching, I stuck my final gold star next to my name. There were no fist pumps or fanfare, just pure relief and exhaustion. Suffice to say I took the next few days off.
It turns out the saying “too much off a good thing” also applies to exercise. While I’m proud of myself for completing the challenge, a relentless pursuit of fitness at the cost of your work and social life doesn’t seem all that healthy.
This article originally appeared in the February issue of marie claire Australia.