Tiny Expectations

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Mostly Musings

When I was young, I thought the secret to a successful new year’s resolution was choosing a grand project and then threatening and beating myself into accomplishing it. That method, predictably, led to nothing but miserable failure and self-doubt.

As I grew older and wiser, I began lowering my goals and reducing the pressure on myself. And it worked. Once I traded in my


teeny expectations,

I was actually more successful and certainly a lot happier.

There is also something to be said for coincidence. My 2016 resolution sneaked up and tapped me on the shoulder. It actually began as a whim in early 2015. The year, if you will remember, began tragically with a terrorist attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly newspaper in Paris.

Now, I may not have told you that I was a French minor in college, but that played a part too. Somehow the idea of reading news of the attack in the French newspaper Le Monde popped into my head. But I had forgotten so much of my French in the 46 years (ouch) since college that reading full articles would be laborious. That’s when I decided to follow Le Monde on Twitter. How hard could it be to read 140-character snippets of French?

As it turned out, some tweets were slow going, but others I could comprehend by looking up a word or two and getting the rest from context. And so my project began. Every day I would read a little French on Twitter. Some days it would be only one tweet, others, several of them. My French did improve slowly as the weeks went by. Sometimes I read beyond the headlines to the articles.

Then came November 2015, when more widespread shootings and bomb blasts in Paris left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. I rededicated myself to my French Twitter reading. I liked the way Le Monde was giving me details that were not always covered by U.S. media.

I remember in particular the day after the attacks, when I found a retweeted message from Clara R., a Parisian who was searching for her friend. The English translation read: “We are looking for Marie who was at the bataclan, we have no news.”

Hours later, an update revealed that her fears had been confirmed. Marie and a man named Mathias were among those who died.


“The search is over, I have no words, only tears. Marie and Mathias have both left us.”


When the time came to choose a resolution for 2016, it was a no-brainer. I would continue what I was already doing and enjoying. I read my minimum 140 characters of French at least 350 days last year. And I plan to continue this coming year.

As for a new 2017 resolution, I am waiting for inspiration to strike. All I know is that it will be something enjoyable, something I want to do rather than need to do. It will sneak up on me and hang around until I notice it. Until then,

     Bonne année!


  1. What a great idea! I may register for a Twitter account to read an Italian newspaper tweets. Maybe it would help before I lose what few Italian language skills I have left.


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