New year, same me: This year I’m focusing on small wins

New Year's resolutions don't always have to be about radical change

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by Matthew Lafleur |

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I’ve never been a fan of making big resolutions at the start of a new year. I don’t like the idea of a “new year, new me.”

I think the reason I’m harsh on New Year’s resolutions stems from the onslaught of my progressive disorder, Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). As strongly as I had wished, prayed, and begged to be a new person in the years following my diagnosis, I eventually realized that no miracle genetic fix comes from simply wishing for one.

It may be a new day, month, or year, but I’m the same me, except for the consequences of FA’s physical progression.

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I often feel powerless to change the course of Friedreich’s ataxia. Perhaps you feel similarly, whether it’s with FA or another challenge you don’t think you can overcome or endure.

As I pondered this, I decided to revisit my attitude about New Year’s resolutions. They don’t have to be about redefining yourself but rather tweaking certain aspects of yourself to improve your situation.

After all, in this column, I don’t really prioritize discussing all-encompassing breakthroughs, but rather little victories — small, gradual steps toward improvement.

Therefore, I should think of resolutions in a similar way and not expect FA or any other major challenge in my life to simply disappear, leaving me as an entirely different person.

Given all of this, I’ve decided to adopt a New Year’s motto: “New year, same me, but hopefully a little better.”

While I’ll always pursue the large goal of ridding the world of FA, it’s not my only goal, and my happiness certainly doesn’t depend on fulfilling it. I hope the same for you, that focusing on your big victories doesn’t distract you from noticing the little ones along the way.

My first ataxia conference

A week before writing this column, I was on a phone call to discuss my possible participation on an advisory board for an FA treatment marketing team. Before the call ended, the person I was speaking with asked me if I’d be attending the 2024 Annual Ataxia Conference (AAC) in Orlando, Florida, at the end of May. The conference is coordinated by the National Ataxia Foundation, which describes it as follows:

“At this annual gathering attendees meet and learn from world-leading ataxia researchers and clinicians, network, and reunite with old friends. Hundreds of people — from patients, to caregivers, to medical professionals — travel from all over the world to attend the conference. Attendees get the opportunity to learn about ataxia subjects such as: research, genetics, physical therapy, living with ataxia, coping, financial planning, caregiving, and more.”

I’d heard about the AAC for years but never considered attending before. Although I do a lot of typing and some public speaking, I feel awkward and out of place in large groups. While I knew I should work on this, I still hadn’t planned on going to the conference.

A few hours after that call, my dad came over and asked if I’d be interested in attending an ataxia conference he had found online. I grinned when I realized he was talking about the AAC. So I agreed to go.

This year, I look forward to learning from others about life with ataxia, as well as the latest FA research and treatment strategies. I’ll get to watch my buddy, Sam Kirton, who is NAF board president and a columnist at Pulmonary Fibrosis News, receive a lifetime achievement award.

If you’re awkward, like me, join me in person in Orlando, from May 30 to June 1, or attend virtually from wherever you are, and let’s be awkward together. Check out the AAC website for more info and travel scholarship opportunities.

New year, same me, but better — or bust.

Note: Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


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