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January 1, 2022

The famous New Year’s resolutions

I started writing New Year’s resolutions at a young age. A long list of little things needed to make my life better. Lose a few pounds, to improve your looks, my Aunt Magella would say; study harder to get smart and help your mom without being asked, dad would suggest. I distinctly remember the constant feeling of never being good enough. Never being congratulated or encouraged by my family. One exception was the nun who taught me French in elementary school. She once told my mom in front of me that I wrote well, but that my compositions were full of mistakes.   

Thank goodness I started to avidly read as a way to improve my vocabulary. In my teens, I remember combing through the big Larousse French dictionary each night in bed, copying down every word that I didn’t know in my notebook.

At college, I became a serious young woman with a goal: improve my writing skills and become a writer. This overly intense passion is perhaps why my dream crumbled in the end. That, and my complete ignorance of the things a mother should teach her daughter. My marriage, which I had no choice but to accept, was a total fiasco, like a ruined cake that one had forgotten to add the baking powder to.

Yet the river of life, churning at every point, continued its course to the sea, carrying with it wonderful children, painful bitterness and a weak current of hope.

In 1980, as penniless as Job, I nevertheless became the happiest free woman in the world. At 33, with 3 kids who were almost teens, I had fun telling them that we had ”an incredible future ahead of us.”

Unable to find work that suited my education I had earned 15 years before, I quickly found work at a restaurant, like most single moms at the time.

I worked hard and always found time to read newspapers and all the magazines that came my way for free. I was earnestly looking for a new life for my family and especially for a profession that would allow me to improve our sad lot. At the time, my first resolutions were about losing 10 kilos, working out at a gym or parking my car 5 streets from the restaurant where I worked so I’d walk twice a day. I had to improve my appearance, dress better, be more fit, increase my salary and eventually find a better place to live.

A dedicated hostess, I was promoted to evening manager, then day manager, and 10 months, later to general manager of a large busy restaurant, which required me to be on-site 61/2 days a week. I knew full well that I was not working at a place like Hydro-Québec or a large bank. I knew too that my kids’ future depended entirely on my own development. At that point, dissatisfied and pitiful, I had reached a ceiling and no longer had time for the kids. A few years passed, each with its list of trivial goals, before a waitress brought me a magazine one day that had been left in the section frequented by the business lunch crowd. She didn’t know which customer had forgotten it, so I waited a few days in case they came back for it. Seven days later, I fell asleep happy and galvanized by a new possibility.

Inside the magazine was a fascinating study by researchers at Harvard, in Boston, on the habit of writing down goals. They showed that the 3% of students who wrote down their career goals throughout their studies earned on average 20 times more than the other 97%. As well, these goal makers all had certain characteristics in common: they were avid learners, ambitious and determined to succeed.

A divine hand had just planted a seed in my mind.

I was going to be more serious and proactive, because I was also an avid learner and determined to do everything possible to improve our situation. After doing some researching, I became aware of the inherent power and importance of the act of writing. I copied these words by the eminent specialist Henriette A. Klauser: “Writing your goals down on paper is to put your future into motion. It’s an act that makes your goals real and tangible.”

At the start of 1984, all the resolutions on my list had a new mission: they were like brave soldiers ready to win the war, all falling in line to help create our very first business. I still have the paper somewhere. One of them was a rough idea for a small business that I and the kids dreamed up. I remember so clearly. A sort of café-bakery selling pastries, homemade cakes, scones and biscotti. We would call it “La Clownerie.” We’d also sell birthday cakes and kids’ clown costumes. I had made so many wonderful ones. Even 30 years ago, moms were too busy to sew.

A seed nonetheless took root. And we had to wait until 1987 for it to bear fruit: amazing breakfasts under a big trademark sun. And each January afterwards, the list of goals became increasingly serious and full of target numbers to surpass.  

In January 1994, when my kids and I were already running 9 restaurants and we were about to launch a franchise, my famous list of goals became an ANNUAL BUSINESS PLAN.

Without actually realizing it, our individual personalities were engulfed by this thrilling tsunami. Each one of us had the difficult task to be the best. And we were – garnering buzz, awards of excellence and rave reviews.

Then quietly and as naturally as heavy branches bending towards the ground, I found myself in the passing lane, stepping aside to make way for another, who now dictates the annual business plan to the team. And they are brilliant at it.

As for me, reflection has made me mature, and writing takes care of the rest!

Sharing these stories with you allows me to keep excellent company. And the Universe’s infinite wisdom arranges my days.

Some mornings, I’m like a tightrope walker moving across a chasm. As I leave the edge of a paragraph, I am prepared to go down. I attempt to grasp a star above, but instead it is the wind that rushes in to save me.

I no longer need to plan anything. No longer need to write resolutions or make promises.

With each daybreak, I have only to wait for the sun to rise and deign to fill me to the brim with hope once again.