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New Years and New Beginnings

January 1, 2014

With the birth of 2014 I’ve now seen fifty-four new years roll around, which is a somewhat staggering thought.  My first new year’s day was 1960, the year kicking off with Vice President Nixon as Grand Marshall of the Rose Bowl parade, John F. Kennedy announcing he would run for President, and in one movie or the other over the coming days you could see Yul Brynner, Sandra Dee, Rita Hayworth, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Debbie Reynolds, Carl Reiner, David Niven, James Mason, Sophia Loren, Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, and Roger Moore.  Groucho Marx and James A Michener were on the best seller list.  Connie Francis, Faron Young, and Alvin, Simon, and Theodore — yes, the Chipmunks — were singing on top albums as the year kicked off.  Me, I imagine at just over ten months old I was taking my first steps, not worrying about any of the preceding, and ten or twelve years from the discovery of that seductress who would cause so much pleasure and aggravation in my life: fried chicken thighs.

I can’t really remember the first New Year’s eve/New Year’s day I remember, if that makes sense.  I can recall images of midnight prayer services and Rose Bowl parades, but have no idea which ones might have come first.  Prayer services were how many of my childhood New Year’s Eves were spent, the idea amongst my parents’ church group being (I suppose) you should start the new year out praying as opposed to drinking.  Likely not a bad idea, but a tradition I haven’t kept up in adulthood.  As to Rose Bowl parades, that was a bigger deal back in my childhood days; we didn’t have 100+ channels to choose from, we had four, and one of those was the “educational channel” from Mississippi State that I never watched.  So we watched the Rose Bowl parade and then could pick from maybe three or four college games.  I remember them being on, but don’t remember spending any time watching.  My time back then was spent outdoors playing with the neighborhood kids.

I can’t remember my parents talking about New Year’s resolutions back then, either, though as with most kids what my parents talked about really didn’t register highly in my daily activities.  I know I didn’t get into New Year’s resolutions, and if I’ve made them over the years they didn’t stay a focal point for long.  But I understand why New Year’s day or a birthday can make us think of new beginnings, of changes.  Back to that staggering number of having lived through fifty-four of them: I wonder how my life would be different today had I committed to and followed through on fifty four significant life changes over those years?  Eat healthy, write more, exercise, study harder, learn another language, save more, be more charitable; the difference in my life could also staggering.  Or not, who knows?  But I have to think it would have produced positives.

Look, don’t think I’m unhappy with my lot in life: I’ve a wonderful wife, two great kids, a roof over my head, and plenty (!) to eat just to name a few positives.  By this point in life, though, it would be nice to be financially independent and/or to have completed a novel and/or to be within 100 pounds of my theoretical (i.e., skin and bones) “ideal” weight and/or have more energy and/or even be able to speak with fewer language barriers to the guy who cuts my grass.

So, perhaps for 2014 I should think of a couple of focal points and see if I can carry them forward through the year.  New beginnings for the new year; what would top my list?  In looking over the past twenty New Year’s Days, what two or three things do I wish were already a fait accompli?  I don’t think it wise to have too many things on the list or it just becomes a wish list.  I’ve so little time to spend during normal work weeks that trying to do too much means doing none of them.  On the other hand, I think only sticking one on the list is selling myself short.  So, I’ll make it two significant changes, two life modifications I will make a focal point of each day, find a way to keep them front & center as I go through 2014.

One is to be healthier.  Not lose XX (or XXX) pounds, because weight loss is a byproduct of a healthier lifestyle.  My focus will be to eat healthier and exercise regularly.  Maybe a cheat, as I’ve started down that path already, but for me it’s such an easy habit to drop I really need to make it a focal point.

A second is to write more.  Since I was nineteen, I’ve imagined myself as a writer* but, as mentioned here before, have never committed to the ass-in-chair time required.  Not making the resolution to finish a novella or novel by end of 2014, just write more.  I may spend 2014 accumulating 100,000 words of a novel only to decide it’s crap and start over — but that’s an accomplishment in itself.  Jerry Pournelle said you need to be prepared to throw away the first million words you write, so 100,000 words puts me 10% closer to having those knocked out!

So, be healthier and write more.  What about being kinder to others?  Spirituality? Increasing my general knowledge?  Yeah, all good, but I’ve picked my two, so shut up.  Two is enough for 2014.  Okay, then what about goals?  “Be healthier” and  “write more” are way to vague, and goals should be measurable and specific, as anyone who has sat through most any motivational seminar can tell you.  Oh, I agree, and I’ll sort out some measurable targets, but they’ll be focused on the underpinnings of the two changes.  Finishing a day and being able to mark it down as a healthy day of making the right food choices and exercising, string a few significant groups of those together and I have a year of being healthier.  Complete a week with ten hours of dedicated writing included, get forty or fifty of those throughout 2014, I’ve made significant progress.  I’ll find a way to make it work.

So, World, to 2014.  Here’s hoping when the next 525,600 minutes have ticked by you find yourself farther down the path of your success story than you are now.  More importantly, here’s hoping I do.

Your friend,

Rick

* Okay, back then I also imagined myself as a rock star guitarist and an NFL star, but at the age of fifty-four I think those two ships have sailed.

 

From → Ramblings

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