From the ashes of the old, the new is born. So it is with this yearly cycle we celebrate every December 31st.
2011 was definitely a year of personal change, introspection, and growth.
I’ve heard it said that a man truly becomes a man when he loses his father. I never believed that, until I lost mine in February. My dad’s unexpected passing has had a profound impact on every aspect of my life, and it’s been a tremendous struggle to move beyond it. When I was a child, I lost my step-dad Bill. In my late 20’s, I learned my biological father, whom I had never met, died in a motorcycle accident. Dan Maley was the only man I knew as “dad’ from childhood to adult. He was a kind, generous, and giving soul, and his life has truly inspired mine. “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” he used to say. It’s something I have tried to take to heart.
We also lost our beloved pet, Tigger, just two weeks prior to my father’s passing. This Christmas, the absence of his little doggy stocking alongside ours cut a pang of sadness through the holiday cheer. And, as my oldest son Justin observed, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas without” his grandmother, “Pap” Lenny. Lenny passed away just before Thanksgiving this year. In the face of such losses, one would think the Christmas spirit in our home would be dampened. And perhaps it was, early on. Yet we celebrated what was probably our most joyful and satisfying Christmas in years.
One of my final creative projects for the year was a video compilation of images that honored those we have lost, not just this year, but in years past. My step-dad, grandparents, and many others were there; as were Kim’s lost family members. I felt compelled to do this, not so much as a Christmas gift (though it did become that), but to finally lay these things to rest. My entire life I’ve been careful to remember the people I’ve lost, to the degree that maybe it became detrimental to really healing from it. I tend to love deeply and without reserve, so when I lose someone, the loss cuts deeply. This collage is my farewell to those I love, and to my childhood in general.
I’ll always be a kid at heart. I’ll always love video games, and always love to go to movies and pig out on overpriced candy and popcorn. But this year, I grew a lot. Emotionally. Spiritually. And physically, though I wish that weren’t the case. (Can we say Weight Watchers in 2012? Yes we can.) My priorities have shifted. My thoughts and opinions on a great many things have changed, matured. I have left 2011 a very different person than I entered it. I feel those changes were for the better, but that remains to be seen.
I generally don’t make “New Year’s Resolutions” per se. But I do resolve to do a few things differently this year. First: lose weight. The oldest and most easily abandoned of resolutions, I’ve come to realize that I have no time left to waste. For 33 years now, I’ve allowed my life and my own self-perception to bend to the whims of my weight and appearance. I’m sick of it. Someone once said, “Change will not happen until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.” I’ve reached that point. I know I’m better than this. I just need to act on it.
Second: Writing. Folks, it’s time to get serious. Because I haven’t been, let’s face it. Who else lets a virtual series linger in oblivion for four years because he just doesn’t feel like doing anything with it? Who else starts a dozen projects and finishes none of them? I love the act of writing, but due to how challenging this year has been, I’ve not dedicated myself to it properly. I’ve skated through my classes (earning high marks, but not really absorbing much). To quote one of my favorite films, it’s “time to nut up or shut up.”
Third: finances! Another one that’s easily forgettable. We’ve got a great plan in place that we’ll acting upon within weeks. I’m excited to start it. We’ve been blessed with an increased cash flow, but it’s still tight with 5 kids. Yet we will make it work, and we’ll make it work better than before.
Basically, these three things can be summed up in one: I’m going to take control of my life. Time’s wasting. 33 isn’t old by a long shot, but it’s definitely not 25 or 21. I don’t want to be 35, 45, 55, wondering what happened to these next few decades, why things turned out so poorly, why I have so many health and weight problems. The time to act is here and now, and I’m excited about it.
Of course, it’s easy to get excited. Staying excited is the true test of character, and that particular story has yet to be written.
Welcome, 2012. I greet you with open eyes and arms, ready to make the most of each opportunity.