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Here's To Great Things In 2021...

Well, it’s that day again.

You know, the one where some think everyone is getting a fresh start, all the previous problems have been washed away with the old year, and now on Day 1 of 2021, we take that first step of a new journey as we mentally hum “we’re off to see the wizard.”

Even though it doesn’t work that way.

You can certainly do some planning today, although I have found the old proverb of “we plan, God laughs” more often than not to be true during my 64 New Year’s Days. In hindsight, the greatest years were the ones where I had low expectations, and some of the more disappointing ones were when I thought I had what was going to happen planned out quite nicely.

Turns out life doesn’t work that way either.

But I do start each New Year with hope, which forces me at some point during the day in between football games and big meals to take a moment and think about what could make me happy. Which in and of itself isn’t all that easy to determine.

That’s because, as the commercial says, life comes at you fast. As a young buck, the things I wanted meant better jobs, more money and more stuff, which I aggressively went after. Then I found myself sitting at LAX one night at 11 PM awaiting a red-eye back to Dulles, tired out of mind, asking myself “what are you doing?”

The things I wanted, I discovered, made me successful. But not necessarily happy.

Today, happiness is walking into the kitchen on a cold gray New Year's Day and seeing a full pot of good coffee (which I had just made) while my dog Maggie is wagging her tail, munching on a full bowl of her favorite food. Tomorrow it could be news that my daughter will be coming for a visit and wants me to make some of her favorite food. Sunday it could be something altogether different.

But the happiest days when I look back at 2020? Those were the days when I got something done. When I walked 3 or 4 miles. Or read a book, helped a friend, or came up with an idea.  All were the fruits of a daily routine that I’m now realizing I lost last year. Before the pandemic, I started each week looking at the weather forecast to know what days it wasn’t going to rain so I could plan on going for long walks. I tried to write something several days a week. I read 3 to 5 books every month.

Once everything got shut down, however, that all stopped. Oh, I occasionally exercised. I’d write a bunch of stuff for two weeks, then didn’t write again for a month. I read books when there was nothing else to do. But every day was a sense of “now’s not normal so I don’t really feel like doing that.” I’d sleep in. I’d waste hours reading through Twitter. I’d binge watch TV shows.

Which led to days, then weeks, then months of looking back and thinking “did I accomplish ANYTHING?”

Back when I was a road warrior, I hated to fly, yet found myself quite often sitting on a plane with 3 hours left in the flight and nothing left to do. I’d finished the book I brought along, laptops back then didn’t have the battery power to last very long, and I’ve never been able to sleep on an airplane. So to kill the time, I’d play this mental “what if?” game.

It involved buying a lottery ticket before I left on my trip. I then would imagine what I’d do with all the millions and millions of dollars I would win if my number came up. I never came close to ever winning, but that wasn’t the point. I was spending a dollar on the rental of a daydream, one that always seemed to end up back at the same point.

That point was the realization that if you have all the money in the world, you can do anything you want. But after you’ve bought all the new cars, homes and toys you’ve ever wanted, you still have a life to live. And God didn’t put you on earth to go drink beer and play golf every day. So if you don’t HAVE to do anything specific every day, what then do you do to feel any sense of accomplishment?

That’s kind of where I was in 2020, without the millions in lottery winnings. You couldn’t go do anything whether you wanted to or not. But I still felt like there were things to accomplish, and I was just wasting my time sitting around doing nothing.

So if you want to call it a New Year resolution, that’s what I’m focusing on in 2021. Not to change the world, feed the poor or bring about world peace. But to focus on these three things:

Write Something Every Day: For some reason, getting up early, making a pot of coffee and deciding I need to write something forces me to think about the good and bad about a subject, whether it’s sports or just life. I don’t write for money, numbers, advertising or any of that stuff most do. I write for the Jim Valvano reasons: to make someone laugh, make someone think and maybe make someone cry. When I do, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. So while I’ve written stuff pretty much all of my life (and made a living doing it for 10 years early in my life) I’ve never fully embraced the craft of being a writer. Maybe it’s time I do in 2021. The mental discipline of getting up every morning and forming an opinion on something can’t be a bad thing.

Exercise: Everybody has this one, and it’s why gyms and health clubs are packed in January, empty by March. But mine isn’t so I can be eye candy to the soccer moms at Giant. Gentle, consistent exercise, I’ve found, is the world’s greatest anti-depressant. Stuff just doesn’t seem to bother you as much when you’re going for daily walks. All the health numbers like blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. seem to work better when you lift weights a couple of times a week. I have all the equipment and all the time in the world, so there are no excuses. I just need to make going down to the basement and using the treadmill, Lifecycle, barbells, weights or Soloflex a priority like going to work every morning. This may be the toughest of the three. But it may be where I get ideas to accomplish the first resolution.

Read: The ultimate waste of time for me is turning on a computer and reading things written by people who complain, insult others and flat out lie. In a simpler world, I’d just delete my Twitter account, but I found out last year that’s not really possible. Yeah, you don’t have to look at all that garbage, but you also cut yourself off from getting direct messages from people, and last year several of those DMs allowed me to help a few people, something I really treasure having the chance to do. So one other way to combat this is create a routine where every morning you are exercising and writing something, and in the evening you are reading books. All three sharpen the mind while distracting you from the hourly bile that is on Twitter.

That’s the routine I'm hoping for. Of course it’s now 11:56 AM, I’ve struggled to write this story, I haven’t exercised yet and I have a stack of books on my side table I’ve been wanting to start reading for the last three weeks but haven’t gotten more than 10 pages into the first one. So this is not going to be easy.

But to quote legendary manager Jimmy Dugan of the Rockford Peaches, “Of course it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. Hard is what makes it great.”

Amen, Jimmy. Here’s to great things in 2021…


Comments 2

Doug Johnson on Sunday, 03 January 2021 15:56
Though I struggled with Calculus in college

As you smirked in another post, this was your 65th New Year's Day, Jethro.

As you smirked in another post, this was your 65th New Year's Day, Jethro.
Dave Scarangella on Sunday, 03 January 2021 16:02
Thank you, Mr. Drysdale

I guess I overlooked that...

I guess I overlooked that...
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