New Years Eve. This would be the obligatory last post of the year… the proverbial “reflection” post. This is the time to take stock of just where my place in the world is. In re-reading similar posts from 2007 and 2006, I am sure that wherever it is I am going, I am on the right track. This does not mean that all of my goals have been achieved, but that does not indicate failure, either. Indeed, many of my goals have been elevated. Once content with completing my Bachelor’s degree, I have now found myself in pursuit of a Master’s. Two years ago it wasn’t even a dream, last year only a possibility. It is now a reality.
I wrote last year and the year before that 2006 and 2007 were among the best years of my life. Now with only hours left in 2008, I can say this year tops even those. It has been quite the "lucky" streak… the kind of sustained good fortune that for more than 40 years always eluded me. But luck has little to do with fortune, another little revelation that continues to prove itself true over and over again. My perspective on life and the attention to it that ensued has been the key. Alas, it always was.
I always felt that if I were a “good” person, fortune would find me. I developed a sense of entitlement that drove me towards apathy. Perhaps I was a little too comfortable, never wanting for much. Maybe the “me decade,” a term that Tom Wolfe coined in 1976, had its influence whilst I was coming of age. Wherever it came from, the preoccupation with doing as little as possible while expecting riches to fall unto me had me chasing my tail for a very long time. It wasn’t until 2000, at the age of 37, that my perspective started to slowly change.
That October, all the money in the world couldn’t change my predicament. Waking up in a hospital five weeks later, I just couldn’t believe how it could happen to me. It went deeper than that. Although I could accept that bad things happen to good people, I just didn’t understand how good things kept happening to bad people. There were, after all, people such as myself that should be winning the lottery, getting the cushy job or any of many good breaks that were going to people far less deserving than me. What did I get? A three-month stay in the hospital with a much longer, frequently painful rehabilitation afterward.
But I was alive, and in time nearly fully rehabilitated. I wasn’t all that grateful early on, but as time inched forward, my perspective changed as well. Eventually, I became clear that there is more to life than money… that life’s most precious gifts come not from the material, but the intangible. Every moment is a gift and life is only occurring now – right now. It was a start.
Fast-forward to December 31, 2008 and my life is full. Sure, I enjoy a number of material things that make life more comfortable, but those things have nothing much to do with the inner peace I feel most of the time. I have many, many true friends who love me for me, not what I have. I have succeeded in endeavors that require long-term commitment and the rewards are mine. There is no amount of money that can buy the satisfaction that success brings. Work rarely feels like work anymore. Confidence and self-worth cannot be bought at any price.
This perspective on life, the way I look at things and, more importantly, how I react to them, is the difference. If I can keep that alive, then 2009 promises to be even better than 2008, no matter what happens. I wish I could package it, not so I could sell it and get rich, I would give it away – but so that everyone could have the kind of peace that makes life worth living… every day. So my place in the world is simple although the path is always unknown. What can I do to make this a better place? It starts with me. Happy New Year.