On the last day of 1964, I asked my father if I could stay up and ring in the new year. It was a bold move for a kid who was normally locked in his bedroom by 9 p.m.
Probably because President Lyndon B. Johnson had just thumped Barry Goldwater in the race for the White House, the Old Man was pleased enough to entertain the idea.
But he wasn’t out of his mind. He said staying up that late was only for people mature enough to make “resolutions.”
“Write a list of things that you promise to change next year,” he said. “It could be something like, oh, I don’t know. How about, ‘I promise to not shoot anyone with a BB gun in 1965’?”
We made a deal. If I could write a list of three things that I promised to do or change in the coming year, he would let me stay up until “Zero, zero fifteen hours, One January, 1965.”
Hey, we were a military family. I might have been shaky about resolutions, but I understood the 24-hour clock.
Since my old BB gun was rusty and still wrapped around a tree in the backyard, I couldn’t very well promise that one. I had to come up with three of my own. My mother still has the list.
“Not burp in church anymore.”
“Not bring a snake in the house.”
“Stop wanting a monkey.”
After conferring with Mom, the Old Man approved the list and I got to stay up with the adults that year. I even got to blow a kazoo and bang pots and pans outside with them.
The next day, Mom asked what I thought of bringing in the new year. I said it was OK, but it would have been much more fun with a monkey.
That’s been the pattern for my resolutions ever since.
Well, we have a brand-new year again. As I write this, 2018 is less than 24 hours old. So far, nothing has happened to make it less shiny or take away from that new-year smell. Not yet anyway.
But it’s coming. A new year is like buying a new car. The newness simultaneously makes you wonderfully happy and fills you with dread. You know it isn’t going to be new forever.
Soon as you drive the car off the lot, you live in fear of its first rock chip or some creep dinging the side of it at the grocery store. Won’t be long before it is just a ride instead of a wonderment.
The same goes for a new year. Plan all you want about how 2018 is going to be your year, the year your life changes or the year when everything turns golden. But a new year is like a long road: There’s a lot of traffic ahead.
Right now, you might be thinking, “But this is the year I’ll marry the love of my life.” Not to ruin the moment for you, but in a couple of years of life travel you might be saying, “2018 is when I married that [bad word] whom I eventually divorced.”
Maybe you’ll graduate from college in 2018. Years of study and student loans have finally transformed themselves into a degree. Hooray! You have the world by the tail. Right?
Maybe. Ironically, people change careers a lot in life. It might not take long for you to rack up enough road damage to wish you’d borrowed large to study something — anything — else.
Being a dentist with an a$$-load of student debt is going to suck if one day you realize, with elbows deep in somebody’s reeking mouth, that the U.S. military would have paid you to learn how to fly jets.
This is not to say that 2018 is going to be a bust for everyone. Only that the future is uncertain, and that changes in plans should be considered.
If you’re going to resolve something this year, resolve to be constructively flexible.