I don’t know about you, but on New Year’s Eve 1999 I heard Prince singing about partying like there was no tomorrow so many times that his song was stuck in my head for most of January. I have to give Prince credit – he took the supposed end of the world as we know it and made it seem almost like fun.
I never once believed that I’d wake up on January 1st, 2000 to a world where life was turned upside down because of faulty computer programming. I figured my computer and other electronics would fare just fine, and if they didn’t I might get a few days off work while the geeks got us all back up and running.
I was 29 and just starting to feel like I had the world at my fingertips. I was an eternal optimist.
So that night, I did what I do just about every New Year’s Eve. I spent the evening celebrating with family and friends, and near midnight we slapped some sparkly tiaras on our heads and rang in the year 2000.
And here I am again, more than a decade later. When I look at that photo, it is hard to believe so much time has gone by. I certainly don’t feel like I’ve managed to climb from my 20s to my 40s in the time that has passed. At least, I don’t feel that way on a good day – catch me on a normal Monday morning and I might tell you differently.
The girl in that photo didn’t think her convenient, on-the-go little world was going to change all that much. But I also had no clue what challenges and changes the coming years would bring me. Since that night we partied like-and-because it was 1999, I have:
– Ended a marriage
– Lost some very near and dear friends to both expected and unexpected death
– Experienced a scary financial roller coaster
But that’s not all. I also
– Managed to wing it by the frayed seat of my pants as a solo homeowner
– Fell in love again
– Went to beautiful places I had never seen before, including Bermuda, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Key West, Nassau and Belize.
– Served in a lead position for a major project at work, an experience that beat the livin’ crap out of me but also skyrocketed my confidence
– Lost a significant amount of weight in a healthy and gradual way
– Became a published writer
– Watched my Steelers bring home a few more Superbowls
If the girl I was on December 31st, 1999 had any inkling what awaited her in the next decade, she would not have been celebrating. She would have been cowering under that table with a drink in her hand. She was young and unaccustomed to the loss of loved ones. She was unfamiliar with true financial fear. She was certain her marriage would last forever.
If she had known those things were lurking around the bend, celebration would have been the last thing on her mind, even if she could also see that longer list of good stuff awaiting her.
With the years that have come since then behind me, I look at life a little differently. I know that trouble and heartache and loss are real and inevitable. But I also realize that even in the midst of them, so many good things can and do happen. I am still sometimes afraid, but I am also excited.
The list of amazing experiences that have come my way in the last decade outweigh the harsh but shorter list of hardships. Without my divorce, I never would have found Lee.
I have proved that even if I don’t exactly do it well, I CAN lead rather than follow when it comes to managing money. I have overcome work challenges I often thought would make me quit and go live in a cardboard box rather than face another day in the office. I won’t pretend I enjoyed those things any more than I’d like finding a big green booger in a half-eaten restaurant meal. But I’m pretty sure that doing them is a big part of how I finally grew confident enough to write regularly and begin submitting my work for the world to see.
And those are just the big things. Let’s not forget all the hugs and laughs and sunrises and sunsets the last decade has brought my way.
Once again, we are about to celebrate the ushering in of a year that some people speculate will bring major changes. In 1999, our computers were supposed to go on the blink. The harbingers of 2012 doomsday speak of much more serious events. If you believe some of them, we’re looking at a big “lights out” next December – the 21st to be exact.
I don’t believe that. If I did, I’d be handing in a resignation letter and living on credit this year. Who wants to spend the last year of life as they know it in an office? But I am absolutely certain that if I did that, I’d wake up on December 22, stare at my ginormous credit card bill as the sun rose like it always does, and go “oh, shit.”
I figure that next year, I’ll be heading up to the pub on New Year’s to usher in 2013 the same way I’ve welcomed in the many years before it.
But there is one thing of value that I do take away from the doomsday believers. I don’t think they’re gonna get their “end of the world as we know it.” But I’ve learned that our own individual lives, the ones in which we are each the centers of our own little universes, do shift and change in ways we can’t predict. It is a beautiful thing that we don’t have the power to see those changes. Some of them would break our hearts, because we don’t know that we’re strong enough to withstand hard times until we find ourselves living through them. And the good times are ever so much more magical when they come with an element of surprise.
I know there are no guarantees. To a certain extent, we should all live every moment like it is our last. That doesn’t mean existing in a perpetual state of worry or throwing all caution about our futures to the wind. It is simply grabbing happiness and holding on tight.
In the last year, I’ve gotten very good at investing my time in doing the things I love rather than living every moment for ‘shoulds.’ In 2012, I am also promising to invest a few resources in myself.
I shy away from spending money on things I don’t need. If life was football and I was the quarterback, my financial game style unfortunately has never been to throw one in the end zone. I’m always stuck going for it on 4th down and breathing a sigh of relief when I manage to convert. That’s left me overly fearful of not having enough money for what I need – food, a roof, warmth and transportation. As a result, even as I’ve invested more time than ever before on my stories, I have held back on providing myself with things I believe will help me improve my writing.
My welcome to 2012 is to take that leap of faith. I am investing money in creating a writer’s haven – a bright, happy and private place for me to work. I am also buying a laptop, so that I can write whenever and wherever I choose. These sound like such simple things to some of you, I’m sure. But to me, these are huge steps.
They say “Hey you, chick in the mirror – guess what? I believe in you enough to invest these resources we guard so closely in your talent and your future. And I believe that if we do this, and then something happens that makes you wish you’d held on to that money, we are resourceful enough to figure out another way through the trouble.”
My new haven will be my spare bedroom. Lee is turning it into a Steelers-themed room for me as a Christmas gift. Here’s how it is coming along so far:
My willingness to do this – to invest a little money in myself when I would usually be saying ‘ but what if I spend this and then the van dies and we’re too broke to fix it?” is a statement about the woman I’m trying to become. She’s a woman who believes both in her own talent and the world around her, and equips herself accordingly.
Bring it on, 2012. We’ve got places to go, things to see, and a lot of words to craft. We’re Superbowl bound.
What about you? What are you doing to make 2012 your best year yet?