Friday, December 31, 2010

It is resolved

My father was born on New Year's Day. I associate my memories of New Years with him because of his birthday, but also because of New Years Resolutions. I can remember trying to write down resolutions – goals for the year – at his urging when I was a kid. And now, even though my father has been gone for several years, I still think of him and resolutions when New Year's Day comes around.

Dad was a firm believer in self-improvement. He was well-read, not because of his formal training (he was an exceptionally average engineering student in college, but he had a fine career including professional recognition in his field), but because he enjoyed learning. There were many family dinners during which one of us kids was sent looking for the encyclopedia to prove (or disprove) some point of discussion at the table.

Dad sought to instill in us a desire to reach higher, to do more than we thought we could do. His example, together with my mother's, seemed to suggest we really could do anything we set our minds to. I remember talking to him as I graduated high school about what I would study at college. I was a little worried to suggest that I would study theatre, thinking it would be too artsy for his very practical view of life. He surprised me when he thought for a moment and said, "Whatever you study, if you're the best you'll always work."

Dad loved New Year's resolutions, and he encouraged us to write them. Goals for the year. Short statements of what we would seek to improve or build upon in the new year. Chart a course. Lay out a roadmap. Make a plan.

I spent many years of my life as a compulsive planner. Before we married, I wrote budget after budget demonstrating that we could not afford to marry while my wife said, "Let's see – we live separately now for more than it would cost us to get married and live together. What's not to work?" I planned my children's futures. I planned my own career (many times as I kept changing horse mid-stream during college).

Several years ago circumstances combined to help me take a shorter term view, to focus less on the future and more on today, to live in the moment, even one day at a time. And in the intervening years, I've been learning to balance prudent long-term thinking against the value of living today for today.

So not all my resolutions will be for a year. Some will be for a day. And I'll make them each day. And some will help me strike that balance between one day at a time and prudent long-term thinking. But they'll still remind me of my dad.

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