In early January, I sat with two friends in a café discussing the New Year. We were all coming off a rough time and were certain 2018 would usher in happier days. Our optimism was running high until we made our way to the deserted lot where my friends had parked their cars. Both of their vehicles were missing, towed away by a zealous, or more likely unscrupulous, wrecking service.

I have a tattoo on the inside of my right wrist that says, “Everything ahead of me.” I got it at a time when I felt so bogged down in an ever-present mire, life felt like quick sand. From my mom’s death to a marital separation, it was one traumatic thing after another.

The only way I could get through a day was to think of a happier, more optimistic future. Seeing the words printed on my body was a constant reminder.

Nobody ever seems to know.

New Year’s Eve is the same day every go around, and yet, why is it nobody pulls the trigger on party plans until the last minute? Year after year, I find myself in this predicament, where I ask all month what everybody is up to for the ball drop. One-by-one they shrug their shoulders without a clue.

New Year’s resolutions and I make for poor company.

Like many reading this column, I have in the past made resolutions designed to correct some flaw in my character or my habits, which often are the same creature. I have rung in the new year vowing to lose weight, to give up drinking, to write more letters and emails to those I love, to keep my big mouth shut when the desire to offer advice wells up in my throat, to exercise more, to eat healthier foods, to pray more, in short, to write out and act upon some proposed change aimed at self-improvement.

Now that it’s 2017, I can’t bear the thought of continuing to fixate on politics and its atmosphere of pomposity and negativity that paints a picture of this country far different from what I encounter in my everyday life. It’s part of my job to cover this stuff, but our lives are about so much more than politics.

During the holiday season I was fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with a lot of young adults — my kids and their friends are all ages 18 to 24, and nephews and nieces were around who are as old as 28. And here’s what I heard from them: they aren’t buying into the vision of a country that is crumbling. Instead, I would argue that it’s the fresh optimism of the young — their belief that they can fix problems others have ignored or caused — that helps fuel this country’s ongoing prosperity.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve awoken on New Year’s Day energized to be more, do more, see more. This year was very different. I woke up wanting to do less, to simplify everything. I woke up feeling steadfast, reflective. 

My mom’s been by my side for 36 holiday seasons, so the first one without her felt strange and melancholy. Thinking back on the last couple of months, there are some bright spots like snuggling on the couch watching movies under the glow of the Christmas tree, making gingerbread houses with the whole family, and visiting my sister and niece in D.C. for a mommy and kid weekend. 

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