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New Year's Eve: Looking ahead, not back

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It seemed like everyone I spoke to last week was saying they couldn't wait until Christmas was over, as if the passage of the holiday were going to benefit them in some way.

It's probably because everyone is suffering from fatigue. There's job fatigue, there's the "not having a job" fatigue and, with the holidays, gift fatigue and forced cheerfulness fatigue. I understand all that.

I'm not a big fan of Christmas, myself, but I wasn't wishing for it to be over. I didn't want to go shopping or anything, but I never find myself wishing for the season to be over because I'm an experienced veteran at what comes after Christmas.

Months of snow, no holidays, stressful commutes to work and leftover bills are what await us after Christmas every year. And while the forced cheerfulness of Christmas is always a strain, at least some people make an effort to be friendly during December.

In January, those same people who told you to have a merry Christmas are the ones who are going to tell you to go to hell when your car gets stuck in front of them during a snowstorm. The slow season for most every business in Indiana is the period between January and June so people whose jobs are already in jeopardy have a few more months to ride out.

Maybe it was the fact that December was unusually snowy that made people so full of despair this month. Whatever their reasons, they're really going to be complaining by the time this winter season is done.

It's customary in the column-writing game to let the last article of the year be a review of all the things that transpired during it. The year-end lists are reporters' favorite pieces to write because all they need is a halfway decent memory and they practically write themselves.

We all know what happened during 2010. I'm more interested in what will happen in 2011. I'm more concerned about whether my family and I will be able to ride out the year without being victimized by the recession.

I worry about friends and loved ones with health and money problems. I worry about my own health, the financial costs associated with it and the prospect of being laid-up after surgery. I worry about whether the people I love are going to have a safe passage into 2012.

So I'm fairly ill-equipped to write a pithy, urbane column that sums up all the experiences of 2010. I was too busy living them to pay much attention to them at the time, and the constant pressures of daily life keep me from looking too far beyond the next day's work and the next paycheck.

That being said, 2010 was a great year for me, personally. My wife and I took a brief vacation to Chicago, one of the world's great cities. We admired the artwork of Andy Warhol at the IMA. We experienced an unforgettable concert by Bob Dylan on Halloween night.

There were countless moments of small victories and minor setbacks. We watched together, my wife and I, with unbridled pride, as our president's health care bill became the law of the land. And we then watched in amazement as he received almost no credit for all the amazing things he has accomplished in under two years on the job.

The BP oil spill in the Gulf and the police scandal here at home distressed us both, as did the Republicans' successful victory in the elections, which ensures millions of people are going to suffer from their un-American policies in the years to come.

But I don't put too much faith in either the past or the future and try not to get too bothered over one or the other. I don't wish for Christmas to be over because I know it will come and go at the same speed, regardless. And I'm not all that concerned over what fate will unleash on us in the coming year. We will deal with events as they occur.

I'm more focused on the road directly in front of me, metaphorically paying attention to traffic, to impaired drivers, road conditions and the mechanical health of my vehicle.

If I don't keep my eyes on the road, disastrous things could happen. So I'm focused like a laser beam on the present. If you come up to me in public, chances are I'm thinking about other things, so forgive my distractedness.

I'm just trying to stay on course and not get lost. I want everything to be good for my loved ones and me. I need to be a better, kinder person and to refrain from being so judgmental. These are the things I pray about, when I do pray.

The last thing I want anyone saying about me in 2011 is that I was unprepared. I've never been more focused or ready. I want the coming year to be the best of my life.

And that is also the wish I extend to all of those reading these words. I hope things get a little better for everyone in 2011. Happy New Year!

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