The last day of 2021. A remarkable year. So much promise. So much tumult. Change. Evolution. Love and loss. A year of so many highs and lows in my life like really none other I can remember.
I woke up this New Years’ Eve morning after a night of terrible, restless, barely continuous and certainly unrefreshing sleep to a gray and dreary New England December morning. The house is quiet and cold and in wild disarray befitting my current state of focus. The people I love most in this world are scattered about in the world. I’m alone.
I brewed myself a cup of coffee, looked out the kitchen window and preceded to listen to no fewer than five different versions of “The Sound of Silence.” It’s really only that first lyric that sticks though. I thought I was going to write a retrospective of the year – what made it tumultuous in my own life as a microcosm of the journey we all took this year. It turns out that what I really want to write is something a little different.
I remember a car accident I had in 1989. It was late spring/early summer: I remember that because this kid was going to his high school graduation. It was raining pretty good and it was mid-afternoon in Needham, Massachusetts. I was leaving my summer job to go to my regular part time gig in Franklin, Massachusetts, so it was rush hour. This kid and his mom driving her brand new Camry was trying to turn left across 5 lanes of rush hour traffic. I was in the left lane and the giant Ford Explorer on my right stopped to let them out from the side street as they made their attempt to cross traffic.
I could see the nose of the car moving into my lane and I stuffed my foot onto the brake as quickly as I could, but wound up driving my 1974 Chevy Nova directly into their left front fender. Hit it so hard that the hood buckled and pulled the other fender in.
I could replay that moment over and over again. Slowest 2 seconds of my life. And yet it happened so fast.
We often fail to see how things are developing, but see it all come together in slow motion. Just like that car accident.
Funny that accident should have happened 30 years ago, a few months before the dawn of the 1990’s. Bill Clinton, Nirvana, Windows 95. 2019 came at me fast, and yet I saw it in slow motion. Not unlike the decade itself.
I knew my work life was set to change, but didn’t know when or how. It came down to the wire, but I not only maintained employment continuity, I think I found myself an even better opportunity I never would have sought out had I not been pushed to it. It took me the entire six months I was given, as my former employer transitioned to become another company, but in the end the stress paid off. It comes with a fair amount of consequences and I wrestle with how long I can keep everything in balance. I’m eternally grateful to have been afforded the time to transition. I knew the change was coming, but not unlike that accident, it was slow to develop and when it hit, it did so with a crash.
That transitional change changed a lot in terms of my plans and expectations. It has caused quite a bit of disruption in my day to day. I have less free time so I have to make it all work. I see less of my running friends, but I make the effort to see them when I can. I’ve experienced this loss of community as an actual loss.
One of the direct consequences has been that I’ve actually done more running than I planned to. Because I leave for work so early in the morning to beat traffic, I get there so early that there’s no one actually there. So I can run. Coupled with the shower, it’s perfect. I can often get 7, 8,9, 10 miles in. It’s time I can use to get right in my head and be ready for my day.
My boy started High School. I’m so happy that he took the opportunity to take the path his dad did and go to parochial high school. I want for him the experience I had. Thusfar he seems to be flourishing, actually played football and is getting A’s. I couldn’t be any more proud of him.
My girl, she’s starting to thrive on her own. I hated to see her leave, because I knew she wasn’t coming back, but she’s building her life and I’m so happy for the time she was here under this roof. It’s funny, life isn’t unlike that car crash. All the little things you don’t notice eventually come together and hit you with impact. I could see it happening, i knew when she left this last time she was striking out on her own. I just wasn’t really ready for that. She’s got herself a career path job and finding her own way. It’s sad to look out and see your job as a parent has transitioned to a much different place than you were ready for.
I can’t believe 2019 is at an end. A decade is at it’s end. Back in 1977, Mrs. Flynn asked her first grade class what they thought the year 2000 would be like. At that moment, 2000 seemed so far away. I was expecting the final Star Wars installment to be released. My mind was blown that I would be 30 when that happened. As it happens, I was almost 50 when Episode IX happened. Hell, Episode I wasn’t released until 1999. (And if we’re being honest, it kinda sucked.)
At the end of 1989, I wanted to make a new start with the new decade, a decade in which I rightly figured I’d graduate college, get married and start a family. I did all those things, but not really according to plan. And in 1999, at the turn of the millenium, I was starting over.
We plan on getting married, buying a house and having a family, what we don’t plan for is that marriage not working out and keeping the rest of your family together. I am a lucky man. I was able to pull the pieces together, and have a vision for getting married, buying a house and growing my family.
At the end of 2009, I was mourning the loss of my dad, and realizing that at some point I’d grown into middle age, questioning so many things. The end of the last decade was really, really difficult. It also set into motion the relationships that helped define this decade, relationships spanning the globe and influencing my family for what I hope is years to come.
The last 10 years have been nothing if not transformative. Trial and tribulation at home. Delivering one child to adulthood, another on his way. Dispensing with bad habits, creating new good ones. I like to think that I’ve embraced mid-life and created the me that I wish I had the good sense to create back in 1989.
I’ve had two jobs in the last 10 years, and I’ve loved them both. How many people can say that? I’ve gone from being morbid obesity to…well, regular obesity but with the potential to run a half marathon in 1:43.
In the latter years of this decade I’ve probably run 200 races. It astounds me that I am that guy.
2019 has been the culmination of so much work. My fastest 3-half marathons were this year. I ran the Boston Marathon, something I never knew I wanted to do until I realized I did. I have an truly interesting and aspirational group of friends; people I can ask to do dumb things with me and they say…yes.
I am thankful that I’m going into 2020 healthy and happy. Something not everyone can say. My family is whole and strong, and thriving. And something I’ve not always been able to say, I actually have a strong social network of people I care about and who care about me. I’m forever thankful for that.
The 2020’s will see their challenges: I lost my uncle – my dad’s classmate – this year, and I’m sure this decade will see more of my childhood pass into memory. I’m hopeful, though, that there will continue to be more good than negative. I hope to see my boy graduate high school and go to college, perhaps marriage and a family for my daughter.
Overall, I’m going to look back at these last 10 years with a significant fondness. The people who have meant the most to me at the start of the decade, continue to mean the most to me. I’ve spent the decade adding to that cadre. That seems like a very, very good thing.
Have a wonderful and safe new year. Happy 2020. Bring it on.