My New Year’s Incremental Ambitions

It hardly seems possible to me that we’re nearly two decades into the 21st century, maybe because so little has changed. I’m sitting in a diner booth, where I just finished a breakfast that would not have looked out of place on a 1979 table–no meal pellets, no transported bacon, no simulated eggs cooked with gamma rays. I’m wearing Levi’s, a hooded sweatshirt, and a ball cap. There’s a good chance that on New Year’s Eve 1978 I was wearing Levi’s, a hooded sweatshirt, and a ball cap. Cars whizz past the diner’s windows, their rubber tires gripping asphalt pavement, not a personal jet pack in sight.

The changes around me are incremental ones. I’m listening to my iPod, itself an antiquated device in 2019, rather than a transistor radio. The lights in the fixtures are LED rather than incandescent. Some of the cars whizzing past are hybrids or electrics rather than big, growling V-8s. This isn’t the 21st century of my childhood fantasies, which were fueled by pop culture. Slow, incremental change makes for bad science fiction, which insisted that we’d all be wearing silver capes and for some reason rectangular doors would be obsolete. We’re almost at autonomous cars, though. That’s pretty futuristic.

Incremental change makes for boring  New Year’s resolutions, too. January first represents a blank slate, tabula rasa. We want to fill that fresh canvas with big changes, reinventions: This year I’m going to do it. I’m going to lose 300 pounds and climb Everest.

Not me, boy-o. I’ve learned my lesson regarding glacial rates of change, so I’m setting my 2019 sites on “achievable,” no “cure cancer” or “make a billion dollars” for me. Here’s my agenda for the new year:

1. Add a new Why It Matters feature. Saturday mornings meant cartoons when I was growing up, so in that tradition I’ll be featuring an illustrated album cover from my stacks each Saturday. What better way to share my love for Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, and Frank Frazetta than “Cartoon Saturday”?

2. Finish reading the presidents. About midway through 2018 I decided to read a credible biography of each of the U.S. presidents. As of the end of 2018 I’m roughly halfway through Henry Pringle’s 1,100 page Taft bio. That leaves 17.5 presidents to go, assuming that 2019 ends without an upheaval in the Oval Office.

I’m really looking forward to getting this over with. As interesting of an exercise as this has been, reading 22,000 pages of dry American history has dulled my own writing a bit. It’s dulled my conversation skills, too. I owe many people apologies for my Grover Cleveland trivia outbursts.

3. Reduce my social media time. I enjoy my social media friends, and as a borderline recluse there are days when social media is almost my only human interaction. But the platforms have become so toxic. If 22,000 pages of academic writing have affected my brain, what does hours of feigned outrage, virtue signaling, and specious reasoning do to it?

4. Purge some stuff. I have stuff. It’s good stuff. I like my stuff. It’s too much stuff. Go away, stuff.

5. Write more. This one is as simple as a Nike slogan. There is no magic mojo required to write more–one simply needs to do it.

6. Consume less news. It’s important to remain informed, but one can become obsessed with events over which one has no control. This leads to depression, anxiety, and a whole bunch of unnecessary fear. I managed to get by for many years on a news diet of one morning newspaper per day, so I don’t think that turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the 24 hour barrage of hysterical headlines and screaming pundits will leave me uninformed. In fact, a slow news diet should keep me better informed, as I’ll be reading stories that have had time to fully bake rather than breaking news that contains a lot of raw speculation.

Reducing my social media time will certainly help me step off of the perpetual news hamster wheel–no more friendly links to articles proving that Donald Trump eats immigrant babies or that Nancy Pelosi is an alien lizard person.

I just stared out the diner window for a good minute while trying to come up with more bullets, so maybe it’s best to leave my list of incremental ambitions for the new year at that. And maybe invent the personal jet pack. That sumbitch is long overdue.

Categories: op-ed

8 replies »

  1. Himes! For some reason WordPress decided to kick me off of the subscribers list, and like a dolt I have been sitting here wondering what has happened, rather than come over and see for myself if WIM has been dead for as long as my in-box says it has. And yahoo, you are still here, it was just WordPress telling me I need to shower more often.

    AND you are going to write more this year. I cannot begin to tell you how happy this makes me. And you not on social media as much makes me happy too, because I have pretty much weaned myself off of it (only due to limited energy, nothing virtuous) but I knew how much fun stuff of yours I was missing out on.
    So, hey – reading this at 10:45 on New Years Eve was the perfect way to usher in another year. 😎😁😻

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As I write this you have fifteen 2018 minutes left. Where I am the new year is already two and forty-five minutes old. So far, it’s been the same ol’ same ol’. I can’t wait to try your jet pack when it’s ready. But please hurry. I think that just might be the highlight of my 2019.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My New Year resolution last year, was to read a WIM article once a day, for a full year.

    The year before, I resolved to create an active and prolific social media presence.

    This New Year, I resolve to write one paragraph per day, describing what kind of day I am having, using one or more feeling words to describe what I am feeling, in the form of a journal entry.

    I also resolve to work on one specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (s.m.a.r.t.) goal, each Friday, before midnight.

    And because I am so rebellious, I resolve to drink more, eat more, exercise more and get more tattoos, in the hopes of doing the exact opposite.

    I would also like to do some creative artwork or doodling every week, following in the footsteps of James Stafford.

    Mostly, I want to eliminate all the junk from my life. I want to be able to fit all my earthly wares into one small suitcase, so I am ready to go, when it is my time to go.

    I haven’t decided if I want to leave a bold mark in this world or erase every mark I have made thus far. Either way, I hope to prepare myself this year, for a gracious and eventual exit from this earthly plane.

    And maybe, just maybe, I will take some time, to learn how to properly use commas in a sentence, in an effort to improve my writing skills.

    If all this fails, I want to repose on my laurels and declare another year victorious and well-done, for at least I gave it a go, from an above-average joe.

    Have a good new year, one and all. James, I have already noticed your absence on the social media front. I suppose I will have to move into your neighbourhood, if I want to socialize and wave hello from the front porch. Perhaps, I will stay where I am in Burnaby, BC, and hope you can see me, when I am waving and hollering in your direction. “Hello James! How’s things on your side of the wall?”, is all I have left to say, for now.

    From the great white North to the great beyond. Another year around the Sun. Here we go again! Happy New Year, other Wimmers!


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