This is my 13th year writing a column about the coming year. They have changed quite a bit over the years. Originally, I would list my resolutions for the New Year, something like a “To-Do” list. I would follow up the next year and grade myself. Some years I did okay and some years not so good.
They would closely follow whatever was going on in our lives at the time. The birth of grandchildren, the growth of our company, and finally retirement. I wrote in my article the year following the sale of our company, our move to a new home, and our extensive plans to travel the world. It was my most specific forecast of the coming year yet.
Then Covid hit the world and those plans, like the plans of most of us, were upended. Our move to Auburn went off without a hitch and we met many new friends before Covid. We traveled a good bit and found ourselves in France when we first heard of this strange new virus. It was all over the news by the time we returned home. That would be our last trip for two years.
The last two years I wrote of the challenges we have all faced. The pandemic and the worldwide economic chaos. The uncertainty of what was coming next on so many levels. More than ever, it was hard to forecast the future and make plans. My last year-end columns talked about that journey; one we have all taken on a variety of pathways.
Last year, I spoke of our hope of the world finally opening back up and our plans to pickup on our delayed travel plans. Mary Lou and I were so pleased to be able to finally make our trip to Ireland, which had been delayed three times. It was worth the wait. We also enjoyed a trip to Boston and New York with family.
It seems strange to feel like things are returning to normal when there is so much unrest around the world. Our nation remains politically divided. There are significant wars that threaten to widen in scope. Our climate is presenting challenges that can no longer be ignored. Talk of a recession and economic gloom are more prevalent.
Yet, I sat at a table in person with my wife, mother, and all my children and grandchildren at Thanksgiving. We realized there was no shortage of things to be thankful for. I have great-nieces and great-nephews that have just arrived, and more are on the way. We have our health and after several years of trying, I have finally mastered the art of being fully retired.
At the same time, we are busier than we have ever been. We are blessed with an ever-growing circle of friends and neighbors. Our life in a university town has exceeded our expectations. Our only real challenge is that we are still trying to learn how to just say “no” to the many opportunities we have coming our way.
So, what will next year bring for us? Three trips are in the works already, including one with just our grandchildren. The last of my business interests will be put to bed. I plan to finally start on my long-awaited book, though no promises for how long that will take.
I plan to continue reading a variety of books, something I have gotten better at this past year. I hope to spend less time on the Internet, and more time around the fire pit. We hope to take a road trip, separate from our other travels, where we just get in the car and go, with no destination in mind.
I plan to do a better job of writing notes to people who have been important to me over my lifetime. The older I get, the more important that has become.
I plan to become more involved in our new church home, seek out new and different friends, and find new ways to help those in need.
I plan to work at becoming a better husband, father, and grandfather. I try to do that each year, but some years I do better than others.
I am finally old enough to look back on my life and realize how quickly it has gone and how amazing the ride has been. Whatever time I may have left, I want to enjoy it in new and different ways, even as I cherish the time-honored traditions that have made us happy year after year.
Happy New Year, friends. May your prayers be answered, your life be full and may you find peace and fulfillment along your journey this year.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org