2016: a personal look back

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Author and journalist Hal Borland once said, "Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning -- but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."

Life at times seems to merely creep on, with excruciating monotony and routine. At times milestones, change and accomplishment seem to visit but only a few times in our life. That is how things appear when we are "in the moment" and not looking back over large sections of time -- such an entire year. But when we look back over the entire timeline, we find that our lives sometimes have massive change and violent redirections.

It's always important to take stock of the past. Unless you know where you've been-you won't know where you are going. So, here are my observations regarding 2016.

2016 was a year of professional growth. I had no idea, twelve months ago, that I would be a news editor at the CN. I felt somewhat frustrated that I had completed graduate school and was distraught that though I held a graduate degree in history, had won numerous awards and had been teaching survey history courses for years to college students; I had been rejected by a local school in my attempt to become a high school history teacher.

I had honestly resented my place in this world (career) and what I believed was a lack of accomplishment. At times I still feel pangs in those areas, but they are almost gone. They have been vanquished because of the life I've lived in 2016.

I absolutely love the job I have. I feel that I am accomplishing something meaningful, noble and almost holy at times. Not only is it good, honest living, but it also keep us free.

You may wonder how I can make such bold statements (like that has ever stopped me before), but let me just explain a little further. I have never seen politicians directly lie and insult my intelligence as much in the past as a few of them do now. So when they lie, it's the newspaper's job to make sure you know. Also, performing the duties of a journalist this year, ranging from hard-hitting columns and stories I've written to the CN Debates that we hosted to being honored by being allowed to be a panelist at the AETN First Congressional District Debate...I believe I have done, at least a few, things of value and of which I can be proud.

Additionally, because of the accountability that we've demanded of our local government, I have found two responses by our elected officials: most of them have a look of dread when I approach them because they just don't want to be on the front page (yes; that shocked me too), but began to talk WITH, rather than merely talking TO me as they did last year. A relationship has grown in some cases where they truly desire input and suggestions. That means I'm able to have a small influence on the world around me by virtue of relationship and position as well. I have found my place in this world, at least for now, and I'm not as invisible as I've been in the past.

A man has to have connections, make forward momentum and accomplish things in order to find happiness. Those aren't the only ingredients to the recipe of contentment and fulfillment, but they are some of the most flavorful.

2016 has also been a year of relationship. I have spent this year attempting, but mostly failing, at be better in my personal relationships with close family members, co-workers and friends. I know it's difficult to believe, but I am not perfect! In fact, I am very flawed and at times...simply a mess. You don't have to tell me, I know it all too well. But thank God, I'm a work in progress. I don't say that as an excuse for my failings, but rather as a promise that I won't stop trying to defeat my demons and improve myself until the day I die - because there are simply that many problems to fix.

Some of the problems that I have been working on is subduing my temper, exorcising my pride, muting my impatience and feeding my gratitude. All my life I have heard the bad stories about Blytheville, but quite honestly, until I began working at the CN, I had not realized how much good there is here. God has chosen to allow me to become friends and acquaintances with some really terrific men (and women)...but in this case I'm talking about men, that are now positive role models and examples for me to emulate. I've had mentors in the past, but not so many examples and role models!

My immediate family has seen its share of challenges this year, ranging from death to my Carol's cancer treatments and radiation to my own chronic back pain and waning eyesight. Within the past two years, I have gone from taking no medicines to taking quite a few, but this year of challenges has also given me a different perspective.

2016 was also a year of "what is truly important". The only things that are truly important can be summed up in three thing: my God and the faithfulness He has shown me, the love that I give and receive from those closest to me and living a life that allows for self-respect.

2016 was a year of violence. Violence seems to be everywhere, from local armed robberies and homicides to the demonic violence of ISIS and the tragedy of Aleppo. Violence is on the rise, but that it why I believe that love and kindness are as well.

2016 was a shocking year. Okay, honestly...who would have thought just a few years ago that Donald Trump would ever REALLY become President? Were you not shocked by some of the local election results this year? Bruce Jenner did what? A socialist (Sanders not Clinton) won the early democratic primaries! A woman (Clinton not Sanders) won the nomination of a major political party. Wow, that's never happened before. There are riots in the streets and cop killings in which city this time? Oh, and the Cubs won what?!?

In the end, it's been a good year primarily because for the first time in my life, I'm not just eagerly waiting for the day when I can begin to experience life -- it's finally here. It's also been a good year, because due to the struggles, tests and experiences of my family, I have come to realize just exactly how blessed I am and how much I have to be thankful for.

Having said all that, 2016 is a year that is best ended! I don't ever want to experience watching my sweetheart have to experience some of the things she experienced this year again! Also, I am looking forward to 2017 because I believe that the best days for myself and those around me are still ahead of us.

In the words Brad Paisley, "Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one."