Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year Thoughts

Hello, New Year's, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again. 

I remember three or four years ago when this holiday began to get me thinking. If there's anything a fresh start signifies to me, it's the potential the ensuing story has. In our great mortal gift of choice, we might make our lives as wonderful as we are willing to attempt. The concept that every day will possibly be something hilarious or magnificent or absurd led me to decide one morning that "Today" could be "The Day". This idea is illustrated one drab day my Junior Year when my good friends Michael Chaney and Joey Donahue endeavored to cheer me up by convincing me they knew something I didn't, and that today really was "the day". Unbeknownst to them, all the power in the school would shut down, cancelling some classes and very nearly my daunting math test. I can't explain the awe I felt that my friends would go to such drastic means to make me feel better. Luckily, they had nothing to do with it...but it was a good day.

This is all well and good as a hopeful and optimistic perspective of life, but what Fitzgerald calls the "green light" tends to scorch me on New Year's. What could you make happen in one year? Could you reach a point where the breadth of symphonies or the powerful themes and storylines in books and movies are made manifest in your life? How do you balance a satisfaction in your present life with a desire to improve powerful enough to function?  I think of an inspirational speech I used to listen to where the speaker mentions a drowning man whose only thought is trying to breathe again. "When you want to succeed as much as you want to breathe," he shouts, "when you'd give anything to reach it, when you'd spend your last dime, that's when you'll succeed." 

Well, in 2014, I finally decided I'd apply it and stop just thinking about it. I had plans to significantly impact my school, help my cross-country team finally reach State, and generally make life as great as I knew it could be. It was definitely a happy year from day to day, largely thanks to how content I was with my friends and family. Yet in the end, all my plans ultimately failed and I found myself, on New Year's 2015, becoming very introspective and wanting to know how I was going to muster up the same enthusiasm I used to have. Somewhat despondently, I decided if I gave all my efforts to something that's right, the consequences didn't mean anything. This might sound deceptively noble, but it's really a miserable philosophy that disregards the eternal principle that ultimately all good will lead to good and all evil to evil. Nevertheless, I began the year waking up for seminary, going to school, working at a pizza shop driving past my track team's triumphant meets, going home, refusing to go to sleep until doing a bit of homework along with a personal schedule of religious studies and physical exercises, and concernedly watching my consequent grades drop from the shiny A's I'd always naturally aspired to.

Nevertheless, I was very happy. How could I not be, with "T-Corps" adventure trips with my friends, or the support and humor of the "Goon Squad" friends at school, or the distance team, or my Mormon group of friends, or my family, or the countless other people whose company I genuinely enjoyed? And finally I began my mission. If there's anything that matches my hope for a meaningful, brilliant, joyful life, it's spending all my efforts trying to bring eternal joy to the inhabitants of a foreign land. Jesus Christ is the assurance that all our efforts will eventually hold eternal weight. I think after this I'll drop the importance I placed on New Year's. That was unhealthy, I think. But what's one more year to give everything for something grand, eh? One year, complete in the mission. Why not exchange my year for another's eternity?

The clearest celestial answer I've received on these thoughts, I found in the CCM (training center) quite urgently searching for this answer I've been seeking for years. Is it possible? Everything I'm looking for? The miracles we find are possible in the scriptures? I read my favorite scripture, that I'd read a dozen times, just looking for peace. And you know what I found? Alma 26:22. Aw, heck, once more into the breach!