false starts / new ground

In a little less than 10 hours we will have effectively reigned in the new year. We will have had a little more to drink than we should and make resolutions that we won’t keep. We will put our arms on one another and sing a round of Auld Lang Syne, reflecting on the year that was and how this year, for better or worse, will be a different year.

How will this year will be different? Who do you aspire to be? What new things do you aspire to accomplish?

I ask this because I’m not sure what to wish or hope for myself. The superstitious side of me used to welcome these even-numbered years because these seemed, well, not odd. Until 2008 came to shred that theory to pieces by proving to be the single hardest year of my life. I also used to welcome the Chinese zodiac, perhaps thinking that my fortuitous year would bode much fairer to its “rat” kind. Until I realized it was also the same year as 2008. (Maybe those are the years I should avoid? By, you know, living in a forest or something.)

One can neatly sum up my past five years as a series of “false starts.” Since I’ve graduated college, I’ve been at four jobs, in and out of three relationships, and in three different living situations. That’s hardly something I’d like to advertise to any prospective employer or wife. If you were to ask me where I see myself in five years, I would tell you that I’ll have either won the Nobel Peace Price or found residence next to a guy named Leroy on Skid Row. Looking at my recent track record, I wouldn’t rule out either one. The point is: I stopped trying to predict life a long time ago.

Yet for all its ups and downs and crazy turns, life has never for once left me complacent. It has never stopped asking of me, never stopped prodding me to grow, learn, examine and redefine all that I have tried to so neatly assemble. I have a lot more dirt, and many more scars now than I did five years ago. But I can tell you with great confidence that I learned more about life and the human condition in the school of hard-knocks than I ever did by reading about it at a public institution.

One of those lessons is that failure can be a good thing. In the first two decades of my life things came easy. I never had to apply strenuous effort to excel in academia, sports or friendships. These last five years seemed to make up for them. Never have I failed so much in life. Failure was what I ate for breakfast. Failure was what I smelled like after the gym. Failure was what I pissed in bathroom stalls. (Alright, I exaggerate a bit…I did experience some success too, but it just didn’t compare.) Little did I realize that failure was the very thing I needed to build my character and prevent me from chasing things that aren’t real. It’s the sort of thing that recalibrates your perspective in life: keeping you diligent, humble and thankful. What if I had succeeded in everything I attempted these past five years? I’d probably be an arrogant, self-serving jerk. Granted, a jerk with lots of money, but still a jerk.

In his restraining grace, God gives us failure to help us realize that success isn’t everything. That life isn’t about medals or money or respect. That we need Him. That what you want isn’t what you actually need, and even what you think you want isn’t what you want after you have attained it. The challenge for me then is to live a life that I would not regret 70 years later in my deathbed (Lord willing).

So, what to say about 2012? I think Winston Churchill said it best: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” It’s about living life for a greater purpose than following a paper trail, about taking risks for the greater good of those around you and to continue trying even when failure is fresh. And if I have attempted these things in the upcoming year, then whether I succeed or fail, 2012 will have been a year well-lived.

Risk hard, love hard, dare to make a legacy. Here’s to another year of living–cheers.