Ten things I learned in 2007
- After watching the VH-1 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s special, I learned that Canadian Reggae singer (I know, it's like Tiny Giant or Jumbo Shrimp, right?) Snow really was saying "licky boom boom down" in his hit single Informer. And now that I know those were the lyrics, I'm not sure I want to know what he was talking about, especially since another verse in the song was about people in prison staring up his bum.
- Not to be sappy, but I learned that good friends can be people you communicate with only through a computer. What makes this kind of friendship is the sincerity of the communications, not face time. So thank you all for being good friends...even those of you who only come by from time to time, to hassle me.
- I learned to deal with tragedy. Most of my adult life I have been fortunate in that I have been able to largely avoid tragedy. I've had two friends - two literal peers - die, both from a form of cancer. And every time I saw other people deal with tragedy I'd say things to myself like "I couldn't handle that. It would be too tough." And then Mrs. B and I lost our baby in October. And you know what? I was wrong. My initial emotions were that I was dreading each subsequent day after it happened, 'cause I thought we would whither up from the emotional burden and crumble. But that didn't happen. We faced it head on. We dealt with our grief. She has been a trooper. And we're still rollin' like Bonnie & Clyde. It was rough at first, and since then has been sad at times. But we've dealt. I never knew, 'cause I had not experienced that kind of tragedy, to what depth your true friends (those in your neighborhood and in your family and from your home town and online, etc.) would go to help you cope with your sadness. It's like cream rising to the surface. I really learned a lot about who in my life cared for me like a brother, which is how a true friend should feel, and who in my life was really a frienemy - disingenuous and full of talk with no substance. And one more thing along these lines: It is true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. But it's also true that what doesn't kill you probably leaves a mark of some kind.
- I finally became convinced this year that my solution to fixing violent crime will work: The common denominator I saw with every case of violent criminal behavior that involved an underage suspect was that that child's parents or legal guardians were clueless. They had no idea that their little Johnny or Susie was capable or armed robbery or violent assault or murder. And although kids can be clever in their concealment of bad behavior, parents should never be clueless. There's no excuse. If you have to snoop a little, do it. If you have to chaperon your kid's parties and get-togethers or shadow your kid like private eye, when he and his friends are strolling through the mall, do it. Do whatever you have to, to stay on top of your kids' activities and attitudes. Because, I propose that if your minor child commits a violent crime against an innocent person, and you "had no idea" they could be that way, you should have to serve 1/3 of his prison sentence. Institute my policy, and we will have a new wave of parental involvement in at-risk kids' lives in '08.
- Let's go back to friendships for a minute. I learned that just because you've known someone for a long time, and just because you were friends, you have no obligation to maintain that friendship if that person has changed for the worst. Don't let anyone guilt-trip you into remaining on their team, because you "owe" them that much. An acquaintance of mine finally got the nerve to ditch a childhood friend, who's since turned into a coke fiend. He couldn't do it for a long time, 'cause he thought it was his job to stick by the friend no matter what. But while he agonized over sticking by the coke fiend, the coke fiend - perhaps under the influence, perhaps not - scoffed at his own family, scoffed at my acquaintance, and all his other friends, refused to even consider treatment as an option, and insisted that if everyone "loved" him they'd accept him as is. Not true. Sometimes the friendliest thing you can do is cut someone off until they develop a little love for themselves. I finally grew a set and cut off a long-term, mean-spirited friend, a frienemy in ever since of the made-up word, who exhibited little but selfishness. It was liberating. Try it some time.
- You may not like rap music, but I learned this year that Eminem was right. If given an opportunity to pursue a dream, you need to not just take that opportunity, but lose yourself in it. Embrace it. Don't neglect your "pre-existing" responsibilities, but don't punk out on what you really want to do.
- I learned not to be uptight. At one point this year, even before Mrs. B and I suffered our loss, I had become so consumed with work and home-maintenance that it felt like I was living a job 24-7. And so I wasn't enjoying down time. I felt like down time was wasted potential work time. Not good. And in my "fever," I started nitpicking at people's quirks, especially annoying neighbors. I attacked personality quirks with the same vigor I'd use to strike at full-blown bad habits. It took work, but I learned to give people a little more consideration by reminding myself that no one's perfect, especially not me.
- I learned to not drink the Haterade. Being a hater is easy. It's like being lazy. It really doesn't take effort. But if you're a hater - a person who begrudges a peer his/her success or happiness, just because, or downplays that success, just because - then you are a miserable person. Haters don't hate in the traditional sense. They don't hold your race or your religion or your lack thereof, or your sexual orientation against you. They hold against you your joy, your ambition, and your accomplishments, because they aren't able to look at those things in your life without comparing them to their own life. And that's what sinks a hater every time - the inability to simply be happy for you. So while human nature occasionally "prompts" us all to hate a (very) little, I believe I have largely weened myself off the Haterade. I'll stick to coffee from now on, thanks.
- I generally can't stand sports equipment slogans. But I learned to try to live by Nike's 1990s slogan: Just do it. I came across a lot of talkers in '07, people jaw-jacking about what they were going to do, people jabbering on about what they planned to talk about planning to do. I even found myself discussing plans more than actually carrying them out. So probably halfway through the year I stopped making plans and started doing. Some of the stuff I did worked, and some didn't. But I'm sleeping better now, because I know I'm trying and not just blowing hot air to convince whoever's closest to me that I plan on getting around to it one of these days.
- I learned to be nice and courteous. And this is important, because these are two I've had to relearn. I think I had 'em in spades up until about two years ago. I've had fun in South Florida, but the fast pace, the bad driving, the rampant lack of consideration for strangers has contributed to me slowly becoming calloused. And that's not a good way to be. Fortunately, I self-diagnosed early enough in the year to start making conscious decisions to return smiles that I had been ignoring, and to hold open doors for the slow pokes trailing me at 2-feet-per-minute from parking lots into department stores, and to willingly scoot over on the bench at my train stop to make room for the large person whose bulk would surely squeeze the breath out of me, and to wave and say hello to the neighbor across the street, even when I don't feel like being friendly. I've seen the bumper sticker. Yeah, it's dumb. But mean people really do suck.
*Bonus - I'm still not doing new year's resolutions. I told you, less talky, more do-y.
So that's all the wisdom I have to wrap up the year, my friends. All I can say is that 2007 and all the haters this year nurtured can bite me. And 2008, let's get it on!