Reflecting on life’s lessons for the year

The year 2018 will come to a close Monday night and we’ll turn our calendars over to 2019.

The celebration of New Year’s is a time of celebration, with festivities around the world reflecting uncounted traditions. It also is a time of reflection as we look back on the previous year and see what we can do differently or make plans for the future.

Any resolution, plan or goal takes work to accomplish. You have to put in the work to take the steps needed to go anywhere. There is no magic solution.

We’re going to face obstacles. There are going to be decisions made which take us away from the path we want — or, in some cases — need. The nice thing is we usually have the opportunity to make the decision to turn around and get back on the right path.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in the last couple of weeks, looking at the goals I’ve reached, as well as missed opportunities. Hopefully, I’m walking away from this year with a better understanding of myself.

In fewer than three months, I’ll be turning 40 years old. Now, I’m sure there are some out there reading this who say, “So, what? That’s still young. You still have time to do what you want.” I hope that’s true, but for me, that’s a huge milestone. It’s a point where I feel as if I should have accomplished something. Because of some family history, it’s also a point where my mortality is on my mind more than it probably should be.

I’ll admit I have been privileged in many ways during my life, so far. I grew up in a loving family, all of whom have worked hard to get where we are. I was able to go to college and find a job in my field of study. I’ve never wanted for food or clothing or shelter. I’ve done a little bit of traveling, although I would love to do more.

At the same time, I know I’m not entirely where I thought I would be by now. I’m not necessarily the person I want to be. Not all of my relationships are where I would like them.

There are family members who live in the immediate area I’ve never known. For that matter, there are family members I’ve only learned of in the last couple of years.

I’ve gone years not seeing friends from high school and college, and several former co-workers, never meeting their spouses or children. The photos and updates on social media are nice, of course, but nothing beats actually being there, staying a part of each other’s lives and seeing how we all grow. Sometimes, we rely so much on technology to keep us in contact that we forget to actually stay together, especially with those who mean the most to us.

I never wanted to be the person who works to a certain point that he misses out on the things that are important. It seems more and more to be that way, though. It’s been a struggle to make it to family events, to be there for friends or to even just take time for myself. The adage “Work to live, don’t live to work,” definitely comes to mind.

And I’m by no means saying my issues are just about my work life. Sometimes, we, unfortunately, just lose our focus on what truly is important. It gets away from us until it seems as if it’s too late to do anything about it.

None of us know for sure how much time we have left. We don’t know what chances are remaining in our lives to spend time with those who matter, to do the things we’ve always wanted, to reach those goals.

I’ve made the choices that put me where I am. This is the trail I’ve blazed. The challenge is always going to be doing the work to find the path leading me to where I want to go.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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