Monday, January 2, 2012

Every Diet Starts on Monday and Ends on Tuesday

At the beginning of every year, those of us who belong to a gym have the privilege of sharing our space with the Resolutionaries. Fortunately, I go when the gym opens at 5:00 am, and even the most dedicated Resolutionaries rarely make it that early. Another advantage to working out that early is that we only have to deal with a few Resolutionaries until the first really cold or rainy morning. Once that occurs, we never see them again. It is the only time of year, I pray for bad weather.

But this is not about the resolutionaries at my gym; this is about resolutions.

Through the years, I have made my share of resolutions, and I have broken almost all them.

I think the only one I kept was to purchase a Lady Kenmore portable washing machine, so I wouldn’t have to go to a Laundromat anymore. I kept that machine for more than a dozen years. 

Last year, I decided to take a different approach. Rather than declare resolutions I knew I wouldn’t keep – whisper my opinions, be more patient with stupid people, quit rolling my eyes during meetings – I made goals. I thought goals would be easier to achieve than changes in a middle-aged personality.

Apparently, I was right.

I only established three goals: lose fifty pounds, buy a mobile home, and write a blog about my experiences once I bought a mobile home.

That actually turned out well. In four months, I lost fifty pounds, and afterward, I looked like Larry King in every picture someone took of me. I have since regained fifteen of those pounds, which are now a part of this year’s goals.

You know I achieved the other two goals, or you would be watching internet porn right now.

They say if you want to make God laugh, make plans. I don’t know if that is entirely true, but let’s take a look back at one of the major plans I made in my past life.

During job interviews, the one question I do not like is “Where do you see yourself in five years.” I always give the same answer. “Five years ago, I didn’t see myself sitting here interviewing for a job I need but really don’t want.”

I don’t say that. What I do say is “Sitting where you are and asking someone else that ridiculous question.”

Here is why I hate that question? If my life had turned out as I had planned, right now I would be sitting in a writer’s room working on a hit sitcom. I was supposed to be a comedy writer – the Carl Reiner or Rob Petrie of my generation.

I spent the first ten years after college jumping from job to job because becoming a comedy writer was my goal, and jobs were just for paying the bills. By age thirty, I realized the time had come for me to get serious about a career because my writing was not going to support me – it still doesn’t.

Everyone I knew had moved ahead in their lives with homes, families, luxury cars, and I was living in a studio apartment, working three part-time jobs, fresh out of a really bad relationship, and driving a beat-up Plymouth Colt.

That was when I entered publishing, and nineteen years later, I am still doing the same job. I often make the joke that a trained monkey could do what I do because I have been doing it for so long that there is no longer a learning curve. In that time, I have worked for six different companies on four similar government contracts (only a Beltway Bandit would understand six companies and four contracts). With each new company or contract, the players sometimes change, but the job never does.

But, I am happy I made the decision to shuffle my priorities, or I wouldn’t be writing this from my first home. I would probably be watching TV in an efficiency apartment with weekly rates, waiting for my shift to start – and still driving that Plymouth Colt. I would be that waiter the college kids on the staff point to and say, “God, don’t let that happen to me.”

I waited on tables for so long (even part-time until my late thirties) that I had more tuxedo shirts than Dean Martin.

For those of you who haven’t pursued a career in the arts, this is foreign to you. I have a friend who has pursued an acting career for thirty years. He, in fact, lives in an efficiency apartment and watches TV while he waits for his shift to start. Do I pity him? No. I admire him. He still goes to auditions, he gets the occasional walk-on or commercial work, and he has never given up. He’s happy.

But, what happens when someone like us flip flops his priorities? Three things from what I’ve observed.

One: You become so career focused that you end up a huge success. I totally get this. Although my friend watches TV while he waits for his shift to start, he has not loss his discipline. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t scan the “trades” in pursuit of any kind of acting job, and he goes to auditions every week, sometimes standing in line for hours just to hear a casting director say, “Next.” There are few people who would survive that kind of life. When you take that kind of discipline and apply it to something else, you surprise everyone, including yourself.

Two: You last five minutes in a nine-to-five job and go back to your initial priorities.

Three: You don’t lose sight of your dreams; you just make them part-time, weekend dreams. At the age of forty-one (eleven years after my career flip flop), my first book was published, and next summer, at the age of forty-nine, my sixth book will be published. I may not have become a television comedy writer, but I did become a writer.

In 2011, I made an important decision. Now when people ask me what I do for a living, I no longer say I am a communications manager on a government contract. I say, “I am a writer.”

They don’t need to know that I work two jobs to pay the bills and support a ridiculous antique car habit, so I can live in the lap of trailer park luxury in city called Jessup.

Back to the goals. What are mine this year? I told you about the fifteen pounds.

My other two, I won’t say out loud, but let’s just say they have a lot to do with this manufactured home I own and love and where to go from here.

I aim to achieve them.

My favorite poem:

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Happy New Year!

If you have set goals or resolutions, follow me, join me, get on my mailing list.

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