My year ends like this: it's 1am and I'm reading a Think Progress article recounting how President Bush once slammed John Kerry for wanting to increase the size of the Army in Iraq. Bush claimed such a move would make America "less safe."
Today Bush announced his intentions to increase the size of the Army to fight in Iraq. Somewhere, a big dog barked.
I'm tired. I've been searching for a word to sum up 2006 and I've settled on "abject." If, years from now, someone wants to know what 2006 was like, I will say "abject" and then settle into a thousand-yard stare.
After a year like this I need a new way forward. We all do. We won't get a commission to study how the rest of us are supposed to deal with the growing dirge of bad decisions, corruption, religious fanaticism, and global warming, so here's my advice, which will also serve if I am asked to give any commencement speeches in the near future.
1. Turn off the television. TV has become a sort of fat-laden junk food for the brain. Television presents a fabricated picture of reality that is not only impossible to live up to but foolish to emulate. It does nothing but increase the level of fakery, and thus angst, in your life.
2. Consume less news. The news is just too depressing. Bush has no trouble sleeping, why should you? You'll find out about breaking news anyway. I'm not saying you should completely disengage, but take it in proper doses or it'll make you very bitter. (How can it not?) At the very least, cut out servings of pundits like O'Reilly. This is like banishing soda from your diet.
3. Enjoy your friends and/or family. Enjoy the people around you. Believe me, one moment with a son, or daughter, or loved one, is worth 100 hours in a book, and a million in front of the TV. It's real, and your self knows the difference.
4. Exercise / play a sport / spend a lot of time outside. Take time to not worry about anything other than getting out and opening your senses to something natural. Be active. The more you do the more you'll get done. The more proactive you are the better you feel.
5. Take a class. Try it. Take a cooking class. Take an economics class. Don't even take it for the grade. If you can't take the class, check out its reading list and buy the books, used, on Amazon. I was struck by Warren Buffet's advice to young adults: "invest in yourself." A human being is an incredible machine capable of unending love, creativity, contributions. That's something worth investing in.
6. Set a major goal for 2007. I'm daring everyone to turn a dream into a reality next year. Set a major goal to be completed by 2008. My goal is to be published, be it a magazine, newspaper, or story. That's it, that's my goal. It's worth the effort and it'll keep me focused.
7. Eat less fast food. Television and fast food are 1% gratification and 99% hype and they tend to just gunk everything up. Learn to cook a few meals really well: it's very rewarding.
8. Buy fluorescent bulbs and plant some trees. That's pretty easy, and you'll know you're doing your part to be carbon neutral – one less thing you have to worry about. Remember, we're thinking small in 2007, we're thinking individual, we're getting focused. You can't fight everything – but you can do your part and be unashamed.
9. Create something. Most of you probably have blogs of your own – they're wonderful outlets. Keep going. If you don't have one, start one. Or, go take photographs. Plant a garden. Anything is better than nothing. To create and to take pride in the creation is both human and divine. Your job might not be newsworthy, but no one else can be you.
10. What ever you do, don't quit.