Life 101: Is yours what you really want it to be?

I’m down for the count with a minor illness, which always makes me more contemplative than usual.

I quit my soul-sucking, bleeding-the-life-out-of-me job nearly two years ago to try to live a better life. People have asked me how I did that and/or why. The job, which I had loved for quite a few years, just became something I didn’t.

Less than two years before that, my younger brother (whom I adopted as my own, and he me, when we were in our teens) and my mother died, both of them unexpectedly, just nine weeks apart. Couple that with the death of two beloved German shepherds, one three months before my brother died and another just eight days after my mother died. That six-month period – which included getting two new dogs after the one died and finding out one of them was terminally ill just weeks after I got them – shook me to my very core.

After I wandered around in a fog of grief and pain for several months, my mind started asking questions, just a few of which I will mention here because they are important.

Why did all of my beloved family members die well before their time should’ve been up? They had hopes and dreams and things they were living for and boom, it was over, and all of those hopes and dreams were gone and wasted.

That led to: What do I still want to do with my life? What things do I really want to experience before I die? What places do I really want to go? Who are the people I really want to meet? Are there any things that I really want to purchase? And are there changes I want or need to make to make my life the best it can be before I die?

Answers came quickly. What to do about each of them took longer.

The first thing that came to my mind was Star Trek. Really. I remembered watching “The Original Series” when I was a child, when it was on in syndication. I loved it so much. That got me thinking about what I truly loved that I needed more of in my life and what I didn’t that needed to go out of my life.

Before Star Trek, when I was younger, I saw the animated “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” for the first time. I realized immediately that I was a misfit toy and that there were other misfit toys out there for me to be with who would accept me and love me for me. I just had to find them.

Spock made me feel the same way, but on a deeper level. He helped me know that I would find my place in the world, even though I was different from others, and I would find people who would not only accept me but even adore and care about me just the way I am. That was profound and it echoed throughout my life, as it continues to do to this day.

Well, there it was, the answer to question one: Star Trek. I had watched “The Next Generation” when it was on television, but since I had given up TV for other pursuits, I hadn’t seen any of the other series. My first goal was to watch them all.

That first revelation happened to come to me in December, just in time for a new year. I only make one resolution every year. (You can read more here about that.) I decided to watch everything Star Trek I could get my hands on, starting with all the series, every episode, and then move on to the movies and then any documentary I could find. I started Jan. 3 and I finished Dec. 27. I watched at least one Star Trek episode every single day. I had daylong and even weekendlong marathons. It was glorious.

In February, I starting thinking about those conventions they used to have. Surely they didn’t still happen, did they? A little Internet research showed they did and that the longest (in terms of days), biggest one (in terms of number of celebrity guests) was in Las Vegas. A few more clicks and a not-so-small amount of money purchased me a Gold ticket for that very year, at the end of July/beginning of August.

That trip changed my life. I had found my Island of Misfit Toys, my tribe, my new family. I was home. (You can read more here about that.) I now go every year and it restores my mind, body and soul.

Next, I started focusing on my health. I had been in a car accident less than a year before my family losses. I still wasn’t 100 percent recovered, and all the grief had halted my healing in its tracks. I started working on getting better and losing weight. That has been a long journey in its own right, but I still work on it every day. (That’s another post for another day.)

Next, I quit that job and moved across the country to live near my father and spend time with him while he still has time left on the planet. There have been ups and downs in this new life, and some hard times, but I’m now in a much better place than ever.

I’m now a freelance writer who writes what I want for whom I want when I want. I’m not making a lot of money, not like when I was managing four newspapers for a multimillion-dollar corporation, but I am making enough. And for the first time in my life, enough is good enough for me.

I have time to spend with my dad, to play with my German shepherd, to work on my beloved Camaro, to figure out who I really want to be, to make those changes that I want and need to make to get there, to make a new life and more good friends, and to spend time each year with my new family. Life is good.

Are you right where you want to be now? Are you living the life you want to every day? I’m happy every day. Maybe not all day every day, but every single day of my life is happy and good.

Every journey starts with a decision, one that you have to make with your heart and your head (I’ll write more about that later, because they are two very different things). And then you have to make a real commitment and take small steps toward your goal. That’s it. It really can be that simple. If you let it be; if you make it be.

Now, what is it you want for your life that you don’t yet have? Think about it. This isn’t a dress rehearsal and there are no do-overs. Get out there and be the real you. And be happy.

If this post speaks to you, I hope you will share it with others.

Resolutions are for quitters

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: New Year’s resolutions are for quitters.

Think about it. How many resolutions have you made only to find two months later that you don’t know what they were or when you stopped caring about them? Or worse, you get down on yourself for not keeping them.

Depending on what study you read, between 55 percent and 95 percent of people don’t keep the resolutions they set.

I can’t count the times I made resolutions (to lose weight, stop swearing, change jobs, spend less, save more, spend more time with family, go on a vacation, etc.) that I never kept. Sure, I would start with the best intentions, only to fail days, weeks or months later.

A few years ago, I decided to stop this cycle that only made me unhappy. I no longer remember the funny comment someone made to me about my love of cheese just weeks before the end of a year. But I clearly remember thinking, “That’s it! I’ll make one resolution for the coming year. I will eat more cheese.”

After laughing like crazy with my friends about the idea, I decided maybe it wasn’t so crazy. It was something I wanted to do and it involved something I loved. The resolution revolution was on. Over the next 12 (Yes, all 12!) months, I researched cheeses, read books and articles about cheese, visited places where cheese was made and even attended a cheese festival. And I bought some new type of cheese every week when I shopped for groceries.

I told friends about my “resolution” and I can’t tell you how many times people would ask me throughout the year, “When was the last time you had some cheese?” or “Have you tried any new cheeses lately?” People even bought me cheeses to help me keep my resolution. Maybe it was the novelty that excited them. Or maybe it was that I was actually succeeding long after the idea came about.

I didn’t gain weight that year, if you’re wondering. What I did gain was a better understanding of how I follow through (or not) on various goals I set for myself. I also gained a feeling of great satisfaction when I realized in mid-December that I was still eating more cheese than I had the year before. And I learned that I liked blue cheese, something I had always thought I hated.

Each year since, I have made one “resolution” per year. The year after cheese, it was to go to more movies. The following year, go to more concerts. The year after that, spoil myself. Surprisingly, I kept those all year as well. I also did the year before last, when I vowed to watch every Star Trek series and movie, in chronological order. I started Jan. 2 and finished Dec. 27. That led to me attending my first Star Trek convention and a new bunch of friends, but that’s a story for another day.

I do set goals all through the year and keep them. You likely do as well. But why set unrealistic goals, call them resolutions, and then set yourself up for failure and disappointment at the beginning of every year, just because everyone else does? Find something you love and go for it, no matter what time of year it is.

I tend to be more reflective this time of year, and I certainly think about my life and where I am in it. Am I doing something I love? Am I balanced? Am I happy? What do I really want for the coming year? I think those are the questions you should be asking yourselves instead of making empty promises you may not keep.

Happy New Year.