Thoughts from the journey… Excerpts from a day in the life of Sherry McLaughlin

20Jan/100

Resolution v. Evolution

Be always at war with your vices,

at peace with your neighbors,

and let each new year find you a better man.

Benjamin Franklin


January 1, XXXX. Fill in the date. I love the concept of a fresh start that was harbored at a young age by a non-negotiable date with my dad every year. I’m not sure if he ever did this with any of my other siblings, but as New Year’s Day approached, he would say to me, “Shei, have you made your New Year’s Resolutions yet?” And with that question, I knew I should start preparing for our yearly meeting at the kitchen table.

I was a good kid who grew up in a stable family environment. When I thought each year about the things I would do better or what I would change, the list seemed rather redundant. I would try to be more honest and kind (for the most part, I already was), I would do well in school (I already got straight A’s), I would work to make this world a better place (at 10 years old, that basically meant staying out of trouble and doing a nice deed for someone now and again). But I honored the tradition, if for no other reason than it seemed to mean so much to my dad.

Each year, I would sit on his lap at the kitchen table and read my list out loud. His face would light up as if the list was unique and enlightening every year, his beaming smile a stamp of approval on my list of goals—a good template for the year ahead. I would kiss him on the cheek and be on my way to write another chapter of my life.

The years went by. His lap grew too small to sit on (or was that my butt that grew?) and I grew busy. He never forgot to ask me, but often times the New Years Day exchange happened while he sat at the kitchen table and I rattled off my list as I kissed his cheek and ran off to do something more important. I got my degree, got married, had a kid, raised some other kids, started a business, was widowed and am currently trying to survive the economic downturn just like everyone else. All of a sudden I long for the simplicity of a list that serves to solve the issues of my life.

Only now, at the ripe old age of 42, I actually have a ton of stuff to work on. As Oprah once said, “Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.” The thought of making a list only to have the disappointment of actually not achieving those things can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming. I mean, I told myself on January 1 that I was going to start blogging regularly again. (What date is it now?) I read that only 25% of New Years Resolutions are ever successfully achieved…and then I heard that 75% of all statistics are made up on the spot, so the success rate could even be worse than that!

And so, a few years ago, I started a new tradition. At the start of every year, I still vow to try to be a better person and make this world a better place. But on January 1st, I break the wrapper open on a little black book that will house my thoughts and dreams for the current year and I write a list. Only now it isn’t a resolution list…it’s an evolution list. The Sherry Evolution (1/1/09 – 1/1/10). It’s a list that earmarks the journey of a year: the things that have changed, the ways I have grown and the things I realize about myself.

There are a few rules about this list. Number one, it is a random brainstorm. Number two, there is no limit to how long or short it should be. Number three, it is to be written as if nobody else was going to see it. A raw and honest look at the person I am now…different than I was a year ago.

That being said, I thought I’d share a few things from this years list with you, if for no other reason than to inspire you to perhaps do the same. (Notice, I didn’t include all 62 items on my 2010 list. Some things, after all, are better shared in person.)

1. I now lead a Bible study every first and third Wednesday of the month.

3. I guess I’m officially a runner with seven half marathons under my belt.

5. I have actually sold things on Craigslist.

6. I have seen the big Redwoods in California.

7. I have actually traveled enough to earn several free flights.

8. I have spoken at West Point Military Academy.

10. I have over 400 friends on Facebook.

15. One of my favorite things to hear at night from the one I love is, “So, tell me about your day.”

19. I actually put partially synthetic oil in my car once just so I could feel like I was treating it kindly

28. My son and I end most days with him sitting at the end of my bed eating popcorn, watching TV and playing games. He steals my iPhone.

38. I was actually on the big screen at MacWorld in MacHeads the documentary for about one second. I cheered for myself.

40. I like my eggs over hard the best.

42. I do house cleaning on Tuesday more than the weekend.

51. I can be silenced in awe at the sight of thousands of stars on a clear night…and be thankful that I had to pee a 4 a.m. to get to see them.

54. My favorite thing to bring home from a trip is a sticker to put in my Moleskine’ notebook.

57. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God answers prayer.

60. I have been to the symphony twice in one year and each time it awakens my love for classical music.

61. I have a membership at the DIA. I no longer have one at the Detroit Zoo.

62. I tried to fast dance at a wedding—not pretty.

I think my dad would have enjoyed hearing my list. Maybe it isn’t a hearty list of accomplishment, but it is me--and I think he would have enjoyed not only knowing the person I wanted to be, but also the woman I have become. Sometimes, I wish I could sit next to him at the kitchen table and share it.

The world can seem overwhelming. You step out to try to make a difference and you wonder out loud, “How can I make a difference? How can I find my niche when all of the niches are already taken?” To those of you who feel this way, I have one last thing to say.

If life is a journey, then all you have to do is make sure that a day or a month or a year from now when you look down at your feet, you just aren’t standing in the same place. Then take notes. Lots of them. And if at the end of the year you find yourself standing in a niche formed by your own individuality—even better.

After all, resolution + evolution = revolution.

You just might change the world.

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