John's World: This Year for Sure

January 2, 2016 02:41 AM
John's World: This Year for Sure

There are few legal things as exciting as the turn of the year. It’s a fresh start, a reset to zero, a hosing off of the gravy stains of yore. Before us looms 12 months crammed with several hundred days in which we have not made one mistake—yet. It’s exciting to just type those words.

It reminds me of the start of a new quarter in college. If you ignore my cumulative grade point average—which I studiously did—those three beginnings each year presented me with a series of do-overs in my quest to get it right. At those moments, I was not several pages behind in my required reading, late with a term paper or faced with dragging a “C” up to a more attractive “B-.” Above all, on that crisp new morning, my grade in Calc II or Macro was exactly the same as John Fish, The Classmate Without Peer. 

John was a fraternity brother whose staggering intelligence threatened my worldview. Before the days of grade inflation, he almost became the first graduate of Rose Polytechnic Institute (real name) with a perfect 4.0. I say almost because while double majoring in math and electrical engineering or physics or some other opaque discipline, he stumbled inconceivably in our required ROTC course, incurring the only blemish on his record for his shoes not shined or something.

Anyhoo, he remains to this day the smartest person I have ever argued Ayn Rand with. He went on to work for the National Security Agency, which makes me wonder about the later career of the Army major who gave him a “B” in ROTC. 

But I digress. My point (I have just remembered) is on those first three days at the start of a new course, his grade and mine were exactly the same in the classes we shared. And it could remain that way all quarter! That probability required several zeroes to express, however.

The power of that moment at the starting line endures. Jan. 1 seems to shout “new beginning” even over the 
clamor of the unsettled fiascoes of 2015. For one day, aided by a sip or two of expensive ($7 ) champagne, I bask in the promise of re-genesis just like in “Star Trek II.” If Spock could come back from death, why couldn’t I make it back from the “C-” in Organic Chemistry II? Arguably, reviving Spock was more likely, but still.

So I await that morning at the very front of the year, when like new-fallen snow, a pristine future lays before me, unmarred by errant footprints or sideways skids into the ditch. All is possible, all is bright. Depending on my activities the previous evening, often a little too bright.

This is also why I try to do very little on New Year’s Day. True, that makes my activity level virtually indistinguishable from most other days, but avoiding decisions—and most importantly, concrete actions—is essential to avoid sullying the day with needless … umm, sullies.

So on that singular day, I stand aloof and thoughtful. This year, I could beat the odds and truly succeed in my quest for a higher plane of performance. This could be THE year when one of the bazillion monkeys types out “Hamlet.” Or, aiming lower, this could be the year several flawless hours pass before I make that first misstep, so moments spent pausing to reflect before acting could prolong that grace period.

The past is behind me—the door was closed at 6 p.m. last night, since we celebrate the new year on Greenwich Mean Time and go to bed at a reasonable hour. I can let go of all the regrets and recriminations and deflect the blame onto the old 2015 me. I am a new creature, and all things are possible. 

The minutes are full of opportunity: The business plan I submitted to the bank could reflect reality slightly. The pounds could evaporate from my gravitationally challenged frame as I train for a marathon. I could learn French and take up yodeling. I could finish “War and Peace.” I could buy a new sweatshirt, and even throw away an old one. 

It’s even conceivable I could think up hilarious new jokes and turn a Farm Journal column in before the deadline. OK—that’s crazy talk. 

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