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GUEST COLUIMN

Setting a realistic goal for 2008

In 2007 I did not lose weight, quit my bad habits or in any way become a better person. In fact, given that I have a demanding three-year-old son, a challenging job, weirdly unpleasant stomach problems and the endless pressure of having to write a column each week, I may have actually become worse.

Realistically, none of those things seem likely to change in the coming year, making the prospect of me in any way becoming a better person an unlikely one. I probably won't become a worse fellow in any considerable way, though it's a reasonable bet that this might be the year I finally snap when somebody tells me that "Two and a Half Men" is his or her favorite TV show.

Barring a sitcom related outburst, I'll likely remain the same opinionated, impatient, loudmouth jerk my friends and family seem mildly willing to tolerate. I'm not wholly unpleasant, but I can be annoying, short-tempered and a bit inflexible at times.

If you knew me personally in 2007 there is a reasonable chance I snapped at you for no reason or for something someone else did. I may also have not returned your phone call, forgotten some major occasion in your life or otherwise may have not treated you as important.

If I remembered whatever significant thing happened to you this year, it's quite likely I gave you a gift card to commemorate the occasion whether that was an appropriate gift or not. You can buy gift cards in the checkout line at the supermarket right above those magazines with crock pot recipes and Archie comics. And while a thoughtful guy would take the time to actually pick out a present, I consider anyone on my gift list this year lucky that they did not get a selection of gum, breath mints and batteries.

For those of you I don't know at all, it's quite possible I was the impatient guy behind you in line somewhere looking obviously annoyed. I'm sure a better, calmer man would have no problem with you paying for your groceries in unrolled change or insisting on paying separately for each item, but I, sadly, am not that man.

If you happen to be married to me - and that's admittedly a very small list - chances are I was less-than-pleasant on at least a few occasions. It's also possible that I may have occasionally brought at least a little bit of work stress home with me pretty much every night and I'm reasonably sure that whenever we shared any food, I always took the bigger half.

Though I did not commit any crimes or do anything shockingly bad in 2007, I have done countless little things wrong throughout the year. Being busy and a bit overwhelmed seems to make me a fairly selfish person and because of my self-absorption, my friends, family and employees suffered in a thousand little ways.

So for 2008 I cannot promise I will stop doing any of these things, but I can try to do them a little less. I won't be a carefree happy-go-lucky fellow without a care in the world, but occasionally I'll try to be slightly less unpleasant and a little more relaxed.

That may not be the most ambitious resolution ever, but it's one I can plausibly keep.

Daniel B. Kline's work appears in over 100 papers weekly. His new book, a collection of columns, "Easy Answers to Every Problem," can be ordered at Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. Daniel B. Kline can be reached at dan@notastep.com.

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