I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. I typically wake up one morning in March wildly disappointed in myself because I haven’t followed through with a single resolution I made at the end of December. So I finally realized I didn’t need that kind of pressure. Do I have goals? Sure. But I make them for myself whenever they’re needed, regardless of whether or not giant balls are descending into the crowded streets of The Big Apple. Nevertheless, there’s nothing like staring down the barrel of a new year to force you to consider the trajectory of your life.
I’ve always considered teaching and writing to be two of the most noble practices I could pursue. In each case the potential for impact was great, and the chance that one might leave a legacy for the future almost palpable. In any event, teaching and writing seemed to be a better use of my time than lounging on my sofa playing Mario Kart on my Wii.
But what if I’m wrong? What if I’m completely oblivious to some other purpose, some other calling? What if, at the end of my life, I look back and say, it didn’t work, it wasn’t enough? I’m not so much talking about the teaching. I’m very lucky because, in addition to paying (most) of my bills, teaching is a highly satisfying, personally fulfilling experience. And I’ve always been grateful for that.
But writing is different. It’s not my job. No one’s forcing me to do it. And aside from some occasional freelance gigs, I never get paid for it. It’s something I do out of love and compulsion. But what if I’m supposed to be doing something else? What if spending time on this earth pushing nouns and verbs together is ultimately a waste of the days and nights God gave me. What then?
I supposed we all want our days on this earth to count, to mean something. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that. But sometimes I stare at the footlocker that sits on the counter in my classroom, the one that contains the two screenplays, three sitcom scripts, dozens of stories, four unpublished books, and thousands of poems that I’ve written since I was ten and I think, why did I do that? To what end? Would it have been better, more practical, more fulfilling, more glorifying to God to have spent my time oil painting, slot car racing, beekeeping, square dancing? What?
Sometimes I think that no matter what activities we choose to occupy our time, it’s all wheel spinning. And I often fear that no matter how we spend each hour, it’s a waste of the ticking clock. But how do we do it differently? How do we fill our hours with worthwhile avocations? I’m not talking about feeding the poor or building houses in third world countries. Hopefully, we’re all doing what we can to make the world a better place. I’m talking about the down time, the hours we have to ourselves that we can spend as we wish. How do we make those count? To quote a writer who enjoyed somewhat greater success than myself, are all my attempts at written communication merely tales “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?”
Maybe everybody feels this way no matter how one’s time is spent. I don’t know. All I know is that a new year is beginning and twelve months from now I don’t want to feel as though I’ve frittered my time away (although time-frittering is, in truth, one of my favorites pasttimes). In short, I want to look back and say that I did something worthwhile in those free hours; I want to be certain that my time on this big blue marble mattered. I’d like to know I haven’t wasted my life creating pages that only a handful like yourselves will read (although I’m profoundly grateful for the time and effort you offer here) and I want to know that fashioning fictional worlds is ultimately more productive and more meaningful than rock collecting, line dancing, or having another go at “When I’m Sixty-Four” at the local karaoke bar.
Do you ever wonder if it’s enough?