Whether myth or fact, people genuinely believe in the power of NewYear’s resolutions. The new year always brings with it an opportunity to change a lifestyle and bad habit, or make changes that we failed to make in the previous year. It is the idea that the new year will bring with it a new hope for self-improvement. Among the most common New Year’s resolutions are developing healthier eating habits, more frequent exercise and dedicating more time for personal endeavors.
Several weeks ago, my brother and I eagerly made our way to a local community restaurant where we often gathered with other family members and friends before the pandemic. Recognizing Frank, an old friend of ours, we exchanged a long-anticipated laugh. The pandemic regulations made it difficult for us to engage with our old friend in-person, and this very much felt like a reunion of sorts.
Frank discussed his plans for the new year, shared his unfailing gratefulness for his family, and encouraged my brother and me in our endeavors. This was reminiscent of discussions we had with Frank in years prior. All who knew him would agree Frank would commonly bring joy to any atmosphere in a room.
Had I known that would be our last time exchanging laughs, I would have undoubtedly said more. Unfortunately, that’s just not how life works. Indeed, there will always be a “last time” for every significant and seemingly insignificant thing in our lives. A final embrace with a family member. One last smile shared with a colleague. A final nod of acknowledgement and good measure toward a stranger. One last argument with a dear friend. A last date with your significant other. And yes, even one last goodbye to an old friend at a local restaurant.
Our mundane and materialistic lives often blind us to the illimitable and invaluable lives we share in such a brief time on Earth. We become forgetful of the value in every moment — forgetful that even seemingly insignificant moments should be cherished. Death thrusts a sobering blow to our willful ignorance of the value on life’s most precious moments. I beg the question of how much we would cherish someone if we knew it would be our final moment together. Perhaps if we truly treated life as if no day were promised, our society would naturally be a better place. A place in which people are constantly cherished rather than devalued. A society in which each moment truly has a priceless tag ascribed to it.
A week ago or so, I received a call from my older brother with sobering news — Frank died only weeks after our last encounter. The silence said far more than either of us could. The silence, it seemed, mirrored the void in our lives left by Frank’s passing. Needless to say, we were stunned. If someone were to have said that would be our last encounter with Frank, we would have quickly dismissed the notion and continued about our busy lives.
The point is that many of us live by the false reassurance of a tomorrow, next month or new year in our foresights. Unfortunately, our false reassurance of more time can blind us to what matters most: the present moment. This often makes us unmindful that no day or moment is promised. This is precisely why many of us fail in accomplishing our New Year’s resolutions and more importantly, cherishing every passing moment. When we fail to be fully present in the moment, we inevitably depend on a clock without any guarantees of tomorrow.
Rather than waiting for Jan. 1 to change something in our lives, we ought to change it today. If we intend to spend more time with family, let us start today. If we endeavor to value every waking moment, let us begin immediately. If we intend to place more genuine effort into our work, let us start right now. There is no guarantee of tomorrow. However, there is a guarantee that if we do not begin to better ourselves today, we may never have an opportunity in the uncertain future. The bottomline is that we should never depend on a new year to do what only a decision can for our future. Let us move forward in 2022 valuing that which is both significant and seemingly insignificant.
A native of Pacifica, Jonathan Madison worked as professional policy staff for the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Financial Services, from 2011-2013. Jonathan is Lead Attorney at The Madison Firm and can be reached via email at email@example.com.