Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorite Things I Did in the '00s

Well here we are on the last day of the decade, one that Time magazine has labeled as the worst ever. But while a lot of bad things did happen, and I sit here on December 31, 2010, unemployed with no imminent prospects, unmarried likewise, overweight, diabetic, in debt and with pretty much nothing to do on New Year's Eve, I really feel pretty happy, pleased about my decade past and upbeat about the one to come.

As I wish you a Happy New Year and hope the year and decade ahead hold nothing but good things for you, those you know and everyone, I will recap My Favorite Things I Did in the '00s, not in an acute, specific-event sort of way, but with a more overall perspective.

I apologize in advance if much of this comes off as self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing, but I am really writing this list for my own sense of pride and accomplishment, and even a bit of self-actualization. So indulge me, and then make a list of your own. It'll make you feel good.

During the '00s, I...

1. Maintained and made great friendships - Never one with tons of friends, I am proud that during the '00s I have continued wonderful friendships dating back to kindergarten, high school, college, various jobs, etc. I also made a solid handful of new friends whom I consider among my closest and, through the magic of Facebook, have rekindled a number of long-lost friendships. I'm also grateful that my Mom and sisters remain so prominent in my life.

2. Traveled the world - Thanks in large part to a past job in which I was able to accumulate hundreds of thousands of airline miles, during this decade I was able to visit Ireland (for my best friend's wedding), London (6x), Paris, Brussels, Australia, Italy, Amsterdam, Prague, Spain, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Israel and Egypt (where the camel I rode still recalls me fondly). I also went to New York City ten times, as well as Philadelphia, LA, Seattle, New Orleans and many other places in the U.S. Despite the many free flights, all my traveling cost quite a bit of money, at the expense of other things, but undoubtedly has made me a richer man.

3. Appreciated the arts - Developing a deep love of theater, I attended of hundreds of musicals and plays, as well as numerous rock concerts, operas, jazz, classical, blues and comedy performances. I even saw a ballet or two. I also visited over a hundred art museums and tried to see & appreciate many examples of great architecture, and saw many great movies including a number of foreign films from various countries. Altogether, this has provided infinite enjoyment and awareness I lacked 10 years ago.

3a. ...and Athletics - Though a few ballparks were hit before the '00s, I am now just 4 shy from having seen a game in every current major league stadium (new Yankee, the two in Florida and the new Twins park, opening in 2010). I went to three Cubs playoff games in 2003 (including the clincher in Atlanta and the dreaded Game 6), attended an All-Star Game and no-hitter (Buerhle's first), saw some of the world's greatest soccer players play in Chicago, went to a few Bulls, Bears, Hawks, Fire and Northwestern games and watched hundreds more. While more so a Cubs fan, I was truly ecstatic to see the White Sox win it all in 2005 (although not in person).

4. Was a good uncle - Although I don't know the joy of having my own children, I have greatly enjoyed seeing my almost 12-year-old nephew and twin 10-year-old niece & nephew grow up, while participating in their lives. You'd have to ask them, but I think I've been a pretty good uncle, and certainly have treasured trying to be.

5. Did good work - Though two extended unemployment stints may suggest otherwise, when I did work, I regularly received high praise for my efforts, creativity and results. I earned several excellent reviews and generous raises, was credited for helping my employers land large amounts of new business, and even in doing freelance and volunteer work, frequently heard fulfilling accolades. So hopefully someone will hire me again, not too far into the new decade.

6. Shared my passions - In the '00s, I didn't quite match the '90s in terms self-creations such as pun cartoon calendars, poetry books and paintings, but was glad to have shared self-made greeting cards, extensive photography and numerous musical compilations with family & friends. Through conversations, blogs, websites and emails, I was proud to interact about my travels and my various passions, such as music, theater, movies, sports, art and more. I also played thousands of Scrabble games.

7. Got political - Although I have voted in every general election and most primaries since I was 18, it wasn't until 2006 that I "got involved." Since then I have done volunteer and paid marketing work for several candidate & causes, served as marketing director and website administrator for a grass roots organization called Operation: Turn DuPage Blue, and through its success, have been labeled (their words, not mine) the "Patron Saint" of the Democratic Party of DuPage County, for whom I still do occasional marketing work, despite no longer living in DuPage. I will also always treasure having been in Grant Park the night Obama was elected.

8. Handled unemployment with aplomb - Without the pressures faced by those with families to support, and with the help of unemployment benefits, occasional freelance work and the financial & emotional assistance from loved ones, I survived an 18-month unemployment stint a few years back and am 6-1/2 months in this go-round. Certainly I have had down days, several moments of frustration and am quite concerned about what the future holds, but I have never said "Why me?," looked backwards, suffered severe depression, sought therapy or turned to alcohol, drugs or other vices, except for a few too many hot dogs. I do not say this to be boastful, nor comparative to what others go through, but am grateful I have been able to maintain a positive outlook and keep things in proper perspective.

9. Bought a condo - Because of my traveling and other spending habits, I remained a renter until I was 38, but in 2007 was able to purchase my first home of my own: a one-bedroom condo in Skokie, 2 minutes from where I grew up and where my Mom still lives. Though it's always cluttered, could use a good cleaning, isn't that big and is devoid of immediate guest parking, I really like it and invite you to come over and check it out sometime. Just give me a little advance warning.

10. Worshiped the Boss - As today's topic--and this whole month-long exercise--will attest, I believe it is vital to have passions and pursuits, not only for entertainment and enjoyment, but to provide intellectual and emotional nourishment that can sustain you through tough times and bouts of boredom. While I have gained abundant sustenance from many performers, authors and creators, in this regard, far foremost is Bruce Springsteen. During the '00s, I saw Bruce perform live 30 times in many venues and locales, while getting countless more hours of enjoyment through his music--both old and new--and concert DVDs. I also admire that he has become an ardent public voice for what he believes in--largely, common dignity--and I greatly relished what Jon Stewart had to say about him on the Kennedy Center Honors the other night, including that Bruce always "empties the tank" for his art, his audience and his country. May you all have Bosses that elevate your existence and lift you through the...

Badlands, you gotta live it every day
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you've gotta pay
We'll keep pushin' till it's understood
and these badlands start treating us good

Clearly, I am need of considerable improvement, so these are some things I hope to do in the '10s:

1. Lose weight, by eating better and exercising more
2. Read more, especially more non-fiction, biographies and weightier novels
3. Write more, including movie scripts, plays, short stories, essays, published reviews and even books
4. Date more, and ideally, perhaps even one day get married
5. Broaden my travels - South America, Japan, China and India are now on my bucket list
6. Do more to help others, by volunteering and donating more
7. Cook more and with greater variety
8. Be better with my personal finances (balance transfers have been my Beelzebub)
9. Be more kempt (or whatever the opposite of unkempt is) in my home and car
10. Learn new languages - I'm starting with Spanish

So there you have it; I guess that's it for 2009 and all the '00s. Have a safe and Happy New Year and see you in the '10s.



Anonymous said...

Hi, Well done. You seem to have lived life to the full and done most things for a young man.
You say you want to read biographies well here is one you can perhaps make a start with, my book that is coming out. You can find it on Google title Almi A Refugee or publisher's website: and perhaps order the book. Good luck. Tiiu Kleyn

Anonymous said...

Cash Making Opportunities - The Beginning The working life is already tough enough, but the worries of being out of work was even tougher. The unsecured working environment have prompted me to search the internet for an alternative source of extra income so that I could learn how to Make Money Work for me and be Financially Independent. I listed down a number of Free Internet Business Opportunity Ideas while researching ways how people earn money online while working-from-home.......