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  • Writer's picturejamesbriankerr

Peaceable Man Files #40: New Year, New Beginnings

Image by Willgard Krause from Pixabay

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice. – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


Rachael and I rang in the new year last weekend in typical boring fashion by staying home and watching a movie. By ten o’clock, we were heading up to bed in the hopes of catching a full night’s sleep while the rest of the world counted down the minutes to another year.


Alas, our sleep was short-lived because at midnight we were awoken by the crack of fireworks lighting the skies above our townhouse community. The celebration went on for some time, and as I lay there in the darkness wondering if all the hullabaloo would wake the dog downstairs in her crate (it didn’t), it struck me that this new year of 2024 would not be just another year. This was going to be a year of new beginnings in my world.


To start, in June, my middle son and his fiancée will be getting married. Our entire family is looking forward to going to Denver (where they reside) for the celebration. Evan is the first of my sons to tie the knot, which means I will be able to say for the first time that I have a daughter-in-law. I like the sound of that.


That’s not the only marriage in 2024. In October, Rachael and I will be tying the knot after nine years of being together. Both of us have been through a lot to get to this point: a lot of drama, a lot of reflection, a lot of self-evaluation and learning. From my perspective, I can say that after eighteen years as a single father, I’m ready for a new chapter in my life as a married man. It’s exciting.


A few weeks after that, I will be turning 65 and will officially be, in society's eyes, a senior citizen. How did I get to this point? It seems like yesterday that I was the youngest person in the room. Now, I’m one of the oldest.


While I can’t say I’m excited about crossing this milestone, I must say that I don’t feel old. I’m healthy (knock on wood) and have lots of energy. I’m still working, still writing, still taking on new projects in my second-act career as an author and communications consultant.


I have plenty of goals too, all tied to my personal passion for storytelling. This year, after many rounds of revisions, I hope finally to complete my novel-in-progress, Unto the Mountain, and get it off to agents and publishers. As a latecomer to the publishing party, I know the odds are against me, but I’m not letting that stop me. Why should I?


I’m a firm believer that no matter what age we are, we need to be challenging ourselves. Just as regular exercise helps keep the body’s machinery in tune and arthritis at bay (motion is lotion!), so it is vitally important to stretch our minds by setting goals and taking on new challenges aligned with our passions and interests.


Studies show that a curious, challenged mind is less susceptible to disease and dementia. While curiosity may have killed the cat, it keeps us humans alive and vital for longer. Like Alice in Wonderland, we need to keep a beginner’s mind and look for rabbit holes that take us to magical new adventures.


The turning of a new year offers us a chance to push the reset button and make new beginnings for ourselves. These new beginnings can be as large as getting married or as small as trying out a new hobby or going on a travel adventure that we’ve never done before.


For me, in addition to the big stuff happening this year in my life, I am challenging myself to read classic novels that have long been on my reading list. Right now, I’m working my way through Tolstoy’s massive masterwork War and Peace. I'm about halfway through the 1,200-page volume and the novel is giving me a glimpse into what life was like in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.


I am also listening to a lot of podcasts. Two of my favorites are the BBC’s long-running “In Our Time,” which explores the big historical and philosophical moments in human history, and Noiser’s “Real Dictators,” which peeks into the lives of dictators throughout history. I listen to podcasts while making the two-hour drive back and forth to my mountain house in northern Pennsylvania. I’m literally learning as I drive.


I’ve also gotten into doing crossword puzzles—big ones, either 500 or 1,000 pieces. It’s something my mother used to do when she was at home, especially during the long, barren months of winter. Studies show that doing crossword puzzles on a regular basis helps with memory and cognition skills as we age. It’s also a lot of fun. 


By definition, these new beginnings of mine won’t last as long as those I made ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. But I try not to think about that. Today is the first day of the rest of my life—yours too—and the important thing is to be always learning, always seeking, always improving.


“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice as set forth in her adventure.


What adventures do you have in store in 2024?


May your new year be filled with new beginnings, new learnings, new blessings.


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