Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Picking Up, Dusting Off

Like the rest of the world, I spent this morning watching in awe as our nation took a giant step forward in race relations, and what we all hope will be a giant leap forward in our country's evolution. There is so much already said, and being said, and to be said, but I wanted to add a very personal note.

The last eight years have been both very successful and very difficult for me. I've tried to enjoy the highs: celebrating my 10th anniversary with my wife Sa, rescuing the cutest dog in the world Orson, winning two Emmy Awards, writing, selling, and publishing my first novel. But it has also been a tragic eight years, during which I lost my sister, my brother, my father, and far too many friends and mentors. I've wrestled at various times with alcohol, grief, and depression, and had some personal relationships suffer. And hey, the hardcover of the book came out during what we now know was the third quarter of a recession, so I'm not rich. The usual life stuff, I suppose. It has been hard, at times, to muddle through. But with the help of my friends and family, I've made it so far. I thank them for that.

I offer no thanks to the outgoing president, though. As I sit at my keyboard today, I feel intensely, literally, as though a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Looking back from the clarity of a happier day, I have the shameful feeling that since 2000, I've grown more arrogant, more cynical, snarkier. I suppose this could be attributed to any number of causes, personal moral failure among them. But I know that my way of relating to the world hasn't been improved by living under a regime that I truly believe to have been tyrannical. How could small-mindedness, stubbornness arrogance, and aggression help but seep down, over the course of eight years, from a leader to its people? How could a nation that violates the rights of its own citizens, bombs the innocent, tortures the suspected, and murders the guilty not, to some degree, desensitize its people to kindness and compassion?

I've mentioned privately to friends that I had a long list of New Year's resolutions, and I'm happy to say that so far they're going well. But President Obama's (how sweet it is to type that, for the first time!) speech has inspired me to add to the list. As he said, "What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly."

So as I set to work on this year in my career, I want to publicly proclaim I am picking myself up, dusting myself off, and rededicating myself to honesty, integrity, and professionalism in my writing. I will endeavor to be civil, to be snarky only with injustice, not with individuals. (I think I owe an apology to Joan Baez and Billy Joel for a bit in My Name Is Will!) I will try to bring to my own, exceedingly humble work -- of telling little tales -- as much truth and wisdom as I can find. In my private life, I'm going to pet the dog and cat more often, bring my wife more flowers, and take better care of myself so that I can take better care of others. I will volunteer more. And I will do a host of other small, private things that I hope will make the world a better place to live in.

If that sounds exceedingly lofty, well, what can I say, it's an exceedingly lofty day. I hope you all share my great joy, and my great hope for not just a happy new year, but a genuinely happier four years to come.

Now... I've got a novel to write.

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