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An Unexpected Auld Lang Syne

When I was youthful and flighty and pretty stupid, my New Year’s resolutions were also youthful and flighty and pretty stupid. This is the year I’ll eat live seafood. For the next twelve months, I’ll answer “yes” to every request, no matter how ludicrous, and just accept the consequences. I’ll change my major to English and see where it takes me.

I mean, devouring a squirming eel and unquestioned subservience, sure, but English? And here we are.

But once I became an adult and had my wide-eyed optimism blinkered somewhat, I recalibrated my resolution to something more existential and non-specific, because that’s what happens to your resolutions when they become less, well, resolute. Your goals become paying bills on time and calling your parents more often; less about seeing your name in lights, more about keeping the lights on. So each January, knowing that dreams of exotic largesse might have taken a backseat to continual wheel-spinning, my resolution was captured thusly: This year, I’ll finally meet my potential.

So what would meeting my potential entail? I’d write more, and send my bylines all over creation. I’d play music for anyone who wouldn’t listen too closely. I’d put in longer hours at work, just see where it took me. Whatever it required, I’d do it; this was The Year of Potential Realized, after all.

But just as I was plunging into a year about me, my wife presented a pregnancy test that proved that, nope, this was now a year about us. Make no mistake, this was great news; after eighteen months of the proverbial (and not really anyone’s business, FYI) “trying,” we’d be welcoming a new person with a last name that was proud, mine, and kinda hard to pronounce.

But at what cost? What would this mean for my resolution? How would I meet my potential if I was spending every weekend transforming my writing and music room into baby quarters, or if my overtime was cut due to biweekly OB-Gyn appointments?

Thing is, more than anything, I wanted to start a family. So with a resigned shrug, I came to understand that my long-standing resolution about meeting my potential would live to fight yet another year, and so my energy went elsewhere.

My wife and I set about navigating the guideposts that govern many pregnancies — selecting names that aren’t reminders of enemies, past lovers, or both; comparing the size of our ripening new addition to increasingly delicious fruits and veggies; doing our part to help Dairy Queen pay the help — as we approached the finish line that signaled the beginning of a much longer race.

And in mid-November, we were told that our baby would be coming early: gather your clothes and toiletries, get to ThedaCare immediately, this child is arriving by sun-up.

The next twelve hours were a blur. It felt like in The Lion King when the wildebeests are charging Simba, and life rushed at us quicker than we could react. But after an anguished fight -- and some quotes from my wife that were legitimately passed around the nurses’ station that morning like a nasty cough -- our little hurricane made landfall on a sunny, mid-November morning.

Hours later, while my wife and son slept in hospital beds a few feet from me, my phone chimed an event invite for December 31st. “Ring in the New Year,” it groaned, pulling my attention from the most beautiful portrait I’d seen before or since. Phone silenced.

I’ll never forget the overwhelming quiet in that hospital room. My wife snored softly, and she and her filthy vocabulary had certainly earned it. My new son cooed next to her. The “Pushing Playlist” I’d created had been paused. And as I took brief inventory of it all -- the sunrise, my tough-as-hell wife, my new child -- I mentally crossed off all of those old New Year’s resolutions.

There’s no need to meet my potential next year. Because, in that perfect little room, I already did.

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