Monday, December 31, 2007

If Wishes Were Horses, Then Dreamers Would Ride

When this year started, I declared it to be the "Year of the Squeaky Wheel." I tried to stay intentionally vague on that subject. Whether or not we care to admit, we're all a little superstitious. And for this year, I made one major resolution.

I was going to take charge of my life. As 2K6 drew to a close, I saw friends around me get laid off from a job where we'd built a close, almost familial bond. Even though we didn't state so out loud, those of us who remained knew that it was only a matter of time before it was our turn. Keeping an ear close to the ground for a better job became part of the mantra.

As a writer I was satisfied with what I was doing at Chicagoist, but I wanted to do more and wanted to improve all around in that area. I read what's in the dailies, the weeklies and the local magazines and I thought to myself that I could do at least just as well. So developing something of a freelance career was on the "take charge" agenda.

We're also vain to varying extents, and I was already working on changing my eating habits by cutting out high fructose corn syrup. If I could eat better, it would also help me not only health-wise, but from a writing perspective, since I'm a food writer. That made the list. Then I called it the "Year of the Squeaky Wheel", kept the resolution close to my vest, and set out to act.

Those tentative first steps reinforced something I read once: "A man without hope is a man without fear." And in those early weeks of this year, I was nothing if not scared. But it forced me to focus on what I wanted to achieve. I'm impatient by nature, and I had to learn to take things slow and keep working for those goals. It started slowly: some assignments for Centerstage, hours browsing job boards, sending out resumes, and drinking water when I normally would have eaten. But I stuck with it.

By the time May rolled around and we knew that time was wasting at HotHouse, I had managed to get my first assignments with Time Out Chicago and the Sun-Times. Again, baby steps. Where others at HotHouse were taken with shock at the news it was closing, I at least had some semblance of a backup plan. And freelance work was able to keep me afloat until I landed my current job, just in time to take stock at what I wrote in January.

Looking back I can state unequivocally that this has been one of the best years of my life. It's been fulfilling and rewarding, in the shadow of uncertainty. There are times I hear something playing on Winamp that reminds me of HotHouse, which was such a long chapter in my life, and I miss it. But I can't afford to look back now. 2K8 is upon us, and I have another set of resolutions to knock out. Again, I'll be vague about what they are, and let you know what they are when I see them in sight.

Happy New Year, everyone!!

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