Leaving 2008 behind - Joel Hall

Recently, our offices at the newspaper have gone through some major changes. Some people have left, new people have been hired, and lots of things have been moved around.

As a part of the changes, my desk was flipped around and re-arranged to make additional space. In the course of the move, I rediscovered many old notes, article clippings, and things I hadn't looked at since I started working here.

One of the things I stumbled onto was a column I wrote last year about New Year's resolutions going into 2008.

It was a little upsetting at first. I realized after reading through it that I had not accomplished any of the three major goals I set.

My first goal was to write a book. I've now realized what a major task that is. It's as painful as having a child and requires the attention of a skilled surgeon.

The second goal was to learn some Spanish. I've long had the desire to make a connection with the native language of my grandfather, but, again, that requires attention.

I've jammed out to Meringue and Salsa music in my car, but so far, that is about as far as I've gotten.

The third goal was getting buff using the P90X home fitness plan. After some deal of trouble - the package was stolen from my porch the first time it was delivered - I received the package some time in mid-summer.

Filled with 12, one-hour DVDs of insane, military-style workouts, and to-the-calorie meal plans, the whole package was quite intimidating. It would require as much physical energy as mental energy.

The first I had, but the second, I didn't.

When drafting my goals for 2008, I did not take into account how mentally exhausting the year would be. I really had no idea how much it would push me to my limits, and I don't believe I am alone.

The 2008 presidential election was particularly draining. As a journalist, it was tiring to cover, but even as a citizen, it makes you confront harsh realities that tend to be forgotten in the years between elections: Life is hard; life is often unfair; and that our fears often bring out our worst qualities.

Many of the comforts I've enjoyed in the past were put off to deal with the economy. I got rid of my Internet connection, I halted my search for a gym membership, and I even started changing the way I eat, in order to stretch my budget a little longer.

By New Year's Day 2009, I felt like I came out of the other side of a meat grinder. This past year has really taken a lot out of me. However, knowing I'm not the only one who struggled in 2008 gives me a little more strength.

While I may have not written a book within the last year, my writing has improved exponentially. Nuances which escaped me a year ago are much clearer to me now.

While I haven't learned any Spanish in the last year, I have acquired many of the instructional tools I will need. Perhaps by this time next year, I will be able to order something from a restaurant that is truly authentic.

And while I haven't gotten in the shape I want to be in, I've learned how to make much better use of my time. Perhaps, when I finally confront the beast, I'll have time left over to do something else.

Everything didn't go right in 2008, but some things definitely did. Perhaps in 2009, I'll get some of the results I've been waiting for.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.