New beginnings are opportunities to reflect

When the sun broke through the clouds and rose on Saturday morning — Dec. 22, 2012 — the old Mayan prophecy — which was never really a prophecy but just the end of a calendar — was proven untrue.

Thousands, if not millions, of people worldwide were convinced that the end of the Mayan calendar meant the end of the world, but the sun came up Saturday morning... We made it.

Jokes started bouncing around social media sites, with most directed at mocking the believers.

And while I may have teased the event a bit, partially because I was thankful the theory was wrong, I also didn't have a problem with their belief.

I didn't think they were correct, and I didn't buy in to their theory.

But I will admit at least a small part of me was concerned that Thursday may have been my last day of existence.

I work a few extra hours on Thursdays, as we put out an extra paper and print it that night, and working 11 hours and collapsing into my bed exhausted wasn't how I envisioned spending my final day.

And while I didn't think the end of the Mayan calendar would mean the end of the world, the approaching apocalyptical fear did get me thinking about a few things I'd like to do differently with my life.

In fact, a calendar in our own society is coming to an end very soon — the 2012 calendar that sits on so many of our desks and hangs on so many of our walls.

And what happens at the end of any year, as we transition into any new period, is quite similar — we start thinking about what we'd do differently.

In the new year, we call them resolutions.

In the new school year, students and teachers sit down and set goals for
themselves and for the group as a whole.

And in a new week, when I turn the weekly calendar on my desk, I think about my goals and plans for that week.

We are planners and reflecters.

A large part of us wants to lay everything out and know exactly how the week, month, year will unfold.

But a large part of us also realizes it doesn't always happen that way, and so we look back and reflect — setting new goals and striving to do better.

In 2012, I wanted to lose some weight and read my Bible more. Those were two realistic resolutions that I settled on.

Neither of those things happened.

In fact, I think I'm a few pounds heavier, and I read my Bible maybe 1/10th of the days in the year.

Overall, those resolutions proved to be failures.

But Thursday, as I sat reflecting on the possibilities of the end of the world, it hit me.

There is no guarantee for tomorrow.

Live in the moment, live in the now.

Then, Friday night, the reality of not just the world's "vincibility," but also my own, came crashing down upon me.

On my way home from work Thursday night, after a quick stop at the gas station, I was driving home in less-than-ideal weather conditions.

It was the "perfect storm" kind of night. It had been raining/slushing all night, and the temperatures had fallen into the dangerous area.

I'd driven on slick roads thousands of times before, and I've driven the same kind of car for years.

I'm pretty comfortable on such roads, but also know the need to be careful.

So, as I set out on the trip up the road, I made sure to take my time and travel at a safe speed.

Unfortunately, ice knows no speed, and as I crested the peak of a hill on the road home, I felt the back end of my car slip just a bit.

Instinctively, I lifted my foot from the gas pedal, waiting for the back end to gain traction and correct, as it had done so many times before in similar road conditions.

I quickly realized that was not going to be the case this time.

The back end slid a bit further than usual, and I knew I was on a sheet of ice and was in trouble.

In what seemed to take forever, but was probably just a few quick seconds, my car had spun, crossed a lane of traffic and slammed into the bank, helicoptering me to a stop against the bank and partially on the road.

Fortunately, I was unharmed in the incident, and after a number of first responders from the volunteer fire department helped me check out my car, it proved to be unreportable and driveable — a blessing given how hard the hit felt.

And while I was fortunate enough to walk away unscathed, I must admit a part of me was shaken as I started to play the "what if" game.

What if a car had been coming the other way?

What if the car had rolled when it hit the bank?

A million what-ifs flooded the mind, and I was struck by just how fortunate I was.

There are no guarantees in this life.

Striking the bank left me unharmed but pensive.

Waking up Saturday morning did the same.

There are things in my life I wish I were doing differently, and every new beginning gives me a chance to reflect and try to turn things around.

I think we should view every day as a new beginning.

Taking time to reflect on these new beginnings and how we can better ourselves in the new day is one of the blessings of rising another day. Living each day to its fullest keeps life fresh.

In this Christmas/New Year's season, let's turn our focus to the new beginnings that come from the old traditions we celebrate.

In my life, Christmas is about the new beginning that came into the world in the form of a newborn baby.

But the Christmas story isn't just about a baby — it's about a man who taught others to constantly improve themselves and grow.

New Year's Day is about finding ways to make ourselves better in the new year.

It's not so much about out with the old, in with the new.

It's about reflecting on the old and transforming ourselves for every
new day we are blessed to have before us.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you, and God bless.

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit.