1979 and 2019

Me at ages 17 and 57.

As I look ahead to 2019, I also have to look back 40 years to 1979. That year started magically. My mom turned 50, I went to my prom, I was showered with awards by my high school, graduated as a valedictorian, and looked forward to going to UCLA. Then things took a horrible turn. I was robbed at gunpoint at Carl’s Jr., my mom had a stroke, and I faced an uncertain future.

Uncertainty is what I feel as we begin 2019. With the economy staggering, our already unhinged president sinking to Shakespearean levels of madness, Brexit, populist totalitarianism, and impending environmental disaster, the start of 2019 could be more tragic than magic. Would that mean 2019 could turn out, um, great?

A lesson I learned since 1979 is that we can’t control what happens to us. We can work with the hand that circumstances has dealt us, set goals for what we want to accomplish, and work to make the most of life and the world around us. Here’s how I seek to create my own magic in 2019.

Publish a novel

Although I have self-published several books, it’s still my goal to get a novel selected by a publisher. I have two novels in submission. The first is Amiga. Whenever I get frustrated with rejections and say, “The heck with it, I’ll just self-publish,” that’s when I see a publisher open for submissions and think, “Hmm. Amiga would be a good fit for them.” So, I’m keeping Amiga in the submission process until somebody takes it — or provides feedback to show me how to rework it.

The second novel in submission is one you can actually help me get published. It’s The Remainders on Inkitt. It got another five-star review, lots of positive feedback, and its largest one-month increase in chapter reads. It still needs more reads and feedback to be considered for publication. Stop by the Inkitt site and read the The Remainders for free. You can also download the free Inkitt app for Apple and Android and read it on your smartphone or tablet.

There’s a third novel coming this year that I’m writing for Fun A Day Reseda. Snow in Los Angeles, set in 1948, is about a family still dealing with grief over a son’s death in World War II. That’s when a refugee with a secret and an exciting, but risky opportunity in Hollywood come into their lives. I will be looking for beta readers when the draft is complete.

Improve my health

Losing weight is the resolution everyone makes on January 1 and breaks on January 2. This year, I don’t have a choice. After hernia surgery, ongoing cholesterol and blood pressure issues, and the looming memory of my mom’s stroke, I can’t afford to put it off any further. I’ve been through enough diets and exercise programs to know what to do and why our biology and culture makes it difficult to do.

That’s why I’m trying something different: Get in touch with my body and find out what it needs. I often eat because it’s time to eat, or I have a coupon, or someone put treats out on their desk. I need to wait until I’m actually hungry and eat what satisfies me and offers the most amount of energy (instead of giving me the 2:00 pm crash). I also need to moderate my caffeine intake. Sure, it’s the writer’s drug of choice. But if you get the shakes, you’re drinking too much of it.

Give more speeches

I enjoyed the opportunity to give presentations in-person and online at the Muzeo, Facebook Live for Hometown Reads, and Indie Author Day. I’d like to continue this and do more of them. This ties into my other two goals. The networking helps further my writing and makes me more sellable to publishers. It also motivates me to stay healthy so I have the energy to speak (and I can look good in a suit).

I also want to speak in Reseda this year as part of the 40th anniversary of my high school graduation. I’d like to give a reading either at Fun A Day or some other cultural event. My biggest dream is to get a second chance of giving a speech at graduation. Although I was a valedictorian, I didn’t give the valedictory speech. Here’s my draft of such a speech.

Spend time with my family

One of the other big lessons from 1979 is the importance of family. When I was younger, I took them for granted and was frustrated by the demands they put on me. But when they’re no longer there, you realize how much you needed them and miss them. Another lesson I learned is that just because your children are grown, it doesn’t mean they no longer need you. If anything, they need your guidance even more, and they appreciate it because they realize how difficult adulting actually is.

So, I commit to spending more time with my family, strengthening the bonds with my wife, supporting our grown children, and enjoying our granddaughter. Although this seems at odds with the other goals, it really isn’t. Health gives me the energy to enjoy my family, and creativity enables me to seek solutions to my problems and be happier.

I have no more control over my world as a middle-age adult in 2019 than I did as a teenager in 1979. What I have is the ability to set goals for what I want to achieve and the resilience to deal with whatever circumstances throw at me.

What are your goals for 2019? Please post them in comments.


Originally published at Matthew Arnold Stern.