Not So Great Gatsby: Seeking Happiness in 2015, However it Appears

Dear Nick,

I cannot believe that we’ve made our way round the sun yet another time.  As the weather blusters into town turning our breath steamy white, I’ve taken to thinking about the year to come.  As our friend Alfred Tennyson once cooed, “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering ‘it will be happier.’”

On its very surface the idea of New Year’s resolutions are to make us happier, but rarely do we keep these annual promises to ourselves. So I’ve taken this brainstorm a step further and thought how can I make myself happier for 2015 and once resolved to changes, how can I make them stick.

In 2015, I will refuse to wear ribbons, dump water over my head or run a 5k in the name of charity.  I’ve done all of the aforementioned in 2014 with only the sincerest of intentions, and given what I could afford to various charities. Social media is a powerful tool for getting out the word and spreading ideas and some, like the ALS ice bucket challenge, are both inspired and successful. The common theme of most of the 5Ks, ribbons and charity golf tournaments are to raise funds and awareness.  At this point, is there anyone who is not aware that breast cancer is terrible or that smoking will kill you? I am guilty of hiding behind my donations and my ribbons and not actually getting involved. In 2015, I resolve to volunteer my time to the actual people represented by the ribbons on my lapel. Awareness is a vague, ineffectual word. There are people out there who need my time, and from whom I can learn so much.

The internet seems to have shrunk the world, old sport. There are kids who have never met their best friend, but they play video games and Skype with each other every day. Although this influx of information about how the other half of the world lives should bring us together, it also serves as a soap box for the very loud ignorant population and with more information. Its only logical that misinformation should flow more freely as well. So in 2015, I resolve to travel to another part of the world. And while there, I resolve to meet the locals and eat their food and speak their language the best I can. I want to see amazing scenery and the sites of historical events. And I want to make strangers into friends. Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I wholeheartedly agree with him.

I resolve to ask more questions. Next time you meet someone, or meet up with an friend, try to begin the conversation by asking three questions. Ask open-ended questions and then actively listen to the answer. Let the other person talk and don’t think of your response, but ask more questions. Take a mental note about how the rest of your meeting goes. Einstein said, “It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” I feel terribly that I spend most of my days thinking about myself. How I can compete in business, pay my bills and fulfill my daily wants and needs? If I can focus my leisure time on my friends and really celebrate our relationships, I am willing to bet I can be a better friend, and we will enjoy our time together. And if it doesn’t work out, I am sure I will have no problem reverting back to talking about myself.

Do you have any resolutions, Nick? Every year around this time I become extra optimistic. I am a naturally optimistic fellow, but you already knew that, old sport. I come to the same conclusion every December, and the conclusion I usually reach is that the next year will be a spectacular one. This year is no different. I have grown so much in 2014. I have faced some of the most difficult challenges of my life, but also learned to love and trust and that has made me a better man.  My unfulfilled resolutions that have washed up on the shores of my life like so many messages in bottles thrown in the sea unanswered have taught me to temper my optimism with resolve. I don’t consider myself wise, but I have realized that a goal without a plan is merely a wish. So if I could offer you a morsel of advice on this New Year, it’s that a resolution doesn’t have to be a fool’s errand. Be as specific as you can about what you’d like to achieve and then map it out. Write it down and hold yourself accountable.

If I could have one wish for you and yours for 2015, it’s that you are as happy as me. Happiness is incredibly subjective but we all know what is feels like. Make yourself happy every day, and be grateful that you have the chance to pursue that happiness for 365 more days.

Yours Truly,