"St. Peter, don't you call me 'cause I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store."
Tennessee Ernie Ford, "Sixteen Tons"
Fortunately, as I prepare to turn the calendar on another year, I do not owe my soul to the company store or to any other store for that matter. I might owe myself an apology, though.
As I prepare to celebrate another year, I realize that in many ways my life is more fulfilling than ever. I am writing songs I am proud of and actually getting to share some of them with the outside world instead of keeping them hidden away. I only wish I'd done so sooner.
I've written songs now in five different decades. However, for most of that time, I lacked the courage and self-confidence to try to do anything with them. The up side is that I wrote most of my horrendous songs before I ever had the nerve to publicly share anything. The down side is that I let a lot of years go by before doing so.
On the other hand, I am finally sharing some of my songs, and the songs I am sharing are some of the best I've ever written. While I could wish I'd started sooner so as to maybe have a larger audience, the fact that any of my songs have had any audience at all is still very gratifying.
I think I'm learning that my time frames and my pace of life and doing things don't necessarily match up with how the rest of the world operates. Then again, I suspect I've really known that all along.
I am also coming to terms with and learning to accept the fact that I will never be mistaken for a bodybuilder or someone like Jack LaLanne. I like to eat; I like to drink; I don't like to exercise. I think that combination pretty much guarantees that I will look more like Mr. Potato Head than Mr. Universe.
It has taken a while, but I am learning that I have little power over the prejudice, the shortsightedness, or the narrow-mindedness of others. Nor do my shortcomings in various areas help to balance the scales.
I have learned that Facebook is not the place for serious discussion of issues. Nor is it the place to change minds or sway opinions. People will share what they believe and block what they don't, and seldom do the opposing views interact in any meaningful or civilized way.
In conjunction with that, I have learned that "social media," while sounding like a platform for people all over the world to come together and share thoughts, opinions, and ideas, is basically only a place for people to say hello, share recipes, post cat pictures, and express political half-truths. Once I realized these things, I became less frustrated with social media.
There is one other thing I've learned. In spite of the events of the past year, I remain an optimist and an idealist where the world is concerned. As John Lennon once sang, "You might say I'm a dreamer." Some might call me naive and foolish. So be it. I'd rather be naive and foolish and believe in the prospects for a better and more united world than to accept the alternative.
The way I see it, as look as I'm still dreaming, I'm still living. I've learned in the past year that dreams can come true even if not quite in the way originally imagined. So I'll keep on dreaming. Because every once in a while, the dream becomes reality. I hope you keep on dreaming as well.