The new years toasts are over, and we’re a week into 2009. If hindsight is 20-20, then it’s time to feel pretty confident inpassing judgment on 2008 — it sucked.
Ever want to just drop kick a time span into oblivion? In more ways than can be said here, that’s how I feel about a lot of last year. Nothing’s all bad, but the balance sheet for 2008 ends up on the negative side. Good riddance.
And this is coming from someone who considers himself an optimist, one who can find the jewel in an avalanche of slime. In this job we often have to wallow in the mud with the power-mongers and the self-righteous, the pitiful and the abused, but we do it in hopes of making things better. So instead of letting bad news drag me down, typically it’s a springboard to look at what could be or how good I’ve got it.
But many times during the last year, that was hard to do.
Of course there is the bad economic conditions that waddled into our lives in 2008 and just sat there, a huge gorilla with its arms folded and a nasty snarl on its face, squatting there in the middle of the room and refusing to leave. It’s been tough. In our business we’ve had to cut people’s hours, have layoffs, and hold the line on all spending. And there may be more to come. We’ll see how the winter shapes up.
Every business owner has a similar story. No one is happy with sales and profits (or should I say losses), and everyone is getting a little desperate. When business is bad and salaries are cut or workers are let go, lives are screwed up. These are scary times.
And if the recession wasn’t enough to scare the bejeesus out of you, what about the newspaper industry in general? This business is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up, and a good part of that change is eliminating resources going into the gathering of news. All across the country, newspapers are cutting back. We who believe in the value of professional reporting to analyze and interpret the news are, I’m afraid, fast becoming relics. Our industry is changing, but no one can see where the future lies. That uncertainty is unsettling.
On top of that, we’ve had too many health issues here at our business. People I care about are dealing with tough stuff themselves or problems afflicting loved ones, and of course it affects their work. How can it not? And how, as a boss, can you not feel sympathy toward their plight? Never mind that it happens when you’re trying to squeeze blood from a turnip, so that these personal problems run up against bad times on the business side.
There was also my own private nightmare in 2008. My mother-in-law battled through a tough summer with a major illness, and then my mother became unexpectedly ill and fought like hell for almost three months before passing away. Losing a mother you’re close to — besides having to dealing with the grief — is like cutting the last tether holding you to the life raft, and suddenly you’re out there in the middle of the ocean on your own emotionally. No matter your age, it just takes time to regain your balance.
A friend of nearly 30 years also lost his mom this year. He’s one of those guys who makes proclamations that stick in your head, a blue-collar philosopher who thinks hard about life. I got him on the phone when he was driving back from visiting family after she died, and he had been on the highway alone for more than 10 hours. “No one said the journey was going to be easy, that it wasn’t going to get rough at times,” he said. “You just got to keep moving.”
And so we do, keep putting one foot in front of the other, get out of bed, get dressed, get the kids to school, go to work, go through the routines of our life. The little things will lift you up, the unexpected silly email from the co-worker, the stories about my wife’s students, the declarations of omnipotence from my 10-year-old during breakfast, the angst of my 13-year-old, the sunny smile of my 16-year-old who is too wrapped up worrying about school and sports but who just can’t help being a ray of sunshine in whatever room she’s in.
I can’t stand whiners. They get under my skin real fast. If you feel the same, you’ve probably read enough of this. Too much damn grousing. Time to move on, one foot in front of the other, heading forward. Here’s to 2009.