By Simon Gonzalez
Every morning on the way into work I approach the intersection of Oleander Drive and Airlie Road and have a choice to make. Take a right at the light and head down the narrow two-lane road with the 35-mph speed limit that drops to 25, or keep going a few more yards and head down Wrightsville Avenue, with its wider lanes and 45-mph speed limit.
The Airlie Road route is about half a mile longer and a little slower. It makes more sense to take the faster route, especially on mornings when I’m running late — most mornings.
Yet the slow road is the best road.
About a mile past the light, the road curves and parallels the Intracoastal Waterway. When I moved here a year and a half ago, I figured since I was living at the coast I should see some kind of water every day. Since then it’s become a ritual of sorts; a reminder to slow down, relax, focus and appreciate the beauty. So that’s the route I take. Most days.
The other day I came to the daily decision and almost opted for the fast way but at the last second took the first right. When the road curved, I glanced over at the water and saw a dorsal fin breaking the surface. I quickly pulled over and was treated to the amazing sight of a pair of dolphins slowly making their way up the ICWW, breaking the water every so often.
Our planet has successfully completed another orbit around the sun, so naturally a little introspection is in order. This is the time of year when we look back on events of the previous 365 days, and look forward to what lies ahead.
The deep thoughts and reflections on the year just past trended toward the negative on the national level. It was “full of unimaginable strife and horror and loss,” a writer for one website stated. “You were a real jerk,” said another.
The headline in the Washington Post over George Will’s retrospective column sums up the sentiments quite well: “Good riddance, 2016.”
Although the Post headline encapsulated the consensus about 2016, Will’s column on government intrusions and excesses during the past 12 months was an outlier. Most of the negative commentary followed a common theme. A Vanity Fair writer called it “a crappy year” because “several beloved celebrities have died, the planet is still getting hotter, and well. You know the rest.” The rest in the writer’s lament being Donald Trump’s election.
All those things have varying degrees of importance. But there’s a much better barometer for viewing the old year than reading a handful of pundits’ thoughts about politics and entertainers — Christmas letters.
The ones that made it to our mailbox this year included tales of joy and sadness, births and deaths, new babies and new jobs, promotions and moves, graduations and trips taken. None of them mentioned celebrities, offered an opinion on whether the election was the best thing/worst thing to ever happen to the nation, or said how much better the year was because the Cubs won the World Series.
In the real world, there’s a way of summing it up: life happened.
It’s all too easy to get caught up with what’s happening on a macro level, obsessing over politics and celebrities and sports. Yet we live on a micro level.
It’s the interactions with family, friends, coworkers and strangers at the grocery store or gas pump that truly make up living, along with the dozens of small, seemingly insignificant daily decisions. That includes choosing the scenic route to work, which occasionally pays off with a dolphin sighting.
The old year/new year cycle involves not just looking back but looking forward. Often, of course, this includes making resolutions. Mine this year is to try to do a better job of focusing on the micro level.
Be nice. Don’t be too quick to judge. Give grace. Show mercy. And continue to take the scenic route.