The transition from one year to the next is only the difference of a sunrise and the turn of a calendar page. The truth, though, is that there is no tomorrow.
Tomorrow is only a promise, a fantasy, a myth that plays over and over each day, stringing us along, cheating us out of the joy of accomplishing the simple acts in our lives because we believe there is always tomorrow.
My mother was born and raised in New York and lived there for 35 years, yet she never visited the Statue of Liberty and never went to the top of the Empire State Building. There was always tomorrow.
I've lived in Orange County for 26 years. I've never visited the Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona del Mar, never seen the Christmas lights at Roger's Gardens and never been to the Orange County Museum of Art, even though I have been meaning to visit these places for years. There is always tomorrow.
This year, my wife and I took our first two-week vacation in 25 years, and even though we didn't do much beyond getting lazy at a Lake Tahoe beach, it was one of our favorite trips. When we looked back at why we never took two weeks, it was for all the wrong reasons, most having to do with work. A longer vacation was always something we could do the next year when things settled down, but they never did.
This year, we took a ride in the balloon at the Great Park in Irvine; it was something we'd been putting off. We also organized a long-overdue October family reunion in Yosemite National Park that was so much fun, some folks have already made reservations for next year. We went to New York to go ice skating at Rockefeller Center and had an escapade on the streets of Manhattan that would be a side-splitting scene in a movie if anyone ever produced it.
On the way back from Oceanside a few days ago, we turned off the highway to follow the signs for a historical marker, just because. On the way back, we stumbled upon a Mexican restaurant that served the best breakfast we've had in years.
This year, I reached out to some long lost friends, one of whom, Steve Greenberg, I have not been in contact with in 32 years. I had not spoken to Cheryl and Nils-Eric Svensson in 18 years before I emailed them earlier this year. Since reconnecting, we've met for coffee and lunch.
Steve Ozer was one of the two buddies with whom I traveled up the coast on a memorable trip to Canada at age 17. I lost touch with Ozer after the trip and just reconnected with him through Facebook. We haven't yet met again in person, but we will. Tomorrow.
This year proved that one can still make new friends later in life and I count Bill Sneen, Muriel Ullman and Russ Carter as new friends and highlights of the year.
We got rid of so much clutter, too: hundreds of movies we no longer watch, clothes we'll never again wear and household goods we never use, all donated so others can clutter their lives with them.
This year confirmed that our two children, Kaitlyn, 21 and Roy, 19, have already achieved the most important goal in life: They are good people. We're now watching our niece, Kellie Pendergest, and her husband, Pat, raise their first child: 1-year-old Avery. I want so much to tell them that the most important gift we can give our children is our time with them, but I don't because in a rare moment of restraint, I don't want to come across as meddling. Maybe tomorrow.
This year, we slowed our lives to a crawl, trying anything to capture the small moments that we've been ignoring for far too long — the free ones that we discount because they're so common.
Thank you, readers, for your thoughts, critical and otherwise, this year. May 2012 bring you health, happiness, the love of friends and family, and the wisdom to realize that you can always make more money, but you can never make more time.
STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.