A couple of weeks ago I hit a milestone — the beginning of my third year with the Glendale News Press. For those unfamiliar with the story of how I ended up here, after a 15-year career as a writer in various media, I entered and won a contest the paper held to find a columnist to cover the La Crescenta area.
It is truly an honor to write for my fellow Glendale inhabitants. And yes, I even respect most of my haters who so passionately defend their differing opinions. I have made every effort to spread the love, pointing at the role the News-Press editorial staff plays in giving me the latitude to write on a broad range of topics.
My weekly ritual begins long before my Monday morning deadline. I start ruminating over stories on the Wednesday prior. I search for topics with the following priorities in mind: how does it affect my life as a Glendale resident, a 49-year-old man, and a member of the human race searching for the meaning of life?
By Sunday, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to write about and I start making mental notes of quips and comments I can inject into the story and the first draft is born. On Monday, I am up at 5 a.m. to rewrite and edit the draft until about 7 a.m. when I get ready for my day job.
During my commute into El Segundo I think of ways to tighten up the morning’s work. I spend anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes finalizing the draft before sending it to the editors. I’ve done this nearly every week for these last two years and have written my columns during trips to San Francisco, Utah, Dallas, New Orleans and in dozens of coffee houses in between.
I have soldiered on these last few weeks amid some personally trying times. For the most part, I’ve done my best not to bore you with any egocentric details, instead sticking to issues around Glendale.
But this morning I awoke with a desire to share something personal that has been on my mind, not as a local resident, but as a human being, like you, trying to find meaning to something bigger than the design of a parade float.
Why do I feel the need to divert away from texting drivers and misguided branding efforts? Because life has decided to get in my face and show me how fleeting one’s existence can be. Two people I knew passed away within the last few weeks. One of them, Jason, was a very close friend in high school. The other, Chloe, was the daughter of two more friends from high school.
Jason’s death hit me much harder than I could have imagined. I spent the better part of an entire weekend mourning the loss of someone I hadn’t seen in 15 years. Sadly, I was supposed to see him four weeks ago but I opted not to join a gathering of old friends.
The next day I got a text message from Jason telling me he was sad I didn’t make it. Five days later, Jason died waiting in line at the Whiskey A Go Go nightclub in Hollywood. Those who knew him and his love of rock and roll would certainly agree that he left this world doing one of the things he truly loved.
I did not know Chloe very well. But her sudden passing has been hard. I have agonized watching her mom cope with the sudden loss of a daughter who had just celebrated her 20th birthday with a huge party only three days prior to her passing.
Chloe had muscular dystrophy and each birthday was an extremely important milestone to her. I’d like to believe her last party was the grand finale to a life lived with passion and appreciation.
It was at Chloe’s memorial service, during an outpouring of love and affection, that I realized an opportunity existed to remind us all to live each day as though it may be our last.
Don’t get caught in the petty things. When you put this paper down, take a less cynical look around and be grateful for the things you have and stop complaining about the things you are lacking. If you don’t like the way something is, find ways to change it.
Be brave enough to do the things you really want to do and don’t worry about failing. You can’t win if you don’t play.
Yes. Those are all clichés. But they are ones I need to hear now and again because they seem to be the ones I so easily forget. I thought you might need to hear them, too.
We may not always be able to live every day like there is no tomorrow, but it is vital that we do our best to enjoy whatever days we have. Because let’s face it, none of us are getting out of this alive.
As for me, I am happy to see the light of another day as a voice in this paper.
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.