Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Small Wonders: Out of gas at the end of the line

Patrick Caneday

I never set out to be a newspaper columnist.

The gift was handed to me like a candy cane from a mall Santa. Take it, or pass it up and get a corn dog. Writing a weekly column was something I never thought I could do. And I am so thankful I was proven wrong.

Last time, I wrote about decisions; how not knowing what’s around the next bend in the road might actually be a good thing. Knowing too much can make you turn away from what lies ahead.

Columnists have the privileged license to spout their opinions for the world — or at least their local corner of it — to digest. I’ve given much advice in my columns over the last five years. And I’ve decided to take my own.


So this will be my last column.

For some time I’ve had the gnawing feeling that I’ve said all I have to say in this forum. I wrack my brain each week to tell you something of meaning and worth while being unable to shake the notion lately that it hasn’t been too meaningful or worthy. So it’s time to move on.

It’s not you. It’s me.

I’ve written about religion, politics, society, family, entertainment and just about anything else the editors tolerated. As a local newspaper columnist, I’ve been decidedly un-local. I’ve written about amazing people, places, things and every other noun I could parlay into something somewhat interesting.


Last December, the news visited me personally; I wrote about a lifelong friend who took his life in newsworthy fashion as reported in the paper, doing my best to memorialize not death, but a life that deserved remembering.

What’s left to say after that?

Except for a 14-month stint as an unemployed house-dad, I’ve been writing this column every week while employed full time. It’s been the creative passion in an otherwise workman-like livelihood.

Between career, family and the column, there’s little brain space left. So I’ve decided to sacrifice the column in hopes the muses find it pleasing and bring me new inspiration and accomplishments in the mincing of words into ideas.

I may be back. If the editors will have me. But it would be a disservice if I didn’t write these 800 words as if they were my last. I have plenty left to say, but I am going to try saying it in different ways now. Shameless self-promotion alert: if you’ve liked this column, watch my website — — for blogs, book excerpts and more.

I called this column “Small Wonders” because I like talking about the little miracles of life as a way to make life manageable. Since I’m no expert on anything, I fear you’ve learned more about me than the things a newspaper columnist should write about. Or at least more of the person you perceive to be me.

My hope is that by making this column largely about my life — an incredibly average and unremarkable one — you’ve seen a small portrait of yourself. I hope and pray my words have been more humble offering than self-grandeur.

I’ve tried to show that life is a struggle. And by offering myself as a subject for life’s follies, you felt a little better about your own.


When I wrote about my kids, I hope you saw yours in a new light. When I wrote about my fears, I hope it helped you to conquer yours. When I wrote about my happiness and triumphs, I hope you saw yours and continue to see them. Because you deserve more joy than sorrow.

I’ve regretted some things I’ve written here. But I am more proud than penitent.

There’s a fallacy that being published means you know something more than others do. It’s not true, and I’m tired of pretending it is.

I have no idea what I am doing. Not as a writer, a father, a husband or philosopher. I just keep making it up each day and offering my random thoughts on being human.

If you think you have all the right answers to politics, economics, religion and society, then nothing I’ve said was meant for you. Thanks for reading anyway.

But if you are like the rest of us — broken, frustrated, confused, self-doubting and self-loathing, wondering, considering, feeling and barely able to raise your hand from the back of the class but willing to admit that this world is a scary, beautiful place, then I hope something I wrote spoke to you.

Thanks for being a part of my journey.

You’ve given me far more than I’ve ever given you.


We are, none of us, alone. Remember that.


PATRICK CANEDAY is humbled by this gift and thanks you for reading. Stay in touch on Facebook and at