THOUGHTS FROM DR. JOE

It's the Journey

New Year's Eve, a couple of buddies of mine came over to wish Kaitzer, the girls and me a happy new year. After trading some shots of Clan MacGregor, my friends began to tell me of their New Year's resolution.

"Joe, we want to climb Mount Rainier in the middle of winter."

I'm thinking, "You guys are nuts!"

"Joe, we need someone with winter mountaineering experience especially on the ice."

I'm thinking, "Where you gonna find someone like that?"

"Joe, you've done Rainier in the winter and you've got experience on ice!"

I'm thinking, "Yeah, I was pretty crazy back then."

"Joe, we want you to join our team."

"You guys are out of your minds, I haven't climbed in years and furthermore, I'm more than twenty years older than each of you guys!"

"Why don't you make this your New Year's resolution and do this climb with us?" they suggested.

I'm thinking, "Hmm." As I listened, I recalled my first New Year's resolution. I was 16 and resolved to work excessively and win the lightweight division of the Golden Gloves. After I was TKO'd in the final round, I never made another.

As my friends left, I told them I'd honestly think about it and get back to them next week. Although the challenge and adventure of their idea sounded appealing, I didn't think I could prepare myself technically, physically and mentally. Just when I resigned myself to a more sedentary lifestyle, eating bon bons, chocolate chip cookies and not fretting about being a bit heavy in the keister, my buddies come over with this proposition.

New Year's is a time for reflection, a convenient benchmark for measuring what one has learned so far, not just in the last year but along the winding and unpredictable roads you have traveled. I think that the Romans understood this when they decided to mark the evolution of the New Year in a month named after their god Janus. Janus had two faces so that he could look ahead toward the future and back at the past at the same time. Their mythology tells us that as we rid ourselves of the old year, we look toward the New Year and anticipate an enhanced self based upon recognizing and correcting the shortcomings of the past. Thus the New Year's resolution was born.

The earliest historical account of this drive evolved from the Babylonians, 2,000 years before the Romans. Aristotle expressed the idea that it is inherent in all humanity to be more than what we are.

Time has no divisions to mark its passage. The timing of the New Year is particularly arbitrary. New Year's Eve is like any other night -- there is no pause in the earth's orbit or breathless moment of silence signaling the passage of another 12 months. However, none of us has quite the same thoughts this evening that comes with the coming of darkness on other nights. There is indeed something unique about recognizing the potential of a new beginning.

The New Year is a chance for new beginnings. It is a time to become more serious about life and plan new courses of action for improvement. On this day of the year people take their values more seriously.

We spend Jan. 1 drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, instead of looking for flaws we should look for potential.

What then is the philosophic meaning of New Year's resolutions? Every resolution that you make on this day implies that you are in control of yourself and that you are not a victim fated by circumstance. Instead, you are an individual who can make choices to change your life. Your life is in your own hands.

Making resolutions stresses that we want to be happy. Happiness comes from the achievement of values. This is why we make resolutions that are founded in purpose, accomplishment and values. Happiness is the motor of one's life and it is New Year's that makes the attainment of happiness more real and possible. This is the meaning of New Year's Day and why it is important to so many people throughout the world.

Throughout New Year's Day, I was enthralled with the idea of climbing once again. It's such a euphoric experience. Making the necessary commitments to prepare myself mentally, physically, and technically would only enhance my 2006. Whether any of us make it to the top of the mountain really doesn't matter. It's the journey that will enhance our 2006 -- and the journey begins with the first step.

Joe Puglia is a resident of La Cañada and a professor at Glendale Community College. He holds a doctorate in education with special emphasis in the psycho-social educational development of young adults. He can be reached at captinjoey@yahoo.com.

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