Easy to make. Easy to break.
That could serve as the slogan for most New Year's resolutions. But as 2016 winds down, I recall one resolution I was able to fulfill 30 years ago.
Having a New Year's Day birthday has led me to make lots of resolutions over the decades - maybe the simultaneous rollover of the chronological odometer and the changing of the calendar has something to do with it.
But in late 1985, I was about to turn 30. Thirty felt like a milestone that shouldn't pass unnoticed, so I resolved to keep a journal and record my experiences and thoughts - even if just a few sentences - for each day of the year. Having begun a new job as a copy editor at the Courier-Post in May, I found I missed the opportunity to write that I'd had as a reporter. The journal would fill that need.
I quickly became accustomed to filling its pages on good days and bad. There are reflections on newspaper work, the ups and downs of serving as a Big Brother and literacy volunteer, and the joy of hiking or pickup basketball.
An entry for Feb. 10 describes playing four games with my coworkers and being on the winning team three times: "I can get ecstatic talking about and playing basketball. It's definitely my favorite sport now."
By year's end, I had written something for each day of the year, filling 193 pages of an 11-by-8.5-inch notebook.
Three decades later, the journal is more than the product of a successful resolution. It serves as a portal to the past, reminding me of the distance I've traveled, friendships that have endured or ended, and the changes in my life. I went from being single and living in a third-floor apartment in a converted attic to a homeowner who has been married for 26 years and is the father of two adult daughters.
The journal is a reminder of changes beyond the personal level. It was a time when most people still read print newspapers, relied on landline phones, and wrote and received personal letters. In a time before texts and emails, putting together a team for slow-pitch softball games required you commit to a series of phone calls to determine who would show up.
Live music was one of my passions in 1986. I attended concerts by Bob Dylan with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, John Fogerty and Bonnie Raitt, the Neville Brothers, and Joe Jackson, among others. Their careers have continued in one form or another, but some of the places where they performed - the Spectrum and the Chestnut Cabaret - have disappeared. I was able to see Gil Scott-Heron and Spalding Gray perform that year. Both are now also gone.
Looking back, I can see the start of a pattern. I attended four funerals and a wedding in 1986. It's a ratio that has continued into the 21st century as farewells outnumber marriages.
Rereading the journal is a reminder of the losses still to come. My stepfather and mother died in 1989 and 2015, respectively. My mom regretted that they never made it to their silver anniversary in 1991. Fortunately, they were able to celebrate their 20th in 1986 in a special way, with help from my sister, brother, and me.
Aug. 17: "The long-awaited anniversary celebration was held today. We gave Mom and Dad $1,300 to be used on their trip to Europe next month."
I kept the journal going through the first four months of 1987, until I was sidelined by the flu and didn't write anything for a few days. After recovering, I decided not to continue the journal. Perhaps it was symbolic that April 30 was the day of my last entry. In the days when reporters used typewriters, -30- signified the end of a story.
Now, the journal serves as a piece of family history, something to pass on to my daughters when I'm gone.