I felt it was only appropriate to reflect on Grandma Keller’s column titled “Brand New Year” with 2021 beginning to peak on the horizon. Her words are comforting, like a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter day, but for the mind that is. In her end of year column, she gave some very sound advice that I certainly needed before starting a new chapter of a new year, and I hope you will too.
Her first piece of advice for a new year is to take inventory. Take a count of not just what you own, but who you are. Grandma Keller asked questions that are the equivalent of holding a mirror to oneself. “Are there things you would really like to do? Do you have the courage to try something different, make a change if necessary?”, she put it.
Her second piece of advice was be thankful. Count your blessings. If you have little to be thankful for, there are others who have less. If you have more, then you should be thankful and know you have more responsibilities than some.
Her third piece of advice was about setting resolutions. If you set them and they are worth keeping you will succeed, but if you fail, you are “no worse off having tried.” I have (very cheekily) used the analogy of ‘one can shoot for the moon and be okay if you land among the stars’ in interviews before. As I get older, I realize how true that is. Like grandma Keller was saying, why not try to set some lofty resolutions. If you succeed, phenomenal! If you fail and tried your best, look around, maybe you’re among the stars instead of on the moon.
The most striking part of the column that was written much before I was ever even a thought was her wish for the coming year. More tolerance, acceptance, love and understanding. Less criticism, grumbling, prejudice and narrowmindedness. She writes that she hoped that greed and selfishness would vanish from the earth. We would take more time to enjoy what we have and appreciate just living.
In the new year, soak up that sunset for an extra minute. Make your favorite meal for yourself. Appreciate how it smells after a March rain. Laugh with those around you a little harder. Forgive more people than you did this year. Celebrate the little milestones.
In the speech I gave at my high school graduation commencement ceremony I shared a poem by Mary Schmich called “Wear Sunscreen”. My favorite lines from this advice giving poem include “Do one thing every day that scares you” “Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room” “Read the directions even if you don’t follow them” and “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.”
The poem begins and ends with the reminder to wear sunscreen, and with the bright future that Grandma Keller has envisioned for us, we are all going to need some. And if you find yourself on the moon or among the stars, you will certainly need some SPF protection.
May your new year feel like your favorite soundtrack sounds, taste like your favorite meal, smell like your favorite candle burning, feel like your favorite blanket and look like the most glorious sunrise your eyes have ever witnessed.
There is something special about drawing on wisdom of the past to help kindle the hope and excitement of the future. As you sit at the metaphoric typewriter with your blank page that is 2021, I hope this outlook from the pages of my great grandma bring you inspiration to take on the new year with the same vigor and open-mindedness as she did.
And most importantly, don’t forget the sunscreen.