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Musical Note to Self

As I enjoyed some downtime between Christmas and New Year’s Day, two realizations came to mind.  First, I had not watched my favorite Christmas show, the Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation classic Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. I love this story mainly because it contains the song behind my personal mantra “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”. Kris Kringle’s lesson to Winter is a great life lesson. I skipped watching the whole thing and just went straight my favorite part on YouTube:

Second, I realized I was not prepared for 2018 because I had yet to pick out a theme song. One of my practices over the past few years is to have song that reminds me to stick to my goals for the year. Usually, it’s a classic rock or pop song that I’ll hear every now and then on the radio, offering a random reminder. I’ll also usually include the song in playlists for race events and training.  For example, during my huge training surge in 2016, gearing up for my big Boston Marathon qualifying attempt, I made sure Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” was in every race playlist that year. 

Then, in 2017, I was slack – no theme song. Perhaps that was part of my 2017 letdown. So, in this year of getting back on track, I must declare a song. Before I reveal this year’s winner, though, let’s review some that didn’t make the list:

  1. “Do You Think I’m Sexy” – Rod Stewart with DNCE. I was not a fan of this song during its first run in the late seventies, but I have to tell you, this remake is good. It has a solid groove and would be fun to run with. Nicely done, Sir Rod, but probably not the right song for a guy staring down 50.
  2. “Breakdown Dead Ahead” – Boz Scaggs. One of my favorite Boz songs and has been know to make it into playlists. Again, not good for the impending AARP stuffing of my mailbox.
  3. “Waterloo” – ABBA. This is actually a great running song. I occasionally put it in playlists where I imagine the going will get tough during a race. 
  4. “What a Fool Believes” – The Doobie Brothers (with Michael McDonald, of course). I’ve never had this one on a playlist and don’t plan to start now, even though it’s a favorite.

Now, here’s the short list of contenders, some I considered just by quickly skimming through the songs on my iPhone.

Everybody knows
It sucks to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it.

– Ben Folds, “Still Fighting It”

  1. “Still Fighting It” – Ben Folds. A pretty deep song from Ben, written for his son. I really like the message. After all, I’m battling this aging thing as hard as I can, but, unfortunately, this is a terrible running song.  Perhaps, I’ll add it to the future piano lounge lizard set list, but that’s a blog post for another day.
  2. “Don’t Look Back” – Boston.  The title track of Boston’s second album, no doubt titled with the massive success of their first album in mind. Should be a good lesson for us all. A strong contender.
  3. “Don’t Stop Me Now” – Queen. Another frequent playlist entry. This implies momentum, though. Being currently stopped, perhaps this isn’t the right song this year.
  4. “Go Your Own Way” – Fleetwood Mac. Heard this on the radio this week, so it met one criteria. And this does cross my mind each morning right before I exit the highway into the parking lot of the day job.

Alas, those just weren’t striking the right chord, so I had to take a trip back in time…

1982

The author. 8th grade. 1982.

The author. 8th grade. 1982.

One of my more important 2018 goals is to be more involved with my daughter. She’s in her last year of middle school, the twilight zone of youth, and I know she’s going through a rough time. Nothing really specific, just that brutally awkward time of adolescence. Thinking about her predicament gave me an idea.

I decided to go back to that time in my life when I was her age. – the early ’80’s – and a student at Northwood Middle School, and look up what where the songs that meant the most to me. Maybe there was something from the 14 year-old me that would be a great theme song for the 50 year-old me.

Thanks to Google, I quickly found the list of the Top 40 songs from January 9, 1982. The number one song that week was “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. Hmm. I would never use that on a run playlist, but could it be a sign that I should write that Fit after Forty book, I’ve had in the back of my mind? She was taking about exercise, right?

I kept looking down the list and  chuckled as a saw “Don’t Stop Believin'” at number 18. Maybe “DSB” should replace “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” as my mantra song. I also got a kick out of Queen’s “Under Pressure” at number 29. That could certainly apply these days, and I already use it on run playlists regularly. I kept scrolling, but nothing screamed “The One.”

I decided to dig deeper and spent a few minutes reviewing some of my favorite artists and whether they had albums in 1982. I was now going for the deep track – songs that never made the light of radio or perhaps were from the B-side of a cassette. It didn’t take me long. Right under my nose, and already on my phone, was  “Never Give Up”, the 9th track (out of 10) on Sammy Hagar’s 1982 album Three Lock Box. Sold!

No I’ll never give up.
‘Till I make this dream come true.
I’ll never give up on you.
I’ll never give up.
No I’ll never give up.
I’ve just got to see it through.

-Sammy Hagar, “Never Give Up”

 As the schedule would have it, I had a January race, giving me a chance to try out the new/old song on a playlist. While I didn’t beat my target time, I did OK for an old guy who was nursing a sore hamstring. Sammy’s young voice was a good reminder to the old me to keep at it. Thanks, 1982. Now, let’s go kick some 2018 butt.

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2017 – 1. Greg – 0

Whew! Glad that’s over. I won’t lie; 2017 was rough.  There were high hopes. After all, 2016 started slow but ended strong with finally achieving a couple of long-term goals in running and writing. I fully expected to ride a wave of momentum to continued successes in 2017.

Sisyphus and Me

Sisyphus-Overcoming-Silhouette-800pxUnfortunately, as the year wore on, I began to feel like old King Sisyphus. You may remember Sisyphus from your high school Greek mythology days. After angering the gods, Sisyphus spent the rest of eternity pushing a large boulder up a hill. Just as he’d near the top, though, he’d lose control and the rock would roll back down.  Sisyphus would then have to start over.

Two years ago, I found myself back at the bottom of the hill for the second time in my career – another company layoff. And while I’ve been employed at a new job now for well over a year, I don’t seem to making progress pushing the rock around the valley floor, much less back up the hill.

In a way, my writing “career” has had similar ups and downs – some decent stretches of blogging and writing as I made progress up the hill, only to slip up and let inconsistency and distractions roll me back down. Unfortunately, that’s where I am today.

So, I’ll start 2018 in two valleys – valley of the lost writer and valley of the sputtering day job. This time, though, I’m at least equipped with the knowledge of how to climb back toward the writer’s peak – put in the work and deliver content.  For a floundering day job, I’m not so sure. I’ve put in the work over the past year, but I’m not making much progress. On top of that, I’m not sure I want to climb this particular hill.

Hopefully, you find yourself in a better place to start 2018. If so, awesome! Keep up the good work and don’t lose the grip on that boulder. If not, it’s a great time of year to pick yourself up, and start pushing again. That’s my plan.

So, here’s to a great 2018.

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