The new year: A gift of 365 brand new opportunities

By Dennis Lopez

A tick of the clock

By the time this edition of our magazine hits the street, the greatest of all holidays will be over. I write, of course, about New Year’s Day.

It’s a bit awe-inspiring. Think about it…in one solitary tick of the clock, each of the majority of the world’s people get a brand new set of days to love, hate, work, play, learn, heal or hurt, succeed or fail. It’s a bit like getting a gift box of 365 shiny little new starts in life.

The days are ours to use as we make our coming annual swing around the sun. That thought long has been profound to me and remains so. Perhaps the idea of getting more opportunities to do things better has an appeal to our more noble selves, I would think. But in that, there is the nagging feeling that I may have wasted my previous stock of new days and nights in endeavors not so noble. But in the wreckage of those crashed good intentions perhaps lie the building materials for future success.

I used to lobby for New Year’s Day to be the gift giving, family gathering and overeating holiday. Instead, the day lies adrift, with few in my family, save for myself, having much passion about the day’s significance. In the 70-plus-years I have celebrated the passing of one year and the birth of another, I have done so in a host of different ways. Sometimes alone, sometimes with family, often with friends, the event passed in many different ways. When I was in grade school, my best friend and I would wind ourselves up on sodas and candy and stay up long after midnight and then pride ourselves in our ability to sleep as late as possible on New Year’s Day. Sort of the Yin and Yang of the holiday.

The year of Y2K

No doubt the idea that I could possibly see not only a new year, but a turn of a new century concurrently entered my head during one of those sugar-induced New Year’s Eve rituals. I began to look forward to it. I romanticized plans for a lavish bash with excellent food and even some good champagne…you know, the good stuff with a cork rather than a plastic stopper. I thought about it. A lot. Friends from far and wide would join us in our modest little house and ring in not only a new year, but a new century. It was, in the words of Flounder, one of my favorite characters in the movie Animal House “…gonna be great!” Sadly, some “ones” and “zeroes” proved otherwise.

Y2K, the much hyped and feared collapse of the known computerized world, became my nemesis. I worked as the media relations liaison for Idaho Power and in that role, the boney finger of international chaos pointed towards me. I became the project manager for the public side of Y2K for the power company, traveling far and wide throughout southern Idaho telling civic groups, media moguls and folks visiting senior centers about how well prepared their power company was for the coming non-event. The power would flow; civilization as we know it would continue, at least with the lights on.

Not good enough. We broke our team into specific units with communications people located in key facilities throughout the company on New Year’s Eve, that evening and on into the new year and century. The turn of the century, that once in a lifetime event I had so looked forward to spending with my family, was spent on the roof of the Idaho Power building watching what we could of hot air balloons lighting up as the last seconds of the 20th century gave way to a new century and a new year. As I recall, my coworker and I celebrated at midnight with cold tuna sandwiches and lukewarm Dr. Pepper. A quick handshake with the handful of fellow employees with us on the roof and back down to our office to answer the tsunami of questions from the national and international press.

We closed shop around 3 a.m. and went home through the well-lit streets of Boise. I answered a call from a pleasant British lady from Reuters News Agency from my bed about 5 a.m. I slept until mid-afternoon, sort of an adult work version of those New Year’s Eves spent during my grade school years. Except no candy, no sodas or even junk food.

As we move into the new year I wish each of you a happy new year and enter 2024 with a notable quote from writer Edith Lovejoy Pierce: “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

May your 2024 book be a best seller.

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