Let's agree: This will be a new year unlike any other in recent time. Let's each make a vow to do something bold, unexpected and something that will make a fresh imprint on the path of our lives.
Something that will surprise even those who know us best and love us most.
Oh, we all make minor tweaks to our lives each time one chapter — the old year — closes and the new chapter begins. We eat better or less, exercise more, go to church or tighten our budgets. Sometimes, we adhere to these tweaks for a few days or weeks, but occasionally, we stick to them throughout the year.
But this year? Well, this year, let's vow to make a big change, one we've secretly yearned for like a dream that, perhaps, has lay dormant in our hearts. The only time it's too late to reinvent ourselves or add a new dimension to the scope of our lives is when we rest in repose and folks gather around to say, "Doesn't she look good?"
I have a friend over in Louisiana who, well into his 40s, made an astoundingly gutsy call. Leo Honeycutt had a successful career as a television news anchor, a dream job in the eyes of many, but a restlessness stirred his soul. He wanted to be an author, a dream he confessed to me several years ago and one that I enthusiastically endorsed.
"Do it," I said plainly. "Don't lie on your death bed and regret that you didn't follow your dream."
For a few years, I encouraged and prodded him from time to time. Then, to his credit, he took the plunge. He quit his job and went full-throttle toward that dream.
It wasn't easy. He struggled to take care of his family by taking freelance assignments while he researched the life of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, a politician convicted of corruption in an area that has known many like him. Leo regularly visited him in federal prison, the former governor's home for 10 years after a conviction on racketeering, for interviews.
Yeah, Leo got discouraged from time to time but he never gave up. You see, dreams are rarely easy to turn from fantasy to reality. They are often fraught with setbacks, slammed doors and plain old-fashion rejection.
My motto has always been that one "yes" wipes out a thousand "no's." Take a "no" and smile, knowing you're one step closer to the "yes" you're going to get. If you don't give up, you will eventually get that almighty, powerful "yes." I can promise you that.
It took five years but Leo finished the book and, lo and behold, it sold 10,000 copies in three days and became a bestseller. It won literary awards and launched his career as a novelist.
A few weeks ago, I was in Baton Rouge and everywhere I went from the state capitol to bookstores, I saw Leo's books prominently displayed. I stood outside a Barnes and Noble and smiled proudly as I stared at a window display of Leo's books, thinking of the personalized copy of the Edwards biography that has a place of prominence in my book case.
I know others like Leo who, despite being settled in other careers, did not blink at making a midlife change to follow a passionate desire in their hearts: a prominent politician who up and quit to become an educator and another friend, who at 48, went to nursing school.
Here's another thing I believe: You get what you settle for. Or, you can get what you dream.
So let's make a pact, you and I. For 2012, let's step out of our little boxes of comfort and security and go for the big one. Let's make this year bigger than just diets, exercise and budgets.
Let's make this a year of surprises and brand new journeys.
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of several books, including "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.