Another great year under my belt

Joel
Joel van der Veen
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Ah, New Year’s Eve — one of the few holidays about which I am largely apathetic.

The mention of ringing in the new year brings back childhood memories of going to parties at our pastor’s house. Highlights of these gatherings included playing charades, singing Auld Lang Syne around the piano, and watching others play Dr. Mario.

It was mild fun, but it never met the rockin’ standard set by Dick Clark — or Guy Lombardo, for that matter.

The highlight was a Dutch pastry called oliebollen. The name translates to “oil balls,” for that’s what they are: balls of dough fried in oil and seasoned with icing sugar. Delicious but deadly.

Staying up past midnight seemed like a big deal then, but the thrill wore off in subsequent years, and lately I’ve played it safe on New Year’s Eve.

Three years ago, my brother and I, along with a dozen friends from Toronto, attended the Urbana missions conference in late December in St. Louis, Mo., ringing in 2010 with thousands of other students.

That was my most memorable Dec. 31, but my enjoyment was tempered by the 12-hour bus trip back to Toronto that followed.

The year after that, I was in Toronto again, visiting with friends downtown after nine months in Saskatchewan. We played board games, ate snacks and, um, watched Dick Clark.

I honestly can’t remember what I did a year ago. I believe I was in Davidson by my lonesome, and I probably went to bed at the usual time. Rather than watching the ball drop in Times Square or enjoying the party at the Bladworth bar, I just wanted a full night’s sleep.

I’ve never been crazy about New Year’s parties, but I appreciate the opportunity to look back upon the year that was. For the second year in a row, I can honestly say that I’m happier than I was 12 months earlier, and I’m thankful for that.

The dawn of a new year is also an opportunity to make resolutions for self-improvement, or to make the world a better place in some way — although I’ve usually forgotten the pledges I made by the end of the year.

In December 2011, I was reflecting on the growth that had taken place in my career, my faith and other areas.

I had lost weight and improved my health. I was maintaining my relationships with friends in Ontario and building new ones here. I had paid off my student loan, too.

I was appreciative of all that had happened, but rather than setting concrete goals, I planned to keep moving in the same direction, making more improvements and continuing to address areas in my life that need work.

Twelve months later, I find myself in a similar mood. I have plenty to be thankful for: new friends and interests, continued divine providence and good health, a loving family back home and a full-time job doing what I love. Most exciting of all, I’m now engaged to my girlfriend of six months.

There will undoubtedly be changes and challenges in the year ahead, but again I find myself grateful for what has happened in 2012 and hoping to continue down the same path this year.

I thank all of you for reading these columns over the past nine months, and I hope each of you can look ahead to 2013 with as much gratitude, optimism and excitement as I feel right now.

So here’s a toast to the new year. Whether you’re ringing it in with friends, loved ones or Ryan Seacrest, make it a good one.

Joel van der Veen can be reached at 691-1256.

Geographic location: Toronto, St. Louis, Mo., Saskatchewan Davidson Times Square Bladworth Ontario

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