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Soderstrum: Regardless of success, New Year's resolutions a chance to better ourselves

Trevor Soderstrum
Special to the Tribune

There is a wonderful Ole and Lena joke that is as old as New Year’s Eve itself. One year, Ole really tied one on. He was the life of the party. Well, as much as a Norwegian can be the life of a party. Knowing he wasn't fit to drive, he decided to walk home on uneasy legs. Staggering down the street, a police car pulled up behind him and the officer hit the lights. Trying to act as sober as he could, Ole approached the cop.

Rolling down his window, the officer asked, “Do you know what time it is? It's well past two in the morning. Where are you going at this time of the night?” Ole, saying the first thing on his mind, answered, “I’m on my way to a lecture.” The officer incredulously responded, “Who could possibly be giving a lecture in the middle of the night on New Year’s?” “My wife,” Ole answered.

On New Year’s Eve, people are allowed to drink and act like fools because it's the last time people are allowed to do everything they shouldn’t do! Like indulging in their bad habits. Tomorrow is a new year. A fresh slate. Like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, Jan. 1 brings on the possibility of a new you — even if that new you is nursing a massive hangover, it is a fresh start.

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It's a holiday symbolizing new hopes and possibilities. New chances to become the best version of ourselves. Next year, we are going to be better! Promises and resolutions are made to ourselves. We're going to take off that five or 10 pounds that hang around our midsection that make us resemble a green, plastic army man melting in the sun under a magnifying glass. We're going to exercise more. Drink less. Be less rude and snappish to those around us. Our houses will be a little cleaner. That project we have been putting off for months — or even years — is finally going to be completed. This time, we really mean it. The changing of calendars offers potential for personal transformation and good things being ushered into our lives.

It's little wonder that one of the most romantic moments in cinematic history takes place on New Year’s Eve. The movie is "When Harry Met Sally." Harry and Sally are two individuals whose romantic lives resemble a demolition derby. “It Had To Be You” sung by the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, pipes up in the background as Harry is walking the streets of New York City. Now, Harry realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life with Sally. As she makes her excuses to leave the party she's attending, he spirits towards her. They meet at the entrance of the party. He walks up to her and confesses his love for her as their fellow party-goers count down to midnight. Then, as the crowd sings “Auld Lang Syne,” they kiss and know that there is nowhere they'd rather be.

No other holiday could pack the romantic punch that New Year’s Eve does. It has to be that holiday for Harry and Sally to become something new. My New Year’s eves are just as romantic. When I'm invited to a party, I make a grand entrance and charm almost everyone there. Okay, I'm Norwegian. I'm usually just proud that no one has tried to mace me. I find a seat, soak in the surrounding festivity as I look forward to all the fun I am going to have, and promptly fall asleep. Sometime after midnight, I awake, usually with an elbow to the ribs and a stern look from whatever woman I'm with — it's like the finer points of Norwegian romance is lost on them. (The shortest book ever written would probably be Famous Norwegian Red Hot Lovers.)

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I don’t think I have seen a New Year’s in at least a dozen years that I haven't slept through. Last year (and probably again this year), I didn't even bother to leave the house due to COVID and the thought of ringing in the new year on a ventilator.

Even if I'm sound asleep, there is still something special about New Year’s Eve. We all believe in it and all participate in this yearly quest to better ourselves. Most of the time, for two or three weeks, we are reformed saints. Then we slip up a time or two and let things slide here and there. Before we know it, we miss the mark worse than a cross-eyed kamikaze pilot with Parkinson’s. We are back into our old habits and dispositions. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

None of us need a lecture when it comes to our failings. If you have a resolution this year, I hope you achieve it. If not, there's always next year.

Trevor Soderstrum

Trevor Soderstrum was born and raised in Story City. He can be reached at tjsode@gmail.com.