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InsideOut At City Hall: New Year, New Ideas

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Ready or not, here are six ideas for living 2007 to the fullest.

It’s January, time for new beginnings. A new beginning could be about making significant changes in who and what surrounds you, or it could be about changing the way you react to the same old things. It could be about changing yourself, or simply changing how you view yourself.

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions. Some of my veterans refuse to retire: 1) lose weight; 2) work out more; 3) read more for knowledge; 4) read more for fun (sci-fi, poetry, Westerns); 5) write more poetry. I think this year I’ll add 6) try to be more patient with and tolerant of others. (This is hard, given some of my colleagues in city government and the fact that I’m the mother of a teenager.)

But new beginnings are about facing the future. What does the future hold? Of course, I don’t know. No one does. I can, however, talk about what I feel is necessary to face that future. I see many young people who seem adrift. They spend their lives tied to an electronic tether, but they’re afraid to cut the cord of parental sheltering. Life is too short. I want to tap them with my wand (or bust them with a two-by-four) and tell them to snap out of it! Or I would tell them, Life is about choices. One chooses different paths, and to paraphrase Robert Frost, that makes all the difference.

Close your eyes and envision the future.

Will you always:

• have a strong circle of a few close friends or surround yourself with acquaintances?

• work to the best of your ability or do only enough to get by?

• find ways to stretch and grow or find a safe rut and walk it?

• follow your passions or select comfortable security?

• act with integrity and ethics or win at all costs?

• contribute to community or always look out for Number 1?

What about other choices? Will you

• make lots of money or barely live above the poverty line?

• become a parent or realize you neither need nor want children?

Does the second list follow the first? No. One could make any combination of choices from the first list and still end up with any outcome on the second. There’s no value judgment in the second list.

Perhaps these six ideas will help you make the right choices:

Life is about people. Life has to be lived. Life is about experiences. Life is more about who you know and how well you know them than it is about how many people you know (or how many visit your MySpace or FaceBook page).

Embrace change. You will be forced, and you should delight in, learning, growing and adapting throughout life. In an era of exponential change, this is not just helpful, it’s essential. Sometimes you have to just jump into the deep end.

Allow time and opportunity to nurture your spiritual side. At some point, everyone seeks greater meaning in life. There are many truths and many paths to finding those truths.

Embrace your creative side. Write, sing, paint, do whatever makes your soul soar. Only you can write your short story about your grandmother.

Stretch yourself. Surround yourself with people of integrity who stretch you. Stretch you because they are different or because of their intellect or passion for a cause you cannot feel. Stretch you because they make you justify your positions, understand your motives, find your philosophical center. But they must be people of integrity, because they must let you maintain your difference as you respect theirs.

Decide when you need the box. I’m referring, of course, to the “Thinking outside the box” box that has become a cliché. We all need structure. A logical argument must build upon itself. There are times, however, when you must not just think outside the box, but throw out the box altogether.

I hope 2007 reads like a good poem for me, one of the good poems I so enjoy writing and reading. As Robert Frost also said, a poem “begins in delight and ends in wisdom…Poetry is a way of remembering what it would impoverish us to forget.”

Best wishes for a wonderful 2007.

Annise Parker is the second-term city controller and the highest-ranking openly GLBT elected municipal official in any of the 10 largest U.S. cities. Her website is www.houstoncontroller.org. Parker’s television program, Money Matters, airs Monday on the Municipal Channel (TimeWarner Cable 16) at 2 and 8 a.m. and 2 and 8 p.m.

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Annise Parker

Annise Parker is president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund.  
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