WOW – so that was 2014? Highs, lows and all the in between bits that make up life as we know it. We brought home the Scottish Cup, an Olympic Bronze and a Commonwealth Silver. We hosted the Ryder Cup. We won awards and gave awards. We were devastated to say goodbye to the amazing David Haines and to the brilliant Graeme Lafferty. And we were thankful and thrilled to shout out a big hello to thousands of brand new little Perthites. We voted on big stuff, sang along to great stuff and got into many a pub argument about all sorts of weird stuff.
And we launched SCBP, where we like to celebrate the good stuff. The stuff that makes you happy, brings on a smile or just leaves you with a warm glow for having read it. I have always held the belief that the human spirit is a glorious thing and that most of us, given a chance, would choose happiness for ourselves and others above anything else out there on offer.
I’ve taken a bit of criticism for always being positive, pretending there’s nothing bad to report or say. I have been told that it’s naïve to suggest beautiful paintings and community food collections can make a city a better place to live. People, let me tell you, I am only too aware of the mistakes and misfortunes there are to report both locally and internationally. I have very strong views on local politics, social injustice and world events and I write about these for various forums and in different ways. It saddens me, it angers me and it makes me scream with frustration. There is, unfortunately, a place for all of it.
There is also a place though, for good old-fashioned joy; a celebration of all the little things and all the amazingly ordinary people that make our city a wonderful place to live. So, I’ve no plans to change this formula, no desire to start a forum that will allow bad reviews or give another stage for misguided keyboard warriors to vent their anger. Phone the newspapers – find a political blog. I’m making no apologies for sticking to my vision of happiness and making everyday heroes out of our paramedics, shop keepers, charity workers, young athletes, old actors and all the other amazing folks that I’ve yet to meet and talk to.
I was at a funeral on Monday, (bear with me on this one – it’s sad and then it gets good again). My friend Stuart was 38 years old and had lived with Muscular Dystrophy since he was diagnosed at the age of six. He never moaned, he never complained about his wheelchair or his disability. Instead he studied hard to gain his HND, sent out cv after cv, drew pictures, loved Formula One, supported Andy Murray, watched nature documentaries, let his wee sister cheat at board games, tracked down the elusive Harry Potter Lego Castle for a ten year old Cainboy’s Christmas, studied astronomy, taught himself how to find ANYTHING you might want online way before google chrome existed, became a much-loved uncle to a niece and a nephew and generally lived a life that was full and happy. He seized all of the opportunities that were presented to him, so that on Monday, when we all lined up to say our goodbyes his short life was rolled out before us as one to be celebrated and thankful for.
Stuart was an intelligent man and he always knew his life would be shorter than most. Instead of sitting waiting for this inevitable finish line, he drew on what made him happy and set about filling his days with the good stuff. A few years ago he pulled together a book of funny and heart-warming football anecdotes from players, managers, tv pundits, referees and fans. ‘Footie Shorts’ came about because Stuart penned hundreds of letters on his computer, sending them off to clubs and big name personalities asking them all to get involved. His plan was to donate the profits to MD and being the astute man that he was, he knew that he needed something big to ensure maximum sales of the book and thus a bigger donation! He wrote to Sir Alex Ferguson and gained the support that helped his book sell out of its first print run, make a second run possible and raise a sizeable sum for Muscular Dystrophy. Like I said, he seized his days.
A couple of months ago I sat down to plan 2015 and the people I would chat to and about. Stuart is on my list; I had hoped he would help me with a story I have planned. He was to be my perfect partner in unwinding a tale all about someone we both know and love. I hadn’t asked him about this project; I thought I’d leave it to the New Year. These are the small incidental things we think about at times like this – I wish I’d asked him.
But the strange thing is, after listening to Stuart’s go get ‘em life and proper full-on attitude, I was reminded of the importance of living in the here and now. Of a playing a blinder with the hand you’ve been dealt. You can learn from your past, but you can’t go backwards. You can ponder on rough justice and tough times but you will never change anything without happiness and hope.
So, with New Year upon us, why not throw caution to the wind? Ignore all these damn memes that try to convince you to be a better version of yourself and instead go for being the happiest version of yourself that you can possibly be. And if that means that the people that you care about or live beside or share a planet with, are also happier because of your choice, then so much the better.
You see, I tend to find ‘better you’ is just a sneaky way of saying thinner / fitter / greener / less sweary you. All of which are commendable (except less sweary – sometimes situations need the F word). But if running round the North Inch makes you wish your legs would fall off just so you had an excuse not to do it, then for goodness sake go and find a dance class. Or a pal who will walk with you so you can gossip about Beyonce, recite Shakespeare or do whatever else it is that might rock your boat on the path to a healthier heart.
And if your happy place requires much, much more than this, if it needs a huge, life change and courage beyond your ken then breathe deep before you take your leap – but do take it. There is bugger all wrong with dreaming big and nothing better than flying in the face of doubters. And if you’re in a place where this all seems too much, if your challenges seem insurmountable, then start your journey simply by reaching out. Because for others, helping you up onto your feet, will bring them the sense of purpose and fulfilment they are looking for. That’s how life works; I have been on either side of the happy fence and can tell you that both require the presence and love of other people.
We’re all unique and we will all find happiness in a million different ways. But what unites every single person reading this, is the glorious pleasure we find in laughing until our sides ache and feeling that when our head hits the pillow at night, we’ve had a day that has filled us with our own version of joy.
So, in 2015, take a little leaf from the book of Stuart and be bold about being happy. Because, in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.