Donna Tavano: WADITW

The New Year – 2019 – there will never be another, what does it mean, other than to remember to write the new date on checks and documents, or to purchase an amusing doggie yoga calendar to organize ourselves for the next 52 weeks. 

But even as wizened and weary Father Time ushers in the tiny diapered one, each new year we sense a change, a subtle shift of time. Jan. 1 gives us another chance to begin anew, to make vows and promises to ourselves, which will often fall by the wayside by Valentine’s Day, but are, at least, hopeful in intent. A fresh beginning gives us an opportunity to eat healthier, exercise more, recycle, complete projects and work harder at doing something right. 

We stoically resolve to work on ourselves and improve our habits. Many of our resolutions are shared: lose weight, walk more, save money, get organized, spend more time with family. Creative types vow to write the great American novel, paint a picture a week, or start a business, in reality we’ll be lucky to pen a poem or clean up our art supplies.

Short of dropping 20 pounds or running the Boston Marathon, what can we do to change our lives? Without even a huge financial or time commitment, we can always work on relationships with each other and on how we choose to interact with the world. Sometimes we need to be open to what the universe is sending us. Personally, I’ve had three recent frustrating experiences. Each situation was different, each one was minor, which made it more annoying, and each one ended with someone responding to my suggestion/action with the exact phrase, We Always Did It That Way (WADITW). 

One scenario involved hanging some signs in a building. I was the new kid on the block and didn’t know their previous locations. I searched around for nails and hung them where they made sense. But one section wouldn’t be able to see any of the signs from their seats. I hung it where they could see it, but was met with a fair amount of disgruntlement by some because WADITW. 

There are times you have to keep doing a thing the same way it’s always been done, because it’s the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do, or it may be the only thing you can afford or know how to do, but it should never be simply because WADITW.

There’s an anecdote about a family and their ham. A newly independent daughter was about to cook a holiday ham for the first time. Her mother advised her to cut off both ends. The girl was willing to do it, but wanted to know why. Her mother said, “We always did it that way.” The daughter was determined to know why, so she called Grandma. “Grandma, why do we cut off the ends of the ham?” Grandma responded, “The pan was always too short.” 

Throughout history there have been stories of people unwilling to explore new ideas. Fred Smith of Federal Express was shot down by many because no one believed people would pay extra for fast and reliable delivery. The Swiss dominated the watch world in 1968. Some Swiss inventors developed an electronic watch movement. It was rejected by most Swiss companies. They said it couldn’t be a watch since it had no gears or springs. Seiko took it up and succeeded. Univac wouldn’t deal with businesses concerning its computers since they were designed for scientists. Even IBM wasn’t interested because, after all, who would want a personal computer? Then along came Apple.

The new year is upon us, time marches on and we either march with it or are left behind in its dusty trail. We can open our minds to new ideas and opportunities to vote, govern and dispense healthcare. In 2019 each of us must be willing to think for ourselves and speak up for all, in whatever small way we can. There is strength in numbers. Bertrand Russell said, “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” 

And from two ancient, wise and revered leaders, whose words are as appropriate today as centuries ago: “If you look into your own heart and find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?” – Confucius. “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light.” – Plato

Let’s make this the “I” year of innovation, ingenuity, integrity and investigation of our humanity.