I am quite ready to say goodbye to 2013. It was the year in which I was told I had to change my last name. No more would I be “Mark Bialczak of The Post-Standard.”
And yet life went on.
Bring on the New Year’s Eve tradition for my dear wife Karen and I.
We start with a fairly early dinner at a mystery restaurant (which shall remain that here because it doesn’t take reservations and I don’t want any oh-yeah effect making the line any longer than it may be naturally).
We continue with a couple of beers at the Syracuse city neighborhood pub Chadwick’s (come on down if you’re nearby and we’ll hoist one together).
We drive home safely, all four blocks worth.
We watch the ball drop with Ryan Seacrest on TV and give each other the Happy New Year’s smooch.
I expect a sense of relief.
This has been some year for me.
At the end of January, I was laid off from the daily newspaper for which I had worked just shy of 30 years.
That shook me to the core. To say it sucked is a major understatement.
The toughest lesson to learn was that the job I had sacrificed so much for, the job that put me in the public eye, the job that I lectured about to students of all ages, the job that I woke up scheming about all those mornings and fell asleep exhausted from all those evenings … well, that job did not define me.
I have battled back. I have worked hard. I have learned many things about myself.
In February, I started markbialczak.com with the entry Yeah, I’ve got a blog. (Click to read, those of you who’ve just joined in the fun.) I knew that I needed to write. I had no idea how much this would mean to me.
A former colleague at the big daily had become editor of Syracuse’s alternative weekly. He enlisted me to become the first Syracuse New Times film blogger. I write two weekly posts. It’s so rewarding.
Last winter, before the layoff date, my longtime colleague and great friend Mike Waters asked me to co-write “The Syracuse Fan’s Survival Guide to the ACC.” It was published in June by Reedy Press of St. Louis.
There were reminders about how much I meant to the community during the 21 years I covered music and entertainment for the big daily.
In March, the community honored me with the Syracuse Area Music Awards’ Founders Award. In April, the Central New York Guitar League gave me the Music Hero Award. I knew they should be moments to rejoice more than be sad. I was both.
Through it all, I discovered that age 55 can be a fine time to learn about yourself.
I took stock in my writing.
I honored my friends.
I kept my sense of humor in potentially stressful times.
I turned 56 and thought hard about that.
Of course, I still carried my love for music. When I went with a great friend to see Grace Potter at the New York State Fair, well, I wrote about it. And when a trip to see the latest movie from the mind of Woody Allen encountered a big crowd at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill at Destiny USA, well, I wrote about the big man’s acoustic set there instead.
The memory of my affection for sports well played encouraged me to share about my New York Mets, about professional golf, about my own golf rounds. I even wrote about Karen and I’s trip to see the Syracuse Chiefs with Ellie B, aka Dogamous Pyle.
My eyes and ears are open to the possibilities of 2014. Good things lie ahead. I am resolute.
I know I wouldn’t have gotten to this place without the turbulence of 2013.
Was 2013 a memorable year for you?