Looking ahead more interesting than back

The end of the year is a time of reflection.
Now is when you see the traditional year-in-review stories in newspapers and magazines.
There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you. It’s just, for me, I find the “looking back” stories to be rather boring. After all, we already know what happened. I’m more interested in what’s going to happen.
I do like lists, though, which you also see this time of year. A list of top stories. A list of top movies, and so on.
But, for this week’s paper, I decided to survey community leaders from both ends of the county, not to look back at the past year, but to look ahead. I was curious to find out, from their perspective, what they see as the challenges and major issues facing our area in 2009. You can read their responses, starting on Page 1A.
Of course, none of us knows what’s going to happen. For example, who saw the economic downturn coming, at least to this extent? And who would have predicted the fluctuation in gas prices during the past year? When I moved to Colorado, gas was hovering around $4 a gallon. When I was back in Kansas at Christmas, gas was selling for $1.40 a gallon. What will the price be a year from now?
While none of Rio Blanco County’s leaders can be expected to predict the future, we do look to them to be forward-thinking, to chart the course for where, we, as a county are headed.
Northwest Colorado has had a good run now for several years. How long will it last? Ah, that’s the $64,000 question.
In talking with people like Bud Striegel of Rangely, who has experienced past booms and busts, this cycle is nothing new. These economic ups and downs come and go, he said. The current boom will come to an end, at some point. It’s just, nobody knows when.
So, I don’t know about you, but I’m curious to see what will happen in 2009.
n n n
I’d much rather look forward than look back.
Maybe it’s because, in my own life, I’d rather focus on the future, not the past.
I’ve had a lot of great memories and experiences in my nearly 50 years on this planet, but I’ve also gone through plenty of heartache and disappointment.
That’s what I love about coming to Colorado. It represented a new beginning, a chance to start over. Like the people who migrated west 150 years ago, I came out here in search for a better life.
And I found it.
I traveled to Kansas for Christmas to see my kids and my folks. Of course, I loved seeing them and spending time with family and friends, but, in some ways, I felt like a visitor.
When I was back there, people I know would say, “Wel-come home.” But that didn’t sound right. Kansas will always be where I grew up, where I am from, where my roots are, but Colorado is home now.
I am continually asked how I like living in northwest Colorado. My response is always the same. I love it. I really mean that. I have felt at home here from the start.
I know I am considered an outsider, and probably always will be. I get that. After all, I’m not “from” here.
But it feels like home.
n n n
I had a close call when I was at the Denver airport on Christmas Eve. I was waiting at the gate for my flight to Kansas City when I reached into my pocket for my boarding pass, and it wasn’t there.
I checked my other pockets. I searched my backpack. No boarding pass. Uh, oh, this could be bad, I thought.
I have a friend who is a travel agent. I considered calling her to find out what I should do. But I figured she would ask me, “How did you lose your boarding pass?” And I knew I wouldn’t have a good answer.
So I decided to retrace my steps, in the hopes I would find my lost boarding pass.
I headed back in the direction of the restaurant where I had had lunch. Up ahead, I could see a piece of white paper on the ground. Nobody bothered to stop and pick it up. They walked right on by, some stepping over it in their rush to make their flight.
Sure enough, as I got closer, I could tell it was my boarding pass. Boy, was I relieved. Apparently, it had fallen out of my back pocket.
Afterward, I called my travel agent friend. “You’ll never guess what I did,” I said.
“Oh, yes, I can,” she replied.
I guess she knows me pretty well.
n n n
I did lose my parking receipt at the Hayden airport. When I finally found a parking attendant, I said, “Please tell me I’m not the first person who has done this.”
He assured me I wasn’t.
n n n
While back in Kansas, I met my oldest daughter’s boyfriend for the first time. I also met her new puppy, a 6-month-old Great Pyrenees. Now that’s a big dog.
n n n
I was in the office talking on the phone the Monday before Christmas, when a co-worker brought in a small gift bag and set it on my desk. I peeked inside and saw ball-shaped cookies and cookies shaped like gingerbread men. While still talking on the phone, I excitedly popped one of the round goodies into my mouth.
That’s when I was told the gift was intended for my puppy. I quickly spit out the “cookie,” already partially eaten.
“It’s not going to hurt you,” the co-worker said.
Easy for her to say, she wasn’t the one eating a doggie treat.
I always wondered what dog treats tasted like. Now I know.
n n n
I recently had a voice mail from a friend saying, “If you can get a date, you’re invited to a progressive dinner on Saturday night.” I noticed he put a lot of emphasis on the word “if” in his message. I think maybe he was trying to tell me something.
n n n
Not long after that, another friend introduced me to someone and later gave me her phone number. The next day, I worked up the courage to give her a call. When she answered, I said, “Hi, this is Jeff.”
There was an uncomfortable silence on the other end. It wasn’t exactly the response I was looking for.
“Jeff who?” she asked.
So much for making a good first impression.
n n n
In a Christmas card to a friend back in Kansas, she told me I ended it by wishing her a happy 2010. Talk about looking ahead. I skipped an entire year.
So, before I get too ahead of myself, here’s wishing all of you a happy, uh … oh, yeah, 2009.
I never was good at math.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.