A Jar of Good Things

By Sarah Lapallo Beck


It’s New Year’s Eve of 2012, nearly midnight. Surrounded by my friends and thousands of other Richmonders, I stand in the middle of the street in Carytown.  We’re all anxiously waiting for one thing—2013.

Suddenly a roar erupts from the crowd and my eyes become glued to the giant clock projected onto the brick side of the Byrd Theater. As though led by our very own Maestro, the crowd begins chanting in unison down from ten. The excitement is contagious, and no one notices the sub-zero temperatures.

A friend told me once, “Sarah, you’re the only person I know who cries every New Year’s.” And this year is no different. I’m counting along with the crowd, but I have icy tears running down my face. A low-grade panic attack has been setting in for about an hour now, giving me heart palpitations, sweaty palms, and a general lack of enthusiasm for this otherwise festive but meaningless holiday. I’m panicking because I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, and watching another year slide away into the night isn’t helping. Not to mention, it’s always been hard for me to say goodbye.

Years ago my mom told me that at New Year’s she likes to write down what she accomplished that year. She told me, “It feels good to look back and realize you made progress.” She was right. Though I tried to employ her technique I found it hard to remember everything that happened that year. Small victories got lost in the tide of milestone events. It’s easy to feel that another year has passed and very little has changed or become better. I’ve always been an avid journaler, but flipping through a year’s worth of words just to pick out a few key moments wasn’t working either.

I don’t remember how the idea came to me, but I found an interesting jar (not hard, since I apparently collect them), and together with my then-boyfriend/now-husband Dale, we began to write down good things and accomplishments as they happened. We did this for one year.


At the end of that year, we cracked open a bottle of vino and dumped the notes out on the kitchen table. Sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, sometimes enjoying quiet reflection, we took turns reading the crumpled memories.

All the big ones made it into the jar, of course:

“9-1-13. Sarah is now a business owner! Inkwell Book Co. officially launched!”

“5-20-13. Dale got a raise!”

“12-29-13. We took the leap and began raising chicks.”

“7-10-13. We’re engaged!”

And some little ones were there, as well:

“8-2-13. Sarah made a new friend.”

“2-13-13. We went on a run together and didn’t die.”

“12-20-13. Our dog learned a new trick: when food falls on the floor while we’re cooking, she has to be given the ‘good girl’ command before rushing in.”

It felt good to know I could sign off on that year. I had done good things, big things. Things I would never forget and things that made me a better person. There had been hard times too, of course. But with a clear head we could look back and see what we learned and how we’d become stronger. 

This year on New Year’s Eve, sure, I might cry a little. But I won’t be crying because I’m unable to let the old year go. I’ll be looking forward to the new year, excited for what’s just around the bend (like moving into our first home and continuing to grow our businesses). I’ll be ready for the good things that will fill the jar this year, as well as the surprises and challenges. With open arms, I’ll be waiting to greet whatever might come my way.

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