EXCERPT: '365 Thank Yous' by John Kralik

PHOTO: 365 Thank Yous by John Kralick
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When author John Kralik's life hit a desperate low, he decided on New Years Day that if he could focus on what he had instead of what he didn't have, that perhaps his life would become at least tolerable.

In 365 Thank Yous, Kralik chronicles the following year of his life, in which he wrote a thank you note every day to anyone and everyone he could think of. Read an excerpt of 365 Thank Yous below.

A Walk in the Mountains

Before she broke up with me, Grace and I had planned to spend New Year's Day walking on the Echo Mountain trail that leads into Angeles National Forest above Pasadena. When the day came, I called her to see if she might still want to come. She had other plans. I would be starting the new year alone.

I decided to walk into the mountains anyway.

I took the three-mile hike above Pasadena on the Echo Mountain trail, which ends at the crumbled remains of an old hotel. Hot winds and constant mountain fires had burned down that hotel, again and again, and eventually, about seventy years ago, the owners had stopped rebuilding. Guests had reached the hotel by train on the Mount Lowe Railway, which was now defunct and had also since succumbed to the elements. Only corrupt and scattered remains of the track can be found. But spectacular views of the Los Angeles Basin stretch out below the crumbled stone bricks of the hotel's remains. On a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean.

On this semi-clear day, when I got to the old hotel site, I joined a host of New Year's early risers. (The AA crowd, I thought.) They were looking through binoculars, hoping to spy the Tournament of Roses Parade winding through the foggy streets of Pasadena below.

I could feel the distant rumblings of the parade, but I was in no mood for it, so I turned to walk deeper into the mountains. Eventually, the sounds of trombones and French horns faded. Longing to be completely alone, I meandered the back paths, pushing on until I was all by myself. Then I took a wrong turn, lost the path, and became completely lost. I had no company that day but the inner voice that kept saying "loser." There was no one I wanted to ask on that walk who wanted to come with me. My desires and faults had left me solitary at middle age.

It was New Year's. There was new growth all around. It was time to make new resolutions. It was time to change. I had felt this way before, of course; at fifty-two, I had a lot of unfulfilled New Year's resolutions.

But this year not only was I a loser at what I was doing, I also didn't want to do it anymore. I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life. I wanted to be more than just another lawyer slinging hatred for a living.

I had always wanted to write, I remembered. But thirty years ago, I had become a lawyer. Soon, I'd had a family to support; eventually, I had two families and a firm to support. There had never been time to write. A few months before my first child was born, I had packed up my writing neatly in files and put it away in a box. The box had fallen apart many times, but I had always replaced it. I had carried it from divorce to remarriage to divorce, from house to apartment to cheaper and cheaper apartments.

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