Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Big Zero?

The Big Zero was the headline of Paul Krugman’s Monday column in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/opinion/28krugman.html?_r=1&hpw). The deck (journalism jargon for calling out in larger type an important part of the story) read, “The decade when nothing went right.”

With all due respect to the Nobel Prize winning economist, Princeton professor and author, there are many, including myself, who would argue that the first decade of the 21st century has been good to me and my family, financially yes, but, more importantly, as a time when many personal achievements transpired.

During this decade our son graduated from university, immediately got a job he is still in and enjoys, married a woman who also immediately got a job she enjoys. Together they bought a home. Six weeks ago they delivered their first child, our first grandchild.

During this decade our daughter graduated from college, spent an adventuresome half year in Hawaii by herself, and has had two jobs she wanted plus volunteer work. She has a wonderful boyfriend.

During this decade, Gilda has worked for arguably the best spine surgeons in the country, and has saved the lives, literally saved the lives, of at least three of our close friends and countless patients unrelated to their spine problems.

During nine and a half years of this decade I enjoyed the status of not just reporting on but also, to some degree, setting the agenda of what was important in the retail industry. My opinions were sought after and respected. I savored the fulfillment of building a team of professionals adept at working together to report on the retail industry, sell marketing programs and produce educational conferences.

During this decade my family enjoyed the fruits of Gilda’s and my labors. We traveled as a family overseas and domestically. We added on to our home. Our children received a gift that keeps on giving—debt-free college educations.

To be sure, there have been setbacks. My departure from full-time employment; my brother-in-law’s stroke; another brother-in-law’s cancer; my sister-in-law’s divorce; my mother-in-law’s death. But for the most part our family and friends have been spared trauma. No tornado or hurricane ripped through our communities. Death followed only after a full lifetime. With rare exception, we’ve been spared disabling injuries and disease.

Our friends and relatives live with us in a privileged enclave, regardless of our respective addresses. We’ve been blessed. Sure, we’d all like our net worth to be higher. We’d like our bodies to creak in fewer places. We’d like our children to be better paid and able to live more comfortably. But these are selfish wishes compared to what we’ve all attained.

My list of Forseter Family achievements is not unique among our cohorts. They could easily match our accomplishments. We’re not representative of the country at large, the country Paul Krugman describes.

But just as the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill used to say “all politics is local,” so too is an assessment of the “00” decade.

Ours was not in any way, shape or form a zero. I hope yours wasn’t either.