Five Years

When I was a boy, I remember my father would look at the stars and say, “Maybe this is the year, Tiger. Maybe this one will be the best ever.”

The stars are out tonight. It’s the fourth day of a new year, and I’m waiting for my dog to finish her business so we can go back inside.

But she’s wandering. And I’m thinking.

One of my first published columns was about going water skiing with my cousin. There were lots of people on a pontoon boat—my aunt, cousins, a pastor, innocent children, nuns, etc.

I wasn’t able to stand up on the skis after several attempts. I was dragged face-first through the water like a limp trout before finally giving up and crawling back aboard.

I clambered up the swim ladder, I shook off like a dog, and announced to the group: “Aww, waterskiing is for losers.”

After I said it, I heard gasps. My cousin covered his eyes. My aunt fainted. The pastor’s wife started praying in tongues. The nuns dove overboard and started swimming for Key Largo.

I realized I was not wearing swim trunks.

That story ran in a tiny magazine. And I can still remember hitting the “send” button to email it to an editor. It was as though I were pressing the “detonate” button on a nuclear reactor.

I had written an actual “column.” That sort of made me an actual “columnist.” And it was like being born again.

The story tanked. The editor wouldn’t return my calls.

Even so, my life was never the same after that.

The next gig I landed was writing for a magazine in Georgia. My assignment was about the history of baseball in Savannah.

For a week, I camped in Richmond Hill, with my dog. I was there to research baseball. I interviewed elderly residents, one historian, one city official, and one former shortstop. I wrote an eight-hundred-word column.

The editor read my words and said, “Sorry, kid. This is basal writing.”

Kid? I was in my thirties. And to make matters worse, I didn’t know what “basal” meant. I wasn’t even sure how to use it in a sentence.

I was flagged with rejection after rejection. Nobody wanted my stuff. And who could blame them? My resume read like a Waffle House menu. I almost gave up writing altogether.

That’s when I started a blog. It was my last fledgling effort. I wrote about everything. I wrote about my life. I wrote about people.

I wrote about the time I drove to New Orleans to buy my mother a FEMA trailer that would become her home.

I wrote about my late father. I wrote about my bloodhound—who takes her sweet time going to the bathroom.

And that was my best year ever. I mean it. It was like someone applied a new coat of paint to me. It was as though the universe had hugged me and said, “Hey, you know something, you’re pretty dang basal.”

If you would’ve told me five years ago that writing would be my career, I would’ve laughed at you and told you to get me another beer.

Do you want to know where I was five years ago?

I was laying ceramic tile in a house on East Mack Bayou Road, working with my friend, J.R.

After workdays, I would drive to Mobile, or Pensacola, or Tallahassee, or Ocean Springs, to play music for extra money.

My bloodhound would wait in my vehicle while I strummed guitar at a dive bar for fifty bucks and a lukewarm hamburger.

Five years ago. My wife worked as a cook, from sunrise to sunset.

Five years ago, I worked at a small church playing “I Love to Tell the Story” on Sundays for people who pronounce “Lord,” as “LOW-word.”

Five years ago, my wife babysat on the weekends for fifteen bucks per hour.

Five years ago, I wished something different would happen to me because I hated the way my life was shaping up.

I did not want to end up disillusioned and bitter like my late father.

When I was a boy, I remember my father would look at the stars and say, “Maybe this is the year, Tiger. Maybe this one will be the best ever.”

If only he would’ve been so lucky.

So I guess you never know when your best year is going to happen. But I believe it’s coming soon. You can’t do anything to cause it, and I don’t believe you can do anything to screw it up.

One little thing will happen, and life pivots on you. It will be swift, gentle, and sweet.

And one night it will all hit you. Maybe you’ll be looking at stars, and your dog will have just finished her business.

And for no reason at all, maybe you’ll write a few hundred words about it because, hey, that’s what basal people do.

With all my heart, I hope this is your best year ever.

Also, waterskiing is for losers.


  1. Suzanne Rainey - January 5, 2019 6:44 am

    I don’t comment as often as I should, I suppose. Reason being is I am always “busy”!
    But there is not ONE day that your very thoughtful, heart-felt blogs do not touch me to the depth of my soul. YOU are in touch with the most important aspects of life!! And you share it in words that are piercing and true for we who have lived!!
    Bless you Sean. Keep it up!!❤️❤️❤️❤️

    • Susan Kennedy - January 5, 2019 1:27 pm

      What Suzanne said! ?

  2. Robyn Nichols - January 5, 2019 6:49 am

    Love this.

  3. Pamela McEachern - January 5, 2019 7:50 am

    Hey Sean you are so right and life is swift, both the good and the bad. I am grateful you came into my life and your words are the. “it’s going to be all right”, that I need to hear some days. I hope 2019 is good to you and yours and BAMA takes care of business- RTR! ?

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

  4. rantsandravescom - January 5, 2019 8:30 am

    Good morning Sean. I am reading your column at 2:00 am this January 5th 2019. Later I will read it again at about 9:00 or 10:00 am. I go to sleep thinking about simple, kind or happy things and I wake up to the same as I eat my breakfast. Thus I go to sleep easily and at peace and I awaken to the same. I hope. I will be kind. I will try to be a friendly southern lady as I’m afraid these are going to be in short supply. I am 77 yrs old and the manners and courtesy that I was taught are not being taught to the children of today. It is truly a shame as it doesn’t take much effort to be kind and respectful. May you have a blessed day.
    As my sister said “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end of the roll the faster it goes. ” ?

    • Joan Mitchell - January 6, 2019 12:55 am

      I think you’re right, that friendly southern ladies are in short supply. I agree with you, at 71, that we still have something to teach, and that good manners and respect are just kindness.

  5. Jean - January 5, 2019 10:39 am

    Sean, I am also glad you came into my life. You make opening email a joy! i always considered my life a failure…my mother convinced me that I was and you struggle to overcome this. Things went horribly wrong for a while but now it seems that things are getting better and looking up. Maybe this will be the best year ever. i hope so for you too!!

  6. Keloth Anne - January 5, 2019 11:30 am

    So glad you kept the faith and continued to write!! You bring such joy to so many—everyday ??
    Hope this is the best year yet for you, Jamie and your beloved fur babies♥️

  7. D. Green - January 5, 2019 11:59 am

    I just looked up “basal”. It totally fits the guy who used it to describe your writing. Happy New Year and thanks for doing what you do!

    • Kathy Young - January 5, 2019 1:58 pm

      I looked up basal too. The only meaning I could remember was basal cell melanoma. ? Your blog is the first thing I read every day. Thank you.

    • Jess in Athens, GA - January 5, 2019 3:09 pm

      LOL…..I had to look up the word “basal” too. I thought it was some kind of spice used in cooking!!! Keep on writing, Sean, and maybe I’ll learn some other things along the way.

  8. Jones - January 5, 2019 12:16 pm

    Again, and again, your writings are “daily can’t miss readings” for your readers…and should be “must reads” for others…your heartfelt stories touch so many in positive ways! Thanks!

  9. Mary Williams - January 5, 2019 12:33 pm

    Your column is the first thing I look for every morning. Sometimes it makes me laugh. Sometimes it makes me cry. There is always something in it that makes me smile to myself. You have a real gift-thank you for sharing it.
    Mary Williams

  10. Liz Watkins - January 5, 2019 1:08 pm

    Good morning and thanks for helping to start my day every morning! God Bless??????

  11. Joyce Mullikin - January 5, 2019 1:17 pm

    I laughed as I pictured you being dragged through the water. The very same way I tried to learn to waterski. I was told to hang on to the rope & lean back & id be skiing before I knew it. Instead I was pulled along with water splashing in my face & my butt dragging along under water.
    No one remembered to tell me to LIFT myself up as the boat gained speed. ??
    At least it made for an amusing sight for those with us.

  12. Phillip Saunders - January 5, 2019 1:32 pm

    Hey, watch yourself, there, guy – I used to waterski, and was pretty dang good at it if I do say so (for sure no one else would). I’m no writer, though, but you sure are. Glad you chose that path because Cypress Gardens was probably not in your future – doubtful there are openings for boys who can’t keep their swim trunks on. Blog on, dude!

  13. Neil Joiner - January 5, 2019 1:40 pm

    As an aspiring 66 year old writer, thanks for a great column. I think I’ll buy another round of ink.

  14. DebySu - January 5, 2019 1:42 pm

    Ha! A smile or a tear, it’s all heart felt.

  15. Chuck Gerlach - January 5, 2019 1:58 pm

    Sean: You said: “So I guess you never know when your best year is going to happen. But I believe it’s coming soon. You can’t do anything to cause it, and I don’t believe you can do anything to screw it up.”

    I see that a bit differently. I have watched too many people (in one case, me included) take what should have been “my best year” and totally screw it up. I’ve also seen folks who can turn what should have been a lousy year into a great one. We make choices – bad and good – which can and will have a huge impact on how our life goes.

    And water skiing is a lot of fun !!

  16. Elizabeth Edens - January 5, 2019 2:02 pm

    I had to look up basal too? I love the way you write!

  17. Connie Havard Ryland - January 5, 2019 2:03 pm

    I’m glad you found your way. You have a true gift with words and our lives are better because you share that gift. Love and hugs.

  18. Don Daniel - January 5, 2019 2:11 pm

    You make my day. God Bless you and Happy New Year, have a best year ever.

  19. Dawn - January 5, 2019 2:13 pm

    Living in Savannah, and appreciating baseball, I’d love to read that article you wrote!

  20. Jeanie - January 5, 2019 2:13 pm

    Gave me a smile with my first cup of the day. Love your style of writing. Keep up the good job.

  21. Shelton A. - January 5, 2019 2:14 pm

    Glad you made it because you make my day so many days.

  22. Clark - January 5, 2019 2:22 pm

    Don’t like water skiing one bit. Never tried it, never wanted to try it, dont like it.

  23. Terri Donovan - January 5, 2019 2:26 pm

    I just ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ this. Did I mention how much I ❤️ this.

  24. Debbie Britt - January 5, 2019 2:26 pm

    I love you! Not because you write fancy stuff or even something profound… but because you write from your heart and you care! And p.s……., I didn’t know nor care what basal was until you wrote the word! So now I’m going to look it up!?

  25. Susan Reese - January 5, 2019 2:27 pm

    Sean, thank you for sharing your gift of wrting with us. I look forward to reading your work every morning. You are so faithful and I appreciate you. Oh, and I too had to look up basal!

  26. June Gibson - January 5, 2019 2:45 pm

    Love each of your columns equally. The one I read today is my favorite…until I read the one tomorrow. Happy 2019.

  27. Jan - January 5, 2019 2:55 pm

    Love it! You are an awesome writer!

  28. Stephanie Godke - January 5, 2019 3:07 pm

    Inspiration for 2019.

  29. Julie Y - January 5, 2019 3:22 pm

    I discovered your blog about a year and a half ago, and continually marvel at your dedication (a column every day! How do you DO that?) and at your accompanying drawings on the blog or photography on the FB page. I also enjoy your followers’ comments about a kinder, gentler life. You are part of my daily devotional routine: prayer, then Bible, then Sean of the South. I think of you as a red-headed Jesus or a redneck Mr. Rogers :). Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, and may you continue in this calling for a long, long time!

    • Janet Mary Lee - January 5, 2019 4:14 pm

      Amen, Julie Y!!

  30. Carole Lea - January 5, 2019 3:36 pm

    Your writings enhance my year every year so thank you! Wishing joy, peace and positivity to all in 2019.

  31. Kimiark - January 5, 2019 3:57 pm

    Word of the day: ba·sal
    forming or belonging to a bottom layer or base.
    Similar-sounding words
    basal is sometimes confused with basil
    Thanks Sean!

  32. Jack Darnell - January 5, 2019 4:02 pm

    Maybe one day… It better happen soon, Imma running out of days. LOL I really do enjoy my visits here. Now imma go look up Basal, I think it is an herb, or maybe cancer! LOL OUCH!

  33. Carolyn Allen - January 5, 2019 4:16 pm

    ??? Did the nuns make it to Key Largo⁉️

  34. Cindy - January 5, 2019 6:05 pm

    Thank you for your daily-upbeat-glass-is-half-full-view of life! Your stories always put a smile on my face and laughter in my heart, which I need more days than not. I have a good life full of many blessings but I hit a snag 7 months ago with a health issue. The good news is it’s treatable, though not curable, and for that I am very lucky. Many days I think of it as a hiccup, a road bump, a snag…but some days it feels like an annoying, irritating scab that won’t go away and pesters my mind with “poor pitiful me” thoughts. Your blog helps shake those negative thoughts away and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that, especially on those days when those thoughts consume me. I just picture your Ellie May–God rest her puppy soul–shaking a rodent or some nasty creature into oblivion–ie., my negative thoughts. It’s a gift and I thank you for that. By the way, I have two golden retrievers, Ellie May (3 yrs) and Murphy (8 yrs.) I love how dogs show us how simple and lovely life really is. And thank you for putting it into words. Cindy

  35. Alice Grimes - January 5, 2019 7:12 pm

    Love your heart and writing. So thankful you find the joys and sorrows and successes and failures of real everyday folks worthy writing about. I can relate and so do so many others. You have to listen with your heart and you do. God has given you humility, compassion and integrity. Not a shred of doubt that you have made your dad proud and am sure he knows you forgive him for not being able to defeat his demons. Your exercising your gift has no doubt helped many find strength for one more day. Draw solace from that Sean.

    • Susie - January 5, 2019 7:24 pm

      Amen, Alice Grimes

  36. Jack Quanstrum - January 5, 2019 9:34 pm

    Great reading your story. Glad you blog your stories. Have gained alot of thankfulness from them!

  37. BJean - January 5, 2019 11:38 pm

    Your punch lines are the best! Just reading along, then swim trunks makes me laugh right out loud! So love your soft endings as well.? Please keep it up.

  38. Nancy - January 6, 2019 12:08 am

    Needed a reason to smile today and you just made that happen.

  39. Joan Mitchell - January 6, 2019 12:39 am

    I didn’t learn to waterski until I was 40. And then I didn’t do it long, because I was old, and didn’t want to break my old bones!! Your year is already here, but that will become even more evident, soon. Your message is sweet and universal, and we need it.

  40. Linda Allen - January 6, 2019 1:47 am

    Sure glad you kept writing! ?

  41. Edy - January 6, 2019 9:06 pm

    Your stories me.

  42. Edy - January 6, 2019 9:07 pm

    Your stories encourage me,

  43. Judy - January 13, 2019 12:08 pm

    I agree…water skiing is for losers. Just kidding. I lowered the lake level a few times by swallowing water as I tried to learn to ski. Just not for me but the rest of my family loves it.

    Your stories were recommended to me when I was going through a rough spot. I always start with a Word from God and then a word from Sean. The past couple weeks, I have heard or read the phrase “look up” and your stories do that for me. To look up, you have to take your eyes off your troubles. Your stories encourage us to “look up” and see others with softer perspectives.

  44. Sam Seetin - February 6, 2019 12:41 pm

    Basal waterskier got lift after he learned to stay up on skiis in Jan when its cold even in Florida.

  45. Jill Jeffrey - February 6, 2019 1:57 pm

    I’m going to start this comment with the impressive (to me) fact that when I was 16 I waterskiied on the Mississippi River. So, when I was 39, skiing on a lake should have been a piece of cake. Apparently the 50 lbs I’d added to my frame changed my center of balance and we now have video evidence of me being dragged behind a boat on my face about 16 times. I did, however keep my swimsuit on. Anyway thank you for reminding me to stay optimistic – I’m certainly glad you did!

  46. Steve Winfield - February 6, 2019 2:38 pm

    Sean, you’re the best. I love everything you write & I love you. Steve

  47. Caleb Halstead - February 6, 2019 3:15 pm

    Lord, have mercy! Five years ago, I was only 70. My first water skiing experience about 60 years ago is strangely reminiscent of yours. I’ll try it again whenever you’re ready to try it with me.

  48. Sara P - February 6, 2019 4:21 pm

    Ahh…swift, gentle and sweet. Doesn’t get any better than that.


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