Tomorrow night is New Year’s Eve.
When I was a kid, New Year’s seemed a grand thing. My parents — never big party-goers — spent the evening playing cards (and, one assumes, drinking and dining) with relatives. I was left at home with a babysitter, and was sound asleep by the time they rolled in after midnight.
When I became a tweenager (inhabiting that no man’s land between childhood and the teens), I was left to my own devices on New Year’s Eve, a a situation far preferable to hanging out on the fringe of action while the adults squabbled over Hell’s Rummy or Yhatze. Home alone, I watched television, read books, and tried once — with miserable failure — to get drunk on some wine I found pushed at the back of a kitchen cupboard. (It must have had an alcohol content of something like -1% because I drank a huge water-glass of the stuff without effect). Sometimes I made it to midnight, more often not. It little mattered. (Which is worse — crying yourself to sleep because you’re alone on New Year’s Eve, or watching the televised ball drop in Times Square and no company other than Dick Clark Ho-Tep?)
In my teens, New Year’s suddenly took on a new El Dorado-like glow, a thing to be dreamt of and sought after. I was older, after all. Almost an adult. Surely things would change for the better? Passing among fellow classmates at good old Shenendehowa High School, I heard the excited chatter of parties and beautiful dresses, an illicit drink or two of alcohol, dancing, giddy anticipation and — at the stroke of midnight — a kiss from that special someone.
Never happened. Oh, it may have for some of those kids, but for me (and my small circle of friends) New Years became a thing to dread, further proof that I stood outside the rosy glow of the elite and was forever marked as such; a vagrant peering in the window at riches beyond reach. I never received an invitation to a party (barring those small 5-person gatherings we threw for ourselves) and never dated but a handful of times (tragedies, every one). As for my first kiss…well, the less said about that, the better. Any boy I had a crush on in high school would have been horrified to hear of it, I’m sure. Certainly none of them (and there weren’t many) ever showed the slightest interest in me.
It’s no surprise, then, that over time I grew sort of bitter about New Year’s and never saw it as much of a milestone. Another year turned, certainly; another year of ups and down, lessons learned and all of that, but marked, really, only by the vague parameters of the calendar we’ve created in an attempt to contain the monumental heave and swirl of time. In truth, it’s a malleable thing marked by neither beginning or end. The change of year could as easily take place in spring or summer or fall. That it’s been arbitrarily chosen as December 31 means nothing.
I wonder if more people feel as I do about the year’s turning? You hear talk of parties, sure, but it’s in a sort of distracted way. I rarely meet anyone who enthuses over some blow-out bash they attended. For many, it’s become an evening of quiet reflection (celebratory or not), a moment to pause on the brink of the new year, to gather oneself for the plunge, a time to remember the wins and put the losses behind you (if one can). Some will sit with pen and paper (or more likely laptop or Ipad) and construct a list of resolutions to see them over the hump into midwinter.
I gave that up a long time ago. Or, rather, I gave up broadcasting my resolutions. That just sets me up for failure. I don’t need others to know what my plans are and I don’t need them watching to see if I’ll succeed. If I mean to lose weight or gain it or exercise more or stop swearing or cease drinking or smoking or…whatever…the only one I’m in competition with is myself. Only I can place the weights on the balance to say if I’ve won or lost. I’ve made my resolutions for the coming year, but they’re private.
What I will say is my wish for you — that you have whatever sort of New Year you’d like. Not only the celebration of that one night, but the entire year. May it be all you hope for. When it isn’t (and it won’t be, from time to time), may you ride those bumps with grace and only a few bruises. May you have love (even — or especially — self-love). May you find peace and experience joy.
Happy New Year, everyone.