It’s New Year’s Eve. In a few hours the clock will strike midnight on the East Coast, and 2018 will join the line of the years that went before it, marching slowly into memory and history. In some parts of the world 2019 has already begun; in others, the new year won’t arrive until a few hours after the cleaning crews in Times Square sweep up the confetti.
I’m always a little stunned on this particular holiday — stunned in the ways many people probably are (How can time be passing so quickly and another year be done? Wasn’t it yesterday that we were celebrating the new millennium?) and also in more personal ways (Have I really arrived at this age? Can it be almost five years since my father passed away?). I always wonder what exactly to do on this night of the year; for so long I felt pressure to be at a party or a club, or to be wearing a hat, blowing a horn, and kissing a handsome date at midnight. In fact, my experiences over the years rarely lived up to the hype. On the eve of the year 2000, I stood alone on the pedestrian mall in Boulder, Colorado when the clock struck midnight and strangers all around me popped champagne bottles and embraced. For several years before that, I sat at home waiting for a man who insisted that holidays were too conventional. He’s married now with two children and posts classic holiday photos on his Instagram page.
But there are pleasant memories, too. A year after I stood alone in Boulder, I shared New Year’s Eve with good friends at a restaurant in Denver. Then we watched fireworks over the clock tower on a clear cold night, with holiday lights twinkling all around us. A year later, I danced at a resort party in Playa Del Carmen; five years after that, I strolled through Times Square with my new husband a few hours before midnight. The crews set up barriers while we took photos wearing funny glasses. Then we met friends at a restaurant in Westchester county and rung in the new year quietly while the crowds poured into the city.
Still, to me, New Year’s Eve has always felt a little blue. It seems designed more for memories than dreams. The Scottish ballad Auld Lang Syne (literally “old long since”) is nostalgic and a tad sad, matching my mood when the ball drops and a new year is ushered in. This year, I can’t help thinking of two friends who are battling cancer and another who recently lost her mom. It seems “old long since” illness or loss was far from our thoughts and the biggest concern on New Year’s Eve was whether we could rustle up a date and fit into a little black dress.
2018 wasn’t the easiest year. Aspects of it on a personal, national, and global scale were upsetting and frightening. Still, it wasn’t all bad, and there are things left to treasure. Living a year is like having a relationship with a human being; you enjoy the accomplishments and happy times and wish you could hold onto them forever, but you also struggle with what didn’t work and what you wish you could change. The difference is that in a relationship you can decide when and if to let go. With a year, you have no choice. On December 31, you say good-bye. Nothing you can do, or wish, will bring back times gone by.
Still, I am known for amusement and happiness — and I hope for trying to bring them to others — just as much as I am known for my tendency toward a certain melancholy. There’s a reason why, after the strains of Auld Lang Syne are sung, revelers drink champagne and dance and hug and celebrate the year to come.
That’s the moment when dreams take over. That’s when memories take a back seat to the one thing we can find if we look for it: hope.
My hope for you, dear readers, is for a joyous, healthy, happy new year.